Congregational Vitality Pathway

RCA Farwest Region

Congregational Vitality FAQs





What is the Vitality Pathway?

                  The Vitality Pathway is process that uses two workshops, congregational assignments, and an assessment tool (PULSE) to help a local church with dependence upon the Holy Spirit to discern God’s purpose and plan. The goal of the Pathway is to help every church discover what it means to be a Healthy Missional church.  


What do we mean by Healthy Missional Church?

                  By Healthy, we mean pursuing Christ (Matthew 22:37-39) and by Missional, we mean pursuing Christ’s purposes in the world (Matthew 28:18-20). These concepts are developed in the 10 Healthy Missional Markers of the Pathway.


What kind of church would benefit from participating?

                  The Vitality Pathway describes four types of churches: Healthy Missional, Stable, Critical Moment, and At Risk.

                  Any church type can benefit from the Pathway experience. From an At Risk church discerning what to do in a very precarious situation to a Healthy Missional church discerning what it needs to do to stay Healthy and Missional.

The Pathway works in any church, regardless of worship style, size, location, or culture.



How does a church start on the Pathway?

                  Before a pastor and consistory agree to walk the Pathway, the first formal step is for the Pastor to have a Vision, Intention, and Means (VIM) conversation with a Director of Congregational Vitality.  This conversation is best had in the context of the Congregational Vitality Pathway Overview Workshop.  While the pastor does not lead the Pathway process, he/she must be totally committed to the process. The questions are: Do you have the vision to lead this ministry forward? Do you have the intention of staying with the ministry long enough for the Pathway to change the culture? and Do you have the gifts and skills (or are you willing to learn) necessary to lead this church? All of this assumes a humble submission to the Holy Spirit’s leading for the church and pastor.


Can we do only the part of the Pathway we want?

                  While each component in the Pathway has some value on its own, it is best viewed and used as a whole. We see each church as unique and part of the power of the pathway is how each church adapts the components of the Pathway to their own unique culture and unique context. The  Pathway builds momentum within a church as each workshop develops themes previously introduced. The PULSE assessment tool is built around concepts that are taught in all the workshops.


What are some of the key advantages of the Pathway process?

                  The Pathway invites the whole congregation to participate in the process. Strategic Spiritual discernment is not left to the pastor in isolation or entrusted to the hands of a few leaders. Even people who have been involved in a ministry less than a year can be valuable contributors to the process. The Pathway includes everyone in the church 12 and older in the process and PULSE assessment.

What are these workshops?

                  The first workshop is called VERITAS. It unites the congregation with a common language and understanding of terms that will be prevalent on the Pathway. It also starts the process of helping the congregation to see and speak accurately about the reality of their situation. The workshop includes an informal self-assessment by those present that launches the church into an adventurous journey of discovery.

                  The second workshop is called EPIC: Empowering People, Inspiring Change. This workshop helps a congregation and its leaders to better understand the nature of change and how to navigate through what may lie ahead.

                  The third workshop is ONE: A Unified Approach to Strategic Ministry Planning. One is two-day retreat for the Strategic Ministry Planning Team.  The planning workshop/retreat is held on site at the church on a Friday evening and Saturday.  This is a hands-on working workshop.   The team uses PULSE, Mission Insite and group knowledge and wisdom to create: a SWOB (strengths, weakness, opportunities and barriers) analysis, a review of the church mission, vision, values, goals, and strategies for each goal.


Can we share a workshop with another church?

                  Ideally, three churches will coordinate their Vitality Pathway experience. This gives a great avenue of mutual accountability and encouragement. Here is the preferred plan for the workshops in these three churches:

                  Each church should conduct its own VERITAS  and ONE workshop. This is so unique and integral to each church that hosting it in each church encourages participation and amplifies the insights that are gained.

                  EPIC  can be shared. Everyone is invited from all participating churches, but formal and informal leaders are particularly encouraged to attend.

                  Churches that are not on the Pathway are encouraged to send representatives to get an understanding of the content and process. Workshops throughout the Region will be posted on the website and are open to any who are interested. Please contact the host church to insure adequate food and supplies.


What can a church expect from participation in the Pathway?

                  The church will be equipped to better understand the health of its current ministry and how they can discern God’s vision for their ministry. The Pathway is based on the assumption that those active in a local ministry are the best experts on what is happening in that ministry. The church will NOT receive a neatly designed program to implement.

How long does the Pathway take?

                  The Pathway generally takes from 12 to 24 months for a church to complete. The pace depends on the health of the church, the speed of the leaders, and the tasks that need to be accomplished between workshops.


How long do we need from the time we decide to do the Pathway to the time we host the first workshop?

