Vital Congregations Processes
¶213 Crossroads Conversation & Vital Congregations Modules
The Center for Vitality works with District Mission Strategists (District Superintendents) and their District Mission Plans to identify churches ready to begin the process of turning ministry “inside out” and stepping into the mission field through foundational ¶213 Crossroads Conversations and strategic planning based on specific Vital Congregation Modules.
The Center, along with trained lay Congregational Guides and Circuit Elders, provides transformational leadership training to the clergy and laity of these churches as they seek to be vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities, and the world.
The focus is on developing a lay & clergy team approach to ministry grounded in mission field analysis, cultural & neighborhood awareness, faith sharing, spiritual leadership, strategic planning, stewardship, and skill building. In addition the Center collaborates with the Office for Mission Field Engagement for intervention and revitalization work.
Bishop’s Mission Plan Next Steps 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Roadmap for Vitality
There are two primary phases of the Vital Congregations Initiative:
Crossroads Conversation based on 2012 Discipline Paragraph 213, a study of local church ministry potential and foundational questions. These are often facilitated by trained Circuit Elders.
A Module-based Vital Congregations Process that assists congregations and leaders focus on particular strategic goals, often led by lay Guides trained by the Center for Vitality
What is a ¶213 Crossroads Conversation?
Churches today are at a crossroads in how we fruitfully and effectively share the message and love of Jesus Christ to transform lives, communities, and the world. Paragraph 213 of the 2012 United Methodist Discipline describes a foundational process of discovering a congregation’s identity and mission field: “Since every congregation is located in a community in some type of transition, every local church is encouraged to study their congregation’s potential. Upon the request of the congregation the district superintendent shall appoint a study task force to assist in an extensive study of the past, present, and potential ministry of that local church.”
Why is it called a “Conversation”?
Margaret Wheatley said, “Conversation is the currency of change.” Thoughtful conversation among leaders, like on-going prayer, leads us to understand what no one can explain. The conversation with each other and with God must be an ongoing act of congregational discernment, which has been described “the intersection of God’s will, our passion, and the community’s need.” So, you are encouraged to engage in a conversation: dream, plan, create, engage, reflect, and begin again!
What is discussed in a ¶213 Crossroads Conversation?
The discussion about potential asks some foundational questions:
- Who are we as a congregation?
- Who is our neighbor?
- What is God calling us to do in this season of the Church’s life?
Who leads the ¶213 Crossroads Conversation? Is there a cost for a consultant?
These conversations are facilitated by Circuit Elders, the Office for Mission Field Engagement, the Center for Vitality, or your DS, and there is no fee for a facilitator or consultant for the ¶213 Crossroads Conversation process. The facilitator has been professionally trained in coaching skills and works with a “Crossroads Team” selected by the congregation’s Administrative Board or Church Council.
What are the expectations of the ¶213 Crossroads Conversation?
Every church and its mission field are unique, so the result of this conversation will be different for every congregation. The expectation is that this set of sacred conversations about potential will lead to at least a recommendation for the church to a next step: Visioning/Goal Setting, Relaunch, or Legacy Process. Some churches may also be equipped to take some next steps beyond this initial recommendation, and start moving toward action steps. The foundational work discovered during the Crossroads conversation is vital for any next steps that follow.
So, how does a ¶213 Crossroads Conversation relate to other types of planning?
The ¶213 Crossroads Conversation is a foundational and strategic process designed to precede later strategic planning and action steps. Our Crossroads Conversation for these 3 sessions is about potential for fulfilling the disciple-making mission of the church. ¶213 Crossroads Conversations are a type of strategic congregational planning. There are different forms of planning, such as:
- Specific ministry/event planning
- Annual goal setting
- Action plans based upon goals
- Vision/mission creation
- Vision/mission statement drafting
- Needs assessment
While ¶213 Crossroads Conversations are related to these other types of planning, the questions asked are often more existential and exploratory. Only by discerning a congregation’s identity, mission field, and holy purpose can we discover God’s next steps for a faith community.
How can our congregation begin a ¶213 Crossroads Conversation?
The ¶213 Crossroads Conversation can begin through District Superintendent or Circuit Elder initiative, or by congregational request. Contact your DS, your Circuit Elder, or the Center for Vitality to learn more.
¶213 Crossroads Conversation Resources:
Participant Guidebooks for congregation’s Crossroads Team members (23 Page PDF, 2MB)
Covenant for Crossroads Conversation (1 page MS Word Document)
Congregational History Worksheet (1 Page PDF)
Vital Congregations Process Modules
A Module-based Vital Congregations Process assists congregations and leaders focus on particular strategic goals. Contact the Center for Vitality for more information, or to connect with a facilitator from the Conference staff or a lay congregational guide. Churches may also seeks to work on a module independently or in conjunction with a trained leadership coach.
The Center recommends an outside facilitator, such as a guide or coach, to journey with the congregation and to help the congregation hold themselves accountable to fulfilling their goals and ministry plans. Without an outside voice and accountability partner, the “urgent” in the church’s life will often take the place of the “important,” causing the congregation and its leaders to lose focus.
Modules include such topics as:
- Visioning & SMART Goals
- The Worship Experience
- Mission Field/Neighborhood/Community Connection
- Connection Process (Professions of Faith)
- Simplified Structure
- Discipleship Process
- Right-Sizing for Ministry
Vital Congregations Process Resources:
Learning/Planning/Action/Reflection Cycle (1 Page PDF)
Neighborhood Prayer and Observational Walk (2 Page PDF)
“Meet Your Neighbor” Community Leader Interviews (1 page PDF)
Congregational Discernment Session #1 Handout (4 Page PDF)
Rightsizing for Ministry Chart (PDF, 11×17 Color)- Adapted from work by Susan Beaumont, Beth Anne Gaede and Alice Mann
Church Size Introduction Sheet (2 Page PDF, 11×17 b/w) – Adapted from work by Beth Anne Gaede and Alice Mann
SMART Goal Directions (1 Page PDF)
Leadership Hub for Trained Facilitators