For the past 18 months, our church has been participating in the Vital Church Initiative program (VCI). VCI is an assisted self examination of our church that has helped to determine our strengths and identify opportunities for improvement.

listed below, you will find the  summary of the findings and the suggested prescription. if the prescription is accepted by our church, we will design an action plan and execute it over the course of the next 3 years. we realize our church is far from perfect and our hope is to leverage the VCI findings to transform our church into a more vital church not only in our community but in gods world.

Marshall United Methodist Church


May 8, 2016



We, the VCI consultation team, thank Melany Chalker, staff, lay leaders and the congregation of Marshall United Methodist Church (MUMC) for the invitation to consult with this Body of Christ.  The following observations and prescriptions are the result of this consultation team’s study of the following information: a) Marshall United Methodist Church’s Self-Study documents provided by its leaders, which included the Does Your Church Have a Prayer? study, a MissionInsite demographic report of the area population, worship videos, and the May 3 “Mystery Guest” report by Faith Perceptions (the result of worship visits from 13 persons from the community),  b) interviews with pastors, staff and ministry team leaders, c) a focus group with non-leaders of the congregation, d) a focus group with the Leadership Council, and e) input from the consultation workshop.


We are confident that God will use this assessment experience and consultation report, to help Marshall United Methodist Church to more effectively be and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the community and the world.



1.  Momentum - Poised for Greatness  

MUMC has created some momentum providing a foundation for future ministry.  There is diversity of style in the two worship experiences.  We saw and heard skilled musicians in the videos from both traditional and contemporary worship.  The Mystery Guests spoke highly of your website, Facebook page, brochures and other information available in the building.  You support numerous mission and outreach opportunities.  As you build healthy systems and ministries to go from good to great, God will use MUMC to transform your community and the world.


2.  Leaders, Staff, and Pastors

MUMC has a combination of strong leaders, staff, and pastors.  Your Lead Pastor brings creative and artistic skills to the worship experiences.  The staff is growing strong to reach the ministry needs of the congregation.  Staff retreats designed by the Lead Pastor have begun “shifting staff positions to a discipleship focus.”  The addition of your Discipleship Director and Assistant Director of Discipleship are examples of this shift.  Your staff members love their church and are committed to its ministries.  The Leadership Council has begun to move beyond the traditional receiving of reports from ministry groups to become forward-looking for dreaming and naming new ministries.  As the church staff grows, God will work through you to help the laity of the church discover their gifts and become strong leaders and doers in the church.  Together you will guide each other in your spiritual journeys to become a little more like Jesus every day.


3.  Mission and Outreach

From the financial data we reviewed, mission giving and outreach are a priority at MUMC.  We do not often see a church sustaining a five year average of $50,000+ giving beyond the budget.  This indicates a willingness of the congregants to respond when a need is presented.  In talking with your coach and reviewing your electronic and print media, we see your efforts supporting a wide variety of projects which are addressing needs locally, nationally and globally.  This same emphasis is recognized in the organizing and funding of hands-on mission trip experiences in the U.S. and Haiti.  From the community surveys we see further local opportunities MUMC can explore.  This level of generosity, with some modification, will make a name for MUMC in this community and begin to attract other like-minded community members.


4.  Location

MUMC is strategically located on a main road that leads to and from the city of Marshall and is close to the intersection of I-69 and I-94.  There is potential for local residents to easily connect with the church, as well as people from the larger region.  The MissionInsite data reveals nearly 3,000 residents living within a one-mile radius of the church and 15,000 in the wider region. Several of the Mystery Guests said that they would visit again or tell someone they know about the church.  The Readiness 360 report reveals that at least some of your members are ready to “reach more people.”  Your location gives you ready access to that mission field.


5.  Facility

MUMC’s facility has the potential to be a great asset. The building by itself is newer and better than what many other churches have as a tool for ministry.  There is ample space to expand ministries.



