What would we do differently if we believed our communities were our congregations? Where would we allocate resources if believed that the world is our parish? When will we reclaim our denominational DNA of starting one new faith community per day in the U.S.? How can we learn from and encourage the many newly planted churches in our central (overseas) conferences?
In a letter to our Minnesota delegates to the United Methodist General Conference, my colleagues and I in congregational development raised these questions.
In response to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, we are all called to start new faith communities in our mission fields; the places and peoples God has entrusted to our care.
All shapes and sizes
“I’ve gone to traditional church settings and felt disconnected, judged and even hurt,” a participant in a new United Methodist faith community said. “I thought I was done. And then I connected with these people. I’m seeing God differently than I did before—a God that truly loves me.”
In the past four years, the United Methodist Church has made great progress in creating new places for new people through new church starts. But we've only just begun. Starting new faith communities is essential to reaching more people, more diverse people, and more young people. These faith communities come in all shapes, sizes, colors and contexts.
We also need to collaborate with vital congregations that multiply their healthy DNA. New and existing churches are two sides of the same coin. These strategies for deploying resources of money and leadership complete, notcompete with, one another. To paraphrase I Corinthians 12:26b, “When one succeeds, we all succeed together!”
You can read some stories of successful United Methodist outreach and witness at the UMC New Church Starts web site.
Here’s just one story: “I’m so excited to share what is happening here at Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We’re seeing something which is nothing less than God clearly being at work. Seeing lives changed. People getting plugged into small groups. Making a tangible impact on the community. People coming to know Christ. When it comes to worship, we’ve gone from an average of 327 people this past August to reaching as high as 850 in worship, over doubling in size in less than seven months! What a gift to see new life being breathed into the UMC!”
Read similar “Success Stories” from Minnesota here.
Here’s an example: “On Christmas Day, the First United Methodist Church of Red Wing gathered for a half hour of worship, singing Christmas carols, praying, and hearing God’s Word. Then they participated in a living sermon bringing a touch of love to all they could. Many people made goodies, enough to pack 26 trays. Each tray had a short note letting people know they are appreciated and loved by Christ and the people of the First United Methodist Church. They blessed those who had to work that day: the local police and fire departments, the hospital, people at the local power plant, nursing homes, gas stations, hotels, and other places they could think of. The response they received from the community has been overwhelming—people were blown away on Christmas Day by this act of kindness and love.”
You can click the “Like” button on these stories’ web pages as a witness to United Methodist growth and impact. Better yet, add a story of your own!
Dan Johnson is now the Twin Cities District superintendent for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He used to be director of congregational development and Reach • Renew • Rejoice.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church