Southwick shares meaning, ideas on building new congregations


By Rev. Embra Jackson
Episcopal Staff

John Southwick of the General Board of Global Ministries has written an excellent article related to one of the 2008 General Conference’s approved four denominational emphases. These emphases are:

• Leadership development

• Building new congregations and revitalizing existing ones

• Ministry with the poor, particularly children

• Global Wellness

Below is a portion of Southwick’s article that relates to building new congregations and revitalizing existing ones:

“Congregational development is a term which encompasses many areas such as bringing new vitality to existing churches. It also includes church growth, a term which is often recast but nonetheless descriptive. For several decades church growth has been a topic of much discussion, many opinions, and volumes of print. Given that it is now a key component of one of the four foci, it bears attention here. (No presumption is made that this will be the definitive commentary on such a complex topic, but rather that it will be a helpful review.)

“It is even difficult to address church growth because the term has become a bit jaded for some. Images of techniques designed only to increase numbers and of an eighties and early nineties movement amongst select church groups, deserved or not, intrude on perceptions of many. Also, an emphasis on growth can sometimes suggest a desire for institutional preservation, to the exclusion of more noble goals. Nonetheless, the term taken literally, without baggage, is a good and appropriate one. We need more people, as Dr. Lovett Weems points out for us all. If churches are fulfilling the basic mission of making disciples (now officially for the transformation of the world), they will grow. Making disciples includes evangelism. Growth should be a natural outcome of doing and being what the church is supposed to do and be. Natural Growth Development is based on this. Many conferences find this a useful tool, though it is not the final word on the topic.”

In our annual conference, we utilize the A-2 or Acts 2 assessment process. The A-2, as you may recall, was developed by the Rev. Shane Stanford and his wife, Dr. Pokey Stanford two years ago. The A-29 Ministry Action Plan was developed as a means for churches to develop and implement specific and tangible plans for ministry after their initial assessment using the A-2 process.

At annual conference, seven churches from various districts shared how they responded to their initial ministry assessment via the A2 process.

Editor’s note: Southwick’s article was published by the Office of Research Global Ministries and is copywrited. ©2008