                  Generally, it is good to allow at least two months. This allows the Consistory time to learn more about the process and to prepare for the first workshop, which is extremely important to generate congregation wide participation and support for what will develop during the Pathway journey.

What comes at the end of the Pathway?

                  At the Pathway, the church will develop a Strategic Ministry Planning Team which will create a ministry plan for the next 3 to 5 years. The PULSE assessment tool is designed to be repeated every two to three years. This forms a continuous feedback loop that helps a church see how it is doing.


What is the PULSE assessment?

                  The PULSE assessment is a series of 50 questions that everyone in the church over 12 is encouraged to take. It is an on-line tool, and arrangements can be made for those without computer access to easily participate. These questions are based on the 10 Healthy Missional Markers and help the leaders to discern the strengths and weaknesses of the church as an organization and the parishioners as individuals.

                  The assessment also has space at the end with open ended questions that help the leaders glean valuable insights and feedback from the congregation.

                  The PULSE process is concluded with a 20 page report compiled by trained staff to help the congregation unpack the data. Besides factual charts and statistics, the PULSE report will include 3 recommendation for the pastor and three recommendations for the church to pursue. The PULSE is first communicated to the Pastor and Vitality Team leader to confirm its accuracy.


What does the Classis/Region do?

                  The Classis has trained leaders for each of the three workshops on the Pathway. We will provide a facilitator who walks alongside the church to help it prepare for each workshop, complete the assigned tasks between workshops, and prepare for the PULSE assessment

                  The Region is also working to develop a conference that will bring all Vitality Pathway leaders and churches together to share best practices and enrich the experience in the local churches. Our hope is to host the initial conference in February 2015.


What does the Pathway cost a church?

                  Every church is a little different, but the basic cost components are the workshops and PULSE assessment.

For each workshop, a church is responsible for a $600 honorarium for the presenter team and travel and hospitality for each presenter. The church must also cover the cost of the workbooks ($8 each) for those attending the workshop. Many churches have participants cover the cost of their own workbooks.

                  The initial PULSE assessment costs $850. This covers coordination, technical support, and an interpretive report. Subsequent cycles using the assessment cost less as the set up and oversight is simplified. Support for questions will always be provided.

                  A church should contact their Classis Vitality Team for  financial resource suggestions, if needed.


What languages is the Pathway material available in?

                  The Pathway material is available in Spanish. However, our Region needs to identify and train a Spanish language workshop leader to take full advantage of this resource. We are also looking to develop leaders who are fluent in other languages.

How would a new church plant connect with the Pathway?

                  A church plant would benefit from the Pathway by using the 10 Healthy Missional Markers as foundational values in developing the ministry. A church that is built around these Markers could use the PULSE assessment after an appropriate period of time and begin the process of continuous feedback and improvement. Churches that embed the 10 Healthy Missional in their DNA will not likely need the Pathway workshops. However, when a church formally organizes or moves into their first building, the VERITAS workshop provides a value resource for helping to keep the focus on mission and giving everyone a shared vocabulary and understanding. Some of the other tools may be used for leadership training when appropriate. This can be discussed with Regional leaders and the pastor.


Who are the people required for walking the Pathway?

                  After the first workshop, the church forms and advisory group called the Vitality Team. This is a group of 4 to 7 people excited about and energized by the process the church is embarking upon. The pastor may be on the Vitality Team, but is expected NOT to lead it. This team has 8 tasks which are outlined in a Vitality Field guide. The tasks range from a debrief of the workshop to writing a Relational Covenant for the church. This team is responsible to the Consistory.

                  After PULSE assessment and the third workshop, the Vitality Team is recognized and thanked for its work. Then a Strategic Ministry Planning Team is formed. This team unpacks the PULSE results along with internal and external assessments. They revisit or draft new Mission, Vision, and Value statements and propose a Strategic Ministry Plan to the Consistory.

                  Since these teams are advisory, a wide variety of people can contribute to their work. Some people may help with just one of the 8 tasks of the Vitality Team. Others will serve on the Vitality Team and the Strategic Ministry Planning Team. The most import key is to have a leader for each one of these groups who is well respected by the congregation and who works well with the pastor.


Is the material geared to the box (established) church?

                  On the one hand the answer is, “Yes.” On the other hand, the reason this is true is to get the box church out of the box! Therefore, the material is fresh and challenging to all types of churches in all settings. It functions as a warning of what not to do in churches with a Healthy Missional focus. Since the material has a strong emphasis on a biblical foundation and the integral reliance upon the Holy Spirit, it remains relevant in all situations. Each church will be able to glean the most valuable content out of each workshop. As churches age and as the Pathway matures in our Region, Regional leaders will be able to help local pastors discern appropriate time and usage of the Pathway resource.

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