By Fred Koenig
If you’ve been engaged in United Methodism outside of your own church walls in Missouri, and maybe even if you haven’t, you’re probably familiar with the Healthy Church Initiative. The process involves a team prayerfully consulting with a church on all aspects of their ministry, and making recommendations on changes that could help them better fulfill their mission.
In Missouri, 110 churches and 25 small churches have participated in this church revitalization process. There are another dozen churches that will have consultations this year, and 10 more in 2015. About 300 laity from small churches have participated in learning workshops. The workshops, seminars and HCI processes are provided through Congregational Development Team funds from apportionments.
Missouri pioneered HCI, but it isn’t the only Conference that has embraced it. About 40 leaders from 15 different Conferences who are implementing their own version of HCI came together for a two-day time of sharing at Church of the Shepherd in St. Peters on February 26 and 27.
Some of the other Conferences were just getting started with their version of HCI, and some have done nearly as many consultations as Missouri. They all shared things they have learned, been surprised about, and adapted as they went along.
“One of our most lively conversations was around coaching,” said Bob Farr, Missouri Conference Director for the Center of Congregational Excellence. “Everyone agrees that coaching is one of the most effective ways we can bring about a positive change in a church. We have different approaches on who the coach should be, and how that process should work.”
Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase addressed the group regarding his new book, “The Seven Levers.” Part of the focus of the book pertains to the HCI process, and how it developed in Missouri.
Farr said one takeaway from the meeting was the need to develop a small cohort of people from Conferences who had been actively engaged in the HCI process, and develop plans for next steps. There is also discussion of developing a more robust method of sharing information about HCI between Conferences. Representatives from the General Board of Discipleship were present, and discussed ways that they may help facilitate that process.