Americas second-largest denomination is developing its first ''State of the Church'' report to help identify its progress and map out its future.
At an early May meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, members of the United Methodist Connectional Table approved a contract with Martec Group an international strategic marketing research firm to develop their report through interviews, internet posts, and surveys.
The Connectional Table is a 60-member forum created by the denomination in 2004 to guide the direction of its mission and ministries. This table will receive the preliminary State of the Church report this fall for review, and, according to plans, the entire church body will have a chance to review the report by spring 2007.
According to Twila Glenn, a Connectional Table member from Des Moines, Iowa, the report will become a gift and stimulus for reflection and action.
It will "identify gaps between where we are and where we want to be," as well as the "trajectory we are on and probable outcomes without change," says Glenn, a member of the report task force, according to the United Methodist News Service.
The UMC, like most mainline denominations, have struggled to curb the declining church membership rate and loss of young clergy and participants.
The new report will touch on both issues among others, and will give United Methodists a chance to self-reflect and understand more clearly how they are viewed by others.
The Connectional Table began developing plans for an annual State of the Church report during its first meeting in January 2005.