In 2018, the Central Texas Annual Conference embarked on an innovative approach to Church Growth. As announced at Annual Conference 2018, the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth (CEMCG) began giving away 100 grants to New Faith Communities in the amount of up to $10,000. This New Faith Community initiative was birthed to support the Conference’s Wildly Important Goal of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, local congregations like yours boldly went into their communities to reach people they were not already reaching. For the next 22 months, our annual conference grew every single month in churches of all sizes and in very diverse contexts. We saw an increase in professions of faith, worship attendance, missional outreach in the local context and deeper intentional discipleship.
COVID-19 has caused us to pivot more than once as we seek to be faithful and careful in the midst of a pandemic. Now, we find ourselves in another new season. On one hand, we have the number of people being vaccinated on the rise and on the other, we have new variants of the virus affecting our communities in new ways. The Smith Center would like to help the churches of the CTC as they adapt their ministries to be able to reach out to their communities and congregations in this next “new normal.” As part of that assistance, CEMCG will be providing a series of grants to help with these expenses, with a clear eye on reaching people we are not already reaching with the Good News of Jesus Christ’s transforming love and grace.
To date, the CEMCG has given away 61 of the 100 initial New Faith Community Grants announced at the 2018 Annual Conference. We have set the ambitious goal of disbursing the remaining 39 grants before June 30, 2022. It is important to note that these monies do not come from the conference budget approved by Annual Conference. Rather, these are monies given by the saints of our church when closed churches properties have been sold. The Smith Center is the steward of these monies following the requirements set out in paragraph 2549.7 of the Book of Discipline. These monies can be used for new churches, new faith communities, new missional initiatives, helping to relocate congregations, and developing multi campus charges for the purpose of evangelistic an evangelistic witness. The Smith Center seeks to faithfully utilize these funds for the future of the local church and Wesleyan witness.
To view a video from Leah on What’s New with the New Faith Community Grants for 2021-22, please click here.
What is a New Faith Community Grant?
This grant is for a first-time New Faith Community focused on reaching people we are not already reaching. It can be a community that is launched on the church campus, another physical location or online. This grant is intended to reach a larger number of people - the initial benchmark for this NFC attendance is 100 in-person or deeply engaged online.
What makes a New Faith Community? At a minimum, a New Faith Community is…
- includes consistent worship experience,
- celebrates and seeks professions of faith in Jesus Christ,
- teaches discipleship practices including stewardship,
- remains accountably connected to the Central Texas Annual Conference, and
- is a sustainable model (i.e. has the financial, spiritual, and numerical strength to exist long-term, allowing the existing congregation to step up to a higher level of Christian life and mission.)
If your congregation is interested in applying for a New Faith Community Grant, please visit ctcumc.org/new-faith-communities-grant to complete the grant application. It is important that this application be developed by leadership of the congregation working with the pastor. Should you have questions about how to get started, please reach out to Rev. Meg Witmer-Faile, Associate Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission, and Church Growth. Meg can help your fine tune your grant ideas and develop a plan for a successful New Faith Community Launch.
Who are these grants for?
Sometimes we read or see an opportunity like this and we think, “Well, this doesn’t apply to my church.” YES! It does. Please begin praying with the people of your church and your pastor, start dreaming about how God wants to reach people in your community that you are not already reaching and then, apply.
I look forward to reading and hearing about your visions and most of all giving your congregation a little bit of financial support to make that happen.
Dr. Leah S. Hidde-Gregory
Executive Director of the Lamar Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth
Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church