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Congregational Vitality Initiative



The VST initiative for Congregational Vitality through Community Engagement connects parched leaders and congregations to best practice leaders, congregations and strategies that stimulate a holistic approach to being the church in the world. More than ever, the church needs new and adaptive ways of flourishing and being relevant in today’s context. Director Chris Pullenayegem has positioned this as a learning exchange that will help congregations grow in depth and reach. For those ministry workers that are looking for practical pathways and resources to help move their congregations towards health and vitality, this is the place to begin. The digitalized resources available on this web site are free to download and use.

Listen to Dr. Rev Richard Topping as he describes the outcomes of the Congregational Vitality Initiative and how these resources could help your congregation grow into health and vitality.




Here’s a common echo from pastors: “There is so much information on congregational flourishing but very little practical guidance for busy pastors like me. I read books or leave seminars and workshops with so much knowledge and material but that gets lost in my everyday work. What I need are simple, clear resources and step by step instructions on how to use them to lead my congregation into growing healthy”.

This resource catalogue aims to address that issue. Resources that have been gathered, curated and developed for this project are presented in the form of a biblically informed operations manual – for those leaders who are serious about pursuing congregational health, overwhelmed by all the information available but bereft of practical pathways (step by step guidance) on how to proceed. The resources curated and developed here are based on scholarly research, surveys, written and digitized web content and expert opinions of practitioners. They are a combination of both subject matter content and processes.

The optimum way to use this manual is to start from the beginning and work your way though to the end. For some of you, you may find some resources that you could fold into the work you are already doing in this area. Whatever you do, remember that this is not a silver bullet. It is rather a partnership between you, your congregation and the Holy Spirit. Without the latter’s help and guidance, your best efforts will fall away. So, take your time and trust the Spirit to lead you into a lifelong journey of health and vitality.

Is this you?

You are a minister, a pastor of congregation. You desire to lead your congregation to grow in health and vitality but, you:
– Are too busy
– Are too tired
– Don’t know how
– Don’t know what to do
– Cannot find the resources
– Cannot find the motivation to lead
– Find yourself alone in this endeavour

Then what follows is specifically for you.

Introduction to our resources


Welcome! Obviously you are here because you are interested and/or curious about congregational vitality. That’s encouraging. Before going any further, let me remind you of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous line, “Nothing worth having, comes easy.” Leading a congregation towards health and vitality takes time and commitment. You could spend anywhere upwards of 3 years to build a culture of lifelong learning and a growth mindset. Expect one-degree increases, not huge leaps and soon you will begin noticing changes. On the other hand, if you’re not in it for the long haul, don’t even bother going any further.

We have synthesized the body of research into four broad interdependent categories: Hopeful/Adaptive, Outward Focused, Inward Directed, and Empowering/Gift-Based Leadership. Healthy and vital churches exhibit the following indicators albeit in varying proportions.

Depending on where your congregation is, in terms of its health (see the survey of the four DNA strands as indicators found here, you could spend anywhere upwards of 3 years to build a culture of lifelong learning and a growth mindset.

Here is a 10 minute read that helps lay a framework for thinking about congregational health and vitality. The DNA of a healthy congregation: Four Essentials for growing healthy communities of Faith | by Chris | Medium

The resources that you will find below are arranged within this framework. As you navigate your way through the site, you will begin to understand the inter-connectedness of these four strands but also be able to pick out resources that are specific to each strand. This site is being refreshed regularly so lookout for new resources that will be posted.

Looking beyond: Hopeful/Adaptive

Adaptive, willingness to risk, experiment, learn and innovative.

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Outward focused

Open hearted and open handed (loving others).

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Inward directed

Centred on Jesus, growing in spiritual maturity: spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible study, fellowship (loving God).

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Empowering, gifts-based leadership

Empowering, gifts-based servant hearted, catalytic leadership.

Learn More

Steps for a healthy congregation


Unfortunately, growing a healthy congregation is not a 1-2 year project. It takes time, much like growing a tree. But fortunately, there are ways to get there as long as there is the motivation and determination to do so. The following is a pathway forward. There will be bumps and barriers along the way for sure but, if we can stay the course, we will see God@work.

1. Take a self-inventory: This is where it begins. With you, yes you, the minister or designated leader. For a self-inventory tool, see attachment 1. Score yourself. If you are spiritually dry or dry-ing out, you need to be refreshed first, before you can lead anyone else into spiritual maturity and health. Using the airplane oxygen mask metaphor, you need to put one on before helping anyone else. And, in the words of Byron Brazier, “if you don’t know how God is leading you, you won’t know how to lead others”.

2. Determine the status of your own spiritual health and whether you are in a reasonably good position to lead your congregation on a journey of health and vitality. If yes, go point (3). If not, check out the book, “Strengthening the soul of your leadership” by Ruth Hayley Barton and then proceed to (3). As an afterthought, even if you think you’re in a good place, you should still read the book. It’s good for your soul! Take enough time to go though the “practices” at the end of each chapter. Growing healthy is not a hurried exercise so settle in for the long haul.

3. Make a case for growth to your council. You need to “sell” the critical-ness of congregational health and why this can determine your sustainability and growth as a congregation. Test it with the leadership. For you to make some headway, you need some “cache” and the approval of most of your leadership. People don’t know what they don’t know but that’s OK. For a start, it is enough to have them excited or at least interested in exploring what growth and health look like. For how to make a case, see Attachment 2.

4. Once you have made a case for congregational health and obtain a “green light” from the council (may take months), identify your core team who will drive this effort. For “how to create your core team”, see Attachment 3 and skip to step (8)

5. If you don’t get an affirmative or worse still, receive an apathetic response from the council, go to step 6 instead.

6. Find 2-3 (or more) people in your congregation whom you could approach to talk about your aspirations. Refer to Attachment 4 for further instructions.

7. If you still cannot find anyone who is interested, it’s time to re-evaluate your ministry with your congregation. If no one in your congregation is ready for this journey and all they want is for you to “entertain” them on Sunday morning and be “on call” as pastor, I suggest you take a step back and re-evaluate your own sense of purpose and calling and discern if this is the place God wants you to spend your time in. It’s a difficult process but a necessary one that will help you to decide between spending and investing your time. There’s nothing worse than spending/wasting your time flogging a dead or dying horse. Or perhaps, God has called you to be a chaplain for this congregation that needs geriatric and/or hospice care: not growing or healthy but dying. If so, do that well but unfortunately, there are no resources here to help you with that.

8. See Attachment 5 for further instructions.