10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church

10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church

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ISBN-13: 9781630883164
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 04/21/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 788,431
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Bob Farr is director of congregational excellence in the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church. Frequent speaker and seminar leader, he is also the author of Get Their Name and Renovate or Die: 10 Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission, both co-authored with Kay Kotan, published by Abingdon Press.
Kay Kotan is a credentialed coach, church consultant, speaker and author. She serves as the Director of the Center for Equipping Vital Congregations for the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Bishop Michael J Coyner is the Bishop of the Indiana Conference of the The United Methodist Church.

“Bishop Mike” as most people call him, is originally from Anderson, Indiana. He served churches of various sizes, served as a District Superintendent of the former Lafayette District, and was also the Executive Assistant to Bishop Woodie W. White for the Indiana Area. He was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church in 1996 and was assigned to the Dakotas Area where he served two terms as resident bishop. In 2004 he was assigned to serve the Indiana Area, and in 2008 he was assigned to a second term.

Bishop Mike and his wife, Marsha, live in the Indianapolis area. He oversees the life and ministry of over 1,200 United Methodist congregations in Indiana, including over 200,000 members organized into 10 districts. Under Bishop Coyner’s leadership, the former North and South Indiana Conference voted in 2008 to create a new Indiana Conference which was launched in 2010.

Bishop Mike and Marsha have two adult children and four grandchildren. Laura and her husband, Adrian Peace, are both engineers with GE in Louisville, and the parents of Brianna and Austin. Steve, a pharmaceutical salesman, and his wife, Jessica, live in Fishers, and are the parents of Ashlee and Leah.

Bishop Mike received his B.A. degree from Purdue, his M. Div. Degree from Duke Divinity School, and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew Theological School. Bishop Mike also has received honorary doctorates from Dakota Wesleyan University, the University of Evansville and the University of Indianapolis. He is the author of several articles and four books: Making a Good Move (Abingdon Press, 1999), Prairie Wisdom (Abingdon Press, 2000), The Race to Reach Out (Abingdon Press, 2004) and A Year With John Wesley and Our Methodist Values (Discipleship Resources, 2008). In addition to serving as a Trustee or Board member of various United Methodist agencies and institutions here in Indiana, Bishop Coyner also serves on the General Council on Finance and Administration for the denomination.


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10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church


Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63088-316-4


Mission and Vision

Prevailing Symptoms

The most common prescription written is centered on mission and vision. Usually, if there is a mission or vision statement, it is not widely known or understood by a large majority of the leaders—let alone the congregation. But let's be clear here. We have never seen a church grow by simply hanging a mission and vision statement on the wall. Many churches do indeed have one hanging on the wall, but it is rarely owned or understood by the leaders and congregation. On the other hand, we have never seen a growing congregation that didn't deeply understand their mission and vision. Not only did these congregations understand the statements, but they aligned their staffing, building use, ministries, decision-making, budget, and other areas to the mission and vision as well as well. Without a clearly understood and communicated mission and vision, the church operates without focus and purpose. Most churches we have encountered over the last eight years were driven simply by the calendar of events from last year and the year before that. Sometimes, because of the budgetary pressures, churches had begun to make decisions to start some programs and stop some things based on lack of resources rather than mission and vision. We often encounter churches that are screaming that they just need more volunteers or money in order to maintain the calendar of events they love to do. They believe that if only those in the congregation would volunteer more or give more, everything would be okay. Rarely are these decisions based on mission and vision. Rather, these decisions are based purely on trying to maintain what has always been done. Some of the churches were easily swayed to the latest, greatest "program" out of desperation, hoping if they did this then it would turn the church around. This very rarely works.

Though we have discovered that most churches' decisions are driven by multiple factors, rarely are decisions based on making disciples and living into the vision. The metaphor we like to use in the Saturday workshop during the HCI consultation to help explain this is "What or who is driving the car?" Just imagine for moment a 1966 red Mustang with four seats—two in the front and two in the back. The question posed is, who or what is in the driver's seat of the car? Who or what is in the passenger seat? Who or what is in the back seats? What we know is that growing, healthy congregations have vision (V) in the driver's seat. It is the key to everything. We also know the second key to growing, healthy congregations is having relationships (R) in the passenger seat. In other words, relationships are also a primary driving factor in healthy, growing congregations. These are relationships among members as well as those whom they don't know yet. What is in the back seat? It is structure (S; how we order ourselves) and programs (P). Structure and programs are important in a healthy, growing congregation. But if structure and programs become the driver of the church, the church may be entering the cycle of decline, becoming less missional and losing track of its preferred future. We help people understand that unhealthy churches most generally have vision and relationships in back seats. Many times, we find that if relationships are in the passenger seat, those relationships are only among one another rather than also including those whom they don't know. So, at your church, what is in the driver's seat? What is in your passenger seat? What is driving your church? It could be personalities, calendar, theology, history, tradition, the latest and greatest thing to do, money, facility, debt, and so on. It is important to understand and know this about your church now and into the future.

What we know is that competent, compelling congregations are driven by their mission and vision, followed by relationships with those they know and those they don't know.