1.  Lack of Unifying Vision and Alignment

The consultation team affirms a wide variety of ministries at MUMC.  However, we did not see evidence of a unifying vision to give direction and momentum to the church.  We heard during interviews that there is a lack of unity in the congregation.  Ministries are disjointed.  A lack of focus and strategic planning keeps everyone from pulling in the same direction.  A clearly communicated vision helps provide a framework for direction and evaluation of ministries and staffing.  Without it, the church will have a lot of movement without momentum, staff and volunteers will be tired and disconnected, and the mission of the church will be lost. 


2.  Making the Most of Sunday Morning Worship

Worship is rooted in an encounter with God and God's story of salvation through word and song. People experience their relationship with God in worship and are inspired into God’s mission.   However, if not done well, the elements of worship can become a barrier to hearing the Gospel and to faith development.

The pastors and staff of MUMC agree on the importance of doing worship well. Yet, the Consultation Team observed from the videos that worship under-delivers in several areas: excessively long and misplaced announcements, awkward transitions, contemporary music that is not readily sing-able, the table seating arrangement in the Great Room catches guests off-guard, children standing for the children’s message appears obligatory, and traditional elements in the contemporary worship is more of a blended style and disingenuous to those expecting non-liturgical worship.  All of these work together against a strategy that was described by a comment from the Readiness 360 Report, the church “needs to be more inviting and/or accessible to non-church people.”


Mystery Guests made several comments regarding the music and worship.  In the contemporary worship experience: “It didn’t feel like people were singing alongand so I didn’t.”  “It felt like a rock concert.”  “People just clapped their hands and enjoyed the show.” “I didn’t recognize any of the songs.” “The music was contemporary and blended.”  With respect to the tables: “The groups were talking among themselves.” “I like the table idea but I think it can be a little difficult for new people.”  “If you’re at a table all by yourself you feel kind of awkward.”  “Get rid of the chairs to de-clutter the (Great Room) and increase walkability.” “The table was just odd to be sitting at during the service.” “Many of the seats were being saved with Bibles and pamphletsand many were full.”  Regarding the music in the traditional worship experience: “I think older people would enjoy the music most.”  “Music was geared towards an older crowd.”


There is a regular pattern of downcast eyes and reading notes which does not fully engage worshippers during the message and communion.  You have one chance to make a good impression during this Sunday morning experience.  We believe that you have not yet reached your potential.


3.  Lack of Hospitality

Preparation for guests is critical for sustainability and growth.  MUMC has some hospitality elements in place; however, there appears to be no comprehensive plan for welcoming guests.  While some Mystery Guests were warmly welcomed, others were not.  One Mystery Guest reported, “I sat by myself at a lonely table, wondering if something in the hot cocoa I was drinking made me no longer visible to the human eye.”  One interviewee stated, “We are not friendly to guests or newcomers who are different in appearanceWe like people who are just like we are.”  Lack of appropriate exterior and interior signage makes navigation difficult for newcomers.  Inconsistent décor, chipping paint, dirty and torn carpets, and obvious repair needs throughout the building say to guests, “You don’t matter.”  The staff person from Faith Perceptions interpreted the Mystery Guest report saying, “You don’t just greet your house guests at the front door and then ignore them for the rest of the visit.”  Assimilation and follow-up with new guests is a key to their return.  Christian hospitality is a primary means of extending God’s love and acceptance to all people.  Christian disciples will ultimately be judged by how we welcome the stranger and care for those in need, for in doing so we welcome and care for Christ himself.  (Matthew 25:31-40)  A consistent welcome and follow-up with guests is critical to help others experience the love of Christ and to help MUMC become more vital. 


