+Rev. Dee Pederson, Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA
Many congregations are preparing for the first Church Council meeting of the new year and for congregational meetings. These are meetings when people who love the church take seriously how things are going and where their congregation is headed. Agendas will include time to review and report on the past year. Sometimes those reports lead us to wringing our hands over how to get more people to come to church or increase giving. We all know the culture has changed; we can’t reverse that, but we can discern how we will do ministry differently in this changing time. What if, instead of focusing on the symptoms, we lead our councils and congregational meetings in intentional conversations that ask:
- How is our congregation living as a community of Jesus that nurtures life-changing relationships with God, one another, and the world?
- What is our congregation really good at? What are we known for?
- What if we actually believed God planted us in this place for a reason?
The ELCA has great resources to guide imaginative and inspiring conversations about the vitality of your congregation’s ministries. Visit www.congregationalvitalitysurvey.com/Resources.
Congregational vitality simply has to do with living out the great commission, or the capacity of a congregation to invite new people into Christian community. Our ELCA resources recognize that vitality is seen as congregations:
- Know their “why”
- Know and live out their core values
- Empower spiritual gifts
- Engage with the community
- Exhibit joy
- Are invitational in nature
- Seek to be authentically diverse
- Practice discipleship
A resource I really like is titled, “Parochial Report Discussion Guide.” – O.K. I know filling out that report is one of the least favorite things on your to-do list in the next month, so why not share the joy?! 😉 The annual report isn’t just the report of a pastor or one leader. Plan your council and annual meetings to join in thinking about and owning the vitality of your congregation. And then make use of their feedback and ideas to complete that blessed report AND plan for the future of your congregation and community and the people God loves so much.
Annual Parochial Report Discussion Guide
Here is a brief plan you can use:
- Click here to download the Discussion Guide.
- Begin with dwelling in the Word – a text fitting to your congregation and context.
- Have enough paper copies of the worksheet available for each person.
- A few words of introduction:
- Vitality is seen in congregations of any size or shape as we live out God’s mission of building relationships with God, each other, and the world.
- Every congregation is vital to its community.
- Ask each participant to complete the questions individually, from their own perspective. There are no right or wrong answers.
- Tally the Vitality Score.
- Share as a whole group or in smaller groups – verbally or on a board/paper – how each person rated each item.
- Consider ratings within each category. Where do you see God at work? What are the challenges?
- Talk about how God is calling your congregation today and in the immediate future. Identify any gaps between where you are, where you are called to be, and determine next steps.
- What changes are in order? These changes might include how we:
- listen to and learn from community leaders
- communicate with people who are here, people when they are not here, people who are not here at all, and people who are new
- prioritize staffing
- come alongside or partner with other congregations or organizations
- open ourselves to doing things we’ve never done before
- take seriously the command to call new people into the way of Jesus.
- Your group could come to consensus about responses to include in the annual report, or you could create an average for all responses.
- You may want to invite larger groups to complete the survey and/or enter totals at the ELCA Web site to receive a complete – and interesting! – report.
Forms A and C (Parochial Reports)
The discussion guide will also help you in filling out your Congregational Report Form A (question 19).
To fill out these forms you must have your congregation ID number and password. Passwords change from year to year. Congregation passwords can be found on the mailed form A (top right) or please call the synod office at 507-637-3904.
You can file electronically or by mail.
– Click here to access Forms A & C
– Click here for general instructions (PDF)