By Fred Koenig
Director of Congregational Excellence Roger Ross has now had a year to survey what’s going on in his area in Missouri. He liked what he saw. Now he wants to multiply it.
Ross visited all new church projects and was impressed with the innovative ways churches are reaching new people. Lost people are being found, children are experiencing God’s love, lonely people are finding community, poor people are being served and justice is being sought in these communities. He would like to see more of it.
“The best way to start more churches is to partner with existing churches,” Ross said. “You know who starts new churches the best? Churches do.”
In the last 10 years, 40 new churches were initiated and 10 remain. The fruit produced by those 10 is impressive but is still not enough to keep up with the overall decline in existing churches. This year seven new projects are planned.
“To reach our growing population, we want to multiply new churches and sites from three or four a year to 12 or 15 a year,” Ross said. “How many of our current churches can reproduce themselves?”
Rather than growing through addition, which he compared to planting more trees in an orchard, Ross said we need to plant new orchards to multiply. There are currently 30 people in the Missouri Conference participating in an intensive Planting Academy for people who want to launch new ministries. The next academy will start in February 2019.
Ross said he recognizes that there is a lot of talent in the Missouri Conference, and that may be part of the problem. People may be trying to do too much on their own.
“We are never going to try to see the breakthroughs we hope for just with good strategy and hard work,” he said. “Prayer changes things. What we pray matters.”
Ross initiated a Congregational Excellence Prayer Team. There are currently 528 people who have agreed to pray every day for the grace needed to start new churches and transform existing churches in Missouri. Each month Ross emails a prayer update to provide some teaching on prayer, report on how God is answering their prayers and offer some specific prayer points for the coming month. Anyone may participate in this team. To sign up, go to www.moumethodist.org/stayconnected, and select Congregational Excellence Prayer Team.
“What if we had more than 1,000 people praying every day that Jesus would help us multiply his kingdom?” Ross asked.
New people show up in disproportionately higher numbers in new places, Ross noted. He broke down new places into five categories, and said they should include at least one new person who has not been involved in any church for at least a year.
1. Small Groups – Three to 12 people gathering at least twice a month around the know, care, grow and share model
2. Recovery Ministry – Helping people recover from addictions
3. Missional Community – A group connecting with unchurched people in the neighborhood
4. New Worship Service – At least 15 people at least twice a month who are not currently involved in a worshiping community
5. New Church/Multisite – A new stand-alone body of believers or a new site of an existing congregation create to reach new people
There were about 800 new places in the Missouri Conference last year. Ross would like to see that grow to 1,200 in the coming year. His miracle goal is to see it expand to 1,600.
He closed by reminding all of those gathered that no matter what size of church they attend, even if they “are just hanging on,” any church can create a new place for new people.