In an interview conducted via email, Tom Eblen, director of New Church & Congregational Development (NCCD) for the Kentucky Annual Conference, talked about the process of planting a new church. Excerpts from the interview follow.
The process of planting a new church has multiple avenues. A church in our conference may decide to multiply itself by being starting a “mother-daughter” church launch. A local church may identify an area where there is a need for ministry and send forth a group of members from the “mother ship” so to speak to start it. A mother church also provides financial support for the first years of ministry. St. Paul UMC is serving as an “anchor-church” for Revolution. They are sending members to help Brian Ebel, and some of them may return to St. Paul after the launch is completed. A local church may also choose to develop a multi-site ministry. This would involve duplicating itself at another location, but all the ministries at the different site or sites would remain a part of the launching church. First UMC Lexington has a multi-site at Andover. The theme “One Church, Two Locations” is often echoed. The same goes for Broadway, Bowling Green, which launched a multi-site at Greenwood. References are made to Broadway UMC, Greenwood Campus.
Our annual conference initiates church planting by reviewing demographics of Kentucky and exploring where new churches need to be planted. Our NCCD staff, and myself specifically, work with Bishop Davis and the cabinet to explore these sites. We have a list of some 30 potential sites for new churches in our conference. Our cabinet regularly reviews that list and decides next steps and new locations for church plantings. The District Superintendent is the primary staff for church planting, and NCCD serves as a resource to Bishop Davis and the cabinet. Our new MissionInsite demographic resource is tremendously helpful in exploring population patterns. For instance, we have had our eyes on Boone County for several years as demographic trends indicate major population growth in the next ten years. We have four United Methodist Churches in Boone County and two of them are in serious decline—in a major growth area. So this year Matt Johnson was appointed as a church planter in the Hebron area. The Covington District Superintendent, Kevin Burney, and the Covington District Leadership Team have set a goal of planting three new churches this quadrennium, and Hebron is the first launch. As NCCD Director, I have worked closely with Rev. Burney and the Covington DLT in this effort.
While sites for church planting are developed, church planters are being recruited, assessed, and trained. As support for new sites is developed, church planters need to be available for appointment. So we are processing both the new site and the planter simultaneously. Our goal is to have a pool of church planters assessed and trained and ready to be deployed and appointed as new sites become available.
NCCD develops a covenant with the new church starts and the church planters. With Revolution and with Hebron, the pastor’s compensation package is provided through our NCCD portion of the conference budget. This is a three-year commitment that’s renewed annually, pending satisfactory progress toward mutually agreed upon benchmarks. Regular team meetings are held with the DS, the planter’s coach, the planter, and myself as NCCD Director.
The DS is the immediate supervisor of the new church plant and the planter, with myself serving as a resource person. So I will be visiting Revolution on a regular basis and offering support and encouragement to the planter.
It is our hope and prayer that the ministries of Revolution and also Hebron reach out and touch countless lives for Christ and bring new disciples into God’s Kingdom. Young adults in particular are searching for community and relationship and meaning in life. These new ministries are an effort to “do church differently” and in a way that will involve a population group that has not been reached by mainstream denominations, and the United Methodist Church in particular.