Thursday, January 15, 2009

Church Plant Gathering
And we’re off…

We had our first information session and prayer gathering for the new church on January 13. It was a great opportunity to talk about the vision God has put before us, answer questions and continue praying for God to lead the way.
If you missed the meeting, but would like to be on the e-mail list to receive updates about the new church, please send your name and e-mail address to There will be additional meetings similar to the January 13 gathering in the months to come. Keep checking back for the time and date in March to get together and continue the conversation. In the meantime, questions and input are always welcome and appreciated.
I have included below a summary of our gathering on the 13th including all the questions that were asked and the answers that were given.

Clark (my husband) opened the gathering with prayer and then read from Acts 1:7-11 – “Jesus said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”
I love the question asked by the two men dressed in white – “why are you standing around gawking?” The implication is “go, stop standing around and get out of here, tell people what you’ve seen and heard.” And with that, the Holy Spirit comes over the whole gathering with incredible power and suddenly everyone is able to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in a language they can understand. From there the church is born and takes off like wildfire. We are called today to continue in that movement of the Spirit, going into all the world and speaking the good news in every way possible for people to hear it and understand.
And so…here we go. Bethany is going to plant a new church in the Ashley Ridge community. Like Bethany, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Unlike Bethany, the new church is going to be a simple church instead of a program church. Our hope is to share in excellent worship that gives glory to God, provide opportunities for all ages to grow in love and knowledge of God, and, finally, to send people back into the world to all the places where we live and work and play to live as people who belong to Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this church will be completely independent from Bethany. However, it is what’s called a mother-daughter church plant, which means the people at Bethany will do all they can to ensure the success of the new church, providing prayer, people, facilities and financial resources in the short term; and in the long term, as with any parent/child relationship, there will be a connection that is not about dependence, but rather partnership in the shared ministry of reaching out to people in the greater Summerville community.

