By Tyler Roebuck
The Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren “provide coaches, collaborators, and consultants to assist congregations in reaching out and connecting with their local communities,” according to the ministries’ webpage. Currently, Congregational Life Ministries staff are making resources available for congregations to discern their gifts, explore their vitality, and teach others about the practices of the church.
Among the resources are the Congregational Vitality Survey, a new congregational ethics self-study resource and a Code of Ethics booklet, the Anabaptist Worship Exchange website, the Vital Ministry Journey, and printable cards giving information about three important practices of the Church of the Brethren--the ordinances of baptism, love feast, and anointing.
Congregational Vitality Survey
The Congregational Vitality Survey is an assessment tool that provides congregations with a guided study of their strengths and areas for growth. Stan Dueck and Joshua Brockway of the Congregational Life Ministries staff work with congregations, and typically the district executive, to discover and discuss three strengths and three areas that could use improvement.
“We create a report and meet with the pastor and leadership team,” Brockway said. “It’s a relational model of coaching.”
Currently six congregations are in the process of carrying out the survey. Brockway expects that 15 to 20 surveys will be administered annually. Congregations interested in utilizing the Congregational Vitality Survey should contact their district executive or the Congregational Life Ministries office at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Congregational ethics self-study
Available now on the Church of the Brethren website is a series of Bible studies and case studies, and the denomination’s Ethics for Congregations polity, to aid congregations in studying their own ethical conduct. Often, when people hear about a code of ethics, they become uneasy and anxious about a list of “dos” and “do nots” that will provoke feelings of guilt. The Congregational Life Ministries resources for congregational ethics are intentionally designed to be less frightening and to provide a description of healthy congregational conduct.
“Ethics isn’t about rules to follow, but rather how good congregations should conduct themselves,” said Brockway. He described the resources as “phrased constructively to name healthy behaviors and processes” and to help congregations identify goals as a community. In addition to the web resources, a Code of Ethics booklet is available. Access the resources at www.brethren.org/discipleship/ethics.html .
Anabaptist Worship Exchange
The Anabaptist Worship Exchange website is a online place to share worship materials among Anabaptist congregations. Users may post any worship resource they have created, including liturgy, music, and sermons, to be shared with other users. “The idea is to open the local church to the denomination,” Brockway said. Resources can be sorted by type of material, lectionary cycle, biblical reference, and contributor. All editing is the responsibility of the user. Visit the website at http://anabaptistworshipexchange.org .
Vital Ministry Journey
The Vital Ministry Journey is for congregations whose leaders desire that their church “recapture a dynamic vision and mission so as to live abundantly and be God’s blessing to its community.” The initial 60-day study, available for all congregations of the Church of the Brethren, guides churches through the process of listening, prayer, and spiritual formation, to discern their part in the mission of God. Additional Vital Ministry Journey study resources include a study of Philippians and “Vital Passions, Holy Practices” to study and assess spiritual gifts. For more information about the Vital Ministry Journey, contact email@example.com .
Baptism, anointing, and love feast--three predominant practices of the Church of the Brethren--are sometimes misunderstood. As a teaching tool, three card-sized digital resources outlining the scriptural reasoning as well as the general practices of these ordinances are available to download from the Church of the Brethren website. Each explains the practice or ordinance in language appropriate for new church members. The downloads are available as JPEG files, for ease of sharing digitally, and are easy to print out and distribute. Access the cards at www.brethren.org/discipleship/practices.html .
-- Tyler Roebuck is a student at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., and a Ministry Summer Service intern with Church of the Brethren communications.