ministries / New Faith Communities
Our Bold Vision:
To partner with the holy spirit to stir up a movement in United Methodits of Upper New York to change lives and neighborhoods with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by planting 100 diverse, sustainable New Faith Communities.
We are, in fact, redefining what it means to be a community of faith:
What do these attributes mean to you as you pray about a new ministry?
- Radical Hospitality:
Diverse people are invited and welcomed without prejudice or judgment. Every person is valued for the unique spiritual gifts, life experience and resources they have to share.
- Discipleship Focus:
Every person related to the faith community is encouraged to follow Christ by learning his ways, and generously using their time, gifts and resources to be God’s love with their neighbors in the places they live, work and play.
- Small Groups:
The primary growth points for developing disciples are in small groups… where true community is fostered, scriptures are engaged, God is worshipped, faith is discussed, concerns and dreams are shared, mutual prayers are offered, mission projects are embraced, and people are routinely invited to follow Jesus Christ, in an atmosphere where it is safe to ask any question, explore any thought, express any doubt.
- Team-based Leadership:
Individual leaders are constantly building and strengthening teams to do the work of the new faith community, so that the work is spread broadly, and none of it is entirely dependent on any individual person.
People are offered a regular opportunity to give their money to support meaningful missions that transform the lives of people in their neighborhoods and world…including the connectional ministries of the UM church. Each Faith Community practices giving away what it has from the beginning! What would happen if every New Faith Community voluntarily gave a percentage of their income to Conference ministry shares, instead of waiting to be “billed”?
Every person involved with the new faith community invites friends, co-workers and neighbors to participate; every leader is focused on developing other leaders and giving away what they do; every small group is committed to sharing it’s strength in order to start other small groups.
- Mission and Ministry:
Every group is engaged in mission, designed to transform the lives of neighbors and neighborhoods, in partnership with others in the community.
- New Faith Communities may or may not have large group worship experiences.
- New Faith Communities may or may not ever own property and buildings.
- New Faith Communities may be led by laity or clergy.
- New Faith Communities may use any music, worship, or liturgical style that helps their people encournter and worship God.
- All New Faith Communities will be connected in some way to another congregation or a District.
- All will be Wesleyan in their emphases on God's grace, and three general rules to Do no harm, Do all the good possible, and Stay in love with God and neighbor.
- And, all will be focused on living out our Conference vision of "living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and being God's love with our neighbors in all places."
There are dozens of church planting strategies being employed by United Methodist Conferences across the country and world. In fact, this .pdf file shows the many different strategies being used to start new communities of faith:
Having said that, we do not believe each of these strategies will be equally effective in our own context in Upstate New York. And, since we can not do everything, we are choosing to focus our energy, resources and time investing in the following three strategies:
- Parent Church (or, churches), Public-Site Approach. This strategy seeks to use the significant people and financial resources we already have in new ways. The idea is creating a vision to plant a radically new faith community in a place other than a church building, and to build the launch team out of healthy, growing disciples from our existing churches. This launch team might be made up of people from one healthy church, or from a number of churches in a region. The new faith community might gather for worship, study and ministry in a bar, a cafe, a bowling alley, a storefront, or a movie theater. The key is to meet people where they already gather, rather than trying to drag them into a church building… and to build a congregation that transforms lives and neighborhoods!
- Missional Micro-Community Networks. Many experts tell us that the future church will look more like the house churches of the early church (and early Methodism) than anything else! Wiser people than me consistently tell us that “pew sitters are made on Sunday mornings in American churches, but disciples of Jesus are made in small groups that are engaged in prayer, meaningful conversation and mission in their local community.” The idea of missional micro-communities is just that… groups of 8-15 persons, gathering in homes or public spaces at anytime during the week, offering fellowship, prayer, spiritual accountability and growth, AND transformational (to the missionary and the community) world-changing mission in their local neighborhood. These can become “networks” when multiple small groups are developed by a single planter or team, and multiply throughout a city or region. The entire network might gather as one larger body monthly or quarterly.
- Ethnic-Minority New Faith Communities… The demographics of many of the areas of our Conference are changing rapidly. The fastest growing church plants in the northeast are almost ALL ethnic minority churches! We will be seeking to engage gifted, multi-lingual planters from all over the world to plant churches in our midst! I hope you can see how Strategies #1 and #2 can also be employed in making these plants! The key is, these churches do not start unless we are intentional about planting them! This strategy may require us to make significant financial investments in some areas to ensure long-term growth and sustainability. There are thousands of lonely, disconnected immigrants in our midst… and if we build new congregations that are radically welcoming and give them a chance to be supported unconditionally by people facing similar challenges, they WILL come!
If you want to know more about any of these strategies, contact the Director of New Faith Communities, Rev. Abigail Browka at email@example.com.