Michael Danner is the associate executive director of Church Vitality and Engagement for Mennonite Church USA.
One of the joys of my work is seeing all the ways area conferences, local congregations, and church members are living out their faith. The things I witness might be a little different than what you commonly read about in church publications. Don’t get me wrong, I love inspirational stories about what God is doing in people’s lives and beyond. I also love all the stuff that happens behind the scenes to make faith communities launch pads for missional engagement in the world.
In a recent church service I attended, the chair of the congregation’s search committee gave an update. In a somber tone, she announced that they had ended conversation with a potential candidate for their open pastoral position. Then she clearly communicated the work of the team. She said they had already received some additional MLIs (Ministerial Inquiry Forms) which the search committee would be engaging and noted that, on the upside, they had preachers scheduled through Easter (and Advent hasn’t even started).
As she talked, I was filled with gratitude for people doing work like this in local congregations – stuff that is important, often behind the scenes, and that deeply impacts the local church.
I also couldn’t help but think of one of the important things the Church Vitality team does. An MLI doesn’t just show up for a search committee, it involves candidates answering questions, references writing recommendations, and Sandra Shenk Lapp, a key member of the Church Vitality Team, gathering all that together, along with background checks, and congregational information profiles, among other things. She does that work so that search committees like this one have potential candidates who have been vetted for the roles they are seeking.
I also thought of the work of Duncan Smith, the director of The Corinthian Plan, who ensures pastors have competitive health insurance options. I thought of Shana Peachey Boshart, denominational minister of Faith Formation, who helps curate resources for local churches as they seek to build up the faith of all their participants. And I thought of Sue Park-Hur, denominational minister for Transformative Peacemaking who works to support women in leadership (pastoral and other) within MC USA and helps connect local congregations to opportunities to engage in Shalom-building work with their neighbors, nation and world.
The work of the Church Vitality office of MC USA is important — though it often occurs just out of sight.
The fruit of our work is seen every time a search committee accesses resources to help them in their search; when elders or stewardship committees access the pastoral salary guidelines and sample covenants; when church leaders use pastor/congregation evaluation resources to discern their effectiveness as a congregation; when congregations access worship resources in Leader magazine; when MC USA members, pastors and leaders engage in border learning tours that put a human face on immigration issues in our nation; when MC USA provides resources to engage justice issues in your community; when members, pastors and leaders join a webinar to learn how to navigate polarization in our communities, and on and on. That is the work of the Church Vitality office.
Chances are, you have benefitted from the work of the Church Vitality office but don’t even realize it. This is just a small taste of what we do each and every day.
By supporting MC USA, you support the work of helping congregations thrive in all that they do.
Support Church Vitality at mennoniteusa.org/give.