Who Are You Giving the Church To?


Director of Congregational Excellence Rev. Mark Sheets started his report by recalling being asked at a conference who gave him the church, meaning who introduced him to Jesus, invited him to belong and treated him as important. The next question was more complex: Who are you giving the church to? 

“This insinuates that once justified by faith in Christ, my focus needs to change from me to others for the remainder of my faith life through sanctification,” Sheets said. “I think it’s the question God has asked us to wrestle with as church leaders and pastors. How would you answer it? Who are you giving your church away to?” 

There are two ways the Center for Congregational Excellence wants to encourage you to give your church away to others: 

  1. To plant new places for new people 
  2. Revitalize existing places 

One way Congregational Excellence encourages people to explore new places for new people by offering grants in five different categories twice a year, with application deadlines of April 1 and October 1. 

Another way is a new church starts. The Missouri Conference currently has five new churches started under the grant. 

  1. Rev. Danny Lybarger launched a radically inclusive community called The Well in December 2021. Although they have had an adventure finding permanent space, they have a dedicated group of about 100 following them to each new location. They are located in the O’Fallon/St. Peters area. 
  2. Rev. Freddy Tames came to the U.S. from Cuba and, in two short months, launched Christ Church en Español last February, which now has over 120 people in worship. They worship at Christ Church in Independence, and the two congregations do some ministries together. 
  3. Last fall, Central UMC in Kansas City worshipped for the last time, and by 

December Resurrection-Brookside started worship as a campus of the Church of the Resurrection with 562 people at their launch. They average a bit over 350 weekly under the leadership of Rev. Wendy Chrostek. 

4. About six weeks ago, Rev. Amie Martin started 80Twenty as a Sunday night dinner church in O’Fallon with over 150 people. They’ve renovated a portion of their space to rent out as offices during the week, helping to offset some of their overhead and allowing them to be more generous towards mission work in their community. 

5. Less than six weeks ago, Rev. Kevin McNeely relocated from the El Dorado campus of Grace (Lee’s Summit) to the northwest area in Joplin to plant a new church. Kevin McNeely and Rev. Jeremy Vickers (the lead pastor at Grace) are committed to following the Holy Spirit for the future of this Joplin plant – whether it stays tethered to Grace or eventually spins off into its own church. 

Starting July 1, Rev. Mike Randle will begin planting a church in Springfield, and Rev. Jennifer Long will begin a new plant in Cape Girardeau. More new starts are in the works.

“I’ve been in contact with other pastors for potential projects in Lee’s Summit, Grain Valley, Columbia and Kansas City in the fall of this year or 2024,” Sheets said. 

This fall, Congregational Excellence will be offering Church Planting Intensive — a multi-day training event for those in the pre-plant phase or for those discerning whether planting is for them. Registration closes in late July.

Dream Lab is a new 24-hour getaway at the Lodge of Four Seasons at the Lake of the Ozarks from August 24-25. This is a brainstorming dialogue event for a pastor and some folks from their church to dream about where God is leading them next. 

“You’ll sit at a table with your church team and hopefully leave with a concrete vision for your next chapter of ministry,” Sheets said. 

In September, Congregational Excellence is teaming up with the Center for Leadership Excellence to offer a monthly, one-day workshop series in Columbia called JumpStart. Each workshop will attempt to reimagine a ministry essential in a post-COVID world where “doing the ministry the way we did before” just doesn’t seem to work. Each workshop will offer three questions that will each be answered by a different speaker. For example, if “evangelism” is the focus, the three questions that could be addressed: 

  1. How can my church become more invitational? 
  2. How do we form relationships/connections with the community? 
  3. How can we connect our church with children and youth in the community? 

The goal will be after each speaker is finished, they will stop by the studio at the conference office and distill their portion down into a 20-minute podcast so that those who can’t make it in person will have access to a bevy of online resources over time. This process will take place through April. 

“Dream Lab is 24 hours, and JumpStart is a seven-month workshop series of one-hit wonders, but we also have a 12-month cohort option for revitalization,” Sheets said. “This is more involved and needs higher buy-in at the church level. It approaches the idea of rebuilding or revitalizing the local church by assuming that the experts for your church are already there.”

This cohort is a lay/clergy working together type of ministry. Each cohort will have up to eight churches. Each participating church will have a pastor and up to eight laity (or some staff) on their team. A monthly Zoom between all eight churches and the facilitator is followed by a lay/clergy coaching team assigned to each church that will help them discern how to apply the material and what their next steps will be. This cohort is for churches interested in systemic change that feel stuck. 

People interested in learning more about opportunities available through Congregational Excellence should contact Brittany McIntyre at bmcintyre@moumethodist.org or visit www.moumethodist.org/congregational-excellence.