Central Florida Presbytery has been accepted into the next wave of the Vital Congregations Initiative, a program of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) that was begun in 2017. The Initiative is described in this way on the Vital Congregations web page: The purpose of the Vital Congregations Initiative is to work alongside leaders of existing congregations continually assessing, discerning and living into faithful actions that increase vitality through intentional spiritual practices that take them deeper into following Jesus Christ, so that their own lives are changed, congregations are transformed and the mission of God spreads throughout particular communities and the world.
The Church Development Committee of the Presbytery, through its Church Transformation Subcommittee, has been looking for a program as a follow-up to previous efforts, including Acts 16:5 and the Barnabas Leadership program. Additionally, four congregations participated in the New Beginnings program several years ago, of which the Vital Congregations Initiative has some similarities.
The Vital Congregations Initiative is built around seven marks of vital congregations:
Lifelong Discipleship Formation vs. Complacent “Christian” piety
Intentional Authentic Evangelism vs. “Christian” Hypocrisy
Outward Incarnational Focus vs. Inward Institutional Survival
Empower Servant Leadership vs. the Pastor’s job
Spirit-Inspired Worship vs. Self-gratifying worship
Caring Relationships vs. Any other Social Club; façades
Ecclesial Health vs. Unhealthy dysfunction
These marks will be explored in a congregational Bible Study during the season of Lent in 2021 and also later in 2022.
Here is the basic time line for the wave of the Initiative in which we are participating:
During 2020; Preparation: Training of Presbytery Consultants and recruitment of up to fifteen congregations to participate in the Initiative; other foundational planning. The training of consultants will take place in Austin, Texas, on April 27-30, 2020 at the 2020 Vital Congregations Gathering.
2021: Year I: Relational -- Building Intentional Relationships and Honest Assessment of Congregations
January Casting vision — presbyteries with pastors and church leaders; pastors with churches.
January–February Prayer and planning meetings, introductions of pastor cohorts and opening
March–April Seven-week church-wide study during Lent, exploring Seven Marks of Vital Congregations
May–July Break for summer
August Prayer, planning and training for fall
September–November Checking Your Marks — three-session church and presbytery assessments
November–December Show Your Marks — report/capture congregational stories
2022: Year II: Incarnational -- Revitalizing Churches in Three Actions: Re-forming, Missional Clustering, Death and Resurrection
January Prayer and Planning for Vital Congregations
February–March Plotting the Course, Seven-week Study of Rethinking 7 Marks of Vital Congregations
April Pray (One week)
April–October Changing Your Marks — 3 Actions of Revitalizing Churches
November–December Final Vital Congregations Assessment and Report: Show Your Marks
The cost for congregations to participate in the Initiative is approximately $600, depending on the size of the congregation. (The $600 cost assumes a 200-member congregation.) This will cover the production and mailing of the assessment that will be completed during Year I. Most of the cost will be paid by the presbytery and has been factored into the 2020 Budget.
If this Initiative sounds interesting to you, please contact the Presbytery Office to express your interest in being part of it. While the Initiative does not begin at the congregational level until January 2021, the presbytery must report its working list of congregations to the Vital Congregations Initiative Office by April 1, 2020. The Initiative is open to any of the congregations in the presbytery, regardless of size or perceived health.
For more information about the Initiative, visit the Vital Congregations web site. On this site you can download the Vital Congregations Immediate Toolkit and Revitalization Manual, which will give complete information about the Initiative.
Presbytery has also registered to be a Matthew 25 Presbytery, meaning we will encourage 20% of our congregations to participate in this focus. Congregational Revitalization is one of the three priorities in the Matthew 25 Initiative, along with addressing systemic poverty and dismantling institutional racism. Participation in the Vital Congregations Initiative will fulfill the requirements of being a Matthew 25 congregation, which is called to address at least one of these priorities.