The need for vitality in our established churches has never been more important than it is right now. Over 70% of our conference churches are over 10 years old, and many of them are looking for ways to recapture their missional health and vitality.
The Evangelical Covenant Church has prioritized both the starting and the strengthening of its churches, wanting them all to be both healthy and missional. Vitality is not a program, but a process of doing good ministry over a long period of time through the moving of the Holy Spirit. To that end, the Vitality Pathway is a significant resource to help churches reimagine, relaunch, and recapture their missional DNA.
The Vitality Pathway includes:
- 1 National Vitality Event-Navigate
- 3 Vitality Workshops-Veritas, Epic, and One
- 5 Steps to completion
- 8 Functions of the Vitality Team
- On-going planning, evaluation, and repetition of good practices
A Journey of Vitality
A dynamic partnership with other churches, the conference and denomination to catalyze your journey on the congregational vitality pathway. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Telling the Truth about Congregational Vitality
A workshop that introduces the language of vitality, including the four types of churches and the ten healthy missional markers. The truth will set you free.
Empowering People, Inspiring Change
A workshop that offers tools for change management, including helpful constructs for your leadership and church. All living things change.
A Congregational Vitality Assessment Tool
A congregational assessment that measures your church’s current reality and trajectory using the metrics from Veritas. There is no vitality without reality.
A Unifying Approach to Strategic Ministry Planning
A workshop that guides the congregation in the discovery, development and deployment of a strategic ministry plan. Jesus himself had a strategic ministry plan.
Coaching of Pastors
Organizational leadership coaching for the pastor. Every Moses needs a Jethro.
The Vitality Pathway Timeline
Built into the vitality pathway is a purposeful pace. It is designed for you to progress at a pace that will allow you to pay attention to the soil conditions of your church along the way. As the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9) reminds us, when fruit is not present where it is meant to be, sometimes we need to dig down around the roots to discover any obstacles or barriers opposing what the Lord created us to experience. In that passage, the good news is that the gardener is given an additional year to do whatever is necessary for the fig tree to become fruitful. The urgent news is that it only has a year to make those changes. Time is of the essence!
While time is a wonderful gift of grace to us, it is not indefinite. A sense of urgency must take hold of the church as they realize that the mission of God is too important to take lightly. God seems to bless those congregations with a healthy sense of timing and pace – not too fast to miss the important lessons essential to missional health, and not to slow to lose momentum or urgency.
Below is a framework for your church to consider as that which is typically best.
Consider the Vitality Pathway as a journey in 5 Steps:
Step One - Discerning the Pathway (Approximately 2 Months)
The very first step of the Vitality journey is typically initiated when a church has come to the realization that they have to do something new in order to regain their missional clarity and momentum, but they are not sure what to do.
Typically, a church will invite Kreig Gammelgard, Director of Congregational Vitality (DCV) in the conference to meet with them and explain what the ECC provides in order to help churches that believe their best days of ministry are still ahead of them. The Vitality Pathway is explained, the timeline is discussed, and a series of questions about Vision, Intention, and Means (VIM) are considered. The church leaders are asked to pray about their involvement and determine if they have what it will take to begin, sustain, and complete the 18-24 month journey toward missional health and vitality.
When a Leadership Team or congregation decides to participate, they may be eligible to join a national kick-off event (Navigate) hosted in the fall by the Starting and Strengthening Churches Team of the ECC. If the timing is right, it may work out for your congregation to attend, where you will get a full array of the best vitality resources that the Covenant has to offer you and your church. We want to launch you successfully on your way towards missional health and vitality. When your church has discerned that this is the direction you want to move in, the next step is to begin the vitality journey.
Summary of Step 1:
- Contact your conference DCV – Kreig Gammelgard
- Set a date for a Leadership Team/Congregational Meeting re: Vitality
- Read and Pray through the VIM Questions
- Ask your DCV about the Navigate Conference (Dates and Eligibility)
Step Two - Walking the Vitality Pathway (Approximately 4 Months)
This phase begins with the first of the vitality workshops, VERITAS -Telling the truth about Congregational Vitality. This workshop focuses on the language of vitality, including 4 Types of Churches, Ten Healthy Missional Markers, the importance of congregational and pastoral V.I.M., and the value of adopting a Relational Covenant.
Within a couple of weeks of the Veritas workshop, a Vitality Team is to be selected to advance and advocate for the priority of the vitality process. This team is an ad hoc group tasked with fulfilling 8 core functions of the vitality team and fleshing out a healthy and influential culture within the congregation.
During this 3-4-month phase, the Vitality Team gives priority to the first 5 of their 8 tasks, all explained in the Vitality Team Field Guide provided to every team member… (Debriefing the Veritas experience, establishing a process of pervasive prayer, initiating the relational covenant, finding the church’s biblical story, and developing a communications team.)
