Churches to enter statistical data
on 'VitalSigns' website, as of Jan. 1

VitalSigns FAQs (pdf)

Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, all Virginia Conference churches are expected to begin entering statistical data each week on the VitalSigns website, http://vitalsigns.gcfa.org.

Churches will be using the denomination’s VitalSigns website until the conference “All Things New – Equipping Vital Congregations” work teams have completed development of the new reporting system which is expected to simplify all reporting for local churches.

All conference churches have already been signed up on the VitalSigns website by their district offices. As part of this sign-up, a contact e-mail address was entered for each church. This should be the e-mail address of the person who will manage the information. In most cases, the pastor’s e-mail address was entered. If a church wishes to have the e-mail sent to someone else, the contact e-mail address can be changed. (See instructions below.)

VitalSigns Reminder e-mails
A VitalSigns e-mail is sent out every Sunday as a reminder to report data. The reporting period begins on the previous Monday through Sunday, e.g., if the e-mail is received on Jan. 13, 2013, the reporting period is for Jan. 7-13.

The e-mail will contain the link to the ‘My filing page’ for the church. To enter your data, simply click on the ‘Submit your filing’ link from within the e-mail message. There is no log-in, user name or password required to enter the VitalSigns website.

Entering Data
Five weeks of data will be displayed. Data can be entered/edited for any of the fields visible. Five weeks will always be visible on this screen, moving the oldest data off the screen each week.

There will be five categories in which to report data:
1. Disciples worship (Worship attendance)
2. Disciples make new disciples (Professions of Faith)
3. Disciples grow their faith (Number of small groups)
4. Disciples engage in mission (Members in mission)
5. Disciples share resources for mission (Mission support)

Enter the data in the designated field for each question. (Keep in mind the number can be zero.) A field may be left blank if the answer is unknown.

Use the ‘Filing Comments’ text boxes to record factors that might have influenced the numbers entered, e.g., Attendance for this Sunday was up because it was Confirmation Sunday.

When data entry is complete, click ‘Submit My Filings.’ An acknowledgment of receipt of data will be displayed.

If you need to make a change, click on the ‘Back to the Submit Page’ link. Otherwise just close the window to exit – there is no logout required.

If you go back to change numbers, remember to click ‘Submit My Filings’ again to commit your changes.

Once data has been entered and submitted, the fields appear ‘grayed out,’ but once the cursor is positioned in the field, it becomes obvious the data can be changed.

NOTE: If corrections need to be made on weeks not displayed, someone with administrative privileges at the district/conference level must make these changes or send an e-mail to VitalSigns@gcfa.org.

Share stories about your church
On the ‘thank you’ screen, there is an opportunity to share stories with other churches. Something special or unexpected might have happened within your church or community during the week, or you might have tried something new and it was a great success so you decide to share.

You can share these stories and others by selecting a topic available on the drop menu under ‘Share with the Community’?

Click on the down arrow next to ‘Select a Section’.

Enter a subject and type your story in the text box.

When you are satisfied with your entry, click‘Save’.

How to change the e-mail address
There are many reasons e-mail addresses change, and it is important to remember to make the change within VitalSigns when this happens. The ability to change the e-mail address used by the church is on the ‘My filing page.’

Click on the ‘edit my e-mail’ link and the profile screen will appear. Update the e-mail address and click Save.

Viewing Reports
Once the data has been submitted for the church, the ability to view various reports is available from the ‘My filing page.’ Click on ‘Reports’ to view stats by Summary or Breakdown.

You’ll be redirected to the reports page where there are several viewing options.

Click on the down arrows to choose the jurisdiction, conference, district and church. You will be able to see how your local church is doing compared to other churches in the district or conference overall.

If you want to change the date range, click anywhere in the date field box and the calendar will appear.

You have the ability to drill down to see more detail.

NOTE: If you have selected your church for the report you will only see your church information when you drill down and this is probably not going to be very helpful.

Click on the ‘Delve deeper’ link by any question to see more detailed reporting.

Community Resources
It is always good to learn what is happening within our denomination, and one way to do this is by visiting the ‘community resources’ page in VitalSigns. This is visible to everyone.

Click on ‘Community Resources’ and you will be redirected to the page where you can read what others have shared. You can write comments on existing postings and save the input.

Questions?
If you have questions about the process or any information entered about your church, contact your District office.

VitalSigns Dashboard Questions
1. Total worship attendance at all regularly-held weekly services
Enter combined attendance at all services held on a weekly basis as the primary opportunity for worship. If the church has worship services attended primarily by persons who do not attend on Sunday morning, attendance at those services should be reported. Count all persons (including children) who participate in part of any of these services.

2. Total number of persons received into the church by profession of faith
Enter the number of persons who joined the church this week who have not previously been a member of a church. Do not include persons received into the congregation by transfer.

3. Total number of small groups
Enter the number of small groups that met this week. Small groups are groups of people who gather together on a regular basis with the goal of becoming more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, through an intentional process of learning, mutual support and accountability, and/or service to the world.

4. Total number of persons from the congregation engaged in local, national and international mission/outreach
Enter the number of persons sent out on behalf of the congregation for ministries intended to transform people in your community, your region, and the world. We suggest you count everyone involved in mission projects. The goal for each area is consistency of definition so that reports will be accurate in measuring your church’s progress from year to year. Also, you can report the same people engaged in mission weekly, but only count each person engaged in mission once per week.

5. The total amount given by local church to other organizations for support of benevolent and charitable ministries
Enter funds given by the church to support missions and ministries outside of the church. This includes giving to apportionments, Special Sundays, the Advance, and other United Methodist and non-United Methodist ministries engaged in work to transform the world. This also includes local projects and contributions to agencies within the community. The goal is to count the same way each year in order to accurately measure growth.

6. How will churches who worship only twice monthly be averaged on the dashboard?
The only way to do this is to enter the worship figures every time they worship. A note could be added on the site letting others know that this congregation meets only twice per month. Also, this could encourage a discussion on whether to consider meeting more frequently.

7. How do we teach/use/communicate this information in the local church?
Some places to use the reports and information are at S/PPRC and Administrative Council/Board meetings, and local church planning sessions.

8. How can the story behind the data entry numbers be shared?
Some places would include the 'Filling Comments' inside Dashboard, 'Sharing Stories' on the 'Thank You' screen of Dashboard, at Charge Conference, through local church groups, and in Discipleship Circles.

9. How do we keep Vital Signs from being just a data entry exercise?
Discipleship Circles will provide opportunities for reflection with fellow
disciples on the reality that the data reflects for your church, the stories that are being told through the data, and the ways the story of your church is being communicated. The data that is being entered will also provide the opportunity for assessing and responding to congregational and ministry trends.

10. Are there resource persons for the local church? How do we use the UMC connection for sharing resources?
Conference and District staff persons may be resources to the local church. Discipleship Circles will also be designed to be places for congregations and persons to share resources. Persons may also look at the Vital Signs Dashboard to see churches that are excelling in the specific areas of focus. Churches are encouraged to reach out to other churches to engage in sharing information.

 

 

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