In 2008, Steve Manskar and I developed some new questions to be added to charge conference forms based on our United Methodist statements about membership found in Paragraphs 216-221 of the Book of Discipline and the three General Rules. We submitted these questions to the committee responsible for editing and presenting the charge conference forms (and lots of other forms) for the 2009-2012 quadrennium.
A colleague at GCFA was delighted with these questions-- real, palpable and measurable ways both to describe and to account for how local congregations are (and are not yet!) fulfilling the stated mission of the United Methodist Church in the ways the Book of Discipline already calls for us to do so.
When the committee met, it decided not to include any of these questions on the charge conference forms for this quadrennium. Committee members agreed that these questions do measure discipleship. But a concern was whether making the form any longer than one page would make pastors less likely to complete it. One comment was "These questions are too hard for most of our local congregations to answer."
That may be true.
But here they are. Look over them. See what you think.
The numbers in parentheses are the related paragraphs in the 2008 Book of Discipline.
And specifically-- since we plan to do this again in 2012 if given the opportunity-- share what you see that could make them (or questions like them) more likely to get taken seriously and actually incorporated next time around.
Peace in Christ,
Membership and Discipleship
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? (216.1.a)
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. Specifically, how does your congregation
a) Help all professing members live out each of the seven vows of the baptismal covenant? (217.1-7).
b) Support those who are baptized but not yet professing members, and their sponsors, to lead persons to live into the seven vows of the baptismal covenant?
8. 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, also General Rule 3, Par. 103.2)
9. 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)
10. 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)
11. How are the Social Principles used as an essential resource to guide every member in being a servant of Christ on mission? (220)
12. How are all members (baptized and professing) being held accountable to the covenant of baptism? (221.1)
13. How many members have been restored to accountable living of the covenant of baptism through the means described in Paragraph 221.2-5?
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 by overcoming evil, loving God and neighbor and experiencing the transformation of natural tempers into holy tempers? (General Rule 1-- Par 103.2-- and Sermon 92, On Zeal)
2) How is your community noticeably different because people in your congregation and your congregation as a community are doing good to all, and especially to the poor, the marginalized, and persons in prison? (General Rule 2-- Par. 103.2)
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? (160)
4) How does your congregation ensure that all its members observe all the ordinances of God regularly and joyfully?(General Rule 3-- Par 103.2)