CLD Program Brings Focus to Church Vitality

In a recent edition of the Columbia District Newsletter, District Superintendent Lowell Greathouse shared this reflection on the Congregational Leadership Development process and the impact it has had on district churches:

Thoughts for the Journey
During the past three years, nearly 20 of our district churches have participated in the Congregational Leadership Development (CLD) program offered through the Vital Church Project. This six month, intensive experience has been an important part of our learning culture as a district, and if your church has not yet participated and would like to do so, please contact Steve Ross, Director of the Vital Church Project, for details.

This fall, two of our churches have moved on to the consultation phase of this work: Oak Grove UMC and Rose City Park UMC. A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to witness the consultation weekend at Oak Grove UMC and was truly impressed with the wonderful work being done through it. (FYI…Rose City Park UMC had their consultation weekend take place on November 7-9.)

During the weekend at Oak Grove UMC, I was impressed by a number of things. First, you could immediately sense that this congregation has been working hard during the past several months  to complete their self-study, which had them look deeply into who they are as a congregation, where they have been in their history, what their mission field looks like, and what is their readiness for change and movement into the future. In the consultation process, this also involves a series of interviews with the pastor, staff, and lay leaders….and a series of focus groups, meetings, and a day-long workshop with the consultation team in order for them to get a clear picture of the life and direction of the congregation. I applaud Oak Grove for their enthusiastic commitment and response to making their consultation weekend rich and meaningful.

Secondly, I was truly impressed by the quality and insight of the consulting team from our annual conference. Steve Ross lead a wonderful team of clergy and lay consultants, who demonstrated real understanding about what revitalization looks like today. I commend them for the knowledge and commitment that they bring to the consultation process. FYI… six or seven other  churches in the annual conference have now been through the consultation process in the past three years.

And finally, I am of the belief that whether or not a local church votes to adopt the “prescriptions” recommended by the consultation team that there is great value in the process itself. Think about it: a congregation goes through a process of thoroughly and thoughtfully doing a self-examination….and then has an outside team come into the church and, after working extensively, they tell your church what they see and what they’d recommend you do next in order to become more vital as a congregation.  Indeed, how often is it the case in our churches that someone takes the time to honestly give us feedback regarding what they see?

It should be noted that at the conclusion of the “consultation weekend,” the consultants share their report with the entire congregation. It includes a listing of 3 strengths that they see in the life of your church, 3 challenges they detect, and 3 prescriptions that they believe are critical to your future if you want to become more vital as a church. This report is then discussed at a series of congregational town hall meetings and eventually voted on at an all-church conference. At that point the question is: Will the congregation commit itself to adopting the report and then work with a coach assigned to their congregation for 18 months to help work through these prescriptions or not? This decision is entirely up to the congregation to decide.

I am impressed that Oak Grove and Rose City Park UMCs have decided to engage themselves in this process….and I commend the consultation work to your congregations as well. FYI…In order to take advantage of this annual conference resource, your congregation must first participate in and complete the Congregational Leadership Development (CLD) process. If you have questions about what’s involved in this revitalization work, contact Steve Ross directly.

Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org