I can hear the cries from some folks already...
CATEGORY ERROR! CATEGORY ERROR!
How can charge conference forms-- the bane of the bane of administrivia in the life of local congregations-- help us become more intentionally missional, or even Methodist for that matter?
What if... just what if... those forms included questions like these that follow. And what if, just what if, these became the basis for actual conversations, and maybe even action, not just more data collection for the conference journal or some later statistician's report?
Look these over... see what would be helpful, what less helpful. This is trying to get at real evaluation based on what's already in the Discipline (the paragraph numbers are cited in parentheses throughout)-- which, if carefully attended to, COULD, actually (I think) help us begin to move Methodism and Missional from side conversations into the mainstream of conversations in local congregations.
What think ye?
Peace in Christ,
Make the first report a set of responses to questions about membership and mission, based on paragraphs 216-221 (2004 Book of Discipline) such as:
1. How is your congregation making possible “a comprehensive and life-long process of growing in grace?” (216)
2. How many children and infants (with their families) have been instructed and nurtured in the meaning of faith, the rights and responsibilities of their baptisms, and spiritual formation using materials approved by The United Methodist Church?
3. How many youth have committed themselves to discipleship and been confirmed using the services of the Baptismal Covenant? How has the pastor been specifically involved in this process? (216.1.b, 216.2.a)
a) How has the congregation, with the support of the pastor, instructed youth and adults not yet baptized in the meaning of the Christian faith and the history, organization and teachings of the United Methodist Church using materials approved by the United Methodist Church?
b) How many of these who have received such instruction by the congregation have been baptized, confirmed, and received into the Church during the past year?
5. How has the congregation formed all its members in the baptismal covenant and the call to ministry in daily life? (216.2.a)
6. How has the congregation provided for the preparation of ALL people, including adults, for profession of faith and confirmation?
7. How has the congregation ensured that its professing members are participating in all the means of grace, including private and public prayer, worship, the sacraments, study, Christian action, systematic giving, and holy discipline? (218)
8. How has your congregation equipped its members to watch over one another in love and to confront conflict with a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation? (219)
9. How has your congregation ensured that all members fulfill their obligation to participate in disciplined groups that help them live out God’s mission in every context in which they find themselves on a daily basis? (220)
10. How are the Social Principles used as an essential resource to guide every member in being a servant of Christ on mission? (220)
11. How are all members being held accountable to the covenant of baptism? (221.1)
12. How many members have been restored to accountable living of the covenant of baptism through the means described in Paragraph 221.2-5?
Second Set of Reports: The General Rules and Missional Impact
1) What measures are in place to show that persons who participate in spiritual formation activities are growing in holiness: loving God and neighbor, transforming natural tempers into holy tempers?
2) How is your community different because people in your congregation and your congregation as a community are living the Second General Rule: Doing good to all, and especially to the poor, the marginalized, and persons in prison?
3) How is your congregation doing good to the earth and all of God’s creatures by the way it functions corporately? How is the congregation helping people to live as faithful stewards of the earth and its resources individually?
Wherever the pastor’s report falls, include the following as the essential questions to be answered:
1) How is the pastor helping the congregation live out its mission and the mission of The United Methodist Church?
2) What are the plans for continuing education for the congregation, pastor and staff to live out its mission in its local context and the mission of The United Methodist Church?
Questions about Vocations should include the following as PRIMARY:
1) Who and how many people in the congregation have been helped to claim their vocation in Christ in their ministries in daily life during the past year?
2) What new ministries have been started in the community or through the congregation as a result of these efforts?
3) What is the fruit?
Should focus much more on the MEANING of MEMBERSHIP questions (paragraph 216-221) than on the CATEGORIES of MEMBERSHIP questions listed here.