|United Methodists seek 250 to start new churches|
By Jeanette Pinkston*
June 2, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
The United Methodist Church needs 250 planters with well-established
roots in the Wesleyan tradition to start a new crop of faith
The Rev. Karen Greenwalt
Path 1/New Church Starts, a ministry of the United Methodist Board
of Discipleship, is launching the Lay Missionary Planting Network to
start faith communities in five regional “growth corridors.”
“As The United Methodist Church moves to create new places for new
people, we need thousands of lay people to say 'yes' to their baptism
and to move into the long tradition of laity who are planters
of new churches and faith communities,” said the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt,
top executive for the board.
The network’s purpose is to find, equip and mobilize an initial 250
lay leaders to start new communities in the tradition of Methodism
founder John Wesley.
“The Lay Missionary Planting Network opens the door of opportunity
for lay people to hear and respond to God’s call to ministry,” said the
Rev. Bener Agtarap, a new church strategist for Path 1. “It also raises
awareness, throughout the connection, of the importance of lay
leadership in planting churches, while enhancing clergy-laity
partnerships in starting and multiplying congregations.”
While the network targets ethnic and underserved populations, the
emphasis is on starting United Methodist churches in areas where the
denomination has had limited presence, and in populations and contexts
where traditional approaches have not been successful.
The Rev. Bener Agtarap
Five annual conferences, one from each U.S. jurisdiction, have been
selected to pilot the model program. The first Lay Missionary Planting
Networks are based in growth corridors, including Virginia (which will
partner with Wesley Theological Seminary and the Baltimore-Washington
Conference), Greater New Jersey, Desert Southwest, Central Texas and
The annual conferences were chosen because they have, among other
things, the passion and commitment for new church development,
according to Agtarap.
The conferences also have in place the infrastructure and plan for
new church plants, as well as the staff to give support. The areas have
a growing population of people currently underserved by The United
Methodist Church, as well as a desire to find and equip lay people to
reach diverse communities.
“Churches with more memories than dreams are churches that are on a
death spiral,” said Bishop Michael Lowry of the Central Texas
The Lay Missionary Planting Network seeks to reverse that spiral.
Lowry said challenges will exist, but churches need to get on board
with a strategy that is outward focused to the mission field.
Bishop Michael Lowry
“For instance, among all of the leading ethnic groups, (there are)
churches that are inward focused or outward focused,” Lowry said. “The
future will live with churches that are outwardly focused.”
“Enormous opportunities for creating new places for new people all
across the U.S. call us to engage every disciple of Jesus Christ to
reach out to others,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert
Southwest Conference, which is also participating in the program.
The Desert Southwest Conference includes the two fastest-growing
metropolitan areas in the country, Maricopa and Clark counties, yet it
is a young and relatively small conference with only 144 churches and
“We want to faithfully respond to this opportunity, but we need the
help of the connectional church to do so. The Lay Missionary Planting
Network provides us with the kind of connectional support we need
to help grow The United Methodist Church in our area,” Carcaño said.
Agtarap hopes that as more lay people get involved in this church
planting movement, the network will create excitement and healthy
responses from more individuals and churches wanting to participate in
renewing The United Methodist Church by starting new congregations.
Participants will receive practical, hands-on, mentor-supported training to lead new congregations.
“We know that ongoing practical and theological training will be
essential for the success of this ministry,” says the Rev. Thomas G.
Butcher, executive director of New Church Starts at the Board of
The Rev. Thomas G. Butcher
Charged with recruiting 1,000 church planters to create 650 new
congregations by 2012, Path 1 is also recruiting coaches and mentors
for the lay people and their church plants.
The team of laity and mentors will be engage in training in retreat
settings that offer open dialogue, growing theological competence and
spiritual accountability in community.
Initially, the Lay Missionary Planting Network will train 50 lay
people over a two-year period on what it means to be Wesleyan and
United Methodist. District superintendents will forward nominations to
a design team for final selection.
The Lay Missionary Planting Network was made possible by a grant
from the Foundation for Evangelism and the United Methodist National
The goal of starting new congregations and revitalizing existing
ones is one of the denomination’s four areas of focus. The other focus
areas address leadership development, global health and ministry with
people in poverty.
*Pinkston is director of media relations for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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