Where can you engage and talk with the pastors of some of the largest and most innovative United Methodist ministries in the United States? Right here in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Pastors involved in the High Potential Church Initiative do so at just about every meeting and have discussed topics including multi-site ministries, urban ministries, evangelism, and more.
Since January 2009, pastors participating in this effort have talked leaders from across the country including Rev. Jeff Greenway, Pastor, Reynoldsburg UMC, Reynoldsburg, OH; Rev. Steve Cordle, Pastor, Crossroads UMC, Oakdale, PA (small group/multi-site); Bishop Dick Wills, Nashville Area & Author of Waking to God’s Dream; Rev. Rudy Rasmus, Co-Pastor, St. John’s Downtown, Houston, Author of Touch; Rev. Kevin Smalls, Pastor, Queens Chapel UMC, Beltsville, MD; and Rev. Jorge Acevedo, Pastor, Grace UMC (Cape Coral and Ft. Myers, FL), recognized by the Foundation for Evangelism.
The High Potential Church Initiative is an Annual Conference resourcing effort of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Office of Congregational Transformation, Rev. Lillian Smith, executive director.
In January 2009, High Potential Churches, either in their first or second year of this initiative, began meeting monthly with Rev. Vance P. Ross, Deputy General Secretary, General Board of Discipleship. Every session focused on loving God, leading, and learning. Since January 2009, the clergy and laity have participated in intentional and on-going leadership and spiritual development through face-to-face and web-cast or conference calls.
Clergy sessions included book discussions, mutual accountability related to discipleship, and conversations with innovative United Methodist Pastors in the United States. During those sessions, EPA pastors were encouraged to ask questions to learn from the experiences of those innovative leaders and they engaged in presentations on : The Mission of the Church as the Primary Task, How to Design a Missional Culture, Pastor as Key Spiritual Leader of the Congregation, and Elements to Congregational Strategic Planning.
Additionally, teams of lay and clergy leaders from the participating congregations received stipends to attend either the School for Congregational Development or the Change the World Conference. These stipends were made possible by connectional giving (apportionments).
In January 2009, the participating churches began a twelve-month effort to achieve the following overall goals:
Pastors reported on the progression toward their goals. According to Rev. John Bhajjan, pastor of Bethel Hill UMC, “We have a 10-15% increase in our worship attendance. I received 20 new members in the past three Sundays. Praise God! There has been 10-15% increase in small group ministry: a small group Bible study; a young adult group called “IN BETWEENERS”; and a small group for Lay Speaking and Christ Servant Ministers. Thirdly, we have one member who finished the Christ Minister certification program and has been registered for the certified Lay Speaking minister’s program.”
Rev. Herbert Coe, pastor of St. Daniel’s UMC reported significant growth in persons involved in ministry. “We have engaged 16 Christ Servant Ministers into respective areas of ministry in the local church and community,” he said. “In addition, we have recruited and trained at least six small group facilitators and several laypersons have started or are leading new ministries. We have far exceeded the goal.”
At Calvary UMC in Easton, Rev. Tom Robinson reported growing from 11 small group ministries in 2008 to 18 in 2009, an increase in 64%.
At Iglesia Metodista Unida Nuevo Nacimiento in Lebanon, Rev. Elena Ortiz saw an increase in worship attendance: “At the beginning of 2009 the church had an average worship attendance of 190. By the end of November, the average worship increased to 275, a 44.74% increase. To God be the glory! I believe that this increase was influenced related to our hospitality, worship style and rhythm, the Word of God brought to life through the Sacred Arts of drama, dance, pantomime, and the participation of different age groups in the services.”
For more information: Rev. Lillian Smith, Executive Director, Congregational Transformation/Director of Connectional Ministries, 610-666-9090, ext. 230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.