Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is making available a set of Bible study tools for congregations and districts embarking on the Vital Ministry Journey.
Three Bible studies have been published as paperback booklets:
— Study, Sharing, and Prayer: A Bible Study for Congregations on a Vital Ministry Journey
— Worship: Responding to God’s Love
— Vital Passions, Holy Practices: Exploring Spiritual Gifts.
Although these Bible studies are designed as part of the Vital Ministry Journey, they can be used as stand-alone resources–in particular the spiritual gifts material. A congregation does not need to be part of the journey initiative to use the resources.
Each study book includes focus scripture texts, guidelines and questions for conversation, space for personal journaling, and guidance for congregational leaders and group facilitators.
Ideally, a congregation takes part in the Vital Ministry Journey as part of a district process, with accompaniment and coaching from Congregational Life Ministries staff. A few congregations already have begun the journey on their own, after consulting with Congregational Life Ministries staff who provide counsel and resources.
Staff are training people in each district to walk with the congregations. District leadership identifies people from the district to serve as coaches. These “called out” individuals (not all have to be pastors) receive training on the Vital Ministry Journey process. The district coaches work with churches that become involved with the process after a district decides to become a sponsor for the journey.
The very flexible process may be adapted by each district and congregation for its particular context.
Sixty-day study on a church’s mission with God
The first resource recommended for the Vital Ministry Journey is “Study, Sharing, and Prayer.” Congregations that use this 60-day study discuss Bible texts like 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 and John 15:12-17, which lead small groups into in-depth conversation about God’s mission in the world, how the church takes part in that mission as disciples of Jesus Christ, and what scripture invites the church to be and do.
Sample questions include “What are the current signs of vitality and strength in your congregation on which you can build an effective future?” and “How is your congregation discerning, celebrating, and participating in God’s mission in new ways?”
The resource is designed for use by the three-person triads out of which the rest of the Vital Ministry Journey emerges.
‘Worship: Responding to God’s Love’
The six-week Bible study on worship focuses on the themes of “Longing for God” (Psalm 63:1-8), “Great Is God’s Faithfulness” (Acts 16:23-25), “Celebrating the Life of God” (Luke 15:1-10), “God of Grace and God of Glory” (Psalms 8 and 100), “Worship That Is Life-Changing and World-Shaping” (Matthew 5:14-16), and “Turning Toward God” (Philippians 4:4-9).
Small study groups use a set of questions to center conversation on the personal and corporate meaning of worship. Sample questions include “What is the community’s worship like when we are more fully attentive to God?” and “In what ways does worship awaken you to the mysteries of everyday life, empowering you to reach out to bring wholeness to people and the earth?”
‘Vital Passions, Holy Practices’
This four-week Bible study on spiritual gifts provides study materials for use by individuals and congregations wanting to live more fully out of their areas of calling and giftedness. It is meant to support churches in a process of personal and shared discovery, helping congregations identify the gifts and strengths of members and affirm those gifts within the life of the community.
After carrying out the study of spiritual gifts in triads, congregations that are in the Vital Ministry Journey will be encouraged to move from Bible study about spiritual gifts into a conversation about passions, strengths, skills, and motivations of church members, aided by a gifts inventory. These discoveries help churches make space for individuals to live out their passions and gifts within the context for shared ministry and mission.
More Bible studies envisioned for the Vital Ministry Journey will help congregations focus on the call to Christian service, congregational care, and spiritual discipline. Materials will be available in Spanish as well as English.
For more information about the Vital Ministry Journey, or to express interest in any of these Bible study resources, contact the Congregational Life Ministries office at 800-323-8039 ext. 303 or 847-429-4303.