Questions and Answers

1. Does a simple church mean worship only, or will there be Sunday School and other activities?
a. Yes, there will be venues for all ages in the form of small groups, children’s ministry and student ministry
b. Expect formation of some of the small groups between June and December 2009
2. What is the difference between Sunday School and small groups?
a. Sunday School classes are educational environments that are often larger than 8-10 people; whereas, small groups usually consist of 10 or fewer people who have the opportunity to grow together spiritually on a deeper level because of the intimacy and trust that is created in a smaller group.
3. Will this be a Sunday only church?
a. At the start worship will be Sunday only, but small groups will meet during the week.
4. Will Youth activities continue at Bethany?
a. Yes, one of the advantages of being a mother/daughter church plant is being able to share ministry, especially at the beginning while the new church is just getting started.
b. Students will be encouraged to be part of Bethany’s student ministry and also connect with other students at the new church via small groups geared toward their age and interests.
5. Will this be a United Methodist Church?
a. Yes
6. Is the long term goal to be an independent Methodist church?
a. Yes, the long term goal is to be an independent United Methodist Church.
b. As mentioned above, the nature of a mother/daughter plant is that there is a natural, long-term connection, which we hope will take the form of shared mission endeavors in the Summerville community
7. Can the Bishop move the minister?
a. Yes
b. The United Methodist Church as a whole is committed to planting churches successfully in the coming years. With that commitment is an understanding that successful church plants require careful selection of planting pastors and often longer relationships between the church and the pastor (i.e. most church plant pastors are expected to be at the plant for at least 5 years and often many more).
8. Will people transfer membership to the new church from Bethany?
a. Yes, but from a formal standpoint, membership is not something that becomes relevant until the new church charters, often 2-3 years after it begins.
9. What kind of committees will the new church be required to have?
a. NONE!!! (how cool is that?!) – until a church charters, committees are not a requirement.
b. There will be a leadership team formed in 2009 and other ministry teams will spring up naturally as the church progresses.
10. Is there a specific date set to start?
a. In June, planting the new church becomes my full time job
b. Between June and December, we will be honing the vision for the new church, starting small groups, building a relationship with the Ashley Ridge community, sharing in “preview worship services” and making plans for the launch.
c. The tentative launch for regularly, weekly worship services is January of 2010. However, the church could launch sooner based on interest and the momentum of the planning process.
11. Are we already locked into Ashley Ridge High School (others may be looking)?
a. We do not have a written contract with Ashley Ridge High School yet. There is a verbal acknowledgment that we are interested in them and they are interested in us. In other words, we’re currently first in line but hoping to make more concrete process in the coming weeks.
b. Please pray for this process and also let us know if you have any thoughts about alternate locations to consider.
12. How can people be involved in the new church?
a. We hope everyone at Bethany will be involved in some way. Some people will feel led to be pioneers who leave Bethany and make Ashley Ridge their church home. Others will be what we call seed worshippers. Seed worshippers can be individuals or families who decide to worship and participate in the new church for a limited amount of time (often 6 months to a year). Seed worshippers can also be Sunday School classes and other groups who commit to worshiping at the new church for a month here or there to help out and provide support. People can also be involved from Bethany by offering their gifts and time in various areas as the new church gets its feet on the ground.
b. Everyone can be involved by praying for the new church
c. Those who know they are going to be pioneers – be on the lookout for information coming soon about ways to get involved right now
13. If we want to start contributing to the new church, can that be done now, and if so how?
a. Yes! You can start contributing to the new church now by giving money to Bethany and designating it on the check or on an envelope as “New Church”
14. When the new church gets to the point of acquiring land and constructing buildings, who pays?
a. Church planting has undergone a revision in the last several years from a building first, people second mentality to a people first, building eventually mentality.
b. This means, it will be the people who form Ashley Ridge Church who make decisions in the future about what kind of land to buy, where to buy, what to build and how to pay for it.
15. Does Bethany have an obligation to help the church plant financially because of the mother/daughter relationship?
a. Yes, Bethany has committed to giving the new church a minimum of $375,000 over a 5-year period starting in 2009.
b. The new church will also receive funds from the South Carolina Annual Conference over the next five years in the amount of $375,000
c. Bethany and the conference will give more of their financial contribution in the beginning stages and less as the time goes on in the expectation that the money given by the people at the new church will grow over the five years and beyond.
16. Will Bethany see Jenn after June?
a. Yes, you can’t get rid of me that easily J
b. We are trying to find office space for me somewhere off the beaten path at Bethany. In addition, I will be present on occasion to preach and teach as we continue to involve the people at Bethany in the church plant.
17. Will Bethany maintain the Saturday night service?
a. When I was hired at Bethany four years ago, I was given the assignment to work with the church to create new worship opportunities at Bethany. Word and Table is one result of that work and it was created to exist at Bethany. Therefore, the intention is for Bethany to maintain the Saturday night.
b. However, the long-term existence of the Saturday night service will depend on the number of people interested and attending.
18. After June will Jenn continue to support the Saturday night service?
a. We are still talking about how much or how little I will be involved in the Saturday night service after June. I might be there once or twice a month, or I may be there less frequently.
19. Does this group feel the need to get together again?
a. (lots of heads nodding yes) We plan to have another gathering in March to talk about our progress and continue having an exchange of ideas and also sharing in a time of questions and answers. My hope is to make our March meeting around 5:30 or 6 in the evening with pizza.

Prayer Needs:
Wisdom and discernment in planning
Leadership Team
Honing the vision of the new church
Ashley Ridge community
Bethany United Methodist Church
Those who will go permanently to the new church
Those who will be seed worshippers
Those who will stay at Bethany and support the new church
New church location – Ashley Ridge High School?
Raising money
The Williams – Jenn, Clark and Jacob (who’s expected within the next four weeks!)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Big Year - Bigger God

So, in short, 2009 brings with it a new baby, a church plant, my ordination and, well, I hope not a whole lot more. Needless to say 2009 is going to be a big year for me and Clark. I'm a little scared (where I write "little" read "A LOT"), but incredibly excited. I feel like I'm sitting on the precipice of God doing some crazy things with my life and I can't wait to fall over the edge.

When big things happen, changes inevitably come. Lots of people are scared of change, but I think I thrive on it. Change provokes my passion. Change invites me out of ruts and change provides an opportunity for new habits and beginnings. Paul writes in Romans 12 that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, something that happens when we learn to give ourselves completely to God in worship. What strikes me about this today is that there are so many things that should lead me to worship God. No matter how big my year may look to me, think about how big God's everyday is - what He's doing in this world, what He's doing in each of our lives. Change is a sign of God's constant presence and work right in our midst.

And so, I'm ready to worship. Bring on the change. I'm looking for big things in 2009!