Mission and vision provide a basis or foundation for the church's very existence. They provide unwavering focus and clarity. Without a clearly defined and understood mission and vision, the church and its leaders flounder. Without a mission, there is no basis on which leaders can make decisions, evaluate programs and performance, and hold leaders accountable.

We are quite aware that mission and vision are defined differently in the church and in corporate America. In fact, sometimes the mission and vision definitions are interchangeable and mean quite the opposite in corporate America or with some church leaders. For the purposes of the HCI process and this book we define mission as the purpose for existence, or the "why" we do what we do. Vision is defined as "how." Vision is obvious, strategic, and measurable. Mission is big, broad, and applies to all. Vision is more unique and particular to your congregation and it effectively and clearly describes how your congregation is going to accomplish the mission in its unique mission field and context.

Many churches spend days, weeks, and months trying to figure out the mission of their church when, in fact, that has already been decided for us as Christians. The mission is "to make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." This is also true of most organizations. Usually, the mission is decided at the company or organization's birth and within their type of company (e.g., retail, restaurant, religious). For example, Walmart and McDonald's don't need to spend any time figuring out or thinking about the reason for their existence. Walmart doesn't try to sell Jesus. Churches don't go into the retail or hamburger business. When the corporation is birthed, the "why" is also birthed and remains constant. And often, the "why" is birthed before the corporation or organization has begun. Corporations change vision. Vision tells how they intend to accomplish their mission in their context within their culture today. In the past, vision statements were cast seven to ten years into the future. More recently, vision is cast five years into the future. But with the pace at which our world changes today, vision is now cast for eighteen months to three years.

The church was birthed out of Acts 2 with five purposes. These purposes are all the same whether you readFive Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase or The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. In addition to the book of Acts, we received the final instructions of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 9:1-6 with Jesus Christ sending the disciples out two by two to reach the new generations. We believe that God has already provided each church with their mission. We, United Methodists, believe it is contained within the Great Commission and the Great Commandments. We have summarized it into this statement: "To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." If you are going to be the church, your mission centers around Jesus's Great Commission.

Where we believe congregations need to spend their time is on working on their vision statements. Their visions articulate how they will uniquely live out the mission. Congregations need not get caught up in figuring out their mission. The purpose of why the church exists was gifted to us by Jesus Christ. Vision drives the church. Vision is the "how" of the church doing the "why" (mission). Yet we rarely find a church that gets this. They struggle with first casting a vision and most definitely struggle with living into the vision.

In order to accomplish the mission and live into your vision, your church must center everything around the mission and vision. I (Kay) guide congregations through strategic ministry planning. The five components of strategic ministry planning are mission, vision, core values, goals, and objectives. I (Bob) use the diagram below to help congregations understand how everything in the church is built on the mission and vision. The focus narrows as you move down the V. Every activity in the church needs to be strategic and measurable on how it is moving toward accomplishing the mission and living into the vision.

How will I spend time in the mission field at each level? If a pastor spends X times in the mission field, laity should be spending at least half of X in the mission field.

For The United Methodist Church, we use the mission statement, "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." If you are going to be a United Methodist church, this is your mission. In the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church, we are convicted that this will be our mission, and we clearly articulate this in the HCI consultations. In Missouri, in the HCI process, we tweaked the mission by one word. We have added new in front of the word disciples. We found without adding new, many churches felt they were living into their mission by continuing to (only) develop the congregants already in the pews or reconnecting with those disconnected from the church. By adding new, the mission statement clearly defines that we are to raise up new disciples as well as cultivate growth in seasoned Christians.

By adopting a mission statement and fully living into the understanding, a church can become a "missional" church. A missional church is one that measures all they do on how effectively they are living out their mission (their purpose). Everything is centered on the mission. Leadership teams frame all their decisions and conversations into becoming/being a missional church.

To embrace the missional model, church leaders and members must shift

• From an internal to an external focus, ending the church as exclusive social club model

• From running programs and ministries to developing people as its core activity

• From church-based leadership to community-engaged leadership.

Let us repeat again for the purposes of our work that we define vision as your church's unique approach to accomplishing the mission. It can also be defined as the preferred future of the church in three to five years. A vision very clearly provides a snapshot of how the church would uniquely look, feel, and act being missional in three to five years. Because the vision is a snapshot of your preferred future, the vision should be recast every three to five years. If the church is being guided by and performing from its vision, the church will have arrived at its "preferred future" in three to five years and a new vision is needed. Vision casting in a church creates momentum, energy, excitement, and alignment, and it legitimizes leadership and increases giving.


Example One

On the day this consultation report is accepted (should that be the case), [church name] will adopt as the mission of the church, "The making of new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." This means that every ministry in the congregation must demonstrate how it will accomplish the mission and that new ministries need to have as their primary purpose the "making of new disciples." The congregation will have a day of prayer on or before [date] that will allow the membership to be fully prepared for the Lord's vision for the future of [church name]. The coach will conduct a day of visioning workshop to start the process of the pastor casting a new vision for [church name] that will be confirmed by leadership. The workshop will be conducted by [date]. The new vision statement will be completed by [date]. The pastor will then conduct a sermon series on the new vision for the church.

