Monday, October 30, 2006

Celebrating North Alabama's New Churches

My wife, Patsy, and I had a great day two Sundays ago at the Cove United Methodist Church in Huntsville. Less than eight years old, Cove UMC has nearly 700 members and is leading us in some amazing innovations in ministry. The North Alabama United Methodist Church should take pride in your creation of The Cove. This congregation was your idea, your risk, and your gift to the future. Congratulations.

Since Dick Freeman began leading us in Congregational Development, we have taken the lead in our Connection in starting new churches. From 1968 until now, we have chartered 27 new churches. Half of these churches were chartered since Dick began leading us in 1993. We’ve chartered 13 churches since 1993, and begun 19 more that will be chartered soon (it takes about 3 years for a church to be chartered). Our immediate goal is to begin a dozen new churches every year.

These young congregations are the engine that drives the growth of our Conference. They are younger and more racially and culturally diverse than our longer established churches. Although these new churches are only 2 % of our churches, they account for 16% of our worship attendees and 13 % of our professions of faith. The 25 newly chartered churches have a combined membership of nearly 15,000 Christians.

Establishing new churches is costly and risky. We’ve had three failures to establish along the way (a record of success that is four times better than the national average). I applaud this year’s Annual Conference for funding a million more dollars to support this mission. The Cabinet and I are attempting to raise commitments for another two million dollars. We are going to be more creative in leading and funding these efforts. I long for the day when every congregation will see itself as a partner in planting new churches.

Your church ought to celebrate the success that God has given us in these new churches. Your giving and risking was used well by the ever new Holy Spirit. Thanks for your willingness to follow a living, seeking God into a new future.

1 comment:

Erika Carney Haub said...

Congratulations on the births of these new churches. My husband and I are church-planters with the Evangelical Covenant Church, but my husband's mom is a minister in the UMC. One of the statistics my denomination likes to throw around is that churches that release members and resources to begin new congregations (something which can cause some measure of fear or insecurity for a congregation--to lose good leaders and givers!) are churches that themselves grow! I have seen this to be consistently true. May God richly bless your efforts!