'Parents' needed to raise new churches


By Embra Jackson
Conference Staff

At this year's General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the major emphases will be on disciple making via the emphasis on new church development. New church development is also one of the Council of Bishops' Six Pathways and one of our annual conference's five focus areas.

God seems to be moving the United Methodist Church in a renewal of its Wesleyan and Christian roots of evangelism through the starting of new churches. Our hope is that some of you who are members of our annual conference will hear this as a call of God and respond by helping us in this effort.

Our annual conference, bishop and cabinet have agreed to "plant" a minimum of three new churches per year. Since the 2006 annual conference, five new churches have been started. Three of these churches were started from existing congregations (Anderson South from Anderson in Jackson, The Pointe from Brandon First UMC and The Orchard in Oxford from The Orchard in Tupelo).

This type of new church plant is known as the "parent church model." Today many successful new church starts are birthed from existing congregations. This occurs when the new churches emerge from local churches. The conference still provides resource assistance with these new church starts, however, the local established churches are key to this type of church being successful.

Bishop Felton May led the Baltimore Annual Conference into the "Holy Boldness" – New Church Initiative. The parenting of new churches by existing congregations was very successful in that annual conference. The impact of that movement is still having a positive impact.

Globally, we see that The United Methodist Church of the Philippines has more than doubled in size since 1990 – a direct result of starting new churches by this method. There, each church is expected to start a new church. This evangelistic thrust translates into providing leadership, resources (including money) and prayer from existing churches. Outside of Manila, for example, there were two United Methodist churches five years ago. District Superintendent Bener Agtarap called for congregations in the district to start new churches. Today there are 29 churches there.

In our conference, we are following this model in the areas listed. However, we need more churches to heed the call to become engaged in the planting of new churches. If your church is called by God to this ministry, you may wish to consider various ways of becoming parents; i.e., financial gifts, sending forth teams of members to start new churches, sharing of space with a new congregation, donation of land and buildings, prayers, etc.

Want to help?

For information and guidance on responding to the call to parent churches, contact the Rev. Embra Jackson, administrative assistant to the bishop at 601-948-4561 ext. 23 or embra@mississippi-umc.org.