New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

"A Liturgy for Morning Prayer," Upper Room Worshipbook

Used by permission from the Book of Common Worship, © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved. This prayer appears in “A Liturgy for Morning Prayer” in Upper Room Worshipbook.

Vital Signs

A Pathway to Congregational Wholeness

Dan R. Dick • March 2007

BUY Print $10.00

Like many mainline denominations, The United Methodist Church is ailing. Declining membership, worship and Sunday school attendance, outreach, and giving—all troubling signs.

In an age of megachurches, "Ten Steps to…" congregational self-help programs point to models that may not be in the church's best interest.

Following the suggestions of this new conventional wisdom may reverse the trends and attract thousands to highly entertaining services (bolstered by a strong budget and marketing plan) led by a charismatic pastor, but is that the true picture of a vital church? Could it be that our measure of success is wrong? Could it be we're diluting the real mission of the church? Advocating Christianity "Lite"?

For more than six years, Dick has visited, studied, surveyed, consulted with, and analyzed 700+ congregations across North America to better understand effective structures, processes, leadership, and systems for spiritual formation and development. The critically acclaimed result is Vital Signs.

"Where the formation of faith is concerned and spiritual development and Christian community is the point, qualitative measures are most important," he says. "Bigger says nothing about faithful, and active says nothing about effective. The value of our ministry is judged by the impact it makes on people's lives."

From Dick's research emerged clear identifiers of four church types: decaying, dystrophic, retrogressive, and vital. Dick describes each with candor, including examples of communities within the types. While reading about these types may be painful, the intent is to provide tools to move toward vitality.

"Making church easy is the opposite of making the church faithful," Dick writes. "Vital churches challenge us to remember that the church is God's, not ours, and being Christian disciples is more involved than simply believing in Jesus as the Son of God. … To be the church for the world requires that we become vital."

Though this study is based on United Methodist churches, its lessons are relevant for all congregations. Help yours become transformed into a community that works hard together to engage in courageous ministries of witness!

Dan R. Dick is research coordinator and project manager for the New Solutions Team for GBOD, Nashville, Tennessee, and a clergy member of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. He has served as a local church pastor, a director of Christian education, and a director of stewardship ministries for an annual conference of The United Methodist Church. Dick is the author of several books published by Discipleship Resources as well as best-selling devotional for Barbour & Company.

ISBN: 978-0-88177-495-5

Imprint: Discipleship Resources

Pub Date: March 2007

Trim Size: 6 in (w) x 9 in (h) x in (d)

Page Count: 144

BISAC Categories: RELIGION / Christian Ministry / General

BISAC1: REL109000