4.  Lack of Spiritual Depth

We heard in interviews and the focus groups that the congregation tolerates “lukewarm” spirituality. A repeated lack of volunteers to serve in making ministry happen is a symptom of this lukewarm spirituality.  We did not see evidence of a clear process to identify and empower potential leaders who could bring stamina, fresh ideas and energy to ministries.  We heard and read comments revealing resistance to joyful giving, causing financial instability.  A variety of voices named missing plans to attract, nurture and encourage families with young children, youth and adults.  Lighting a new fire in this congregation will require an emphasis on intentional faith development, leadership development and spiritual practices motivating your gratitude to serve and give. Spiritual formation is a lifelong process designed for all ages, non-believers, leaders, potential leaders, staff and laity.


5.  Transactional vs. Relational Mission Outreach

MUMC is reaching out to the community in numerous ways. On the website you highlight The Haven, PET Project, MACS, and Charitable Union. On your organizational chart you list 19 ministries. The Consultation Team commends you for sending money each year to support ministries both locally and around the world. As good and necessary as these outreach ministries are, they appear to be “transactional.”  At the many agencies, do the recipients know these volunteers represent MUMC? Does this work translate into bringing anyone to Christ? Does it bring people back to the church? Are you offering a relationship with Christ?


There is some intentional approach by your mission teams when you go to Haiti, Tennessee, South Dakota, Illinois, and to the community.  Both those on the mission trips and those served grow in their personal relationship with Christ and participation in the life of the church.  Outreach in any form, whether financial or hands-on, needs to be relational (ministry with) and not just transactional (ministry to) to make disciples of Jesus Christ.



Upon acceptance of this report, MUMC will adopt the United Methodist mission, “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” as its mission statement.  You will also celebrate a Worship of Spiritual Renewal to fully embrace God’s mandate for making and developing disciples.   This will be led by the coach or his designee, on or before October 1, 2016.  To prepare the congregation to fully receive God’s call to your future, the VCI Prayer Team will continue its leadership in prayer throughout this implementation process.


1.  Clarify Vision to Align Staff and Ministries

To clarify MUMC’s vision to gain focus and momentum for the staff and ministries, the coach or his designee will assist MUMC as follows.

A.  Clarify Vision      

         1. The coach or his designee will facilitate a “Vision” workshop for the congregation no later than October 15, 2016.  The purpose of this workshop is to learn how the congregation can uniquely live out its vision, accomplish its mission and identify its core values. 

2.  The Leadership Team will build on the themes of the Vision workshop to create a vision statement and identify core values.  This will be created by February 1, 2017.

3.  The Leadership Council will use the mission, vision and values for all decision-making immediately thereafter in leading the church to its God-given future.


B. Align Ministries and Staff

         1. Every ministry in the congregation must demonstrate how it will accomplish the mission, vision and values.  The Lead Pastor, in consultation with the coach, shall recruit a Ministry Audit Team of 3-5 people to oversee this audit by December 1, 2016. 

2.  The coach will provide a workshop on alignment to assist in this process and other resources will be provided by the coach by February 1, 2017. 

3.  The Ministry Audit Team will evaluate each ministry by April 1, 2017 for its faithfulness to the mission, vision and values.  Any ministries not currently in alignment will be brought into alignment by October 1, 2017.

4. Ministries not in alignment will be celebrated and dissolved immediately.

         5. All aligned ministries will set annual objectives and goals to live into the mission, vision and values to be submitted to the respective staff person by August 1, 2017 and annually thereafter.  A suggested resource is Six Questions Every Leader Should Ask by Andy Stanley, which can be found at

6. The Lead Pastor and Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), in consultation with the coach, will conduct a staff audit to include a review of job positions and descriptions by April 1, 2017.

7.  The Lead Pastor and SPRC will align all staff jobs and descriptions with the church’s mission, vision and values by October 1, 2017. 

8.  The Leadership Council shall complete annual ministry evaluations and long-range, strategic planning beginning November 14, 2017.  A suggested resource is a goal-setting workshop provided by the coach or his designee.  The results of this strategic planning and related goals will be shared annually with the congregation beginning by January 31, 2018.

9. In order to facilitate transparency and gain buy-in, the Leadership Council will hold regular town hall meetings at least quarterly throughout the implementation of the VCI prescriptions beginning fall, 2016.


