This month all pastors serving United Methodist congregations in Indiana are receiving a letter from me about the “Vital Signs” project of our United Methodist Church. The Council of Bishops has approved asking every United Methodist congregation around the world to adopt goals for 2012 as a way of moving toward being Vital Congregations.

Those goals will be collected and taken to General Conference of The United Methodist Church in the spring of 2012 and there offered as a gift to God – and asking God to bless our intentions and efforts to fulfill our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Vital Signs are specific measurements to help each congregation determine their progress toward becoming a more Vital Congregation. Each congregation will set its own goals (this is not a top-down imposition of goals), and those goals will focus upon the five areas which have been identified by the Call to Action study to be helpful measurements of Vitality. Those areas are not a surprise, but for the first time in our church’s history, we have an actual study of data and statistics, which has determined these are the key components of Vital Congregations. Those are:

  • Disciples worship – We will measure average worship attendance.
  • Disciples make new disciples – We will measure professions of faith.
  • Disciples grow – We will measure the number of small groups for faith development.
  • Disciples engage in missions – We will measure the number of people engaged in mission.
  • Disciples give to missions – We will count the amount of money given to mission.

Are there other things which could be measured? Of course there are. Is it difficult to measure spiritual vitality? Yes, it is. Could some people turn this effort into a “numbers game” and not be honest or faithful? I suppose that might happen, but if so it will only hurt their own local congregation, because it will cheat them out of an opportunity to measure their vitality.

Along with measuring these Vital Signs of Vital Congregations, we also have plans here in Indiana to help any congregation which needs to learn how to set goals, reach goals and become a more Vital Congregation. This is not just another device to measure and to make useless reports. This is a part of a process of helping all of us to be more vital and faithful.

I am excited about the prospect of moving our denomination forward in a way that honors our Wesleyan theology, our mission as a church and our system of leadership. For years many people have been asking for us bishops to lead the church. We are trying to do so, and I hope and pray our leadership will be received with enthusiasm and discipline.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana and around the world”