Jul 13, 2022 | By John W. Coleman

“You are to walk in every pathway that the Lord, your God, commanded you, so that life may go well for you.” (Deuteronomy 5:33, ISV)

The Eastern PA Conference’s new Leadership Development Manager, the Rev. Steve Morton, invites church leaders to five breakfast gatherings in their districts, from August 1 to Sept. 6, to discuss EPA’s new Pathways to Congregational Fruitfulness & Health. Morton will provide information and respond to questions about the groundbreaking congregational transformation initiative approved by EPA’s Annual Conference in May.

Pathways, set to launch in September, is a guided process in which congregations are invited to develop for themselves plans of revitalization or redirection appropriate to their own contexts. Five strategic paths are recommended for consideration with conference guidance and support, apart from a sixth option of disaffiliation for churches that wish to leave the conference and denomination.

The initial breakfast meetings with leaders will focus on the five strategic Pathways to Congregational Fruitfulness & Health, and the support EPA will offer through planning assistance, training and coaching. The five Pathways for ensuring future stability and vitality of churches are:

PATHWAY I: Growing a Vital Mission Congregation:
Enhancing worship; developing small groups; engaging with communities in mission; making new disciples; and increasing generosity to support ministry.

PATHWAY II: Ensuring Congregational Sustainability:
Understanding a congregation’s sustainability and how to develop and strengthen it long-term.

PATHWAY III: Walking A Path Towards Wholeness:
Training and planning to foster learning, understanding and action to end the sin of racism.

PATHWAY IV: Re-envisioning Space and Property Development:
Assessing a church’s property for future mission—for example, building expansion, converting space for community ministry, or selling property.

PATHWAY V: Conflict Resolution:
A facilitated process for congregations experiencing conflict about direction, mission, leadership or programming.

“While much of this initiative is still being worked out and will continue to evolve in the year ahead,“ said Morton, “church leaders should take advantage of this early opportunity to ponder the value of a 12-to-18 month-long discernment and development process.”

Morton emphasizes that participation in Pathways is invitational and optional; and it begins with careful, Holy Spirit-led discernment before any decisions are made.

“It is largely self-directed, involving a commitment from the local church to study, pray, and dream together,” he said. “It is not a hired expert coming in from the outside with a list of ‘here’s how to do it’ instructions.

“I also want churches to know that the trained coaches assigned to help them will be current EPA leaders who are successful pastors and hopefully some laity who have particular expertise,” Morton explained. “These are companions whom they may already know and who are committed to helping their churches develop plans for vitality. And they will walk alongside each church as its pathway is revealed.”

All breakfast meetings will begin at 9:00 AM, except for the South District breakfast meeting August 17, which will begin at 10 AM. 

Here is the Pathways district breakfast meetings schedule:

  • Monday, August 1 –  Shamokin: First UMC (North)
  • Tuesday, August 2 –  Lititz Family Cupboard (West)
  • Thursday, August 4 – Stroudsburg: Faith UMC (North)
  • Wednesday, August 17 – Willistown UMC (South)
  • Tuesday, September 6  – Jarrettown UMC (East)

Please let us know if you plan to attend…

…any of the Pathways district breakfast meetings with Steve Morton, so that the host church can prepare for your visit. Contact your District Resource Assistant: