The Eastern PA Conference will welcome actual and aspiring church planters to a regional training and support event this weekend, August 21-23. Iglesia Metodista Unida Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth UMC) in Lebanon, PA , the host church for this year’s annual Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) Path 1 Launchpad event, was aptly chosen, if not for its name then for its own exemplary success as a new church start birthed in 1992.
The three-day training event–from Friday at 1 PM to Sunday afternoon–will guide church planters and their teams in sketching out ministry plans for the next nine months. They will explore the first five (of seven) “seasons” of a new church plant: Discerning, Visioning, Gathering, Discipling and Worshiping.
Topics will include:
Paul Nixon and Samuel Rodríguez, two church-planting strategists from UM Discipleship Ministries’ (GBOD) Path 1 initiative, will lead the training. Nixon, a strategist for the NEJ, has authored seven books and planted two, large membership Florida church campuses. He is a church-planting coach, consultant and instructor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Rodríguez, of El Paso, Texas, is a foremost national expert on church planting in Latino/Hispanic and multicultural communities and leads Path 1’s Lay Missionary Planting Network.
Rodríguez will lead a Latino/Hispanic component of Launchpad in Spanish. Host-church Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth) UMC, with 188 members and over 350 weekly worshipers, is the largest Latino church in the jurisdiction. It was awarded the UM Discipleship Ministries new One Matters Discipleship Award, presented to the Rev. Elena Ortiz, senior pastor, and her leadership team at Annual Conference in May. The church is a model of nurturing disciples through leadership development, mentoring new members (more than 30 by profession of faith this year so far) and starting house churches.
“We’re excited that many of our Latino church leaders will network at this event with others from around this region, as we learn more about church planting in Latino communities,” said Esdras Seda, Conference Coordinator of Latino Ministries.
Creating “new places for new people” is one of the four current mission foci of the denomination, and planting new churches and faith communities is crucial to that growth-oriented mission. Regional Launchpad events offer culturally and contextually relevant settings and instruction to help participants shape their plans and hone their skills in ways that will relate best to their communities.
Launchpad events are less rigorous than typical church planting “bootcamps” and more focused on a few critical areas. Also, the church plant leader may bring a spouse at no additional charge, recognizing the critical role a spouse plays in that venture.
Optional, yearlong group-coaching is offered to all participants who have not yet contracted individually with a planting coach, at a fraction of the typical cost.
Church plant leaders can also gather up to a dozen persons from their emerging launch teams to share in a web-based seminar and team retreat January 29-30, 2016, linked with other planting teams from across the country. Planters and their team members will work on visioning and planning together, with leadership from the national Path 1 staff. They will gather in their local communities during this mid-year distance-learning retreat, a benefit not typically offered in church planter training programs.
“Launchpad is a great learning experience for those who are starting new churches and even those who are looking at starting a new church alongside their existing congregation,” said the Rev. Gordon Hendrickson, Conference Coordinator of Congregational Development. “Many churches that are not growing need pastors who are trained and willing to create new faith communities or new church-starts with the help of members and non-members who want something new and have a vision to grow. Launchpad can provide that training and help stimulate that desire.”
By John Coleman
Eastern PA Conference Communications Director
Top Photo: The Rev. Elena Ortiz (third from left), pastor of Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth) UMC receives Discipleship Ministries’ One Matters Award for church growth, during Annual Conference in May. Rev. James Mundell photo