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What to report in Vital Signs

In medicine, vital signs are statistics taken to assess the most basic functions of the body. These include information on body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. In the United Methodist Church, VitalSigns are measures of vitality that assess the most basic functions of congregations.  These include professions of faith, worship attendance, involvement in small groups, engagement in local outreach and mission, support of missions around the world, giving to support the ministry of the congregation, and a brief testimony or narrative account of your ministry for the week.
 
So let’s take a little closer look at these vital signs. 

Worship Attendance

Worship is one of the most important ways we United Methodists encounter the living God through the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and vital worship is a key indicator of a vital congregation. 
For Worship Attendance, report the total attendance at all services your church holds on a regular weekly basis as a primary opportunity for worship. 
 
So what should be reported here?
  • DO report all persons, including children, who participate in all or part of the service.
  • DO report attendance at services held on Sunday. 
  • DO report for services held on Saturday, or other days of the week if the people who attend that service  and do not normally also attend on Sunday as well. 
  • DO NOT include worship for special services that are only held on special occasions such as Christmas Eve, Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday.
  • DO NOT report persons who are in your church building during worship times, but are not participating in a worship service. 

Professions of Faith

As United Methodists, we believe we are called by God to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and to join with one another in Christian community. One of the ways we assess our strength in answering this call is through professions of faith where someone who currently does not hold membership in another church professes their faith in Jesus Christ and joins a congregation as a professing member. 
 
So who should be reported here?
  • DO report youth in confirmation classes who have joined the church that week.
  • DO NOT report transfers from other United Methodist or non-United Methodist Congregations
  • DO report adults joining your church who have never been a member of another church.
  • DO NOT report persons who have previously been a member of a congregation, but currently don’t hold membership in a church. 

Small Groups

As United Methodists, we believe that through the grace of God every person can continue grow in their faith and discipleship. One of the most important ways we do that is through participation in small groups created for helping our members become more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ through learning, mutual support and accountability, and service to the world. 
 
Now, every church has groups that meet throughout the week, but not every group should be reported here. 
  • DO report persons engaged in covenant discipleship or other accountability groups
  • DO NOT report persons more than once.
  • DO report small groups that get together for bible study or, in some cases, to provide ministries to your community.
  • DO NOT report groups that primarily meet for recreational activities like sports.
In some cases it may be difficult to determine what groups should or should not be included here, and that’s okay. What is important is that your congregation has a clear understanding of what you consider to be these small groups and that you report your data consistently over time.

Persons Serving in Mission and Outreach

United Methodists are disciples of Jesus Christ who are engaged in the world. Through international mission trips, soup kitchens, prison ministries, literacy programs, and thousands of other ways, we’re working to transform the world. Vital congregations have members who are engaged in the world around them, whether that’s down the block or halfway around the world. 
 
For persons serving and mission and outreach…
  • DO report persons working on mission teams that week.
  • DO include persons who work in community ministries provided by your local church such as after school programs, food banks, or homeless ministries. 
  • DO include persons who work as part of the church’s support for community ministries with other churches or organziations such as Habitiat for Humanity, or CROP Walk.
  • DO NOT include persons who volunteer for ministries on their own without the support or endorsement of the church. Although this is important ministry, it’s not something for which the church can claim responsibility. 
  • DO NOT include persons who work in mission and outreach as part of their job.
  • DO NOT report persons more than once. 
Again, there may be times that is isn’t easy to know what should or should not be included here. Just remember to be clear about how you define it, and report consistently.

 

Amount given to other organizations for support of mission and ministry

United Methodists are a generous people. And when we can’t support mission and ministry with our own hands, we do it with the financial gifts that God has given us. An important indicator of church vitality is that amount given by the congregation to support benevolent and charitable ministries. These are those causes that your church supports outside of its own ministries. 
  • DO include the amount the congregations pays for apportionments, Special Sundays, Advance Specials, or other United Methodist causes.
  • DO include the amount your congregation pays to other organizations doing important ministry that aren’t specifically United Methodist.
  • DO include that amount your congregation pays to other organizations in your community where your members are volunteering, such as Habitat for Humanity.
As many congregations support these ministries on a monthly or quarterly basis, it’s okay to report a zero on a given week. Simply report the spending that has occurred that week to help ensure money isn’t counted more than once or not at all.

Total offering received this week through pledges and offerings

Although your church may receive part of its income from endowments, rents, investments, or special fundraisers, giving by your members through their pledges and offerings is a key indicator of vitality. 
  • DO report monies collected during your worship services. 
  • DO report monies collected for Special Sunday Offerings, the Advance, or a capital campaign.
  • DO report monies collected through electronic funds transfer or online giving.
  • DO NOT report returns on investments, rents, or fundraisers. 
  • DO NOT report registration fees or tuition for daycares, schools, or other programs where fees are paid to the church for education or service.

Testimony

VitalSigns works primarily through numbers. It provides a set of key measures of your church’s ministry to help you understand trends and connect with and learn from other congregations. 
 
But as we all know, numbers only tell part of the story. That’s why VitalSigns also includes an opportunity for you to provide a testimony, that is, a narrative account of your churches ministry in the past week. 
 
In your testimony, you might want to share good news like a successful vacation bible school, or sad news like layoffs at a local plant. You might share an idea that’s been successful for your church, or a have question about how to be more effective in a particular area of ministry.