As the Director for Evangelical Mission for the Montana Synod, part of what I am called to do is to encourage and assist congregations to be focused on vitality and life – to emphasize in all that is done in congregations that God is calling us to deeper, life changing relationships with God, one another and the world. As I join in conversations with leaders in many congregations, I hear a yearning for tools to help congregations grow deeper in faith and to change from a focus on the anxiety of wondering about the future and the congregation’s sustainability to a faithful expression of being the church in the place where the congregation is planted.
Congregational vitality: communities of Jesus where there are life-changing relationships with God, one another and the world; is not a program to use, but rather a way of thinking about and focusing energy on how congregations function. It is similar to our Montana Synod benchmark; “strengthen congregations.”
The Vitality Team chaired by Pastor Andy Wendle met recently and recommended that the Montana Synod join together in a process of “Dwelling in the Word” beginning in the Epiphany season, using the same text in all congregations around the Synod. Our encouragement to you as leaders is to begin to think how you can incorporate the practice of Dwelling in the Word to deepen your relationships with God and others in your congregation.
Here are a few suggestions that the Team came up with of how to do that:
§ use Dwelling in the Word for devotions for council and other meetings during the Epiphany season
§ use Dwelling the Word during a sermon, leaving time for one to one conversation and then some time to process together
§ encourage families to use Dwelling in the Word at home
§ use Dwelling in the Word as Bible study time during the season
§ use Dwelling in the Word with youth/confirmation
§ use Dwelling in the Word for Men’s breakfasts or as part of a women’s Bible Study
Some advantages of using Dwelling in the Word on a regular and consistent basis:
§ we become more comfortable participating in conversation about scripture and wondering how it impacts us in our own lives
§ we model that the Bible is the source of our strength
§ we learn from and grow closer to people in our congregation
These are then marks of being a vital congregation—growing in life-changing relationships with God, one another and the world.
The Vitality Team offers this as a suggestion and encourages pastors and leaders to implement this suggestion in a way that you think is most effective in your own setting. Look for more information about the process of Dwelling in the Word in the next weeks. As the Montana Synod is in an process as we prepare for the election of a new Bishop, the Vitality Team hopes that a Synod-wide focus on a text and process of deepening our faith together will guide us as we move into the future.
Blessings to you!
Pastor Peggy Paugh Leuzinger
Director for Evangelical Mission
for the Montana Synod