Team Vital focuses on using the five markers of vitality (worship, making new disciples, small groups, mission and giving), but the UMC of the Rockaways is using its experience with Team Vital by making three of them a priority: increasing ministry with children and youth; developing more small groups and increasing mission giving.
“We are trying to develop and use the Team Vital tools to expand our work,” said Rockaway’s pastor Lyssette Perez of the church’s Team Vital action plan. “We already have in place some of the components.”
Earlier this year, Rockaways expanded to offer three church services – one of them bilingual. As a result of the Team Vital experience, Rockaways decided to add a bilingual Bible study and a children’s component to the bilingual service. The church also is adding a youth component to its regular interfaith service, which is an outreach program to the community.
“We want them to learn how you can be an interfaith community with youth,” she said. “We need to embrace our faith and know our faith. If you know your faith, you don’t have a problem sharing it with others. The idea in this interfaith program is not to convert others, but to understand and know it so we can interact with other people’s faith.”
Outreach work is growing at Rockaways and the congregation added small groups outreach as a component of their Team Vital action plan. On Monday and Thursday nights, the church hosts a Zumba class called “Zumba for the Soul!” It usually has about 15 people attend and Perez said one week, 13 attended with nine of them not being regular church attenders.
“We have an interfaith prayer with the class each week,” Perez said. “It’s a way of connecting with people and learning where they are at that day or that week.”
Beth Caulfield, the Director of Small Groups and Spiritual Visioning for Greater New Jersey, says what the Rockaways are doing with small groups is exemplary.
“They are developing small groups for their congregation’s spiritual development, and they are also using it as a tool for reaching out into the community and making disciples,” she said. “This is a wonderful way to integrate the learnings from Team Vital.”
Small groups, led by Rev. Deb DeVos at Rockaways, are important because it helps those who attend them hold onto beliefs outside of regular church services.
“People who are going to small groups are starting to get it on why they need to be in church on Sundays,” Perez said. “They are learning it’s not just singing and prayer on Sunday, it’s believing it in everything we do.”
The third priority for the Rockaways action plan is missional giving. Perez says the Vacation Bible School learned about Thailand and collected $1,000 to send to an orphanage there.
“We learned many things about Thailand,” Perez said. “How they say hello, goodbye, how they pray and how they celebrate. Our next step is to plan mission trips. Next year we want to do a regional one, then national and international. Team Vital is helping us focus and put a plan into action.”