Appointing planters for New Faith Communities
November 12, 2018 / By Rev. Dave Masland. Director of New Faith Communities
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on appointmnt-making in the United Methodist Church.
For the past six years, the Upper New York (UNY) Conference has been very blessed to have a Bishop who is very committed to planting New Faith Communities. Bishops make decisions about who will sit on their appointive cabinets, helping in the consultation process that leads to making appointments of pastors. Across our UM connection, many of those Bishops choose not to place their new church start developers around that table. However, since the Director of New Faith Communities (NFC) position was first formed in the UNY Conference in 2013, Bishop Webb has made sure the NFC Director sits in on all Cabinet meetings, and has a significant voice in the process that leads to decisions about what pastor is appointed where.
Why is this?
When a Conference prioritizes planting new churches highly, it also prioritizes finding highly effective people to plant those churches. Some of those people are already serving existing churches. If the Bishop and Cabinet are not open to moving those (often highly effective) people from existing churches, then new churches will never be planted! The opposite is also true. In UNY, we value planting so highly the Bishop invites regular conversation about two key aspects of planting:
1. Who are the highly gifted, carefully assessed potential planters that we have identified?
2. Where are the high potential places where God seems to be calling us to plant?
We are all committed to discovering where God wants to work to plant an NFC. We are all committed to finding the right person to plant in each of those communities. And, our agenda reflects it!
As the Director of NFCs, I have a regular spot on the Appointive Cabinet agenda. At these times (and especially at the beginning of the Appointment season), I can share who the potential planters are, and where are the places we might want to deploy those people. There is a constant conversation going on between me and the various regional DSs. Is it possible this local pastor or that elder is called by God to plant? If so, where would they be most effectively be deployed? We are all constantly praying for the Spirit to show us where movement seems to be happening, and how we can get on board with what God is doing.
Sometimes the first move is for a high potential planter to come to us and share a dream and a vision for where they feel God is calling them to plant. Sometimes we go to the high potential planter, and we ask them to prayerfully consider whether or not they feel called to plant at all… and then, whether they are willing to plant in a particular community. It is all a process of discernment. And, when we all (DSs, planter, Bishop and Director of NFCs) agree that God is leading us toward appointing a person as “Lead Planter” of an NFC, we are in a position to act.
The good news is this: There are no turf wars in our cabinet meetings. Without fail, our DSs are all committed “Conference Superintendents.” Each of us wants what is best for the Kingdom of God. We have lots of open, honest and often lively discussion… sharing all pros and cons. But, if we discern that what is most needed is a new appointment of a gifted person to another mission field, there is shared enthusiasm to move ahead. What a joy to work on a team like this… all focused on planting new churches so that new people will come to experience the incredible grace and unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ.