Initially developed with Middle Pennsylvania District, the new Vital Ministry Journey is being considered by several other districts and congregations across the denomination.
An emerging effort of Congregational Life Ministries, Vital Ministry Journey is a way for denominational staff to partner with congregations and districts toward holistic health. The effort is built around conversation, Bible study, prayer, and storytelling.
In this first phase, denominational staff are seeking to identify churches and districts that are ready to grow in mission vitality. Practices supporting the process include coaching, training, networking, mutual support, and the cultivation of shared mission among congregations. A part of the initial phase are “Share and Prayer Triads,” three-member study groups in place for 60 days for self-study and discernment of a church’s state of health, calling as a community, and next steps.
Middle Pennsylvania District launched the process on Sept. 8. “The district invited congregations to the (launch) event to learn more about the process,” reported Stan Dueck, director of Transforming Practices for the Church of the Brethren. “Twenty-three congregations were represented at the event with an attendance of more than 80 people. Since the launch there have been two training sessions for the internal coaches who will be paired with participating churches in the district’s Vital Ministry Journey process.”
He added that district executive David Steele estimates five or six churches will begin the process after Jan. 1. Dueck is excited about connecting coaching with Vital Ministry Journey because Steele identified some very good people in the district to be coaches, and these individuals are motivated to participate in ongoing training events.
“Five to six churches is a very good start for Vital Ministry Journey in the district. With 5-6 congregations, each church can be on its own unique journey, and yet pastors, church leaders and members have opportunities to come together to celebrate and worship and share in collaborative learning experiences and conversation. It would be terrific to have a cluster of churches in the districts participating in Vital Ministry Journey at various intervals.”
Dueck and Donna Kline of Congregational Life Ministries were leaders for a retreat of Northern Plains District on Oct. 12-14. That district is considering how to incorporate Vital Ministry Journey with revitalization work that its began two years ago. Dueck presented the Vital Ministry Journey to district leaders and interested congregations. “We received very encouraging feedback from the attendees,” he said.
Other meetings are scheduled with additional districts who are interested, such as Illinois and Wisconsin District. Several congregations also have started the process on their own, including Newport Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District, and Neighborhood Church of the Brethren in Illinois and Wisconsin District.
“What we’ve seen so far is that some of our more vital churches are attracted to the process,” Dueck said, “and people are connecting to the Bible study material and process.”
Find more information and a video about the Vital Ministry Journey at www.brethren.org/congregationallife/vmj/about.html . For inquiries about the Vital Ministry Journey contact Dueck at email@example.com or Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively at firstname.lastname@example.org .