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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the focus of the national strategy for new church starts?

The strategy is focused on investing in relationships, leadership, best practices and healthy churches so that multiplication of world-transforming disciples happens more and more effectively.

Q: What is the Biblical and theological basis for this strategy?

At the heart of this movement is the Great Commandment and Great Commission. The strategy is informed by the spirit of the first century church (Acts 2), the practices of our Wesleyan heritage and the teachings of Jesus on faithfulness and fruitfulness (Matthew 25:14-30). >> learn more.

Q: What is a new church or new congregation?

To allow for maximum creativity and movement of the Spirit, Path 1 defines new congregations in terms of key characteristics instead of strategies or models. We believe a new congregation is more than a mission project, new worship service or new building. For us, it is a newly organized faith community that is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ and:
  • includes regular community worship and regular celebration of sacraments
  • practices Wesleyan theology
  • has an effective discipling system
  • receives new members
  • demonstrates faithful stewardship
  • is deeply involved in community transformation
  • is willing to plant a new congregation in its first decade
Within these broad characteristics, United Methodist congregations find freedom to partner in creative ways to begin new congregations such as multi-sites, cross-cultural churches within a church and new options that are just beginning to emerge.

Q: Why have a national strategy? Isn't that just adding a layer of bureaucracy?

Achieving our denomination's commitment to reach more people, more diverse people, and more younger people requires more cooperation, coordination, intention, support and sharing. The Path 1 team provides collaborative leadership and seeks value-added solutions. We believe that individually, bishops, developers, churches, planters, agencies, and national plans have done many good things. We believe that together--and with God's help--we can do great things.

Another way to answer this question is by answering another: What would NOT happen if there weren't a collaborative national strategy?

  • The creation of planter standards (identification, development, etc.) that increase the likelihood of planting success.
  • The creation of a pool of planters, some of whom are ready for sending cross-jurisdictionally or cross-regionally.
  • A connectional way of caring for needs that present themselves in areas where there is a weaker UMC presence.
  • A decrease in the isolation and an increase in learning for planters so that they are more effective at reaching more people.
  • A coordinated influencing of the conversation, the agenda and the vision at many tables.

Q: What is Path 1 and why is it called that?

Path 1 is a unique collaboration of church planters, directors of congregational development, the racial ethnic plans, bishops, and general agency staff. Its purpose is to provide leadership in the movement to evangelize the United States. This includes providing oversight on the national strategy for new church starts. The inspiration for the name actually comes from our Council of Bishops and the story of John the Baptist. Our bishops offered Seven Vision Pathways. In that document, starting new churches was listed as the first pathway.

Q: Will Path 1 or the national strategy take responsibility for starting new churches away from Annual Conferences? Will a national strategy seek to force a particular strategy to be implemented at the conference level?

No, that is not its purpose. The national strategy seeks to lift up what is working in church plants and re-plants across the United States and to share those learnings in meaningful ways. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe for planting a church. Local congregations, in coordination with their District Superintendents and Congregational Developers, are best equipped to determine the appropriate planting model, mission and investment. Our Book of Discipline clearly states that starting a new church requires the consent of the bishop and cabinet. (¶259)

Q: How does the National Strategy impact existing churches?

The national strategy relies on healthy existing churches to provide an anchor for new church starts. This can range from sending a leadership core into a new community to reach a new population to offering support through prayers, sending missionaries and/or financial gifts for the start of new congregations. >>learn more

Q: Why start new churches when we have a surplus of existing churches that have plenty of room for new disciples?

While we have a surplus in some areas, we have a limited supply in other locales. In those areas with ample church buildings, they may no longer be located where the people are or they may not be willing to do what it takes to meaningfully reach the lost, the least the last in their communities. We must do all that we can to reach more people, more young people and more diverse people. New congregations are extremely effective at this.

Q: My church is small and struggling. Why isn't the denomination helping my church rather than starting new ones. We need help!!

So many of our denomination's resources have been and continue to be focused on helping existing churches become more vibrant and vital places.

Q: How can a National Strategy help our Annual Conference?

In a recent survey of Congregational Developers in the USA, we asked the same question. The answers tended to cluster in two areas: 1) annual conferences that are actively planting more than two churches per year (on average) indicated a need for the creation of a planter pool and quality resources; and 2) annual conferences that haven't yet set planting new churches as a priority indicated a need for a compelling vision for the annual conference that included planting at its core. In addition to providing these three items, Path 1 seeks collaboration with those Annual Conferences in fast-growing areas to help fund and find leadership for those new congregations.

Q: Does the National Strategy primarily focus on starting new churches in affluent, Caucasian suburbs?

This is one myth we'd like to challenge head on. The reality is that the areas of greatest growth are also areas that tend to be multi-cultural, urban and exurban. We are committed to working with annual conferences and national plans on best practices in starting ethnic ministries. While we will use demographic trends to highlight hotspots in need of churches, each annual conference will need to decide what ministry mix is needed to reach their communities.

Q: How is the National Strategy to be funded?

