Soaring – Bishop’s Blog
New Church Starts
July 28, 2009
In 1950 the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church decided to make new church starts a priority. In the late 1990s Steve Compton then Director of Congregational Development stated that about 65% of the average attendance in the North Carolina Conference was in those churches. In addition, about 75% of the conference apportionment payments were from those congregations. And yet many of the churches in North Carolina were established before 1950.
How do we explain such a gap? There are at least two explanations. These congregations by virtue of their relative young age still have a sense of being mission driven. Secondly, the generation that aided in their birth have in their DNA a passion to fulfill the Great Commission. This passion around mission generates the energy needed to be a fruitful congregation.
It appears that in order for an annual conference to have the vitality it needs to equip the local congregations to make disciples it is dependent upon excited about Jesus congregations that generate the energy and resources needed to power the conference to be a disciple making conference. The most exciting congregations are usually new or revitalized churches. If we look at our denomination’s record over the last forty years in starting new churches then we may see why we are perpetually tired and listless.
This is not to say that existing congregations can’t have vitality. It just means that existing congregations must work hard to maintain and generate excitement about their relationship with Christ and each other. In essence existing congregations must remake themselves over and over again especially as their mission area changes. New congregations will bring excitement to districts and conferences and eventually to a tired denomination.