Step 1: A “shared learning experience.” It takes place over eight monthly sessions that coincide with the school year (skipping December) at a teaching church that provides a church team with key concepts and principles for effective ministry in their home church. It costs a congregation $200 plus the cost of meals, books and travels. The monthly sessions give a team of laity – 10 to 15 percent of the average worship attendance – the chance to meet with other churches and a facilitator, Fenstermacher said. At the end of this step, the church council votes whether to continue to Step 2.

Step 2: The consultation/intervention Process. This step lasts about five months. The conference church development team picks up the roughly $6,500 tab for the program. During this step the conference team does a “360 evaluation of the congregation.” This is the time for the congregation to face what might be unpleasant facts about itself.

The congregation is guided through an in-depth analysis of itself, which includes a demographic study and the congregation answering an online survey. The conference team works with a Missouri company that provides mystery worshippers to provide feedback about the church’s worship experience. They vet and train a team from the local area to attend worship and report on 16 aspects of worship, from asking local residents how to get to the church to parking, entering, worshipping and leaving. This results in a 100-page report.

The second step culminates in an on-site evaluation that begins Friday and ends with a report after Sunday worship. The conference team holds a focus group of laity, talks to the church staff and council and a holds a five-hour workshop for the entire congregation.

The resulting report is the heart of the FCJ process. It is divided into the congregation’s five greatest strengths, five areas of greatest concern and five prescriptions. If the church decides to continue, this report becomes their MAP, their Ministry Action Plan.

The congregation then holds three town hall meetings to debate and discuss the report. Six weeks later the district superintendent holds a church conference and the congregation votes whether to accept the MAP and pursue all of the five prescriptions – there is no picking and choosing. If the majority votes to accept the plan, the next step is to hire a coach to work with them for Step 3.

Step 3: The implementation of the prescriptions, the Ministry Action Plan. This step last from a year to 18 months and costs $250 per month for a coach who meets onsite with the church each month. Pastors have the opportunity to network in a peer mentoring group with the other participating pastors.

For more information about Fruitful Congregation Journey, contact the church development team:

Contact them via phone by calling 877/781-6706 (toll-free).