From the Bishop

The whole United Methodist Church is moving forward in a ten-year emphasis upon Vital Congregations (www.umvitalcongregations.org). This emphasis is in response to the action of the 2008 General Conference, which affirmed this direction. Now the Council of Bishops is asking each United Methodist congregation around the world to set goals for 2012 and beyond in the five areas, which best measure the vitality of a congregation.

Those goals are being set and affirmed through Charge Conferences this fall, and in early 2012, our congregations will be receiving an e-mail every Monday to ask for a simple weekly report of these Vital Signs from one person in the congregation. This person could be the pastor, a lay leader, or a church secretary – whomever the local church designates.

Those weekly reports will be automatically posted on a Vital Signs website (www.vitalsignsumc.org). If all of this technology works well, then everyone will be able to see those reports from every other church – all to provide encouragement, as well as accountability for one another.

As I think about this whole process, I am very supportive of it, but believe there is a missing element: praying for one another. This whole Vital Congregations emphasis is not about goals, numbers or reports. This emphasis is about our fervent desire for EVERY ONE of our United Methodist congregations to be vital, alive, faithful and fruitful. This is not about competition or comparing one church to another; it’s about ALL OF US being more vital and faithful.

So, I will be instituting a simple plan for us to pray for all of our nearly 1,200 congregations here in Indiana. I will invite all of us to pray for five congregations each weekday (Monday through Friday). This will allow us to pray for each one of our congregations by name during 2012. I know many churches have other patterns of praying for their neighboring churches on Sundays, and I don’t want to interfere with that pattern. Praying for five churches each weekday is simply a way of focusing our desire for vitality that allows us to lift up each congregation and to pray for its vitality. It is “methodical” but it also can be effective.

In addition, I will be writing each of the 25 churches for the upcoming week to remind them they are being prayed for, and our Conference Center will be posting that list on the website each week as well. My goal is simple – lots of prayers for all of our individual congregations.

I also will offer each week a Scripture focus for our prayers that week. Those Scriptures will be ones that lift up God’s desire for us to be faithful and fruitful people, who exhibit the vitality of the Spirit who leads us in mission. Perhaps those Scriptures will deepen our prayers, even while we each wait for our own church to be named.

Please prepare to join me in praying for one another as congregations during 2012. May God grant all of us and all of our congregations, to become more vital during 2012.

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