Vital congregations exude a certain kind of vibrancy, a friendly welcoming manner, and God's presence is tangible. Those who attend regularly have a sense of purpose. They support each other by nurturing one another's faith and helping each other identify their spiritual gifts and use those gifts in the congregation and in the world. When they disagree they do so in a respectful manner, ultimately strengthening the congregation. The people in these vital congregations understand God's mission goes beyond their walls. They intentionally connect with the wider Christian community and within their local context to share the good news in word and deed by striving to be God's hands in the world.
Vital congregations may be large or small. They may be growing, shrinking or holding steady. The key to their vitality is that they experience God's active presence in every day life and live as disciples of Christ. This way of describing vitality points to the relationships between the congregation's members and God, each other, and the world. These relationships are at the heart of what it means to be church and are summed up by Jesus in scripture through the Great Commandment "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission when Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
God calls all people and congregations beyond survival and into an abundant life. As Jesus said, "I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
This website offers ways for congregations to easily assess their own vitality. It also provides some tools to begin understanding what aspects of your congregation are promoting vitality and what are distracting from it. If you are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), you will be able to take a survey online and view the results. If you are not part of the ELCA, visit the Resource page to access paper surveys you can use on your own.