*This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 version of Enrich Magazine.
Guest Post by David Wells. David is the general superintendent of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
Missional vitality is one of the PAOC’s desired outcomes for its churches and ministries. We have been in a serious, ongoing evaluation of the status of that vitality as it relates to the health of our churches and their ability to multiply. I want to affirm the openness, co-operation and intentionality that our districts have shown to see our shared vision for vital, multiplying churches and ministries realized. There are variations in the processes they follow, but here are some key components utilized by those who endeavour to equip our churches and ministries.
1. PRAYERFUL HUMILITY
This characteristic cannot be overstated. The pastor and the key leaders within a local church must honestly recognize that a new day is needed. Tweaking a few programs will not address a history of plateau or decline. A season of honest evaluation and a prayerful renewal of spirit and ministry are required. Church leaders and congregations must recognize that and respond appropriately.
2. MUTUAL AGREEMENT TO PARTICIPATE
The church leadership and the district (or an identified revitalization partner) determine to enter a vitalization process together. This follows open dialogue, honest sharing of information, and clarity of what the process of vitalization involves. A shared commitment is made and explained to the congregation.
Facilitated by the district (or revitalization partner) and led by the pastor and the church’s leadership, a thorough evaluation of all facets of the church’s current state takes place over several weeks. Different tools are used to assist these self-evaluations.
4. A DEDICATED RETREAT FOR INSTRUCTION AND DISCERNMENT
Often involving an extended weekend, the pastor, key leaders, and often spouses engage with their facilitators in interviews, instruction, dialogue and prayer regarding the church’s health and steps toward future vitality. The desire is to have “ears to hear” what the Spirit is saying to the church. Insights and future direction are shared with the congregation on Sunday.
Prior to and during this season of discernment, the pastor and board are encouraged to lead the congregation in a time of prayer and fasting.
5. SPECIAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING
Shortly after the discernment retreat, the congregation is invited to participate in a “town hall” style meeting to further discuss the results and ramifications of the report. Generally, the pastor and the district official or appointed representative facilitate the discussion. The congregation is then invited to prayerfully consider the proposed process in preparation for an official congregational decision.
6. VOTE TO AFFIRM THE PROPOSED PROCESS
The discernment retreat and congregational gathering are followed in a timely manner by a congregational vote to accept or reject the proposed future direction. Clarity is provided regarding the ramifications of a decision to accept or reject the proposal. The pastor oversees this vote following a Sunday (i.e., primary) service.
7. PASTORAL LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT
Once the vitalization process is agreed upon, the pastoral leadership will be invited into a regular “cluster” or small group environment to equip them as they lead the church into renewed health and mission. In addition, a regular practice of districts is to provide one-on-one coaching on a regular basis to assist the pastoral leadership in their implementation of the process being followed.
8. SUPPORT AND ASSESSMENT FOR THE CONGREGATIONAL LEADERSHIP
Regular appraisal meetings, usually every six months, are held with the pastor, board and ministry leaders for assessment, affirmation and course correction. Supplemental assistance will be offered as deemed advisable. Celebration and communication of enhanced health will take place at these meetings.
Currently all our districts have catalytic people who are participating with churches and their leaders in facilitating revitalization (sometimes titled rejuvenation or vitalization) processes. They are included in the following list of our Church Revitalization Network, which Gary Taitinger, superintendent for our Alberta and NWT District, and I co- chair. I encourage the leadership of our churches, whether plateaued, thriving or declining, to contact our districts to participate in processes that will enhance the spiritual, theological and missional vitality of their churches.