Dec 02, 2015

Many Eastern PA Conference church leaders are showing they are serious about developing congregations by their attendance at recent church-growth events. The hope now is that the seeds of their learning will be planted to bear fruit, “fruit that will last.” (John 15:15)

The conference Congregational Development Team (CDT) frequently promotes education about two fertile paths to success: MissionInsite, a proven community demographic and lifestyle information tool for church planning, and PATH 1, a UM Discipleship Ministries’ training and resourcing initiative for planting and developing new churches.

CDT brought MissionInSite maestro Peter Wernet here several times over the past year to explain the nuts and bolts of how this valuable research tool works. But author, consultant and ministry coach Tom Bandy came to town Oct. 5-6 to show district and church leaders, in four presentations, what it really can do for a church that wants to “See, Know and Serve” (his theme) its local mission field most effectively.

MissionInSite is constantly sharpening its focus on needs and preferences of local communities that churches are called to serve. Indeed, Bandy stresses that the objective of knowing and serving is not to attract people to church but to bless them by meeting their precise needs and interests…which ultimately may attract them as well.

One pastor, for example, testifies that his church was promoting ministries to senior adults because of those living in a nearby retirement home. But MissionInSite showed the church a growing underserved population of young singles moving into its neighborhood, a discovery that prompted new ministries and marketing materials to reach–and bless–those neighbors as well.

CDT and Discipleship Ministries also cosponsored PATH 1 Launchpad, the annual, three-day training event for Northeastern Jurisdiction clergy and lay church planters–actual and aspiring. They gathered in August at Iglesia Metodista Unida Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth UMC) in Lebanon. Attendees developed short-term ministry plans and prepared to explore the initial steps of a new church plant: Discerning, Visioning, Gathering, Discipling and Worshiping.

Paul Nixon and Samuel Rodríguez, two PATH 1 church-planting strategists and coaches, led the training. Rodríguez, who works especially with Latino/Hispanic communities, taught Latino students (shown here) in Spanish.

Only 4 Things Grow Churches

And finally, St. Matthew’s UMC of Valley Forge hosted another renowned expert in church growth and transformation, Bill Easum, who taught a full-day seminar for 31 people titled “Only 4 Things Grow Churches.” The Central District cosponsored his visit with St. Matthew’s pastor, the Rev. Lillian Smith.

Being relevant and responsive has never been more crucial for churches than it is today. And Bandy points out the choices are no longer just whether to offer traditional, contemporary or blended worship. Now MissionInSite identifies 71 different lifestyle segments, each with typical dynamics and expectations that call for a wider variety of offerings in worship as well as pastoral leadership style, hospitality, mission and discipleship programs.

CDT subscribes to MissionInSite and makes it available at no cost to help every church learn about its community’s needs and spur congregational growth. You can access it through the conference Website at

“Every congregation has access to this incredible research engine,” said the Rev. Gordon Henderson, Coordinator of Congregational Development. “This tool helps you understand and empathize with people who live and work around your church, so you can customize relevant ministries to bless them in the name of Christ.”

  • Top photo: Path 1 Launchpad event. Samuel Rodriguez photo
  • 2nd Photo: “Only 4 Things Grow Churches” event. John Coleman photo