2.  Passionate Worship

Passionate worship is part of the disciple-making process for members and guests alike.  Moving both worship experiences from good to great will intentionally make worship more authentic, meaningful, and create a culture of excellence.

A.  The Leadership Team will intentionally research and settle on a target demographic for each worship experience and develop a strategy on how best to reach guests and non-churched in the target demographics.  The primary resources for this research are the MissionInsite and Mystery Guest reports.  This will be completed by July 1, 2016.


B.  The Lead Pastor, in consultation with the coach, will enter into a contract with worship consultant, Cathy Townley, by July 1, 2016 to evaluate both worship experiences and suggest ways to improve each element for high quality.  The objective of this consultation is to strengthen the distinction of the two worship styles; making each more attractive to non-churched people.  The Finance Committee shall provide for necessary funding.


C.  Immediately following a “yes” vote on this report, the Lead Pastor and Worship Design Teams will do the following for the next six months:

1. Weekly, view video of each worship experience to evaluate each element on whether or not it is “user-friendly” and engaging to churched and non-churched people. All the while answering the question, “How is each part of the worship experience helping the audience to experience God?” 

2. Create feedback loops from attendees to promote continuous improvement of each worship experience. 

3.  Plan and prepare: (1) the opening and closing segments of worship to reflect radical hospitality; (2) all transitions in order to “connect the dots” between music, message and other elements of worship.  The goal is to eliminate “dead space” and provide greater consistency and high quality in each part of the worship experience. 

4. Reinforce creating a culture of hospitality regarding things like leaving adequate space near the back of the worship venues for guests.   

5. Teach all worship leaders to make eye contact with the audience in all parts of the worship experience as a way of fully engaging all worshippers. 

6. Close the front entrance doors to the Great Room.  Post signage encouraging all guests to enter through the door at the back of the room. 

7. Keep announcements to a maximum of three per worship experience.  These should be concise and reflect ministry that has broad appeal to the entire congregation.


Additional resources include: Accelerate Worship by Cathy Townley, and The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services by Constance Cherry.



MUMC will develop a culture of hospitality throughout the facility, its areas of ministry and in all aspects of church life.

A.  A Hospitality Team of 3-5 people will be recruited by the Lead Pastor, in consultation with the coach, by July 1, 2016.  This Hospitality Team will develop a comprehensive plan for welcoming guests. This team will begin its work described below by July 15, 2016.  A complete resource on hospitality can be found in two books by Mark Waltz, First Impressions and Lasting Impressions and Clip In by Jim Ozier. The Hospitality Team will:

1. Develop and implement a plan to consistently staff a Welcome Center with information about MUMC by September 5, 2016. The plan will include and not be limited to distributing new guest welcome gifts and staffing the Welcome Center at least 15 minutes before and after each worship experience.  Information gathered will be used for follow-up with guests.

 2.  Identify, recruit, and train hospitality personnel. They are to be in place 20 minutes before and 15 minutes after each worship experience.  The training will begin by August 1, 2016.

         3.  Develop a plan, priority list and timeline to update facility needs in the church to create a clean and inviting atmosphere.  Paint, clean carpets, and make needed repairs to say to guests “you matter to us.”  This plan will have both short-term (what can be completed in the first 30, 60, and 90 days) and long-term components.  This plan will be put together by July 1, 2016.  The short-term plans will be implemented by November 1, 2016.

4.  Analyze signage from a guest’s perspective by July 1, 2016.  Interior signage shall make it easy for a guest to know where to find restrooms, nursery, sanctuary and the Great Room without assistance. Exterior signage shall make it clear where to park for 9:00 or 11:00 worship experiences.  Signage shall be installed by September 5, 2016.


B.  Trustees and Finance Teams, in consultation with the Leadership Council, will budget for and provide resources to fully implement the hospitality plans.  The annual budget shall include funding for continual hospitality upgrades.


