Revised WIG Reporting ©


At our 2020 Annual Conference meeting, we passed an initiative called Forward to a New Spring. In most aspects, this initiative is nothing new at all. Our mission still remains our Wildly Important Goal (WIG) – “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This mission, which is the stated mission for the world-wide United Methodist Church, comes from the risen Christ’s great commission to his followers found in Matthew 28. 
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Forward to a New Spring has not at all shifted our focus from the driving values that remain front and center of our disciple making work:
  1. Christ at the center
  2. A focus on the local church
  3. Lay and clergy leadership development
These have not changed. However, as we move towards a new spring, the way we direct our ministries and assess our progress is shifting. 
 
During the last few years (pre-COVID-19), the culture in the Central Texas Conference shifted. Stories of transformation under the Lordship and leadership of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit started “popping up” all over the conference. Prior to “the Pandemic,” we had 23 consecutive months in which a majority of churches in the Central Texas Conference reported growth in their average worship attendance as a key marker of discipleship development. A decisive emphasis in professions of faith and baptisms came to light. Expressions of discipleship in combating racism, feeding the hungry, and working for love, justice and mercy across the conference arose. The old question that emerged from a staid Methodism anchored in the past of “should we grow?” is no longer relevant to us. It is good that we moved beyond a culture of decline. 
 
The new questions we now embrace as a Conference culture are “I want my church to grow, how do we do it? How do we go about more effectively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” New opportunities for training and leadership have been and are continuing to be offered across the conference. As we have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and looked to the future, it is clear that we need to revise our WIG reporting system.
 
Always! Absolutely always, the first thing I and the Cabinet look for are the narrative stories of transformation both individually and collectively. We live by Dr. Gil Rendle’s statement, “the narrative changes before the metrics do.” We ask and look for what a congregation is talking about and working on as it relates to making disciples of Jesus Christ. Where is the Holy Spirit at work? The narrative stories offer deep insights into a pastor and congregation’s faithfulness and fruitfulness.
 
It is only after we have carefully sought to discern the narrative that we look to the metrics. In the past, we have focused on two specific metrics – average worship attendance and professions of faith. The COVID-19 pandemic (and its concomitant move to online worship) has scrambled this traditional metric barometer. We are now moving to an updated set of metrics to help in understanding faithfulness and fruitfulness. It will consist of three key elements:
 
  1. The number of small groups for discipleship formation and development
  2. Professions of faith and baptisms
  3. Average worship attendance both in-person and online.
 
The conference’s Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth (CEMCG) has shared information on how to specifically report the metrics on vital signs. They are offering, along with our District Superintendents, various training opportunities and learning events geared at enhancing our disciple-making capacity. You can find more details and information on the CEMCG sections of the conference website ctcumc.org/emcg, but here are a few that I’d like to particularly highlight.
  • The just-launched New Church for a New World webinar series. This seven-part webinar series, which began on Thursday, Feb. 11, with the BOTH/AND webinar and will run through this May, is designed to support Churches in a restart as the COVID-19 influence begins to decline and features webinars produced in cooperation with outside groups, other conferences and our own conference teams.  Go to ctcumc.org/ncnw for more details.
  • A revamped GROW weekend workshop that includes the learnings of the COVID-19 season. This is a workshop where the CEMCG teams meet with churches and their leadership. We are also offering a two-hour meeting with key leaders on a smaller scale that resources key church leadership and staff with some of the learnings they can apply to reimagining their church. 
  • New Faith Community Grants – Phase II. Following the conclusion of the initial NFC Grant initiative in December 2020, the CEMCG leadership assessed and restructured the NFC process for 2021-2023. Phase II of the NFC Grant initiative features four levels of grant options - $1000 Microgrant; $5000 NFC Relaunch Grant; $10,000 NFC Grant; $25,000-50,000 NFC Partnership Grant - all designed to allow the conference to energize and equip churches as they continue to reach out to their communities in new ways and to continue to fulfill our mission and reflect the CTC’s Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Visit  ctcumc.org/new-faith-communities-grant for more.
 
Make no mistake, there are a number of other metrics that faithful and fruitful leadership - both lay and pastoral – track and learn from. The Cabinet wants to encourage pastors and lay leadership to not be afraid of examining and learning from both narratives and metrics. As Rev. Mike Ramsdell puts it, “the truth is your friend.” Other ministry engagements to track include, but are not limited to:
  • the number of people involved in hands on ministry of justice and service especially to the homeless, hurting and hungry,
  • the number of active financial giving units,
  • Sunday school attendance,
  • the level of prayer involvement in the congregation,
  • Confirmation numbers,
  • the number of new people who are connecting with the church either online or in person,
  • new online worship and discipleship opportunities
 
Please allow me to emphasize a comment made by Rev. Mike Ramsdell, “The new church is not going to succeed by reactivating dropouts, but by reaching new people. This coming season is an opportunity to have evangelism as the leading edge. Through the Center for Evangelism, Mission, and Church Growth, we hope to resource churches in this mission. 
 
We are on the edge of a great new day in the life of the church. Churches and church leaders who are praying, planning and preparing to implement new visions will be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance into a new spring. They will grab hold of opportunities undiscovered before the pandemic. In America, this is a fertile time, perhaps one of the most fertile times in our history as a nation, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Quite literally… “Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest.” (John 4:35)