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Discipleship agency responds to church's emerging needs

By Linda Green*
Oct. 24, 2006 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Holistic thinking and customer sensitivity are the keywords for a new direction and brand identity for the denomination's discipleship agency.

The executive committee of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship approved a new integrated strategic direction and brand identity Oct. 9-10 to enable the agency to serve "the church with continuity, based upon our basic values and mission," said Indiana Bishop Michael J. Coyner, president of the board.

"The new branding is an effort to demonstrate this integrated thinking, so that every product, service and ministry of (the board) will be labeled in a way that clearly shows this holistic thinking," he said.

The new direction is driven by the fact that the agency "wants to serve the church, and we have reorganized our entire effort around being customer sensitive -- helping local church, district and conference leaders to fulfill our dream of making what we call 'world-changing disciples,'" Coyner said.

The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive at the agency, said the "work is clearly focused through strategy and image. By building more flexible and ongoing relationships, (the Board of Discipleship) will connect with leaders in churches and conferences to provide needed resourcing, training, consulting and networking to support new church development, revitalization of local churches, and providing materials for use in central conferences."

She added that the intersection of spiritual practice, leadership formation and young people's ministries provides the core content for addressing the needs of church leaders.

The integrated direction and brand identity result from months of dialogue and discernment around what God is calling the agency to do, the board said. The agency's leadership team also listened to the church and the larger world in a variety of ways, through connectional conversations, statistical research, readership interviews, focus groups and the monitoring of trends in the world, in business and in the church.

The board "recognizes that by focusing its strategic directions, it can respond more directly to the emerging needs of the church, its people and the larger world," Greenwaldt said.

The strategies focus attention on the agency's mandate to equip world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ, and the board is harnessing its energies and those of partners and colleagues to address the important issues facing the church and the world. While the United Methodist Church in the United States and parts of Europe continues to experience decline, churches in Africa and the Philippines are growing but lack resources.

The agency has worked on its ability to respond to the church's needs, Coyner said. "We want the agency to be flexible, quick-responding and focused upon our mission in a way which is both effective and efficient."

The strategies "embrace support of leaders in new church development and in revitalization of churches," Greenwaldt said.

Initiatives to provide this support to leaders will come through the "discipleship university," a major new initiative that will provide the church with on-site and off-site learning opportunities for all areas of discipleship, she said.

This story was adapted from a release by Jeanette Pinkston, director of media relations for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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