Many churches are attempting to become “Vital Congregations.” As a part of the process they are engaging in intensive prayer and Bible study as they seek improvement in five important areas: Worship, New Disciples, Small Groups, People Involved in Missions and Resources Involved in Missions.
Paul wrote the 13 Chapter of Corinthians, for a church that was also struggling with how to be a more “Vital Congregation.” Here was Paul’s answer: “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
Below are the responses of four churches learning to be Vital in the name of God’s love:
Our church asked:
What does a vital congregation look like?
How does it act?
What does it do?
How do we go about becoming a vital congregation?
Why should we want to be a vital congregation?
Will this cause us to step out of our comfort zone?
Must we speak the truth about where we are presently as a church?
These questions were asked by Hurt UMC congregation as we wrestle with the reality of bringing back people who live without Jesus Christ, or who have walked away from the church. Hurt UMC held a “Family Meeting.” Everyone who calls Hurt UMC home will share a meal and honest, open discussion on the central question “Why is Hurt UMC here?” It is, we pray, the first step towards becoming vital for Jesus Christ! — Rev. Tammy Franklin, Pastor of Hurt UMC
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Cor. 4-7)
Our congregation is building a new addition to our church and has been for a little over two years now. They have not borrowed any money for this building project. This building will have a new kitchen, fellowship hall, new bathrooms and classrooms. But they will be more than just rooms with chairs. Each room will have wall paintings, window boxes and more to depict scenes of the Bible. This is bringing excitement to the congregation as they reach out to the community. There are so many possibilities on the horizon to reach out and be a light in the world for Christ.
I am so excited but I have only been at this church for six weeks. All the preparation and work was done before I came. Soon there will be a Dedication service to the Glory of God. We will invite the community of Huddleston and all who were involved in this building project. The congregation is so excited, not for themselves but for the possibilities. They have a vision of helping others in the community. This is more than a building and more than a project, but hope for the future to bring others to know Jesus Christ. Rev. Sue Keen, Pastor of Bethesda UMC
“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.” (1 Cor. 13:8-10)
A Vital ministry that Rustburg UMC participated in was National Donor Sunday. We held a candle light service in which the candles of 19 random individuals of all ages were snuffed out indicating those who die each year waiting for transplants. What a powerful stewardship issue to highlight organ and tissue donation. This has long been a special Sunday traditionally observed in November. The United Methodist Church supports organ and tissue donation: We believe these are acts of charity, agape love, and self-sacrifice.
National Donor Sabbath helps to increase awareness of the critical need for organs and tissues and the miracle of transplantation. Religious leaders who participate in discussions of donation with their congregants can affirm that choosing to be an organ and tissue donor offers the opportunity to share the greatest blessing of all– the gift of life.
“Now more than ever, I understand the meaning of Acts 20:35 ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive,’” said Kathy Gilbert, writer for UM News Service who donated a kidney to her step-father David Long. “I can’t begin to describe the joy I feel knowing David is getting better. It is still hard for me to believe I actually went through with everything. This was the year I stepped out on faith and was richly blessed by God.” — Rev. Liz Ecklund, Pastor of Rustburg UMC
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Cor. 13:11-12)
Recently, we received news that two scouts in the groups that meet at Bethlehem UMC in Concord needed financial help. The scouts go to a camp that costs $ 250 per boy. Two boys did not have the money.
This need arose during the same weeks we were focusing on a “budget catch-up offering” scheduled for the 5th Sunday. Having already made three weeks of announcements for the budget offering, I then announced the need for this second Scout Camp offering. The budget offering would coincide with the first of three Scout Camp offerings.
Knowing that money is a “touchy” subject, we wanted to give these two offerings a lighter feel. So when it came time to take the two offerings, we put two identical baskets at the chancel rail during the closing hymn.
The question was obvious: which one is for the budget, and which one is for the Scouts? (I asked the question as I placed the baskets.) The answer was also obvious. The budget offering basket had colored paper fixed to the back. Red at the bottom, black at the top. (We’re going from red to black.) The back of the other basket had blue and yellow paper, (the cub Scout colors). I turned the baskets so the colors faced the congregation.
As people brought their offerings, there was some quiet joking between them about not getting mixed up about the colors. There was more than a little giggling. With just a little effort, what could have felt like a double-whammy request for money, turned into a joyful time of mission giving. — Rev. Dan Dibble, Pastor of Bethlehem UMC
“Three things last forever—faith, hope, and love—the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)