September 01, 2022 | by Admin
On August 21st-23rd the current Church Planting Academy cohort convened to apply the principles of design thinking to different opportunities for new ministries in their communities and beyond.
Dr. Mary Cheng, Director of Leadership Development for our conference and Rev. Sam Blewis, a current church planter and former Academy participant designed a process that led the group through interactive exercises that culminated in small scale project prototypes with outcomes and a timeline to test their assumptions and refine their visions. Each gave a 3-minute elevator pitch describing the project.
Mary shared, "God is in the business of doing something new and calling us to join in the joy and labor of co-creation. It was a privilege to hear participants share their dreamings of new ministries to reach new people and see possibilities and pens are put to paper, and generous feedback is given and received.”
Co-facilitator Rev. Sam said, "It was energizing to collaborate on ways we might do things differently. I loved taking time to talk through ways to connect with people who aren't connected to the church."
The Church Planting Academy helps develop and hone church planting and congregational vitality skills. It is the first step in a 3 step strategy adopted by the conference congregational development office: preparing people, cultivating resources and aligning resources. The strategy enables the planting of new churches and supporting churches to do new things in new ways to reach new people. The Academy is nested within the conference Committee on New and Vital Congregations, chaired by Rev. Matt Smith.
“Answering God’s call in our lives is always best done in the context of the gathered Body of Christ," said Academy participant Rev. Renae Extrum-Fernandez. "Our retreat was a great opportunity to support and challenge one another in our God-sized dreams for the Church its mission to make disciples. This is kind of sacred space is not often found in the crowded daily demands of pastoral ministry. We shared our visions and worked on the practical aspects of grounding dreams in reality. The retreat offered holy ground for coming alongside one another along the Way of sacrifice and risk taking for the Gospel.”
Rev. Thomas Widlund is a member of the Academy and was also a part of the retreat. He shared, "The Church Planting Academy retreat was all about possibilities. Wonderful, Spirit inspired and hope filled possibilities. So much of these last few years have been filled with weariness, unanswered questions, conflict, and fear for the future of the church we all love. Spending two days with colleagues praying, dreaming, sharing, wrestling, and exploring new visions for United Methodist Faith Communities was what we all needed to help see a future not mired in decline, but in resurrection life. As we move forward, my prayer is that we will allow these visions to become reality and that our systems, structures, and ways we have always done things will not stifle the wonderful possibilities that lay before us."
Rev. Dr. Fel Cao noted that the group used the Body Prayer by Julian of Norwich at the retreat’s morning devotion and closing devotion on Tuesday.
He shared, “In my experience of solitude with our group at the retreat, the prayer has been very empowering. I believe that PRAYER IS EMPOWERMENT. Our collective learning for innovations and design thinking brought forth ideas, plans and proposals to help our congregations grow, thrive and become relevant in our context of communities and ministries is rooted in prayer and empowerment through the Holy Spirit. My conversations about innovative ideas and plans with the leaderships of the two congregations I am serving at Faith United Methodist Church and Riverside United Methodist Church in Sacramento are rooted in prayer.
"I believe we are in alignment with our California Nevada Conference in our collective practice and discipline of Go, Sow, Grow Prayer. I am very grateful to be part of the cohort and knowing that I am not alone in dreaming big for the realization of God's kin-dom grounded in peace and justice here on earth through the innovative ministries of our congregations."