Transformation—church revitalization—is one of four strategic initiatives at the forefront of EPC denominational ministry efforts. Leading that charge is the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic’s GO Center, a group of church revitalization trainer/consultants from across the EPC.
Nearly 200 churches in the EPC have either completed or are working through the Great Commission Matrix, the process by which the GO Center Team leads congregations and presbyteries to evaluate their ministries in light of the Great Commission command to make disciples.
A key component of the EPC church revitalization strategy is developing a network of Church Revitalization Coaches, and 18 new coaches met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando for training October 13-14.
Evelio Vilches, Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Pembroke Pines, Fla., attended as a new coach. His congregation is being mentored through the GO Center revitalization process, and he said it was fruitful to go through the training both as a participant and a coach. “Hearing the content in a different form keeps it fresh for me,” he said, adding that the process of church revitalization and vitality is something that is never complete.
“Every church has to keep their finger on the pulse of their vitality,” Vilches said. “You never arrive. If you do get to the point where you think ‘I’m now vital’ and you stop, that’s when the church ends up in a state of recline and can so easily move to decline. Vitality is really important and you have to stay on it consistently.”
Bob Stauffer, Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, noted that requests from churches to participate in the Go Center revitalization process is far greater than can be met by the GO Center’s three-person staff.
“We want to build a cadre of coaches for each presbytery,” Stauffer said. “To really have church revitalization sink into the culture, we need 150 coaches.”
Ken Priddy, Executive Director of the GO Center, said the coaches provide a critical link between the material and the church leaders. He explained that the initial steps in the process involve he, Stauffer, or Bill Rasch (the third member of the GO Center Team) meeting with the church’s “Vision Team.” However, due to the many demands on the GO Center Team it is often difficult to maintain an ongoing relationship with each congregation’s Vision Team. He stressed that this is why each church having a revitalization coach is so important.
“We have seen over and over again that if the church experiences a hiccup along the way, the tendency is to delay, shelve, or even quit the process,” Priddy said. “But what you—the Vision Team coach—provide is the routine contact and encouragement, as well as reinforcing the material.”
Priddy emphasized the combination of the coach’s expertise and the relationship with the Vision Team will move the process along. “If you work the process, the process works,” he said.
Jeff Moore, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Ill., serves as chair of the EPC Church Planting and Revitalization Committee. He also is a GO Center coach and is leading his congregation through the Great Commission Matrix.
“What I have learned through this as much as anything,” Moore said, “is that many times a church—mine included—gets revved up with a great idea. We go into the community and serve, and then we retreat back into our church and wait for something to happen. You know, it is so simple yet so profound: you have to go back again and again and again and again to serve so you can earn the right to share our hope in Christ. We have to have perseverance if we are going to impact our communities and churches.”
An online training opportunity launches on October 25 with GO Clusters that will work through Priddy’s training materials. GO Clusters will meet on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. (EST) and will meet for one year of training and consulting, alternating months between online group training sessions and one-on-one phone consultations. Sessions will be devoted to training, discussion, problem solving, planning, and implementation.
For more information about the GO Center or the new GO Clusters online training, see www.pmaofepc.org/the_go_center. For information about becoming a church vision team coach, contact Bob Stauffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.