What does the Pathway offer? by Phil Assink
In some form, this is the question we often get when we talk to a pastor or church about the Congregational Vitality Pathway.
A few observations would be
1) it invites the whole congregation into the process. Whether people have been in the church a few weeks or many years, everyone finds a place to give input to the process.
2) The corollary to this is that it does not rely solely on the pastor. In fact, the pastor does not lead either of the two key task groups on the Pathway, the Vitality Team and the Strategic Ministry Planning Team. He or she is a part of the teams, but others are asked to step up and use their gifts to serve in this capacity.
3) Everyone at church gains a common language. For example, the 10 Healthy Missional Markers help the church and individuals assess their spiritual health and grow in strength and unity.
This is not a magic formula or a quick fix but an invitation to a transformational journey. When embarking on the Path to Congregational Vitality, a church should plan for a four to seven year process. The Pathway will take 12 to 24 months in helping the church with its initial assessment. Then it will take more time for the plans that are implemented to bear fruit. Small changes will become evident more quickly, but the abundant harvest is one that must be patiently pursued. One of the keys to this extended journey is that we come together. The Classis and Regional Church Vitality Teams are in regular contact with local church leaders coaching and encouraging them each step of the way. Churches that embark on the journey become mentors to new churches as they join in. As more churches engage in the Pathway, we gain new insights, develop better resources, and are better able to help each other grow toward Healthy and Missional.
The Pathway is a very flexible, organic, and dynamic process. It can be helpful for a new pastor coming into a church to develop a shared mission and vision. It can help a plateaued church recover a new sense of mission and urgency. It can help a dynamic church stay healthy and missional. It can be used by a church anticipating a pastoral transition of retirement. The point is that the Pathway is adaptable to each location and helps each church, led by the Spirit, to form a unique Strategic Ministry Plan.