Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century is a program designed to assist United Methodist churches with predominantly black congregations become effective in mission and ministry. It does this by linking successful congregational resource centers with congregations that are in search of new ideas and revitalization.

By year’s end, it is anticipated that there will be 20 resource congregations in the United States. Each of the Congregation Resource Centers has various gifts they can share with conference churches. The 20 standout congregations range in size from 150 to 9,000 members. They pursue a wide spectrum of ministries and hold training sessions in their areas of ministry expertise. Through training partner churches receive hope, inspiration, encouragement and determination to go forward with the vision the Lord has given the church. Churches qualify to be partner congregations if they demonstrate a willingness to change and be open and are eager to devote time and resources to making the training process a success.

Congregation resource centers are selected based on criteria that are indicators of vital congregations. They include:

  • value clergy and lay leadership;
  • foster partnership between clergy and laity;
  • demonstrate a clear mission;
  • enable and nurture all persons to grow spiritually;
  • provide for education, Bible study and other faith-formation development;
  • engage in vibrant and varied worship;
  • engage in a cycle of planning, doing, evaluating and refocusing their ministry;
  • value Christian hospitality and their Wesleyan and cultural heritages;
  • engage their residential communities creatively and faithfully; and
  • act on needs, problems and issues arising from social, political, cultural and economic aspects of life.

The success of the resource centers can be attributed to their claiming the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is our hope that Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century can leave a legacy of spiritual vitality and evangelistic growth and transformation, and thus, can find more creative ways to empower churches to do ministry.

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