Congregational Development and Transformation
Like all of the churches in our Conference, 2019-2020 has been a year of adaptation for the Office of Congregational Development and Transformation. We continue to adjust as we seek to resource and support our existing churches and develop new churches throughout the Conference during this time of great change and challenge.
We had the privilege of working with 20+ existing churches and 6 new church plants of various models and in differing stages of church planting. With the Church Transformation Process, we have helped churches assess their current reality and discern plans for their preferred future. We have provided resources and accountability to help churches implement their plans for fruitfulness and effectiveness. This year, the Church Transformation Process began to focus more on churches worshipping under 100, while still continuing to help mid to larger size churches. New church start projects have developed exciting ways of faithfully engaging their mission fields and several of them have launched this year. There are also new church plants in the pipeline that will get started soon. Our office has also hosted a workshop with the Black Church Vitality Taskforce to help our African-American churches experience increased growth and vitality and we continue to further develop resources to support the ministry of these congregations. Finally, our work continues to expand as we have launched a new initiative to resource our churches to reach more new people for Jesus Christ. This initiative, called NP2 (New Places for New People), will help existing churches create unique, fresh ways to reach people who might not engage within a conventional church setting. It is our desire to continue to innovate, offer resources, and come alongside our local churches and districts to help fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The Church Transformation Process
As we announced last year, in 2019 our office worked with 20 churches of various sizes. We are still continuing to work with some of these congregations and we have added on more churches since the fall of 2019. In 2019, we launched a new Church Transformation Process specifically geared toward churches worshiping between 30 and100. We consulted with 13 of these churches with 9 congregations proceeding into the process. These churches are Maplewood-Sulphur, St Paul Monroe, FUMC Oak Grove, Newman Alexandria, Northwood Lafayette, Louisiana Memorial Opelousas, FUMC Covington, Clinton UMC, and FUMC Ponchatoula.
Additionally, churches worshiping over 100 who have also entered the process this year include St. Charles, Aldersgate, and Jefferson.
While the Transformation Process for churches worshiping less than 100 and those worshiping over 100 differs slightly in methodology, these congregations all engage in the Process through:
Leadership Development and Self Study
The pastor and key lay leaders from the church attend learning sessions to receive an orientation to the process, gain increased understanding of the need for adaptive change, and learn best practices to begin moving the congregation toward greater effectiveness and fruitfulness. Additionally, leaders will increase their awareness of the current reality of their congregation and their community through a self-study process.
Consultation and Implementation
During this phase, trained team members carefully review the self-study materials provided by the church. They then spend time interviewing church leaders and offering an all-church workshop during which even more information and feedback is received from the congregation. At the end of this process, based on the self-study submitted by the church, the interviews, and the all-church workshop, our team will work with church leaders to discern the congregation’s top strengths and concerns. Together with an assigned coach, they will develop Ministry Action Plans specific to each church’s needs and context. Then, over the next 12- 18 months, the pastor and church leadership will work with their coach to help the church move forward into its preferred future.
This updated Process can now be offered in-person (when allowed), as a hybrid onsite/online model, or completely online - whatever best meet the needs of your church in this challenging time. Entering the Transformation Process requires both a recommendation from the District Superintendent and a vote by the Church Council.
Please contact the Church Transformation Office at Transformation@la-umc.org for more info.
Black Church Vitality
The Black Church Vitality Task Force was formed to empower and grow the African-American Churches in our Conference. Through the efforts of this group, we have had four workshops specifically geared to African American Churches.
In September 2019, Rev. William Chaney of Chaney Consultant Group, led Leadership Development in the African American Context at Newman UMC, Alexandria. There we learned new leadership skills to reach emerging African American Communities, how to develop effective ministry teams, and envision new possibilities to refocus the church. Looking ahead, we are partnering with The Mississippi Annual Conference for The Black Church Convocation in the New Orleans area in 2022. Be on the lookout for more information about this exciting opportunity.
Upon the appointment change of the Director of the Southern University Wesley Foundation, the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (CBHECM) invited our office to come in and do an assessment of the ministry and potential moving forward. We performed an assessment by interviewing students, board members, and interim directors about what has been happening at the Southern Wesley and what they would like to see. Once the assessment and recommendations were made and accepted by CBHECM, a partnership was formed with CBHECM and the Office of Congregational Development and Transformation to create a new model for ministry to the Southern University Campus.
