For Congregations 

... of all sizes and present levels of vitality the Acts 16:5 Initiative offers a plethora of ways to grow the fruitfulness of your ministry.


The Acts 16:5 Initiative is a three-year process that will assist your congregation in its growth in transformational and missional momentum – in its inner vitality and outer service.Whether your congregation is small, mid-sized or large and given whatever level of vitality your church is experiencing today we invite you to join us in discovering the adventure the Lord has for you.

Growing a vital church is always the work of God in our midst. It is a challenging task for we who are the people of God. However, we know what the alternative is – a church without vision or vitality with little missional engagement with its world. Our passion is to grow congregations that connect you with God, challenge your interior life, support you when you are in turmoil and equip and motivate your practice of the Christian faith. We find ourselves in a day where congregations of all sizes are doing well, hanging on or losing ground. We live in the midst of a culture that is changing so rapidly a number of words apply such as "manic," "high velocity," and "turbulent." Our challenge is to bless the people and programs of a congregations' past and present while discerning God's new future in our rapidly changing world.

Elements of the Acts 16:5 Initiative include ongoing training for pastors and congregational leaders, support from other pastors on the same journey as well as coaching support from the Vital Churches Institute. This enables congregations to reflect on their present vision and practices and to effectively advance in the Act 16:5 Initiative.

The Acts 16:5 Initiative encourages increasing vitality centered on:

  • A New Expectation – We must show honor and appreciation for past and present ministries and members of our congregation and, at the same time, be filled with the expectation that God has a new vision for us. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 Ongoing transformation and change need to be incorporated in your church because every ministry at some time should be expecting transformation, with grace.
  • A Defining Vision – Set the tone for all ministries by clarifying the vision that shapes and defines what we are seeking to do by God’s grace. Put the essence of your vision into a single sentence. Then encourage every ministry in the life of the congregation to center itself around the congregational vision and around their unique ministry vision. Each ministry team member should be able to see the connection their ministry has to the larger church vision.
  • The Defining Practices of Growing Disciples – Identify the practices that will define our ministries and personal lifestyles, such as the practices of bearing witness, prayer, and the study of the Word. We will have fun learning new ways to be the people of God and to do the work of the people of God.
  • The Personal Lifestyle of a Christ-Follower – Ministry is first of all a lifestyle to be lived (by each one of us) before it is a program to be run. The Acts 16:5 Initiative encourages each of us to become intentional about growing in faith and in our practices of the faith.
  • Missional Endeavor – Be intentional to have “missional” impact on the surrounding community. This means learning new ways to “reach” the uninvolved and the uncommitted to the faith, to draw them in and to “grow” with them as followers of our Lord. Congregational life has a way of being consuming as we work to sustain the programs and ministries that current church members enjoy while affirming the present ministries that we appreciate we are called to reach out.
  • Congregational Lifestyle – Encourages imaginative thinking about congregational lifestyle including worship (services that “engage” the mind and spirit), fellowship (small groups and congregational celebrations), discipleship (growing true disciples), leadership (imaginative, high initiative, and permission-giving), and ministry mobilization (spiritual gifts discovery and service).
  • Action Learning – You face adaptive challenges – problems that never seem to be resolved and possibilities that are rarely realized, challenges such as growing worship attendance, reaching the next generation, and growing true disciples. Acts 16:5 teaches the exciting Action Learning process that enables fresh, imaginative thinking leading to new solutions and new ministries.

For more information about the Acts 16:5 Initiative for your congregation and/or for your denominational region, contact VCI at: or at 703.598.9536.

Success Stories from Individual Congregations 

Pat Clark, Pastor – Houston, Texas

I am the pastor of St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, a small (85 in worship) congregation in a changing neighborhood. We were the first presbytery to embrace Acts 16:5. I was THRILLED with the initial workshop that Stan Ott put on for the presbytery and signed up to be part of the team that oversaw the work for the presbytery. My church was one of the participants.
We were all interested because we were concerned about declining church attendance and an aging congregation. Acts 16:5 gave us hope for reversing the trend and is the most user friendly of all the transformation programs that are out there. Stan's approach is very gracious, affirming what is already in place, and building on it, instead of coming in like a steam roller and blasting everyone for what they are not doing right.

