Congregational Vitality 101

Curated resources that explore some of what makes a congregation vital

What makes a congregation vital? That depends on who’s asking and what yardstick they choose. The Diocese of Massachusetts defines vitality as a "congregation's lively response to God's mission." FaithX asks simply: Is the congregation thriving, surviving, or declining? Congregational vitality might refer to the number of communicants, the size of the budget, the depth and breadth of formation opportunities, or many other measures.

Below are a set of curated resources that explore some of what makes a congregation vital, and ways to measure and improve vitality in your congregation.

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  • Vitality is an Inside Job by Altagracia Pérez-Bullard (5 minutes)

    Altagracia Pérez-Bullard sets the stage for thinking about congregational vitality by linking vitality to individual spiritual growth and discipleship. She writes, “Spiritual growth is not measured by the increase in warm feelings,…but it is measured by the way a person, or church, lives. Living in Christ and bearing fruit to God’s glory is a mark of discipleship (John 15:4-8).”

  • What Is Discipleship? by Bill Campbell (5-10 minutes)

    In the first article we learned that congregational vitality is strongly related to congregants’ discipleship. But what is discipleship? Bill Campbell explains it as “responding to an encounter with Jesus by modeling your life after Jesus.” He says that, yes, we can be like Jesus: Jesus says so himself. And, what’s more, Campbell offers a look at the practices that help us do just that.

  • Leading for Discipleship by Jay Sidebotham (10 minutes)

    Jay Sidebotham talks about how a congregational leadership committed to discipleship can lead to church vitality. “Getting people moving, creating a culture of discipleship is dependent on the community’s leadership.” Can a congregation’s leadership create disciples even from a congregation that does not want to be on a journey?

  • Beyond ASA by Alan Bentrup (3-5 minutes)

    Alan Bentrup takes issue with a common measure of a congregation’s vitality, its average Sunday attendance (ASA). Rather than a “singular focus on a faulty metric,” he suggests that we begin looking at different ways to evaluate our parishes, such as the number of lives transformed and the impact in the wider community. How might you measure the vitality of your own congregation?

  • Viability and Vitality by Joe Duggan (3-5 minutes)

    The Rev. Dr. Joe Duggan asks (and answers), “What is unique to congregational vitality and how is it different from congregational viability in the ways that intersect with mission?” How can you have a vital congregation that is not viable, or a viable congregation that is not vital? What can you change about your own setting through the dual lenses of vitality and viability?

  • New Wine in an Old Wineskin by Anna Sutterisch (9 minutes)

    In this short video, Anna Sutterisch talks about ways to wake up a congregation and give it new life, rather than continuing to do the same old, same old. “We can follow the Holy Spirit as she moves and changes us and hopefully makes us see some opportunities to make our faith communities a little more relevant,” or, to use Joe Duggan’s words, a little more vital.

  • Congregational Vitality Assessment Tool by ECFVP Team (If done by one person, it would take 30 min. To do it with congregational leadership is up to two weeks.)

    The Congregational Vitality Assessment (CVA) is a ground-breaking, research-based online diagnostic tool designed to provide a congregation with an assessment of its Vitality (how healthy it is) and its Sustainability (whether it has the people, financial and contextual resources necessary to survive). The vitality section carries the bulk of the assessment, measuring ten areas of congregational functioning, such as Vision and Mission, Leadership, Lay Empowerment, Worship, Formation, Stewardship and more. The CVA single version is free through a partnership between ECF and FaithX. Take the survey for your congregation and see what it shows you.

  • Congregational Vitality Assessment Ahora en Español by Ken Howard

    The CVA and the website is available to you in both English and Spanish; you can toggle between them if you wish. There is a language/idioma button on the righthand side of the webpage where you can choose.

  • Renewal Works

    A multi-month congregational program to enhance spiritual health and discipleship.

  • Pivot

    The Pivot program is a free, year-long, cohort-based learning experience that builds upon the learnings of ECF’s former Congregational Leadership Initiative program (CLI). It is designed to help congregations learn more about the communities in which they serve and use their CVA results to align mission.

  • Sharing Faith Dinners

    Build deeper community and help your congregation learn to share their own faith stories by participating in the free Sharing Faith Dinners program.

  • College for Congregational Development

    Requiring the largest investment of funds and time, this two-year program is a comprehensive training program that seeks to nurture and develop congregational development practitioners from within existing parish lay and clergy leadership.