AKRON, Ohio – Bishops Gregory Palmer of the Illinois Area and Bruce Ough of the West Ohio Area addressed the North Central Jurisdictional conference July 19 about vital congregations in the North Central Jurisdiction. They spoke on behalf of the NCJ College of Bishops of which Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner is a member.

Palmer led by saying, “I want to assure you that your bishops are committed to the adaptive challenge that it is rightly before the church. We reflect the flow of attention, energy and resources on fostering in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Research shows that only 15 percent of our congregations across the United States are highly vital congregations.

Overall, in the NCJ, only 12 percent of our congregations are highly vital. The Indiana Conference has 14 percent of its congregations that are highly vital congregations.

Goals for 2015

Here are the demographics the NCJ wants to achieve by 2015 according to a survey of the jurisdiction:

  • Weekly worship to touch the lives of more than 640,000 people.
  • To make 122,000 new disciples,
  • To have 69,400 small formational groups to help shape people’s lives,
  • 100,000 disciples serving in outreach mission and
  • To receive more than $639 million in total mission giving through the churches and conferences of the North Central Jurisdiction.

Palmer and Ough (pronounced “Oh”) said churches are closing because members missed the opportunity to find a way to reach out and embrace the changing neighborhood and demographics.

They showed that these are the signs of vitality in every congregation in our jurisdiction:

  1. Vitality emerges when congregations reach out to children and youth.
  2. Vitality emerges in new faith communities.
  3. Vitality emerges when congregations respond to the needs and opportunities in their communities.
  4. Vitality emerges when congregations pray for the Holy Spirit to lead them.
  5. Vitality exists when lay leaders are fully engaged in the leadership, mission and ministry of the church.

In the report the leaders showed video examples of vital congregations from across the jurisdiction. Indiana featured a video about its Fruitful Congregations program to increase lay activity and outreach in the Indiana Conference.

Signs of vitality

“Mission that is risk-taking and not just an attraction drives everything. We must create a risk-taking missional culture in our jurisdiction,” said Palmer.

“Passionate, skilled clergy and lay leadership are the keys to vital congregations. We must create a culture of call and systems for developing effective leadership in each conference, “ said Ough.

“We must reclaim and live our Wesleyan DNA of personal and social holiness,” said Palmer.

“We must reclaim our evangelical heritage and create a culture where we are prepared to go where the people are and to share our ‘God stories’ of personal and community-world transformation,” Bishop Ough said.

“We must create a culture and the corresponding systems and resources to aggressively start new places for new people,” said Palmer.

“We must create a culture that embraces that transformation beginning with our own personal formation in Christ through prayer, Bible study and life in community,” said Ough.

“Passionate, skilled clergy and lay leadership are the keys to vital congregations.”

– Bishop Bruce Ough