USMB survey results: can denominations thrive in the 21st century?


Or is that just a fantasy?

At the annual U.S. Mennonite Brethren (USMB) Leadership Summit, Ed Boschman, USMB executive director, asked those present at the May gathering to complete a survey created by George Bullard, a long time churchman and currently president of The Columbia Partnership, an organization that consults with and resources churches and denominations.

The Leadership Summit includes the lead staff member and board chair from MBMS International and MB Foundation as well as from the denomination’s educational institutions: MB Biblical Seminary, Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University. The chair/moderator of the five U.S. Mennonite Brethren district conferences as well as the district minister participate in the Summit, as do all USMB staff and Leadership Board members.

Bullard says this about the survey: “I invite you to dialogue as denominational leaders from various traditions, and with the leaders in your denomination, about these 20 factors. Rate your denomination on each of these 20 on a scale from one (meaning we do not realize or act on this factor) to 10 (meaning we really get it about this factor and are acting on it.) My thought is that if your total average score among your leaders is not at least 125-135, we need to talk. Feel free to contact me at for dialogue.”

Bullard’s 20 factors follow, along with the average score given that USMB leaders gave this factor. The total average score for each group represented at the Leadership Summit is also given.

Twenty Factors That Empower Denominations to Thrive in the 21st Century

1. They proactively acknowledge and function with the understanding that real denominations serve congregations, and all they do points to enhancing the vitality of congregations. USMB score: 6.5 of 10

2. They understand the old Christendom is fading, and a new Christendom is emerging that will come primarily from the two-thirds world, and directionally from the Southern Hemisphere. USMB score: 3.5 of 10

3. They take a proactive stance concerning the current post-denominational era by seeking to be part of the emerging Christendom.USMB score: 3.8 of 10

4. They affirm emerging denominationalism to the extent they find ways to create new denominational forms. USMB score:  4.2 of 10

5. They are on a clear and compelling spiritual strategic journey that seeks to make a transformational difference in the world. The journey is so powerful that it gives them great reason to work through issues that seek to divide them. USMB score 6.2 of 10

6. They develop clarity around their doctrinal values that focus on core doctrines and do not build walls to define out of fellowship congregations who do not agree with every non-core doctrine espoused. USMB score: 5.5 of 10

7. They discover ways to embrace their racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and lifestyle diversity in keeping with their core doctrinal values. USMB score: 5.8 of 10

8. They adopt new models for their legal structures that provide stronger protection against legitimate and illegitimate legal action.USMB score: 5.5 of 10

9. They empower congregational multiplication movements that result in a number of new congregations each year equal to three percent or more of the number of congregations already affiliated with their denomination. USMB score: 5.5 of 10

10. They help faithful, effective, and innovative congregations move to the next level of effectiveness in reaching their full kingdom potential. USMB score: 4.8 of 10

11. They adopt and adapt effective models for helping congregations to develop readiness for transition and change, and ultimately transformation. USMB score: 5.3 of 10

12. They figure out a call, preparation, and ordination process that encourages gifted and skilled people to commit their lives to Christian ministry. In this, they value preparation for effective ministry service over formal theological education. USMB score: 5.3 of 10

13. They rediscover the core, highly valued activities of the denominations, and give wings to secondary endeavors such as institutions.USMB score 5.7 of 10

14. They do missions from a globalocal perspective, and empower missionaries, clergy, and laity in missions. USMB score: 7.6 of 10

15. They make peace with the parachurch world, and even become more parachurch in nature themselves. They partner with parachurch organizations to increase effective service to their congregations. USMB score: 5.4 of 10

16. They find ways to conduct the basic services and systems of the denomination in a manner that spends as few resources as possible and still maintains basic services to congregations. They do this by becoming resources brokers and coaches, rather than resource providers and consultants. USMB score: 5.7 of 10

17. They understand multiple funding streams will have to be developed and cultivated to pay for denominational resources and services. They realize it is not likely the offering plate dollars in their affiliated congregations will provide the financial resources needed for future denominational vitality. USMB score: 6.7 of 10

18. They discover how to make their large group gatherings, whether annually or biannually, true family reunions rather than legislative or preaching events. USMB score:  6.6 of 10

19. They realize Protestant denominations who want to engage in Christian unity movements, return to a closer relationship with the Catholic Church, or redefine the place of Christianity in the religious world as a synchronization of the three Abrahamic faiths will no longer exist as viable denominations in 2050. USMB score: 5.6 of 10

20. Their leaders will get it, which means they understand the importance of all these factors, and more that could have been mentioned. USMB score: 6.3 of 10

Breakdown of Total Averages

Total Possible Score = 200

Colleges/Seminary representatives: 98

Ministries/Agencies representatives:  98

District representatives: 115

USMB Staff: 116

USMB Leadership Board: 135

Read Ed Boschman's Aug/Sept "Conference Call" column for his analysis of the U.S. Mennonite Brethren response to Bullard's survey.


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