Reaching New People in the Northeast
By David Masland
In Upper New York Conference, our vision is to “nurture a planting culture, where everyone feels freed up to plant a new faith community in their neighborhood.” In 2012, we set a goal to plant 100 new faith communities by 2020, and have been building a system to support this movement ever since. Every chance we get, we communicate with anyone who will hear that they are encouraged to create a new place for new people that is designed to engage folks in their community that are not already attending a church. Our system provides recruiting and assessment, training (we host our own Launchpad each February), coaching (individual and group), peer group support, help with partnership-building, and grant funding. Over and over, we tell people that there is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences… and we encourage risk taking, for the sake of the gospel.
By God’s grace, in January 2017 we were tracking 67 active new faith communities. Each of them successful because of new learning and lives transformed. Because of the things we have learned from experience, we have shifted our goals somewhat. Now we are seeking to “launch 150 attempts at new faith communities, in order to create 100 vital, sustainable new faith communities by 2020.”
The most exciting story we have to tell is the fact that we are becoming a more diverse Conference. We have increased the number of active Hispanic/Latino congregations in our Conference from two to eight… with many more on the horizon. We now have two Karenni (Burmese) congregations that together worship over 120 people each week. We have significant congregations of Asian students in three communities. We have four new faith communities made up of African immigrants from many cultural groups. Emerging just this winter are new congregations with people from India and Japan. Teams are now planning to launch two new black churches in the same city. Where the spirit of God is moving, we do our best to catch up! It’s not that easy… God is always way ahead!
The other major emphasis we have is encouraging existing churches with healthy, disciple-making DNA to consider planting a second (or 3rd or 4th) site in their area. More and more of our churches are catching the vision. One of our churches is launching their 4th New Faith Community this year (3rd location), in a nearby community where a long-time church closed one year ago. Another church is working on two new faith communities, targeting two diverse groups of people, in different sections of town. One of our stronger Hispanic churches has been working for over a year to equip four young couples to be planters, and this winter they are each starting a new house church in their homes(spread thru the city)… which could grow to become separate churches, or additional sites for the mother church.
It is clear that our Conference culture is shifting. Even if they have no vision to plant, many of our existing churches have stopped seeing planters as their competition, and instead are choosing to partner with them. Thanks be to God!
If you want to learn more about what has happened in Upper NY Conference in the area of planting, David Masland will be telling the story in greater detail at the gathering of UM Developers in Boston on May 4th, , 2017.
Over and over, we tell people that there is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences and we encourage risk taking, for the sake of the gospel.