June 30, 2014

By Fred Koenig

Pathways Partners is a vision that started in 2005 with the aim of providing resources for new churches and assisting churches in reaching the next generation of youth. In the last four years Pathways Partners has provided $600,000 that has helped to support 25 new church starts. 
    
The program is guided by Rev. Clayton Smith, Missouri Conference elder and executive pastor of generosity at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. He addressed the Conference by saying he first started coming to Annual Conference Session 42 years ago, and has served churches in a variety of ministry settings since then. 
    
Many congregations have members who have accumulated wealth over the course of their lives, and are at a point where they want to make financial gifts that will make a difference. If there isn’t a great need in their local churches, they may choose to make their gift to an institution like a university or hospital. If they were introduced to the Pathways Partners program, they may be excited to learn of an opportunity to be able to share their faith through their generosity. 
    
“Pathways Partners offers a compelling vision for United Methodism in Missouri, that it might not just survive, but thrive,” Smith said. Pathways Partners is focusing its resources on three key areas.

Planting New Congregations

This is one of the most effective ways to reach new people for Jesus Christ and to relate to younger generations. The Conference goal is to start three new congregations a year and in ten years see the growth and development of thirty churches that did not exist before. Pathways Partners wants to help with this goal.

Clergy Leadership Excellence

Pastor Leadership Development Groups (PLD), Catalyst Events, Small Church Initiative, and the Healthy Church Initiative are but some of the means being used to encourage leadership excellence in our clergy.

Reaching Young People

The Millennial generation will be the next dominant generation. Millennials are instantaneously connected to other students, friends, and parents in ways unknown to older generations. The way local churches interact and connect with Millennials is key to our present and future health and vibrancy.
    
Smith encouraged those attending Annual Conference Session to refer to pages 44 – 47 in Bishop Robert Schnase’s book, Seven Levers, for a more thorough explanation of how giving through Pathway Partners can make a real difference in the United Methodist Church in Missouri.