Most members are challenged by the church to be more Christ-like
September 15, 2018
Only 33 percent of members and 22 percent of ministers strongly agree that their church is spiritually vital and alive, according to a recently released research report by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But what does it mean for a congregation to be vital and alive?
Research Services of the PC(USA) tested a set of scales they have developed to measure how vital a congregation is according to seven indicators: discipleship, evangelism, outward focus, servant leadership, worship, relationships and health.
The Presbyterian Panel report provides a snapshot of how Presbyterians across the country feel about the vitality of their congregation in their latest panel survey.
Based on these measures of vitality, members give their congregation an overall score of 76 percent. “This would be a C+ if it were a report card,” said Susan Barnett, coordinator for Research Services. “Members tended to rate their congregation most highly in discipleship and outward focus and lowest in evangelism.”
Most members (97 percent) say that their church challenges them to at least a small extent to be more Christ-like. And most (87 percent) frequently engage in some form of spiritual practice. “Of course, what people define as a spiritual practice can vary,” said Angie Andriot, sociologist and research associate for Research Services. “For example, one panelist said, ‘I must really be Presbyterian — I consider being on committees a spiritual practice.’”
The results do show there is room for improvement in how Presbyterians grow as disciples. Only 35 percent of members state that they frequently read the Bible privately outside of worship. Only 64 percent say they frequently pray or meditate outside of a church. Not surprisingly, only 19 percent of minsters say their church does a good job prioritizing faith formation and discipleship.
“Presbyterians are moving beyond the walls of the church, and they are broadly defining mission work,” Andriot said. “As much as 62 percent of members say they have attended mission activities through their church within the past year, and 49 percent say they frequently engage in [mission] work to improve their community.”
What Presbyterians are not doing beyond the walls of the church is evangelizing. Only 20 percent say that their church has encouraged and equipped them to a great extent to engage in evangelism. And only 20 percent say they frequently seek opportunities to share their faith in everyday life.
One way the new scales measuring the seven marks of congregational vitality are being used is as part of a revitalization initiative, developed by the office of Vital Congregations in Presbyterian Mission.
“This initiative is a way for us at the national level to walk with congregations deeper into following Jesus Christ,” said ministry associate Kathryn Threadgill. “Through intentional spiritual practices and relational connections, this two-year process will help us discern and live into transformative actions that increase our vitality together as God’s people.”
Melody K. Smith, Associate/Organizational Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Congregational Vitality Report
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Holy Jesus, empower us to both proclaim and embody your gospel. Amen.