Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #2

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.) Finding A:  Increasing impact of a smaller number of larger churches 2. Focus on larger new church starts. New church starts are the primary way that denominations increase membership. In earlier chapters of United Methodist history, smaller churches met the needs of a dispersed and rural population. Today the need is for new larger churches (or new campus sites) that can reach over 80 percent of the population that is non-rural and tends to be more heavily clustered. A tautology that is often ignored is the plain truth that we will not turn around the United Methodist Church with just the transformation/renewal of existing congregations.  Just as true is the tautology that we will not turn around the decline in the United Methodist Church just through the establishment of new congregations.  If ever there was a both/and, it is here.  We must engage deeply in both new church development and the transformation/renewal of existing congregations.  It is to this cardinal goal that the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth exists. What is often missed is the critical role larger churches have in birthing other large churches.  The process really is a birthing process.  The DNA of the large congregation is embedded in the new church from the outset. One of the highlights of our recently concluded Annual Conference lifted up our response to this recommendation.  First, we have a Path 1 New Church Development intern on staff for this year at Whites Chapel UMC learning how to birth a large congregation.  Second, First UMC Keller is engaged in a new start/second site outreach.  In the past we have engaged in other similar ministries; most recently through Waco First UMC, and St. James UMC & Killeen First UMC.  Third, in a highly experimental and creative way, Fort Worth First UMC is working with the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth with an appointment to 7th street in Fort Worth. Our both/and commitment to establish new congregations, especially those begun from the ground up with an intention to be large, and our emphasis in transformation/renewal of existing congregations through HCI/SCI (Healthy Church Initiative/Small Church Initiative) and Holy Conversations (in partnership with the Texas Methodist Foundation) is alive and well!  The Holy Spirit is moving in our midst!
[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report