We are excited to share the vision for a new model of church to reach this college campus and the surrounding area. The current campus ministry facility at Southern University (SUBR) will be transformed into a dynamic hub of ministry and will serve as the location for a New Church Plant to reach students of SUBR and young professionals in Baton Rouge! There is a great opportunity to develop a dynamic worship experience on campus. Additionally, plans include a 3rd space for students as well as a means to support the financial sustainability of the ministry. And finally, this exciting new ministry will serve as a Ministry Internship Incubator that would raise up new, young, African American leaders as well as equip and empower African American Churches in the Louisiana Conference. Plans are underway to appoint a Church Planter and renovate the building. We welcome your support of this innovative endeavor.
New Church Development
God is doing some amazing things in Louisiana through new church projects! This past year has been a year of fertilizing the ground for planting new churches and we are excited to announce many of them were able to launch this year, even in the midst of COVID! The new Churches launching this year are Embrace and Mid City. We also have The Bridge, an extension campus of University UMC, Lake Charles that has already began reaching new people in innovative ways. We are also excited about the brand-new endeavor to start a church on Southern Campus in Baton Rouge in partnership with CBHECM, to begin to reach the mission field of the college students and the young professionals of the surrounding area. All of the planters work closely with their assigned coaches, are trained by our office, and are held accountable to meet their benchmarks. We will continue to equip and train our planters and partnering churches, and continue to recruit new planters and scout the right mission fields for them so that new churches can be launched successfully - growing and multiplying to make new disciples of Jesus Christ!
Here is a summary in the words of the pastors leading those efforts:
Embrace, Shreveport District - Rev. Klay Harrison
Embrace is living into our calling and happy to have launched weekly worship in January 2020. Jesus has blessed us on the journey this year as new people engage weekly with Embrace’s ministries. Small groups, worship, fun events, local mission events, meet-your-neighbor events, events at the park, events in neighborhoods…and just about any other reason to host an event…digital or physical (socially distanced, of course). These are just some of the ways Embrace is bringing people together around Jesus and the mission. Embrace is now in the busy season of Launch where we are constantly innovating and being courageous to reach our goals and forward the mission. Looking forward to the rest of 2020 and into 2021, Embrace is excited to reach new people and develop E3 Jesus Followers, who Embrace Jesus, Embrace People, and Embrace Church. Learn more at www.EmbraceYourParish.org and join us at mission partners in Haughton, Louisiana.
The Table at Blackwater UMC, Baton Rouge District - Rev. Angela Roberson
What a tremendous first year we have had at The Table! We have celebrated 12 baptisms, 3 professions of faith, and lives changed through opportunities to serve and grow in relationship with Jesus and with our faith community. Prior to COVID, we had an average of 70 people in church each week with 60% of those people serving regularly on Sunday teams and outreach events. We continue to increase our group participation with the rate of new involvement this semester increasing by 30% of our average Sunday attendance. It has been an adventure of a lifetime and we have been amazed to witness God at work in the lives of our community. As we look toward our second year of making an impact where we live, work, and play, our goal is to increase our missional engagement in neighborhoods where our people reside. We envision The Table being a place where neighborhoods in Central look and live differently because our people are in their midst.
Mid-City Church, Campus of First UMC, BR, Baton Rouge District – Rev. Fernie Rivera
Mid-City Church, originally scheduled to launch physically in the spring of 2020 at Bernard Terrace Elementary School, instead launched digitally. During the spring of 2019, after months of engaging with the Mid City community of Baton Rouge, our team identified our mission of empowering people to find life and person in Jesus by gathering in worship, growing in small groups, and giving our lives in service. By the fall of 2019, we had launched 6 small groups reaching a total of 50 new people and served with various organizations such as Famine Is The Enemy and Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. By the spring of 2020 we launched our Charity Trivia Nights in which teams compete for a chance to win money for their favorite local charity. Today, Mid City Church continues to connect with their mission field with a “church without walls” mentality…digitally and physically.
