New Church Development News and Events
- Turn-Around Bus Tour! 3 Stops, 3 Lessons on Thriving
On April 10, a North Texas Conference group embarked on the Turn-Around Bus Tour, traveling to three churches that offer lessons for growth. This tour gave the riders an up-close look at the creativity and resources within the conference from which they can learn and use to help their churches thrive.
The Turn-Around Bus Tour showed how different churches facing common challenges crafted different strategies for growth.
1. Plymouth Park, Irving
Challenge: Church facing changing demographics in its neighborhood
Solutions: Pastor, staff and laity are intentionally involved in the community, with first-hand awareness of needs.
Encourage diversity in its youth and children’s ministries, including Wesleyan Academe, with its multi-ethnic student body.
Stress the United Methodist identity in theology and values, and avoid fads.
2. The Village, Southern Dallas County
Challenge: Getting a church start off the ground and thriving
Solutions: Reach out to younger generation African-Americans through high-energy one-hour worship services.
Emphasize education for all ages.
Draw in the community through strong programming for children and youth.
3. The Woods, Grand Prairie
Challenge: Two churches contending with sliding membership
Solutions: The churches merged, creating critical mass in size. Adopted a new vision and fresh image.
Reach out with child care and sports ministries and a Pumpkin Patch.
Focus on the community by adopting a school, feeding first responders on holidays and taking part in city events.
- Healthy Church Initiative is adapted for small congregations
By GLORIA FOWLER
New Church Development and Congregational Transformation
The Healthy Church Initiative has been adapted for small membership churches, with the aim of helping them grow into more fruitful, vital congregations.
About half of the churches in the North Texas Conference fall into the small church category of fewer than 80 in average worship attendance. The Center for New Church Development and Congregational Transformation saw that not every component of the HCI process worked well in small churches. To better address their needs, the center will offer the Small Church Initiative starting in January.
The Small Church Initiative has three phrases. The first provides training and support, and allows the churches to learn from one another what works. Phase 2 offers consulting, and Phase 3 is implementation. The goal is to help small churches in the conference to build vitality.
To participate, a church must have:
- A desire by the congregation and the pastor to grow their church;
- A sense of urgency;
- The pastor and about 10 percent of the congregation must be willing to participate in the training.
The Healthy Church Initiative arises from the Missouri Conference, which assembled a group of pastors of vibrant small UMC churches.
They delved into their success stories to determine the reasons for their growth, as well as the top reasons that small churches plateau or decline.
They created strategies and developed training materials to help other small church pastors and their congregations to thrive. They led six different training courses over a year.
If your church wants to learn more about the Small Church Initiative, contact Gloria Fowler.
- Learn from each other to reach out in ministry
Churches study best practices and build leadership skills
By GLORIA FOWLER
New Church Development and Congregational Transformation
For a long time, we have looked outside our North Texas connections for the tools and resources to do ministry.
What we didn’t realize was that within our own connection, we have great resources and ministries to learn from.
What if we could gather together with those in similar situations and learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t, encourage one another to improve our ministries, reach the unchurched of our communities, and make disciples of Jesus Christ?
The first phase of the Healthy Church Initiative, or HCI, helps develop leadership through groups learning together and from each other. In Lay Leadership Development and Pastoral Leadership Development, members come together to learn about best practices through relevant curriculums and from each other’s ministry experiences.
The goal is to lead change and grow ministry for the sake of winning more souls for Christ.
Each leadership development group is led by our own North Texas clergy and laity, using our own resources.
This first phase equips pastors and laity to move on to the second phase of the Healthy Church Initiative, a consultation phase to move the whole church toward change and growth.
The next learning groups begin in September.
If your church wants to know more or be part of this learning group to begin the process toward change, please contact Gloria Fowler at 972-526-5038.
- Laity take lead with Nueva Esperanza
Second of a two-part series on Hispanic church starts
By SHERON C. PATTERSON
The North Texas Annual Conference has set its eyes on West Dallas and on lay leadership, as it strives to make inroads into Hispanic communities. With its 11 square miles, 25,000 residents and neighborhoods with colorful names such as Eagle Ford, Fish Trap and Green Leaf, West Dallas is the perfect place for more United Methodists.
Jim Ozier, director of the NTC’s New Church Development Center, proudly points to West Dallas’ Nueva Esperanza, a mission of Oak Cliff UMC, as another example of lay people taking the lead in starting congregations.
Lazaro Guardiola functions as lay pastor of Nueva Esperanza Mission, located in a building on the campus of the Wesley-Rankin Community Center, a United Methodist agency serving children, parents and others in an impoverished area. In fact, it is in the same building that also bore the name Nueva Esperanza, led by the late Rev. Kathleen Baskin Ball in 1989.
“The congregation is focusing on building a faith relationship with a community that has minimal access to worship,” said the Rev. Sarah Squires, Wesley-Rankin director. She sees it as extending “the reach of Wesley-Rankin as a place of hope and grace for a community in need.”
Under the guidance of Oak Cliff UMC, Guardiola oversees the site and coordinates with a sizable laity team.
“Nueva Esperanza is a part of a hardworking lay missionary group from our mother church that goes out into the communities where teens are at risk of crime, drugs, gang affiliations and more,” said lay youth missionary Oscar Martinez. “We are working under God’s grace to promote the good news of our Lord and to take the word of the living God to the needy.”
The Rev. Edgar Bazan, senior pastor of Oak Cliff UMC, is proud of the progress of Nueva Esperanza, which sprang from an NTC workshop with Path 1, a church planting initiative, that he attended with his associate pastor, the Rev. Pablo Guardiola, two years ago. Path 1 has found its best success in establishing church plants by investing in leaders instead of land and tying the plants to a strong anchor church.
”We came back very interested in their Lay Missionary Planting Network program,” Rev. Bazan said. “Almost a year later, I called Samuel Rodriguez of Path 1 and asked if Oak Cliff UMC could launch the program. He said that it had never been done by an individual local church, but he provided the materials and all the information. I coordinated the class sessions, speakers and recruited the participants.”
Rev. Bazan held follow-up meetings “to keep the conversation going, address questions, deepen our understanding of the subject, imagine what we could do and pray for each other. These meetings were crucial, as they helped to develop a sense of fellowship, belonging and team identity.”
Then Rev. Guardiola, who is Lazaro Guardiola’s son, placed the call to Rev. Squires to see if she’d like to team up.
“He shared the vision we had with her,” said Rev. Bazan. “She was very excited, and we started to discuss details. Pablo coordinated all the work with Wesley-Rankin for us to use the Nueva Esperanza building, while I kept working preparing the lay leaders to start the mission site. The lay missionaries graduated in November, during our 125th anniversary service. Bishop McKee, with Samuel Rodriguez, presented the certificates to each of them. The first worship service was held in December.”
Martinez said Nueva Esperanza started “with a small group of kids” and is building from there.
“Recognizing that our community is varied, we made efforts to offer programming that is assorted and appealing many days and times of the week,” said Rev. Guardiola. “We have seen great strides in our programming and continue to see growth in our membership.”
“The community has responded and our hope is for the congregation to grow, either independently or as an extension and arm of Oak Cliff,” Rev. Squires said.
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