Future Focused/Mission Driven: Strategic Directions for 2017-20
Aligning The United Methodist Church for greater missional impact has been and will continue to be at the heart of the work of the Connectional Table. During the 2012-16 quadrennium, the Connectional Table, together with the Council of Bishops, formed a Missional Collaboration Group on Vital Congregations, serving as the key body responsible for connecting our strategies and building relationships among those working collaboratively to increase vital congregations bearing fruit in the Four Areas of Focus. This body is discerning and affirming goals for strategic directions for The United Methodist Church in the next quadrennium.
Progress reports on these goals were offered and affirmed by the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table in early 2015. These emerging strategies have generated enthusiasm and collaborative energy for the work of grounding the church in our core values as a worldwide connection. The Connectional Table remains committed to developing these goals and the strategies that support them. These are all a part of a VISION for the next quadrennium, our 2020 Vision.
Our 2020 Vision looks forward to a United Methodist Church that can double the number of highly vital congregations excelling in the five markers of vitality: disciples in worship, new disciples (professions of faith), disciples in small groups, disciples in mission and giving to mission.
A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world.
The goals, planning processes and strategic visioning for vital congregations exist to enable each local church to have a vital future in disciple making. Achieving goals is not an end in itself, but rather a tool to see if what we are doing is producing fruit. The actual process of disciple making, the means of grace, is our main priority.
In the congregation, these have been practiced through the ministries of worship, making new disciples (professions of faith), small groups, mission and generous giving. Congregations that consistently engage in the process of making disciples, grace-filled Christ followers putting faith into action and practicing the ministries of discipleship increase vitality for making more disciples and transforming the world.
Making disciples through vital congregations increases our opportunity for witness in the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through ministry with the poor, improving global health, creating new places for new people and shaping principled Christian leaders.
The Four Areas of Focus
Calling and Shaping Principled Christian Leaders
- Our 2020 Vision looks forward to a United Methodist Church equipping 3 million people across the connection to be "difference makers," called out to serve as principled Christian leaders in our world today.
- Our United Methodist Church believes that Jesus is "calling you out" for something greater than any one person. The question for every United Methodist today and into our future is: "What difference will you make?"
- We define principled Christian leadership as making a difference wherever you are: at the local church, in the mission field, across a denomination, in each community and society across our world. As "grace-filled followers of Jesus Christ," our discipleship leads to our decision to make a difference in the world. We believe we can equip all United Methodists across our connection to be "difference makers" for Jesus.
Creating and Sustaining New Places for New People
- Our 2020 Vision looks forward to a United Methodist Church with 500,000 new disciples who profess their faith through renewed and new faith communities around the world.
- New faith communities are critical to the task of making new disciples and transforming the world. A faith community is a group that gathers under the lordship of Jesus Christ to worship, engage and send. This includes but is not limited to new church starts, Global Mission Initiatives, and missions, circuits and preaching points across our connection.
- We receive new disciples through professions of faith and increase professions of faith through new faith communities. The denomination is reaching more people, more young people, and more diverse people for Christ by creating new places for new people. The people of The United Methodist Church seek to cultivate the leaders, develop the systems and implement the strategies necessary to regain our healthy denominational practice of starting two faith communities each day.
- The real measure of success will not be in those numbers or in membership increases or improved giving but in the lives that will be touched and drawn to Christ as disciples because these new faith communities were able to reach people with the gospel of Christ who might otherwise not be reached.
Ministry with the Poor
- Our 2020 Vision looks forward to a United Methodist Church that can build 400 vibrant, flourishing and transforming communities addressing issues of poverty and ministry with the poor, particularly with children.
- Vital congregations reflect God's transforming love into their communities and around the world. As faithful disciples, we are called to love our neighbors – to walk, worship and witness with them so that all may enjoy God's vision of abundant life. As United Methodists, we will challenge and transform broken systems and structures that create and perpetuate poverty.
- John Wesley understood that ministry must be centered on relationships. To truly love our neighbors we must first know them: their struggles, joys, gifts and challenges. Rooted in these relationships, United Methodists are engaging in meaningful and transformational ministries with poor people and communities. Leveraging connections and partnerships within and beyond The United Methodist Church, we can transform communities and open doors for children to a more promising future.
Abundant Health for All
- Our 2020 Vision looks forward to a United Methodist Church that can reach 1 million children with life-saving interventions.
- Every child is a life filled with promise and potential, yet, every five seconds a child dies from preventable causes. There is a global move to significantly improve health for all by 2035, with a specific goal of saving the lives of 15 million children by 2020.
- The United Methodist Church has a sacred calling to ensure abundant health for all children, engaging disciples to be agents of God's healing transformation in the world. Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). Our promise is to make that a reality for millions of those whom Jesus has blessed.
Together we have seen the denomination make significant advances in accountability, assessment and collaboration that have prepared us well for our future vision.
We take the submission of this report as an opportunity to celebrate all that we have been able to accomplish this quadrennium by the grace of God and through the Holy Spirit's leading in our connectional church. We look forward to seeing the fruit of this aligning and collaborative work as we continue to focus on our 2020 Vision for a more vital and authentically worldwide church, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
For further details on the work accomplished by the Connectional Table during the 2013-16 quadrennium, please visit www.umc.org/connectionaltable.
Excerpted from the Quadrennial Report of the Connectional Table to General Conference 2016.