Using the Gift of Time

Mary C. Frances, Senior Associate Consultant

There’s a strange phenomenon that happens around this time of year.  As a consultant who works with congregations, judicatories and denominations, very few people want to talk with me right now.  We are just too busy to work on mission, vision and strategy is the mantra that I hear over and over again.  It’s okay, I don’t take offense, but I do, however, take notice.  You see, I hear the same thing at other times of the year.  We are too busy in Lent and Easter to do anything considered to be “extra.”  May is filled with first communions, confirmations, Mother’s Day and graduations.  Everyone is busy with vacations over the summer so that’s out and we can’t start anything big until after Labor Day or Rally Sunday.  So, what’s left?  About two months in the Fall and the season of Epiphany.  And yet the expectation is that we can have healthy, vital congregations without taking time to pay attention to these important matters.

What is congregational vitality after all and why should we be worried about it?  Webster’s Dictionary online tells us that vitality is about endurance, passion for life, energy, strength and activity.  When it comes to congregations, we add spiritual strength and the capacity for carrying out the mission of the church.  Paying attention to vitality is really something that needs to happen 365 days a year, not as something that is separate from the day-to-day life of a congregation.  I recently had an inspiring conversation with a congregation that is doing some vitality work and working on a potentially large community project. They described these two pieces as parallel work but, in all actuality, they are one and the same! The project is vitality work, and the vitality work can inform the project.  

How is your congregation spending its time?  Is your day-to-day ministry tied to the clock and calendar, to the things you have always done?  Or is it deeply rooted in your mission, vision and the passion you have for living out the call God has placed on your hearts?  Perhaps the new year is the perfect time to check yourselves by taking the Congregational Vitality Assessment.  Ask around 25 people in your congregation to take this assessment tool with you, looking at ten different areas of congregational life from leadership to stewardship to sustainability and mission.  This free assessment could change how you spend your time and what your ministry looks like in 2024.  Time is a gift, spend it wisely!