Tuesday, May 17, 2016

One Path Forward We Can Get Behind: An Alternative for Revitalization

As we continue at General Conference, there is an emerging possibility to do something meaningful to make disciples and revitalize our churches, and I am really excited about it. You may remember that this morning, the conference heard an amended petition from Financial Administration to carve out $20,000,000 for a Standing Committee on Strategy and Oversight, with little specific language listed as to who would be in charge of this fund. There were also significant questions as to the relationship of this fund to the rest of the church, such that the amendment was referred to the Judicial Council this morning.

There's a path forward I am excited about, one that recognizes the very real need for revitalization of our churches in the United States, but that does not involve unbridled, independent authority (nor does it require approval from the Judicial Council). Eight years ago, Path One was tasked by the General Conference to spearhead a movement of planting new churches across the connection. Eight years and over 1,100 churches later (!), it's time for a parallel movement of revitalization.

My friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Phil Schroeder has worked with Directors of Congregational Development across the connection (including Amy Wagner of Western Pennsylvania, Mark Ogren of Virginia, Amy Shanholtzer of West Virginia, and others) to craft a substitute amendment which will create a $10,000,000 fund to this effect, under the auspices of Discipleship Ministries and with diverse stakeholders and entrepreneurial church leaders. Called Path Two, this work area would focus on existing congregations, helping us reach new people who need Jesus, while acknowledging the vital gift of our existing churches. The legislation is below. You will note that it reduces the line item from $20,000,000 to $10,000,000 and adds important oversight, while acknowledging the very real need for revitalization of our churches in the United States.

As someone who has been involved in existing congregational development, and who takes seriously the call to make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I am excited about doing something this General Conference with real possibility for making new disciples. Let's do something meaningful this week! Keep an eye out for this substitute legislation.

Standing Committee on Strategy and Growth Path Two: Path to Revitalization
During the 2017-2020 quadrennium, there shall be a Standing Committee on Strategy and Growth work area called Path Two, directly responsible to the General Conference General Board of Discipleship. Membership of the Committee Path Two is to represent the best among diversity of the entrepreneurs entrepreneurial leaders of local church revitalization. Its purpose is to develop and implement a strategy to first slow the decline in worship attendance and professions of faith, and then to return them to positive growth within the jurisdictional conferences.
The strategy’s target is to arrest and reverse the decline by the end of 2024. The fruits from the work of the Committee Path Two during the 2017-2020 quadrennium goal must be sufficient to make the reverse and of this decline by 2024 possible. This achievement also depends upon successful deployment of strategies among the agencies and the annual conferences. The work of the Committee Path Two is to be incremental supplemental to the host of programs in place that those to be developed among the annual conferences and the program agencies. The Committee offers to the denomination an avenue by which entrepreneurs will have the platform for refinement of their programs and the funding to expand their collective works to a national scale. Such refinements and scale would be impossible without the platform and fFunding of the Committee Path Two will be established by carving out $20M $10M of the World Service Fund for said funding.

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