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Vitality Journey – Focusing on Future, Not the Past

SAN DIEGO, CA (October 4, 2010) – Clairemont Covenant Church is the first congregation in the denomination to work through all phases of the Congregational Vitality Journey, and the pastor says the experience has been a source of renewal.

“We’re much more excited about taking steps on faith,” says Pastor Greg West. “We’ve become much more future-oriented and not past-focused. ”The Vitality Journey includes participating sequentially in:

  • Veritas: Telling the Truth about Congregational Vitality, a workshop designed for pastors, chairpersons and other key leaders in the church.
  • EPIC (Empowering People, Inspiring Change), which equips leaders with tools for leading change.
  • PULSE assessment surveys, which enables feedback on how the church is proceeding along the pathway. The church recently completed PULSE – an assessment survey – for a second year.

The congregation started the process in 2007, following 96 years of ministry and a period of decline in recent years. Some of the falloff was due to differences regarding direction of the church, West says. Deciding to participate in Veritas was a critical moment for the church, West says. “The leadership team was excited because we were at a loss. We felt we needed some outside help.”

He adds that John Wenrich, director of congregational vitality, “was able to walk us through the process in a way that is healthy.”

West has served the church in some capacity for 20 years, beginning as a youth pastor. He acknowledged that getting to that place of health was difficult at times over the last several years, but that it was inevitable. He quotes one of Wenrich’s maxims, saying,

“There’s no growth without change, and no change without pain.”

Churches need to participate in all parts of the process if they are to fully reap the benefits, West says. “If we’re not going through with it, then we’re fooling ourselves. It’s a commitment to see this through the long haul.” Developing a Behavioral Covenant as required by the process has been key to the church’s new beginning, West says. “It was key, not just for working through the process, but throughout all of church life. There is a lot more positive spirit about our direction, and there’s also a lot more openness and trust.”

The church has seen numerical growth of roughly 15 percent in each of the last two years. “The growth has been solid,” West says. “People are making new commitments to Christ – they’re participating in groups, and they want to serve others.”

Making the pathway available sends an important message to existing congregations, West says. “It tells us that the denomination isn’t just interested in church planting. It’s about helping existing churches.”

About the Author

  • Marianne Peters is a freelance writer, master gardener, and environmental educator. She lives in Plymouth, Indiana with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two mischievous ginger cats called Fred and George (after the Weasley twins of Harry Potter fame). From 2008-2013 she wrote the Creation Care column for Covenant Companion magazine. In 2011, her family decided to downsize by half, a decision that led to the publication of her book Declutter for Good: Share Your Life and Reclaim Your Life. She blogs about green living and gardening at www.freshwordswriting.com.

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