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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    “Discover, Develop, and Deploy Christ-Following Leaders” work continues

    May 12, 2020 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The purpose and mission of every United Methodist church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Local churches and New Faith Communities are where disciples are made. Upper New York Director (UNY) of New Faith Communities, the Rev. Dave Masland, said, “In 2019, more than 60 percent of the churches in Upper New York reported that they did not have a single Profession of Faith!  That is the definition of an organization struggling to live its purpose.”

    How can we assure that Upper New York is making more disciples? What does it take for more people to say “Yes!” to following Jesus?

    Over the last seven years Upper New York has been addressing those questions by building pathways and strategies intended to increase our ability to live our purpose and mission.  The Conference Leadership Team, District Leadership Teams, the Bishop’s Operational Team, and the Cabinet have worked in partnership to align our resources and energy around three key areas:

    • Increasing the capacity of Christ-following leaders
    • Multiplying the number of existing congregations that are highly vital
    • Creating a culture of planting through New Faith Communities.

    While each of these are critical areas, the ability to discover, develop, and deploy Christ-following leaders, both clergy and lay are the primary lever or foundation.  In order to accomplish this task, congregations must have clear disciple-making pathways that provide opportunity for individuals to be invited to follow Jesus Christ, grow in discipleship and respond to God’s call upon their lives.

    When explaining the importance of this work, Bishop Webb said, “Vital congregations, filled with disciples of Jesus Christ, recognize and equip people to serve as Christ-following leaders who help the Church more fully live out her purpose.  If we are doing anything other than inviting people to follow Jesus, equipping them to go deeper and wider in their Christian discipleship and responding to a call that may include leadership within the mission of the Church a  priority in our congregations, we must reevaluate why we exist!”

    Over the last few months the Conference Leadership Team, the Bishop’s Operational Team, and the UNY Cabinet have developed measurable goals for this workto be reached by June 30, 2025:

    • 100 percent of churches to have Disciple-Making Pathways/Plans (DMPs)
    • To Increase the number of new disciples made each year to 3600 by June 30,2025
    • To discover, develop, and deploy 2,700 new potential Christ-following Transformational leaders (CFTLs) by June 30, 2025
    • And to have 50 percent of the churches in Upper New York to be considered highly vital by June 30, 2025.

    A tool will be used to measure the increase in DMPs, new disciples, potential CFTLs, and highly vital congregations every month. This tool is a dashboard with four dials (one for each category) and a needle. As the needle moves to the right, the number increases, just as it does in a car. This diagram and depiction of growth intends to help spark enthusiasm in achieving the goal of the discovering, developing and deploying Christ-following leaders.

    Lindsay Martin, a member of the Bishop’s Operational Team, said, “I am enthusiastic about ‘Discover, Develop, and Deploy’ because it’s not simply another program or idea with a short shelf life. This is the opportunity to transform the UMC’s vision into a new reality that encourages involvement from everyone; recognizing the ways we as individuals and the collective are living our discipleship and participating with God to help others do the same. Having an exciting goal is a great first step but the action plan includes opportunities for creativity, experimentation, collaboration and measurements for progress.”

    Susan Hardy, Conference Lay Leader, and member of the Conference Leadership Team, as well as the Cornerstone District Leadership Team reflected on the importance of these goals by saying, “without defined  and measurable goals for discovering, developing and deploying Christ-following leaders, how would we recognize those gifts among us?  It would be like setting out on a journey without mapping a destination, allocating resources for the duration of the travels, or knowing which persons might be most helpful in particular circumstances”.

    The Conference will be giving a lot of support to congregations as they seek to achieve these goals. If churches don’t already have disciple-making plans, they will be supported by regional leaders in creating one.

    The Rev. Drew Sperry, a member of the Conference Leadership Team and the Bishop’s Operational Team said, “Regional leadership offers us great new opportunities to experiment with our ministries and grow new disciples. By coming alongside, one another across our regions we will be able to hear best practices from others, problem solve together, and dream of a future for our regions that increases vitality in our local congregations through mutual support.”

    How will new disciples be identified?

    There will be a simple form that churches can fill out identifying the name(s) (which will be kept anonymous) of members who have met one or more of the following indications of becoming a disciple:

    • They are baptized (as an adult/youth) before a church, proclaiming faith in Christ.
    • They make a Profession of Faith before a congregation, becoming a new member.
    • They reaffirm their faith in Jesus Christ before others, after many years away from the church.  This can happen in worship or in a small group.
    • They make a first-time commitment to following Jesus in a small group or Bible study, on a retreat, camp week or mission trip.

    Bishop Webb is confident that churches can partner with God in  making disciples of Jesus Christ because of the  passion of existing members; he said, “A life changed by Jesus Christ creates a passion for others to know that same transformation.  As we go deeper in our own spiritual journeys, our joy and experience of God cannot be contained. The Holy Spirit spurs us on to share what we know and experience through Christ and equips us for the work. What could it look like in the life of the Church if every person prayed that God’s spirit would place in them a burden for those who do not yet know the good news of Jesus Christ and specifically asked for an encounter with at least one person in the next week or month to share our faith with and invite to a life of following Jesus?”

    The Rev. Nola Anderson, Dean of the Cabinet,, has the same sentiments as Bishop Webb; she said, ““I do not understand how a person can experience the love of Jesus Christ and not earnestly seek to share that gift with people who have not experienced this love. A key component of discipleship is about relationship. Jesus not only told us to make disciples, but he showed us how to do so. Jesus invited people into relationships with him.  I believe I can safely say that most of our congregations have ministries where they are already in relationship with their community. The exciting thing will be helping congregations understand how to take those relationships to a new level.”

    How will Christ-Following Transformational Leaders be identified?

    There will also be a form for churches to fill out identifying potential Christ-Following Leaders within their congregations. Churches can specify whether they already has a leadership development plan for the person, they need help from the District or Conference in creating a leadership development plan for the person, or the church does not have the ability to develop this person to their full capacity as a leader, and they wish they could be invited to a learning group in their area.

    Do you have leaders in your church who could help with this initiative?

    Bishop Webb said, “Pay attention to the gifts you see in the people around you.  Don’t be afraid to have a conversation that encourages a person to consider that God may be calling them to some form of leadership within the ministry and mission of the Church.  When you see gifts or evidence of fruit, nurture it, invest in that person – invite them to test out what you see in them.  There is no more important or eternal work than that which is done in the name of Jesus Christ!  Be bold in inviting people to join in that work.”

    Continue to follow the UNY Conference communication platforms for more information about thesenext steps in our shared journey to more faithfully, effectively, and out our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”.

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."