Example Two

On the day this consultation report is accepted (should that be the case), [church name] will take on as its mission statement, "the making of new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

The congregation will have a day of prayer on or before [date] that will allow the membership to be fully prepared for the Lord's vision for the future of [church name]. The coach and the pastor will conduct a visioning workshop within thirty days of the day of prayer. The purpose of this day is to share in God's dream for working through the congregation both individually and collectively to reach this community. The church will seek God's direction to discover what percentage of the unchurched within a five-mile radius it is responsible to win to Christ and [church name].

A team will be assembled to work with the pastor to create consensus on this vision and to create a strategy to implement the vision in ways that fulfill the mission. This team will be composed of between three and five people assigned by the pastor in consultation with the coach. The new vision will be confirmed by the board/council by [date] and then presented to the congregation by [date].


While the mission is adopted along with the prescription, it still must be communicated and lived into. Communication is key and can't be overdone. Mission must be talked about and acted upon over and over and over again. As we begin to communicate about it and act on it, the culture of the church will begin to shift. In the first example, the pastor is asked to do a sermon series on the mission to help the congregation begin to grasp the purpose of the church as being missional. Along with the vision statement, the mission statement is to be printed on all meeting agendas, bulletins, websites, or other media for the purposes of focusing, reminding, communicating, and clarifying.

Since everything is launched and centered on the vision, the visioning day process is usually the first step of prescription implementation about thirty days following the day of prayer. The pastor calls the congregation together. The four-hour event is led by the HCI coach. The workshop includes the following elements:

• Understanding of mission

• Understanding of vision and its link to mission

• Understanding of the importance of vision and what it does for a congregation

• Explanation that vision comes from the intersection of the needs of the community, the passions of the leaders, and the gifts of the congregation

• Community prayer walk

• Small groups sharing of prayer walk experience

• Sharing of other churches' vision statements

• Small groups drafting vision statement

• Sharing of vision drafts

The most powerful aspect of the visioning day process is most often the prayer walk. Often, this is the first experience people have had in prayer walking. Participants are asked to walk in the mission field as though they had on the sandals of Jesus. What would Jesus see, hear, notice, and experience? What would break his heart? What burden is Jesus calling the church to carry or bear in the mission field? We ask for this to be a solo event, not a time for fellowship. Repeatedly, I (Kay) have been privileged to witness the profound impact on the hearts of longtime church members as a result of the prayer walk. People's eyes are opened in a different way to their mission field. Hearts are broken, softened, and moved to be a different church for the community. There are oftentimes many tears and deep shifts made in the souls of those participating. This workshop does first speak to the "head" of the matter (understanding what a vision is), but it really gets to the "heart" (and soul) of the matter during the prayer walk. This can be a profound shift for the congregation in becoming a missional church. Again, make sure the prayer team is praying for the day of visioning participants and the mission field before, during, and after.

Notice the visioning process is not a committee-led process. Rather, it is a pastor- led, leadership-confirmed process. We believe a vision comes from the pastor's heart after much listening, research, prayer, and walk-around information (i.e., information gained by being present in and interviewing people in the community). However, no vision is a vision unless the lay leadership of the congregation confirms it. Vision of the pastor without confirmation by the leaders is not vision at all. It is simply an opinion.

We have encountered a couple of different scenarios in churches struggling with vision. In the first scenario, some churches believe the vision process is committee initiated and takes six to eight months. By that time, the congregation has moved on. The second scenario we encounter is a pastor having a vision from his or her heart without following the steps above (visioning day, listening, research, congregational prayer walk, pastor in prayer, and discernment and walk-around information) and without the lay leadership confirming it. The pastor is simply doing his or her own thing and quickly runs into trouble. We would hear things like the pastor is doing things his or her own way, his or her vision is not the church's vision, and so on. At the end of the day, people are unwilling to follow the direction of the vision. A word of caution to laity and pastor: a genuine vision comes from the heart of the pastor and must be confirmed by the lay leadership. Pastors, make sure you look behind you to ensure people are following! And laity, it is not your job to be out in front of the pastor on a limb when your pastor wants to go a completely different direction. When a truly, Spirit-led, biblically guided vision occurs, the result is a creation of trust. In contrast, when the two situations above occur, the church becomes distrustful, lacks unity, lacks momentum, lacks focus, and may experience conflict.


Excerpted from 10 Prescriptions for a Healthy Church by BOB FARR, KAY KOTAN. Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


"Foreword: Ripe for Renewal",
"Chapter One" Mission and Vision,
"Chapter Two" Hospitality,
"Chapter Three" The Worship Experience,
"Chapter Four" Community Connection,
"Chapter Five" Intentional Faith Development,
"Chapter Six" Connection Process,
"Chapter Seven" Leadership Development,
"Chapter Eight" Strategic Ministry Planning,
"Chapter Nine" Simplified, Accountable Structure,
"Chapter Ten" Staff Evaluation and Alignment,

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