NFC update: Where we are on the journey to realizing our vision
Our mission as United Methodists is always to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And, in Upper New York, we believe one of the most effective ways to do that is to plant new faith communities! When the Upper New York Conference formed a few years ago, we committed ourselves to creating a planting culture where laity and clergy across the Conference would feel free to start 100 new faith communities over a period of a few years. At that time, we also approved a motion to invest a large percentage of the funds from sold church properties back into planting work. Here is an update of where we are on the journey to realizing our vision:
There are currently 46 new faith communities actively being planted in Upper New York! Thanks be to God! Each community has stories to tell of changed lives and new persons coming to Christ.
- There are 20 other new faith communities in various stages of planning, most of which will likely launch within the next year.
- In January, 32 of our NFCs reported that they had more than 1,400 actively participating persons involved in their small groups and worship services.
- Most of our new faith communities are being planted by existing churches, as they seek to create “new places for new people” or supported by a strong partner church. Each of them has a lead planter who carries the vision.
- Many of our new faith communities are focused on reaching a particular segment of their neighborhood demographic, including Hispanic/Latino people, Asian people, African people, college students, families with children, etc.
- Three of our NFCs have grown to the point where they were incorporated this past year. As the communities continue to grow, it will move closer to becoming a chartered, fully connectional United Methodist Church.
- A large number of our new faith communities are funded entirely by existing churches. But, many are in need of seed funding to get started. Our NFC Grant Team has received and responded to more than 50 applications for grant funding over the past three years, requesting a total of more than $1.2 million. A total of approximately $700,000 has been granted.
- About 10 percent of this money has come from Equitable Compensation funds (out of the Conference Budget). The rest has come from the New Beginnings Fund, which is fed from the sale of closed church buildings, and donations from individuals or churches.
- As our planting movement continues to expand, it is clear that more funding (beyond the current resources) will be needed to follow the Spirit’s lead. In other words, we have more gifted planters with developing plans than we have funds to support them at a level that will increase their chances of success.
- We should celebrate the fact that our Conference has made planting such a high priority. We have a full-time staff person leading the work, and this person sits on the appointive cabinet. Many other conferences are trying to do this work with a part-time worker or less, and often their access to other district superintendents is limited. We are a model for other conferences in this sense!
- Relative to other conferences, which (like us) make “planting new churches” a high priority, Upper New York is funding this ministry at low levels. Many conferences fund new faith community planting at a level of $500,000 to $2,000,000 each year through its conference budget. We budgeted about $95,000 for planting work in 2016. (See the chart above)
- Plans are in the works to create a comprehensive funding strategy for New Faith Community planting in Upper New York. A recommendation will come to the Annual Conference in 2016. In the mean time, if you would like to make a donation to the New Faith Community part of the New Beginnings Fund to enable more new faith communities to be planted, please go to our donate page.
If you have questions or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. David Masland is Upper New York's Director of New Faith Communities.