The Bridge, Campus of University UMC, Lake Charles District - Rev. Chris Hyde
The Bridge is a fresh expression of worship and connection growing on the east side of Lake Charles. Prior to COVID, the church has begun to have small groups that meet throughout the city a various location reaching those that aren’t connected to a faith community. We have begun to have monthly events to show our presence at the facility that was graciously given to the church by the conference and renovated by our main campus church, University UMC. The facility is currently being used as a multi-use space that hosts everything from some of the small group gatherings to a weekly yoga class to art classes on Fridays. Every “thing” that is held within the facility is a point of contact for the community. The launch team is working diligently in this pre-launch season to embrace a DNA of outwardly focused, mission-oriented connection with all who we encounter. Our primary form of contact with the community is through our small group connections and invitations to connect with a church that reaches out into the community rather than insulates itself from the world.
Foundry, Monroe District, Rev. Chad Brooks
Foundry has had a busy year of ministry. We chartered this year with 152 people. By Annual Conference 2020 we will be nearing completion of our first worship facility in Sterlington, La. Since beginning worship nearly 5 years ago, we have seen the faithfulness of Jesus in our ministry with over 100 active kids a year in our children’s ministry, a feeding ministry with multiple activities across Ouachita Parish, and the ability to bring the presence of Christ into multiple places across Sterlington and Monroe through events, pop-in worship services, and partnering with other organizations in our community to create spaces for people to experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
We are excited about this new year and the ministry changes it will bring to us being in a permanent worship space for the first time. We are continuing to both ask the question and rise to the challenge of what it means to create and be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
We are thankful for the support of the Louisiana Conference of the UMC for the many ways it has supported us over the past 5 years, and we are excited to be a chartered church as part of this connection together.
Action Empowerment Inc. (7th Ward), New Orleans District – Rev. Joe Connelley
This year we were accepted as a new participant in GBGM’s Community Developers program. Action also became a part of Toshiba and Brother Corporations Training arms for copier repair technician jobs. We can provide individuals with the opportunity to become certified as technicians and be hired into average salary jobs starting at $31.00 per hour. In addition, in June, we started our program for 6th thru 8th graders called Daughters of Destiny and Sons of Distinction as a summer outreach.
New Places for New People (NP2)
New Places for New People (NP2) takes us outside our church buildings and into the community in fresh, innovative ways to reach new people in new places in new ways. This might be a gathering of people in a gym, coffee shop, park, or even at the river with worship and faith development components. NP2 projects are anchored to existing churches, connecting churches with people who would never enter the church building on a Sunday morning.
In 2019, we trained over 100 clergy and laity across the state on how to reach New People in New Places. We also offered grants through our “Shark Tank Pitch Program” that allowed churches to pitch their idea for an NP2 in hopes of getting funded. We are pleased to announce that three projects were selected for funding. Elton UMC’s 5th Quarter Church - a gathering for middle and high school community students and parents, Mallalieu UMC’s On Main Street - a Community Dinner Church in the heart of St. Martinville, and Aldersgate UMC’s Dungeons and Dragons Church - a church for gamers. Each church is developing their idea and connecting through a coaching cohort to reach their mission field effectively. Our hope is to continue this movement of God throughout the Louisiana Conference.
A huge win, even in the midst of the pandemic is Dinner Church. Dinner Church is a meal that is explicitly sacramental in nature. The meal is a celebration of communion and is framed with a Eucharistic prayer. By celebrating the Eucharist at an ordinary table through an ordinary meal, we encounter Christ as present in all the ordinary places in our lives, not just those marked as “holy.” Broadmoor UMC’s Red Stick Together began as a Dinner Church serving an average of 70 people per week. During the early stages of the pandemic, they pivoted and began serving an average of 300 people per week through Drive-Thru Dinner Church. This allowed them to reach even more people in their context and are dreaming of launching a new Drive-Thru Dinner Church location soon.
If your church is interested in this, or any of our programs, please contact the office of Congregational Development and Transformation (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rev. Dr. Gloria Fowler, Rev. Sam Hubbard, Serena Eckert, Rhonda Whitley
Office of Congregational Development and Transformation Team