Pete Marvin, long-time member of University UM Church and a member of our Vital Church Initiative Leadership Team, spoke to the congregation at the Sunday worship service on April 10. Here is his Faith in Action message:
“Our church has commenced on an intense effort to take a hard look at ourselves in today’s world. Our Administrative Board recently approved the recommendation of the VCI Leadership Team (formerly called the VCI Travel Team) to enter into Phase II of the Vital Church Initiative (VCI). This phase involves a great deal of data gathering about our history, our current programs and initiatives, and our hopes for the future. This is NOT something that a small committee is doing FOR US; it is something that we will ALL be asked to be a part of; some who may just respond to a survey and some who will be asked to dig deep into records and memories; some who will be asked to pray regularly for the process; and a few who will be asked to coordinate and try to lead us along the way.
“Why are we doing this? Aren’t things going along pretty well as they are? Well, yes, they are in some ways. One of the readings that your Travel Team read last year was about the life cycle of churches which spring up with lots of energy and growth until they mature and thrive, then begin to wane and lose focus and eventually die. Pastor Jennie and I saw a film last spring called “When God Left the Building.” It was a vivid account of how this life cycle is a fairly universal phenomenon among mainline Christian churches which, like Kodak Industries, didn’t heed the signals about a shift to digital imaging, or other realities of the modern world.
“Think this is just happening elsewhere? Nope. At least three United Methodist Churches in the Lansing area have shuttered their doors in the last year! Some of you sitting in the pews this morning come from those churches and can attest to the reality.
“By moving forward with the VCI, we at UUMC seek to be proactive and find ways to retain that which makes us vital today and to adopt those as-yet-to-be- identified changes which will enhance that vitality for decades to come. The recent implementation of our Hospitality Team and greeters is a foretaste of the kinds of things that may be in the offing. It was a change we could implement without waiting for a prescription from the VCI process.
“Next steps: (There is a 43-page, detailed guide outlining this in considerable detail --- it’s online if interested.)
1. Establish a prayer team that will keep us all in prayer throughout the process.
2. Develop a communications plan that will keep everyone informed and involved.
3. Collect all kinds of data about our history, attendance, staff, etc.
4. Collect data about what we think of ourselves.
5. Collect data about what our community thinks of UUMC. Who, by the way, is “our community?”
6. Describe how UUMC interfaces with “our community.”
7. Both Pastor Jennie and incoming pastor Rev. Bill Bills will have important input.
“All this data will be shared with conference staff members and trained consultants who will then meet with us in several formats leading up to a weekend event in early October. Having read and heard all we have had to say, they will offer a recommendation for us to adopt several “prescriptions.” We’ll then have some time to consider them and vote to either adopt or reject the prescriptions.
'If we adopt the prescriptions, Phase III of the VCI process will be the implementation phase. There's more, but I'm out of time. Feel free to speak with members of VCI Leadership Team, Pastor Jennie, or Pastor Leslee."