NASHVILLE, Tenn. Aug. 25, 2014 /Discipleship Ministries/ – Church planters, who often feel isolated as they work to establish new churches and faith communities, will be more connected and have better resources as a result of a road trip New Church Starts (Path 1) made throughout the five jurisdictions of the United Methodist Church.
During the summer of 2013, staff and associates from Path 1, a division of the Discipleship Ministries, visited more than 160 planters representing more than 320 of the 684 churches that were established in the UMC between 2008 and 2012.
“New people are coming to Christ, new people are coming to faith and new people are growing in their faith through the new churches that are being planted,” said Candace Lewis, Executive Director of Path 1. “We've seen that new churches are being planted more strategically and more intentionally.”
The goal of the road trip was to celebrate what works, learn what does not work and dream of what could be accomplished in new church planting. Since January, Path 1 has been sharing information and data gleaned from the journey with bishops, developers, cabinets and annual conference staffs.
“Path 1 doesn't plant churches. We resource the work of planting churches,” Lewis said. “So what we're doing now is sharing the information with the hope that it's going to broaden the perspective of what's happening in annual conferences and across the connection. These collective reports offer annual conferences more stories to celebrate and more models to consider in church planting. We want to help them see what's working in other areas and how they may be able to implement that in their particular area.”
To view a video report of the Path 1 road trip, go to http://bit.ly/1pFiDXQ. For an executive summary of the road trip report and detailed reports from each jurisdiction, go to http://bit.ly/1nfkpu1.
As a result of the information sharing, church planters already are being networked together more effectively.
“One of the things you learn from the reports is that many church planters feel isolated. So we have been able to help coordinate within several jurisdictions gatherings of church planters to help remove the isolation,” Lewis said.
Several sessions are planned to not only bring church planters from across the connection in the United States together, but also to join them with representatives from United Methodist seminaries, hopefully to begin the development of a Wesleyan approach to church planting, she said.
“During the road trip, we found that women feel very isolated, and they don't know that there are other women out there doing this.” Lewis said. “So we're going to gather women church planters in Nashville in November.”
Next January, Path 1 will host a national gathering of church planters.
“We're going to call the planters together to give them a time to connect, network, fellowship and learn from each other to help remove the isolation,” she said.
Path 1 also plans to create a database to more effectively track church planting successes. Currently, the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) reports about new church starts when they are chartered.
“We’re building a new church database that will enable church planters to input their information before the charter so they can share their stories. We call them snapshots of hope.” Lewis said.
The database will include information about professions of faith, numbers of small groups and finances in the new church starts, which can be analyzed and shared, she said.
“We want to close that gap and share what's happening more consistently across the connection because right now everybody just shares what they know in their area,” Lewis said.
A meeting to connect United Methodist seminaries with church planters is scheduled for November in Nashville. “It’s called a Gathering of Professors and Practitioners, and the purpose is to put these people in conversation with each other,” Lewis said.
Leading church planting resources currently are not written from a Wesleyan perspective, she said.
“We want to bring the seminary professors in conversation with some of our leading church planting practitioners, and we want them to talk about if John Wesley were planting a church today, what would he do?” she said.