Summary of Step 2
- Schedule and Attend VERITAS – Telling the Truth about Congregational Vitality
- Establish a Vitality Team, identify a VT Leader, begin to complete the 8 functions explained in the VT Notebook
The Vitality Team is an ad hoc group from a congregation that provides the needed energy and muscle to keep the vitality process a priority. It is a team of 6-10 individuals that complete 8 functions within the first 9 months of walking the Vitality Pathway, from launching a prayer team to completing an external assessment of their community. (8 Functions of a Vitality Team)
- Ask the pastor to preach a series on the Ten Healthy Missional Markers (Sermon Samples)
- Initiate the Relational/Behavioral Covenant – ‘Holy manners for the faith community’
A behavioral covenant is a written document developed by leaders, agreed to and owned by its creators and practiced on a daily basis as a spiritual discipline. The Covenant answers the question, ‘How will we behave (how will we live together?) when we don’t understand each other and when we don’t agree?’
Behavioral Covenants in Congregations
Step Three - No Turning Back (Approximately 4 Months)
Step three is referred to as the No Turning Back phase because this is where the church commits itself fully to the journey before them and to following the Spirit of God wherever He leads them. Their missional intentionality has increased, they have already seen God at work in fresh ways in and through their congregation, and they have determined that they no longer want to go backwards to business as usual.
EPIC is the workshop offered during this step of the vitality journey, which focuses on the value and theology of change, listening to and discerning God’s voice, leading and managing change within the congregation, and surviving the entire process!
The Vitality Team is still active during this 3-4-month period, focusing their attention on the remaining tasks of learning from their history (both good and bad), developing an internal profile, and creating an external profile. These tasks can take a bit more time to complete as they involve many more human-hours and personal contact with people both inside and outside the congregation, but have proven to provide a wealth of information to bring clarity and discernment to the Strategic Ministry Planning step to come.
A very significant moment in the life of a congregation walking the vitality pathway is their Service of Consecration, a public gathering for them to set things right, recommit their hearts and church to the Lord, and recommit to following His lead. Several samples of these services from churches across the Covenant are available here, if needed.
Summary of Step 3
- Schedule and complete the EPIC workshop at your church
- Pray, Plan, Promote, and Provide a Service of Consecration
- Vitality Team continues to meet regularly to complete it’s final tasks
Step Four - Evaluation and Assessment (Approximately 3 Months)
During this time, everyone in the congregation (12 years and older) is asked to participate in an on-line assessment of their church, known as the PULSE, with special emphasis being given to the primary characteristics of a Healthy and Missional church that we refer to as the Ten Healthy Missional Markers.
This part of the pathway can take up to 3 months to complete from beginning to end, when the church is given a comprehensive report of their own assessment with helpful suggestions to move forward in their strengths, and cautions around areas for improvement.
Step Five - The Home Stretch (Approximately 4-6 Months)
In the weeks leading up to the final vitality workshop, ONE – A Unifying Approach to Strategic Ministry Planning, the Vitality Team has completed their work, and is preparing a summary of their findings for the soon to be formed Strategic Ministry Planning Team (SMPT). This team may include a couple of people from the Vitality Team, as well as those particularly skilled at strategy from the congregation. This is a great time in the life of the church to celebrate the VT and all that they have accomplished through their year of activity.
The ONE workshop offers a helpful outline and very practical tools to the SMPT as they prepare a written plan that will focus the church’s energies on those ministries that the church senses a particular calling to. Throughout the vitality pathway, and especially during the ONE workshop, insights are gained and clarity comes to the church and its leaders about the ministry priorities that could make the largest kingdom contribution in their community.
By this time the Vitality Pathway has been the focus of attention within the church for over a year, and a good number of people are anxious to see the fruits of their hard work. They are ready to make a plan and to implement that plan, and it is right to do so. The seeds are ready to be planted in the rich congregational soil that has been prepared.
The ONE workshop can be offered in a variety of formats, from a working retreat, to a half-day training, depending on the strategic acuity of the church leaders. In the East Coast, we are also blessed to offer many of our churches during this phase a Strategic Ministry Planning Coach to guide them through the discernment, planning, and implementation phase.
Once the pathway has been completed, the hard, yet joyful work of ‘working the plan’ commences. When the step of creation of a plan is complete, the all-important implementation phase begins. While the hard work of vitality may feel over in some ways, this final step is meant for repetition. The skills and practices discovered and utilized during this 3-4-month period, are meant to be implemented, evaluated, and refined for many months into the future. It is recommended that this final step become a normal and natural part of the yearly rhythm of the congregation going forward.
When a congregation wants to check their progress, we recommend checking their PULSE once again, to confirm their missional health around the Ten Healthy Missional Markers. And, when a pastor wishes to improve in the area of their strategic leadership, they are encouraged to sign up for Co-Op Coaching, the only part of the Vitality journey with a fee. All of the rest is free, because we are committed to seeing every congregation in the Covenant become a healthy and missional church.
For more information about Vitality for your church, contact Rev. Kreig Gammelgard, East Coast Conference Associate Superintendent and Director of Congregational Vitality by email or phone (860.635.2691)
Summary of Step 5
- Schedule and complete the ONE workshop (or retreat)
- Create a SMP Team, including a couple of folks from the VT
- Have each VT member create a summary of their work and findings (Summary Sheet)
- Pass the VT discoveries and discernments along to the SMPT
- Celebrate the good work of the VT with a church party
- Introduce and pray for the SMPT
- SMPT meets regularly to develop and refine a Strategic Ministry Plan for the church
- Communicate/Work/Celebrate the plan
- Refine and Repeat
- Consider Co-Op coaching for the pastor
- Consider another Pulse Assessment in 24 months to check progress