What it did for us is help us clarify who we are and what we are about, give us tools for evaluating what we are doing, and built spiritual practices into the DNA of the life of St. Stephen. The year before we began not one person joined our church. With Acts 16:5 we began to receive new members, and that has continued. The spiritual energy rose in the congregation.

I was also blessed by a pastor's support group that met monthly and we developed friendships with other Presbyterian churches that were participating. We were able to brainstorm together and come up with fresh ideas. We were all in it together instead of isolated or competitive. It was a wonderful experience, and Stan Ott was available as a consultant - sharing ideas whenever we asked - for stewardship drives, officers retreats, etc. Giving and attendance rose. A couple of my elders said it was the best leadership training they had ever received.

Overall, I saw the flavor of the Presbytery changing - more energy and passion. I also saw the parable of the sower. Some churches thrived and went full steam ahead, and others never seemed to get off the ground. Pastoral leadership seemed pretty key. When the pastor was excited, the churches did better.

Last month we had our annual General Council retreat (Presbytery) and brought in Jill Hudson, asst. stated clerk for the denomination, who spends all of her time traveling the country and visiting presbyteries. She said Acts 16:5 is having a good effect in congregational transformation nationwide and being well received. The denomination is changing for the better because of it. Acts 16:5 seems to work regardless of whether a congregation is liberal or conservative.

My recommendation is that you do it. You will get out of it what you put into it.

Bob Reese, Pastor, Silver City, New Mexico

I just want to say thank you. About a year ago, our church leadership was recognizing that measurable down turns in our church's vitality needed to be addressed. Your partnership with the Presbytery de Cristo was picking up, last January, at just the right time for us to say "let's join the Acts 16:5 Initiative as a way of beginning our work to make intentional efforts to help turn things around." I give thanks to God that we did. And I am particularly thankful that we'd begun this work before there was a down turn in the nation's economy. I believe we'd be in an even more challenging position than we are now. While it's a slow start, we have begun to season our church's life with priniciples we are learning from the Acts 16:5 Initiative. We are beginning to see some fruit too.

  • Some groups are beginning their meetings by listening to God's word together and lifting one another up in prayer.
  • We've more participation in our Advent Studies.
  • As we are receiving new members we are doing a better job of equipping them, and will do more so in the future, to participate prayerfully in daily life, in one another's lives and in the church's life.
  • We've enjoyed an (and will enjoy more) additional worship service designed to more fully engage more people.
  • We've just adopted a Mission Statement and through the new year will work at using it to align our various ministries in a common, refined, set of purposes – all to the glory of God.

Here's perhaps one of the main things that I think you've helped give voice and legs to: God, revealed in the past and sovereign of the future, is at work today – and we can work to align ourselves with God's activity. Let's do it. Indeed, there is no alternative – at least not one that I'd want to follow.

Marie Mickey, Bryan, TX

After a slow start, the process is gathering momentum. A team (8 people) was formed and is meeting twice a month using the Word, Share, Prayer devotional. It is amazing watching and participating in the bonding that is occurring. Our "work" together has been developing a Vision statement. Using input invited from the congregation a vision statement was developed. The Session is considering it now – at this moment it is... Reaching Others for Christ, Teaching Discipleship, Helping Those in Need. After approval we plan to print it in every bulletin and other church publications, display on banners in various areas of the church, etc. A column in our weekly church newsletter is devoted to Acts 16:5 – describing all that it is and what is involved. The Acts 16:5 team is the moderator of the Stewardship and Finance committee, for our recent budget preparation he asked that programs and requests be evaluated against the new vision statement. The momentum is beginning to build and certainly we have a long way to go. Our team really sees the value of getting together with our cluster to share our stories as well as learn and encourage one another.

As of late January, just to let you know, we have finalized our Vision Statement: Preaching Christ, Teaching Discipleship, Reaching Others. Small Groups continue to bubble up and several of the committees as well as the Diaconate continue to end their time together with the Halverson blessing. The Small Group that formed to explore contemporary worship did great work! The service is now in its fourth year. Peace, Marie