Ten-Year Goals (Vision '95)(Mennonite Church, 1985)

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Ten-Year Goals (Vision '95)

Contents

Call

We believe God is calling the Mennonite Church in North America to expand our local and global witness of the kingdom of God to the world, joyfully inviting all people to share salvation and life with us under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Confession

Too often we have been unfaithful in this calling. And too often we have managed God's resources as if they were our own.

Challenge

The challenge to us now--as individuals, congregations, conferences, and churchwide agencies--is to set directions for growth in faithful stewardship and worldwide witness during the next ten years. We approach the task as God's servants, empowered by the Holy Spirit, participating in the vision of Revelation 5:9 when worshipers from every race, language, people, and nation together serve our God.

Witness

We pray that personal and congregational renewal in response to God's love and generosity, even through suffering, will lead by 1995 to
  • doubling our total witness efforts in existing congregations and in new cross-cultural urban settings.
  • adding more than 500 strong congregations of caring disciples and experiencing overall membership growth exceeding 50 percent in North America, and
  • increasing the number of workers supported in mission beyond North America from about 500 to more than 1,000.

Stewardship

We pray that personal and congregational renewal in response to God's love and generosity, even through suffering, will lead by 1995 to
  • increasing the portion of our collective income given through congregational offerings from the present level of about 5 percent to more than 10 percent of total individual and family income.

Commitment

As delegates to the 1985 Mennonite Church General Assembly, we commit ourselves to pray and work toward these goals in our conferences, congregations, and local communities. We ask the Mennonite Church General Board to oversee strategic planning, coordinating the particular contributions of all boards, agencies, and conferences in this effort.

Adopted by the Mennonite Church General Assembly

Affirmed by the churchwide convention on August 14, 1985


Context of Ten-Year Goals

The Ten-Year Goals (later to be popularly known as Vision '95 -- the target year for the goals) were designed, in the words of the Gospel herald reporter that covered the 1985 Mennonite Church General Assembly, "to jerk the Mennonite Church out of its sluggish-growth doldrums." In the years prior to 1985 the denomination experienced annual membership growth rates under one percent.

The Mennonite Board of Missions and Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries both worked for several years in developing the goals. Although the goals were controversial because of the precise target numbers used, the delegate body embraced them enthusiastically though noting many new leaders would need to be trained to serve the new congregations.

Discussion on the viability of the goals continued throughout the 1980s; one analyst noted that if achieved the Mennonite Church would be the fastest growing denomination in North America since World War II.

To support the goals, programs such as Living in Faithful Evangelism (LIFE) and Call to Faithful Stewardship were utilized. By the early 1990s discussion was less on meeting numerical targets and more on renewal within the church.

In the final report to the 1995 delegate body, the Vision 95 committee reported membership had increased 6.6% during the period of Vision 95 and that 200 new congregations had been started. Although reliable statistics were not available, it appeared that Mennonite Church offerings had decreased as a percentage of income between 1985 and 1995. The number of full time supported missionaries dropped from 749 in 1985 to 535 in 1994. Thus during the period of Vision '95, church membership growth remained, as before 1985, less than 1% per year (The reported 6.6% growth over ten years represented an average of 0.66% per year).

Of the 200 congregations planted, some later closed, others left their respective conferences and some remained conference participants years later. For example, during the period of the ten-year goals, Virginia Mennonite Conference planted 25 churches. Of those 25 churches, 11 continued with active ministries, six of which remained as members of Virginia Mennonite Conference at the end of 2008.

The General Conference Mennonite Church, which was exploring greater cooperation and potential merger with the Mennonite Church in these years had a related stewardship program known as "A Call to Kingdom Commitments."

-- context by Sam Steiner and Gregory Hartzler-Miller


[edit] Bibliography

Bair, Ray and Ed Bontrager. "Finding our way through the number maze." Gospel Herald 81 (February 2, 1988): [73]-75.

Hartzler, Robert. "The Goals are Almost Absurd," Gospel Herald 79 (January 21, 1986): 34-35.

Nofziger, Kathy. "Where are We Now?: About Vision 95," Gospel Herald 82 (June 13, 1989): 430-432.

Pellew, Simon. "Are the Goals Realistic? : the Ten-Year Goals and All That," Gospel Herald 79 (December 9, 1986): 840-841.

Proceedings, Eighth Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 9-14, 1985, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Lombard, Ill. : Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1985: 10-11, 22.

Shenk, Steve. "Mennonites Commit Themselves to Double Their Giving and Start 500 Churches," Gospel Herald 78 (September 3, 1985): 611ff.

"Vision 95: a Summary Report," Workbook, Mennonite Church 12th Churchwide Convention and General Assembly; General Conference Mennonite Church 47th Triennial Sessions, July 25-30, 1995, Wichita, Kansas. Newton, KS : General Conference Mennonite Church ; Elkhart, IN : Mennonite Church, 1995: MC-32 - MC-35.

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