The Connectional Table allocated funds so Path 1 could get started in the second half of 2007 and through 2008. Funding will be continued out of the budget of the Discipleship Ministries (Discipleship Ministries) in the new quadrennium. We will also be seeking donations and grants to fully support the four stages in the church planting system:

  • Finding the Best Leaders
  • Equipping for Fruitfulness
  • Planting for Faithfulness
  • Multiplying for Growth

Q: Why is the National Strategy only focused on the US?

The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) will continue to provide leadership and resources for starting new churches around the globe. In the new quadrennium, they have set a goal of starting 400 new churches outside the U.S. GBGM is one of the agencies that is a key partner around the Path 1 table.

Q: How will you measure success?

Path 1 seeks to lead a movement that, by 2016:

  • equips 2,016 church planters that
  • enables Annual Conferences to start 1,000 churches that
  • commit to start a new congregation within their first 10 years, thereby,
  • beginning a process that forms millions of new disciples of Jesus Christ within 30 years.

The real measure of success will not be in those numbers or in membership increases or improved giving but in the lives that will be touched and drawn to Christ because these new churches were able to reach people who might otherwise not be reached.

Q. Why count? Isn't this just a numbers game?

Each number is a life. Counting has always been important in the Bible as one of the indications of how things are and what needs to be done. An obvious example is that of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:4-7. When the shepherd gets to 99, and he knows that there should be a hundred sheep, he leaves the 99 to seek and find the one lost sheep. Without counting, we often do not have an accurate or honest picture of the real state of affairs.

Q: We have been trying to launch new churches in the U.S. for decades with only limited success. Why will this effort succeed?

Over the last several years we have learned a lot about what it takes to successfully plant churches. We have learned to 1) invest in leadership instead of land and 2) link plants to healthy anchor churches. Annual conferences who have a system for planting based on these shifts:

  • have a higher success rate (average of 86% of churches started become viable) in their plants,
  • spend less money per plant (on average $204k per plant over 4 years), and
  • see average worship rates of 332 worshippers.

Q: Is Path 1 in charge of starting new churches or just training church planters?

Neither. Path 1 seeks to increase momentum within the United Methodist planting movement that will reach more people, more diverse people, more younger people. The persons responsible for starting new churches remain at the cabinet level. Path 1 efforts are focused on increasing and improving the pool of planters, providing best practice information, and tools and frameworks that help annual conferences carry out their role in planting more effectively.

Q: Will this effort start to reverse the decline of the church?

The point of this effort is not about saving the United Methodist Church. It is about saving lives; in reaching more people, more diverse people and more younger people. If we are successful in doing that at the rate we propose, reversing the decline of the church will be an outcome, but that is not our primary focus.

Q: One of the goals of Path 1 is to start 1,000 new congregations by 2016. How is that going to work when at least 35 percent of people in the country do not attend church?

The population in the US is increasing at a rate faster and in different places than many of our existing churches can keep up with. Some involved in planting also believe that many of the people who do not attend church will not be able to be reached with traditional congregations, but may be reached through a new church plant geared to reach exactly those who are un-churched or de-churched.

Q: What will this effort cost the denomination? Will it raise my church's apportionments?

Originally, Path 1 is an $8.5 million initiative. Almost $5 million of it was new money. All of it is wrapped up in the Discipleship Ministries budget. It is very difficult to calculate costs because of the wide variety of models complicated by a variety of contexts. We will continue to seek ways to realign existing resources and raise additional funds to be used by annual conferences in their primary task of planting churches. As for raising apportionments, the national strategy is not requiring that. How annual conferences seek to raise needed funds for their planting efforts remain under their direction.

Q: Is special attention being given to young adults? To changing demographics?

Statistics tell us that new churches are among the most effective strategies to reach more people, more diverse people and more younger people. Each plant is intentionally designed to reach the population that is currently not being reached. Special focus must be given to whatever demographic in a particular area that is not being reached by existing congregations. Additionally we are working in conjunction with National Plans and Caucuses to learn from and build on what's working in reaching racial/ethnic populations.

Q: What makes Path 1 different from every other church board or program of the past?

Path 1 is not a committee or a program. It is our positive response to a movement of the Holy Spirit. A movement is a coalition of partners, individuals, congregations, districts, judicatories, etc., that share the same values and commit to a common cause. Path 1 partners share the goal of working together and doing whatever it takes to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with more people, more diverse people and more younger people.

Q: I've heard you refer to a new church start movement. What do you mean?

A movement is not static. A movement implies action. It is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution. The movement is bigger than the Path 1 Team and invites all those who feel called to reach more people, more diverse people and more younger people through the planting of new congregations to join in the journey.

If you would like to respond to this call, we would invite you to covenant with us. Covenant partners develop new models and resources to facilitate the planting of churches in the places where they can make the most significant impact, and they share these resources with others on the path. Covenant partners network and pool their resources to use them efficiently and effectively for making world-transforming disciples of Jesus Christ. Partners in the movement work to influence their constituencies so that all may understand the urgency of Christ's mission, re-engage with their baptismal call to be involved in mission and know the joy that results from reaching and teaching people who aren't currently in Christian community.

Path 1 is not an answer; it's an invitation!

Q: How Can I Help?

Our favorite question! Use this link to learn how you can get involved.