What a Difference Path 1 Makes!

by New Church Starts

by Rev. Gary Shockley, Executive Director of Path 1

While being interviewed recently I was asked by a reporter, “If Path 1 had been around when you planted your first church back in 1999, would it have made a difference for you?”

What a great question!  My mind immediately began to replay all the things I had to do to start a new church from scratch without being assessed, trained, coached or supported in all the ways we now know are vital for success. 

Yes, the church did grow in spite of my inadequacies and lack of the aforementioned resources. Actually, I’ve been told (by those who know something about this stuff) that our church’s survival and eventual thriving was nothing short of a miracle. I agree, and, I would NEVER do anything like that again!

I know I am one of hundreds of planters who felt a call of God to do a new thing and jumped in with both feet, fueled by passion and commitment. With no Path 1 to guide me (or the conference I served) I needlessly hit nearly fatal potholes, curbs and roadblocks that almost destroyed me personally and threatened to wipe out the church God had called me to start.  My journey of survival in and through all of this is recounted in my book, “The Meandering Way-Leading by Following the Spirit.”

But there IS a Path 1 now and what an incredible difference it makes!  Because of Path 1:

  • A workable plan to help our denomination start 650 new churches in this current quadrennium is meeting and exceeding that goal, with nearly half of these new churches planted as racial-ethnic congregations;

  • A struggling new church start was targeted to close before one of our coaches helped it to find a new pathway that enabled it to become one of the top ten largest churches in its territory, with worship attendance topping 800 persons;

  • National training events like the New Church Leadership Institutes (East and West) and Launchpad (planter training in highly challenging missional areas) have equipped hundreds of people to start new churches;

  • Cabinets and leaders from 56 of 59 annual conferences have invited Path 1 staff and associates to help them create more effective systems for new church development;

  • Best practice research has expanded our understanding, and teaching, of more than a dozen viable strategies for planting;

  • Collaborative partnerships with our National Plans are bearing fruit in our church development work in the U.S.;

  • A resourceful website, electronic newsletter, social media presence and online tools bring practical and real-time help to practitioners in the field;

  • Well-trained and effective coaches are available to help new churches succeed;

  • We now have a 10-session curriculum in English and Spanish to equip lay people as church planters, and 141 graduates of the training ready to participate in church planting in several annual conferences (27 of whom are currently deployed as church planters in the U.S.);

  • Best practice research and development for multi-ethnic church planting is on the front-burner of our national staff’s strategic plan;

  • More planters know how to raise funds to support their projects;

  • There is a cutting-edge assessment tool for partner churches who seek to multiply ministry through new church starts;

  • The United Methodist Church has a greater presence at national events like Exponential (one of the largest planter training events in the U.S.), COR’s Leadership Institute, and the Church Planting Leaders’ Fellowship (a multi-denominational table of planting leaders);

  • We are partners in two national research studies;

  • We can identify, by name, more than 600 new churches started since January 2008

  • We can collect and analyze information about planting strategy and racial-ethnic composition of these new congregations, through a national database that also enables us to share “Snapshots of Hope

  • 57 of 59 annual conferences are planting new churches this quadrennium;

  • Overall interest in church planting has exploded across the U.S.;

  • In one of the most challenging economic times we have more than doubled our rate of planting in 4 years and, if we continue at this pace will be starting a new church every day in 8 years or less;

  • We fully expect to hit and exceed our 2013-2016 national goal of 1,000 new church plants well before end of the next quadrennium.

Path 1 really does make a difference!

Co-opting a popular marketing phrase: Friends don’t let friends plant new churches without it!