Team Vital is off to an enthusiastic start as 25 churches met at four sites around Greater New Jersey Saturday, Sept. 19 to begin a journey to help them better serve their congregations and communities. “Team Vital took off all across Greater New Jersey,” said Rev. Beth Caulfield, GNJ’s Director of Small Groups and Spiritual Visioning, who is spearheading the Team Vital initiative. “The Spirit was felt as we all prayed together, studied together and were creative together – planning ministry to our local communities and the world.”
Team Vital helps leaders create a strategic ministry action plan using the five markers of vitality. It builds on the principle that bringing teams of leaders together from various churches strengthens the learning and creative energy for participants. Churches learn from each other, collaborate, support and hold each other accountable to pursue their ministry plans. Each church also receives individual technical support, monthly consulting and other resourcing opportunities from the conference. Churches regroup periodically to assess their progress and share lessons learned.
The meeting sites for the kickoff were Absecon UMC in the Cape Atlantic District, Mantua UMC in the Gateway South District, Ridgewood UMC in the Palisades District and Hamilton UMC in Neptune in the Northern Shore District. “It was a very easy thing to implement and can be done immediately,” said Absecon UMC member Ed Davis. “There is a new kind of energy and level of cooperation coming out of this.”
The energy includes bringing together three to eight church teams in a series of sessions focused on those five key markers of church vitality: inspiring worship, reaching and making new disciples, small group ministry, engagement in mission and generous stewardship. Each church’s Team Vital includes pastors and congregational leaders. “Team Vital is a way to find out what God’s next answer is for them,” said GNJ Director of Stewardship and Visioning Rich Hendrickson, one of the facilitators at the Cape Atlantic Team Vital gathering. “Team Vital provides an opportunity for churches to engage in a process that will really lead to finding out and embracing God’s vision for them as a congregation.”
Being a part of Team Vital takes commitment. It includes two group sessions on Saturdays and doing pre-work and home work, which includes the key component of developing an action plan. “Our leaders want to have more effective churches,” Hendrickson said. “Some have said they have been through training before, but this time it is different because it is connected directly to those five areas of vitality and it leads to action. Before, they came up with great ideas, but didn’t walk away with a plan. This time it’s all about that ministry action plan.”
The common theme throughout the day was the willingness and readiness of each church to take the next step in its ministry. “These are great, necessary resources for all churches to continue the Kingdom work of vital ministry,” said GNJ Director of Worship Eric Drew, who served as a facilitator for the Northern Shore group. “We all worked hard to remember that this first day is simply the first step on a much longer process. We took many notes, had great discussions, and really began to stir up hope for the God-sized visions that are beginning to surface. “We are blessed by committed pastors and strong church leaders, and we can’t wait to journey with this group throughout the process.”
It’s a process that left participants anticipating the result. “It was eye-opening,” said Centenary UMC member John Wooding, whose church attended the Northern Shore session. “It should be a great ride.”