God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change… ~ Psalm 46.1-2a
By Pastor Erika Uthe, Director of Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop
Now, more than ever, we are living in a world in need of the good news of Jesus Christ. This, at its core, is the mission of the church: to share the reconciling grace of God in Christ Jesus. Yet in a world where congregations are struggling with changing contexts and the implications of these changes on Christian community, many are finding themselves stuck. One leader said it well, “We know we need to change, we just don’t know how to change.”
Indeed there are no magic bullets, or set of steps to follow that will always lead a congregation to greater vitality. There are, however, some things we do know about this change. For the last year or so Bishop Burk, along with all of our churchwide partners in the ELCA, have been talking a lot about congregational vitality. At synod assembly, Bishop Burk shared that in Southeastern Iowa we think a vital congregation exhibits the following categories:
- A vital congregation has at its center the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
- A vital congregation is willing to try new things.
- A vital congregation is connected to the church beyond itself.
- A vital congregation positively impacts the community in which it is located.
In order to respond to the need to foster greater congregational vitality the Southeastern Iowa Synod has developed two resources:
Congregation Vitality: Vital Signs for the 21st Century Church
is a free, 4-module resource developed in order to help congregations explore each of these marks of vitality more deeply. Included in the resource are self-assessment questions, Bible studies, and individual/group activities as well as additional resources for each mark of vitality.
This resource is intended for use by congregational councils, visioning teams, leadership teams, and anyone else in a congregation who is interested in transforming their community of faith into a more vital worshipping community. The Office of the Bishop receives questions on a weekly basis about how a congregation can improve ministries from stewardship and evangelism to youth/children and worship. It is obvious to many that the church simply cannot afford to operate in the same manner as the church of the last several decades. While this resource will not suddenly and magically bring about significant change, it is designed to begin to crack open possibilities for change, to allow the Spirit to open imagination into how the church could be impacting the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Turning Point: Fostering Greater Congregational Vitality
is an 18-month guided learning process in which six to ten congregations from across the Southeastern Iowa Synod will engage together in listening, learning, and experimenting within their congregations and communities. This process includes both a financial commitment and the commitment of a learning team who will work the process from beginning to end. While the Office of the Bishop cannot answer specifically what outcome will arise as a result of the process, it can be stated with certainty that there will be transformation in the learning team and beyond and that congregational vitality will be equipped to bring this transformation to the congregation as a whole. There is an informational meeting, held online, on Tuesday, October 16 at 6:30 pm.
Register for the online informational meeting here
or to request an application or with further questions, contact Pastor Erika Uthe: [email protected]
It is the goal of the Office of the Bishop to support the congregations in Southeastern Iowa as together the church navigates this monumental time of change. And even as the world around us changes, we are sure and certain that the unchanging love and grace of God the Father holds us together in the body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.