United Methodist Global Church Planting 2021 Report
Each year, we at Path 1 and Discipleship Ministries collect data on the number of new churches, faith communities, and fresh expressions that have been planted in The United Methodist Church in each annual and central conference.
The data collected provides insight into regional and national trends as well as information that can help us know what strategies seem to be the most effective. The information also helps us understand the effects of situations and events taking place that can seem like barriers to planting new churches. Situations like denominational disaffiliation create barriers that may mean less funding for planting or may shift the focus away from a strategy to plant new churches toward other priorities, such as preserving, stabilizing, or revitalizing the churches that are staying. The effects of the pandemic and the return to in-person gatherings may strain the local church. Denominational leaders also feel stress, as they strategize about how to support and care for long-established congregations to create stability and move toward revitalization. However, this shifts the focus away from planting new faith communities. The church also faces such challenges as demographic shifts and new generations being further removed from the church.
The challenges may seem overwhelming, but each challenge also offers an invitation to innovate, adapt, learn, and experiment. We might ask ourselves, “What are the new skills we’re learning because of this challenge? How are we using what we have learned to create a better future?” Challenges are a doorway toward growth and life, as we observe, strategize, and take action steps. We learn from those experiences and then innovate to continue strategizing and recalibrating action steps as the needs arise.
Challenges are an invitation from God to trust more deeply and grow in faithfulness to God’s mission, which offers hope, life, and love to all creation. While challenges seem daunting, the opportunities to partner with God and help create something new are exciting and give hope to the whole church as we see that God is still working in and through the people of The United Methodist Church to offer new faith communities that go where the people are, that meet in new ways, that reach those who might normally not be reached, and that transform lives through God’s grace.
The information collected is being used to inform the work of Path1 and those who serve in roles as annual conference developers and church revitalization strategists.
Starting new churches, faith communities, and fresh expressions of the Christian faith is vitally important as we seek to share the good news of Jesus. Behind the data are the stories of people who have found relationships with God and neighbors. It is through these relationships that our mission to transform the world into what God intends occurs.
The future holds tremendous opportunities for Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries to strengthen the equipping of world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ and the church planting movement within the United Methodist connection in the United States and globally.
We invite you to study and share this report with your annual conference and local church leadership team. We encourage you to send us your insights and suggestions about how we can better improve our efforts of making disciples of Jesus Christ by planting new, vital, and fresh Christian communities in a dynamic and diverse mission context. If you have any questions, suggestions, or interest in discussing this report with your team, please contact Bryan Tener at [email protected] and/or Bener Agtarap at [email protected].