Who is Vision4Life for?
Vision4Life is for everyone who wants to renew their relationship with three core elements of our life – the Bible, prayer and evangelism. It’s for any Christian community where people want to gain fresh confidence and energy for the future.
Who needs it?
It could be your church is weary or would like a confidence boost in some of the basics of being a Christian community. Perhaps you don’t spend much time together with the Bible, reading its stories and relating them to your everyday lives. Maybe the time you spend praying together is almost always in worship on Sundays. Possibly very few of you have confidence about sharing your faith story with other people, or those of you who once did this have got out of the habit.
Do we have to pay?
No, all the materials are free, so please use them carefully. The four booklets with taster material are written for leaders, so you could manage a group without everyone having a copy.
Where can we get the materials?
All the information and illustrations from the booklets are downloadable from this website.
How long is each session?
If you use all the material in the Bible, prayer or evangelism booklet as a separate session these will each take at least 90 minutes, allowing five minutes for worship at the start and five minutes at the end. You may decide instead just to do some exercises in worship, or at the start of a meeting, or in an informal way during a meal. Your church might set aside a whole day, or two half days, and do the material then. It’s up to you.
Do we have to use all the introductory material?
No. The main thing is to enjoy exploring the ideas together. It’s even better if you get some people involved who don’t usually step outside their comfort zone and start sharing about their faith.
Who are the people behind Vision4Life?
Vision4Life grew out of a gathering of people from across the United Reformed Church, which came together in 2005 to talk about evangelism and spirituality. The Steering Group was made up of a number of people including Ray Adams, John Campbell, Bob Day, Susan Durber, John Hall, Brian Harley, Brian Jolly, Janet Lees, Lawrence Moore, John Proctor, Paul Snell, Steve Summers, Kirsty Thorpe, Mike Walsh and Sally Willett.
Where does Vision4Life fit in the United Reformed Church’s structures?
Nowhere and everywhere! The initial impetus was the Catch the Vision process and it was introduced at General Assembly in 2007. It fits in with the work of the new national Mission Committee but is also linked to the areas covered by the Education and Learning Committee. The Steering Group sees the value of keeping its distinct identity as well as relating positively to other parts of the church structures.
What makes the Vision4Life Steering Group think they’ve got all the answers for the challenges we face?
Nobody on the group does think that. They’re just trying honestly and faithfully to encourage people in churches to engage in some conversations they may have stopped having with one another. Sometimes it’s easier when someone outside a fellowship gives you a prompt and allows you to ask some leading questions. It can be good, too, when we do things alongside one another and share with each other how things are going.
We don’t have a minister. Can we still do the introductory material?
Yes. We’ve tried to produce the introductory material with plenty of guidance and advice in the margins, to help leaders prepare and conduct it well. It would be really good if two or three people got together to read the booklets together and decide what they felt they were confident to lead. Perhaps there are other churches near you where you could get advice and guidance, or set up some shared activities using the Vision4Life material.
What about worship to go with the material?
There are some worship suggestions on some of the years materials.
Why another programme and more meetings when we’ve done plenty of that already?
True, Vision4Life is not unique, but it’s significant when the whole United Reformed Church is invited to explore the same questions at the same time. Also, it follows several years of thinking about the challenges we face – declining rolls, ageing congregations, questions about where the church now fits in our society – and the internal differences we experienced during the debates about human sexuality in the 1990s. Vision4Life emerged when a group of people from across the denomination, with a wide range of outlooks and backgrounds, came together to talk and pray. When they discovered how much they held in common, despite their differences, they felt God was in the encounter. They wanted to share their experience and Vision4Life was born.
Aren’t there people in the United Reformed Church doing these things already?
We’re sure there are churches taking the Bible seriously, engaging deeply in prayer, and helping people to be evangelists in their daily lives. The trouble is this doesn’t seem to be happening in enough places. In some churches, even getting people talking about these issues is an uphill struggle. If Vision4Life can help more of us to start having those conversations then it will have achieved something important.
Can we just focus on this for a bit and stop having any more bright ideas?
The Vision4Life process can’t guarantee that new things will not keep appearing on your church’s agenda. We all have neighbouring churches, synods and local communities which give us things to do. The Steering Group will try to make sure, though, that for three years from December 2008 to November 2011, we provide materials which help your church to build people’s confidence as a Christian community.
Is this a vision for ‘life’ in the United Reformed Church only or in the whole of creation?
It’s a vision for a world transformed by the good news of God in Jesus. For that to become a reality we, in the churches, need to know what it means to share that ‘life in all its fullness’ which Jesus comes to show us. If the churches are full of people whose lives have been changed by the Bible, by prayer and by telling their faith stories then they can’t help but take these experiences into the world. People and situations will change. Vision4Life might look like another example of the church looking inwards and forgetting about the world but if God is in it the effects will reach far beyond the local church.
What about the culture of drug addition, alcohol abuse and consumerism around us?
When God’s people relate faithfully to one another and to God, the story of the Church suggests that this empowers people to start making a difference to the problems of the world around them. There would be no point in renewing the United Reformed Church for its own sake only – this has to good news for the communities we live among and serve as well.
If we do Vision4Life what difference will it make to our church and how will it look?
The answer to that question will look different in every local church because each faith community is distinctive and every setting has its own problems and possibilities. Vision4Life is an invitation to renew our journey with God. There’s never been any clear answer to any of God’s people over the years as to where that will cause us to end up in the future – just the reassurance that God will be with us each step of the way.