Congregational Vitality becomes the watchword of this issue of your Hoosier United Methodists Together as we move from summer into fall, from summer routines of relaxation and recreation back to school, work and volunteering as regular routines and as nighttime temperatures begin to finally fall.

This is the time of year church-centered activities ramp up to provide members and guests both inspiration and a variety of opportunities to serve others inside and outside church walls.

Our church’s vitality becomes central to our thinking and planning. To improve that congregational vitality, The United Methodist Church has begun a national emphasis upon the vitality of congregations by providing resources, as well as asking each congregation to enter five statistics each week that serve as marks of a congregation’s vitality.

In this issue on page one, the worldwide Call to Action Steering Team, including our own Ben Boruff of Indianapolis, representing young adults, outlines key factors characteristic of vital growing congregations including: pastoral effectiveness, worship, lay leadership and small group programs.

This theme of vital congregations continues with a question-and-answer session with Congregational Development Director Mark Gough answering questions by United Methodist Reporter Editor Sam Hodges of Dallas, Texas, about Indiana’s growth in membership and worship attendance during 2010.

After 30 years of decline, Indiana joins other growing United Methodist conferences across the country. This new vitality is reflected in this story.

The Rev. Jerald Turner, pastor of Petersville United Methodist Church, just east of Columbus, joins the conversation with his own views about why Vital Congregation’s dashboard numbers are important to the well-being of congregations and the entire Church.

In addition to this overarching theme, read stories about churches partnering in Bristol to create a well-attended Vacation Bible School, two Hoosier pastors being selected to receive Lilly Endowment renewal grants, Hoosiers helping out in Minot with flood cleanup, and churches celebrating Christmas in July for Guatemala Mission, plus regular columns by Bishop Mike Coyner, Michelle Cobb and Todd Outcalt and Conversations.

Upcoming events this fall are announced throughout this issue, including the Sunday, Oct. 23 dedication of the Fenstermacher Lodge at the Epworth Forest Conference Center in North Webster and World Communion Sunday on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2.

I invite you to read this issue in one two-hour setting, or piecemeal during the next several days. Also share these stories with others in your congregation to show them the work of the church beyond their own walls. Welcome.

Daniel R. Gangler