Church plants draw praise from expert


Special to the Advocate

The Mississippi Conference has all the pieces in place for successfully planting new churches, says an expert in the field.

The Rev. Jim Griffith of Colorado, founder of Griffith Coaching Network, on Dec. 8-11 visited places in Mississippi where new United Methodist churches have been planted. He was escorted by the Rev. Embra Jackson, administrative assistant to the bishop for the Mississippi Conference.

“You all have all of the pieces in place to be successful, you just need to connect them together,” Griffith said.

Griffith Coaching Network is a network of coaches committed to helping church leaders develop more fruitful ministries. Griffith spent the first 22 years of his ministry starting five different congregations. In 1995 he entered a full-time coaching ministry to church leaders and congregations, a mantle he wears with infectious enthusiasm.

Since then, he’s trained more than 5,000 church leaders, 500 church coaches, and conducted more than 400 assessments of pastoral candidates.  Additionally, he coaches 15-20 churches each year. His vast experiences and intuitive skills help leaders discern the directions they need to take.

Griffith’s goal was to assist the annual conference in assessing its new church starts. Since Bishop Hope Morgan Ward was appointed in 2004, the conference has started nine new churches and has plans to start a minimum of three new churches per year for the remainder of the quadrennium.  In addition, the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops and the 2008 General Conference have made starting new faith communities a priority of the denomination. 

Jackson and Griffith visited new church starts in Tupelo, Oxford, the Senatobia District, Jackson metro area and the Seashore District. They also met with representatives of the new church development committee, including the chair, the Rev. Denise Donnell. They met with the district superintendents and the new church planters. 

Griffith’s assessment was that the conference is further along than ever, citing Ward and Jackson’s leadership.

“You normally begin with the discernment and assessment of potential new church planters, then you train them, resource them and them provide coaching for them,” Jackson said. “It is easier and a better use of resources if there are churches in your conference who wish to plant new churches. 

“The harvest is plentiful we just need to learn different ways of reaching more people, younger people and more diverse people. The creation of new churches in conjunction with expanding the role of our existing churches should help us reach this goal.”

A team of representatives, including district superintendents, is scheduled to attend Church Planter Assessment Training and Coach Training: Developing a Coaching Ministry Jan. 20-23 in Dallas.