United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nashville, Tenn.:The first priority of The United Methodist Church must be a commitment to fostering and sustaining congregational vitality if the denomination is to be effective in its mission, states the final report of the Call to Action steering team, released today.
"While there are many examples of effective disciple-making, prophetic witness, and ministries of justice and mercy across the Connection, these efforts do not obviate the effects in the United States and Europe of our increasingly older membership and aging leaders; declines in the numbers of professions of faith, worship attendance, and baptisms; and growing financial burdens accompanied by decreasing revenues," the report states.
"Thus, the adaptive challenge for The United Methodist Church is to redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
The steering team proposed the following five recommendations, which would be mutually interdependent:
Beginning in January 2011 and continuing for at least ten years, concentrate on using the drivers of congregational vitality to build effective practices in local churches.
Dramatically reform the clergy leadership development, deployment, evaluation, and accountability systems.
Measure progress in key performance areas using statistical information to learn and adjust approaches to leadership, policies, and use of human and financial resources.
Reform the Council of Bishops, with active bishops assuming responsibility/accountability for improving results in attendance, professions of faith, baptisms, participation in servant/mission ministries, benevolent giving, and lowering the average age of church participants, as well as for establishing a new culture of accountability throughout the church.
Consolidate program and administrative agencies, and align their work and resources with church priorities and the commitment to build vital congregations, and reconstitute them with much smaller competency-based boards of directors.
The Call to Action Project was launched by assignment from the Council of Bishops with endorsement and funding from the Connectional Table in November 2009, building on work of the previous Call to Action Committee.
In order to assure that recommendations would be fact-based and not opinion-based, the steering team commissioned research based on extensive data-mining and objective methods for identifying relevant trends, behaviors, and issues.
An independent system-wide operational assessment of the connectional church was conducted by Apex that looked at how the denomination is currently using people, money, and processes at the district, annual conference, and general church levels.
In addition, comprehensive research on data from various sources was carried out by the international firm Towers Watson to gain information about the factors that lead to congregations being more vital as evidenced by attendance, growth and engagement.
Reliable statistical findings based on massive amounts of data from over 32,000 congregations show that high-vitality churches consistently share common factors that work together to influence congregational vitality and are characterized by the prevalence of:
Effective pastoral leadership including inspirational preaching, mentoring laity, and effective management
Multiple small groups and programs for children and youth
A mix of traditional and contemporary worship services
A high percentage of spiritually engaged laity who assume leadership roles
The Call to Action steering team will present their recommendations to the Council of Bishops at their meeting in Panama City, Panama in two parts on November 3-4, and to the Connectional Table at their meeting in Franklin, Tenn. on November 15. The report proposes the next step to guide change management be the establishment of a five-member interim operations team to work with the Council of Bishops, the Connectional Table and the general agencies to develop and implement work plans in stages leading up to and beyond the 2012 General Conference.
The steering team's final report, the operational assessment report and the congregational vitality report are all available in their entirety at umc.org/calltoaction.