September 9, 2010 Tony Morgan

Vital Congregations

Attendance, growth over five years, professions of faith per members, and annual giving are just a few measurements of a vital congregation according to a study recently conducted by the United Methodist Church. However, the study did not look at these measurements to evaluate the strength of their denomination, but rather to evaluate their effectiveness in helping new believers take their next steps into becoming mature Christ-followers.

The study reported that about 15% of United Methodist churches are in the “high-vital” category. But, a closer look at the results reveals the elements vital congregations share.

  • Pastors of VC churches actively take part in mentoring, coaching, and developing volunteer leadership.
  • Churches with traditional and contemporary worship styles led in effectiveness. Many also had topical preaching and multi-media elements as part of the Sunday morning experience.
  • The most vital churches had 25-50% of the congregation in leadership roles during the past five years.
  • Volunteer leaders did not continue to serve in the same position, but rotated to share their gifts and talents in different areas of the church over time.
  • Small groups are effective in many styles including men’s/women’s groups, missions, shared interests, and youth and children’s groups.

What’s challenging about surveys like this, though, is that it’s looking at the activities of the church but not necessarily at the foundational components of a healthy church including clear vision, focused structure, leadership capacity of the senior pastor, etc. Without a good foundation, you can try to implement the right programs or activities and still end up with poor results and an unhealthy church.

What do you think about the survey results? Anything surprise you? Any UMC folks want to chime in?

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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