C.  The pastors and staff (paid and unpaid) will train all congregants in hospitality practices for all ministry venues including and not limited to worship, meetings, classes, small groups, and communications beginning immediately.


4.  Intentional Faith Formation and Leadership Development

MUMC will create the following:

A. Intentional Faith Development

            1. The Lead Pastor, in consultation with the coach, will form a Faith Formation Team (FFT) of 5-7 people by June 30, 2016 to create a clear road map for intentional faith development (IFD).  This road map will guide all, from new believers to fully devoted followers of Christ.  The road map will include a spiritual gifts inventory, integrated into the membership process and made available to current congregants. 

            2. The FFT will study the book, Membership to Discipleship, by Phil Maynard to identify elements needed to create an IFD for MUMC.  This study will be completed by October 1, 2016.

            3. As a kick-off for this road map, the FFT will coordinate a six-week, church-wide small group study based on A Disciple's Path, by James Harnish.  The Lead Pastor will preach a simultaneous sermon series to support the study.  The study and sermon series will begin in January, 2017. 

            4. Thereafter, the Discipleship Directors shall oversee the ongoing implementation of the road map for faith maturity.  These Directors will determine the materials for Sunday School, small groups, new member classes and focus groups for guests wishing to learn more about MUMC.  The Discipleship Directors will select and train leaders for these groups.   


 B. Leadership Development

The Nominations Leadership Committee shall:

            1.  Study Exponential by Dave and Jon Ferguson by June 1, 2017. 

            2. Create a process by July 15, 2017 for identifying, recruiting, training, supporting and evaluating ministry leaders. 

            3.  Create a training plan for current and potential leaders to be fully implemented with the new slate of officers for 2018.  Additional resources for this annual training are:  The 5 C's (character, competence, chemistry, calling and commitment), Brad Kalajainen, Cornerstone Church, Caledonia, MI, Ultimately Responsible by Sue Nilson Kibbey, and High Yield by Tom Berlin and Lovett Weems.


5.  Relational Outreach in the Community

A. The Lead Pastor, in consultation with the coach, shall create an Outreach Team (5-8 people) that includes the Service Ministries Coordinator by October 1, 2016.  The purpose of this team is to make outreach more relational.


B. The Leadership Council and the Outreach Team, in consultation with the pastor, will study Get Their Name by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson and Kay Kotan by November 1, 2016. 


C.  The Outreach Team will create a plan consistent with Get Their Name by February 1, 2017. 


D. The Outreach Team will study the MissionInsite reports and community interviews from the VCI Self-Study to evaluate the needs in the community by January 15, 2017.  Based on these findings and mission alignment (see Prescription 1B), this team will:

1. Conduct two bridge events by September 5, 2017 for the sole purpose of being known by and getting to know your neighbors.  This could include reworking events you already offer.  At least one of these is to be held away from church grounds.

2. Conduct two local work projects to share the love of God with the community by November 15, 2017. 

3. Enact the plan to follow-up with the new contacts two weeks following each event (Prescription 5C).

4. Evaluate each event within two weeks of completion. Use this evaluation to plan future events and activities that will help connect the church with the community. 

5. Ensure that all marketing and promotional materials and merchandise include the name of the church and website.



We, the consulting team, want to thank you for the opportunity to serve your congregation through this Vital Church Initiative assessment process. Our prayers and hope for your congregation are that God will use this process to help your church become more effective and fruitful. May God give you courage and strength as you move forward.


Naomi Garcia, Lead Consultant            Rod Kalajainen, coach                  Mara Marsman, Scribe

Jeff Reese                                        Tamara Brubaker-Salcedo                Colleen Treman     



Town Hall Meeting Dates, Friday, May 13, 6:00 PM; Wednesday, May 18, 4:00 PM; Sunday, May 22, 12:30 PM

Church Conference Date, Sunday, June 5, 10:30 AM


*Note: Prescription deadlines may be adjusted in consultation with the assigned VCI coach.