Twenty-Five years of Church Development leadership


  In November, the four past and current directors of the office of New Church Development of the North Georgia Conference met for lunch, and enjoyed conversation that included reminiscing, sharing and celebrating 25 years of Church Development in the North Georgia Annual Conference. The meeting included Charles Barnes (1987-1997), Clay Jacobs (1997-2004), Parks Davis (2004-2009), and Tommy Willingham (2009-present).
      “These are critical times in the life of our Church,” said Willingham. “We are at an important impasse in focusing our resourcing on making disciples and birthing new Christians for the sake of the kingdom.”        In the past 25 years, the conference has seen 77 new or fresh start initiatives and 43 missions launched. These efforts have received 24,369 new members into the annual conference, and 10,977 have been received on profession of faith. In the 2010 conference year, these congregations received 1,305 new people into membership by profession of faith. On any given Sunday throughout the North Georgia Conference, more than 16,000 people will worship in a United Methodist Church who would not have been there if not for our continued commitment to reaching new people in our ever-growing and changing mission field.
       The annual budgets of these churches in 2010 were a staggering $27,836,469; almost $28 million dollars invested in ministry in the communities of North Georgia and throughout the world through the life and financial giving of these congregations. These churches are now paying more than $1.5 million in apportioned monies into the Annual Conference each year.
      Though these statistics are worth celebrating, Barnes reminds us that “these numbers represent countless lives that have been forever changed and only the eternities can fully calculate the end results."     
  In the past 10 years, the Office of New Church Development has trained and formally assessed more than 300 pastors through the New Church Leadership Academy and All Things New.   This process has not only helped identify pastoral leadership in new church initiatives, but also helped pastors in existing churches. 
       "I have a great appreciation for every pastor who answered the call of God to plant a church.  I always believed if we could discover, equip and deploy a called-by-God church-planter who had a heart for making disciples, then no matter where they were appointed they would be successful in attracting people to the Kingdom," Jacobs said.
      The North Georgia Conference has been influential throughout the nation as a forerunner for new and innovative ways to grow the Kingdom of God through planting new churches to reach new people. "By investing wisely in New Church Development, the North Georgia Conference continues to reap great benefits for the Kingdom of God. Let’s keep sowing the seeds and see what else the Lord will do with our faithful stewardship of His resources," Davis said.
       “It was truly an honor to serve with each of the past three directors as a new church planter, a facilitator in the Leadership Academy, as a member of the Executive Committee, and now, as current director,” said Willingham. “These three men, Barnes, Jacobs, and Davis, have been pioneers and missionaries for the United Methodist Church, and I am privileged to pick up the mantle and represent our Conference in our continued efforts to create new places for new people and expand the Kingdom of God through New Church Development in North Georgia.”
      The Office of New Church Development is currently working with each District Superintendent and Strategic Growth Teams made up of clergy and laity from each district to develop a comprehensive, conference-wide, long-range strategy to continue reaching the rapidly growing mission-field within our conference.  
        “Twenty-five years, and 25,000 members is only the beginning of the work at hand to live out the Commission of Jesus to His Church to Go into the world and make disciples of all people. It is great to be a part of an Annual Conference that takes this Commission seriously with our attention, resources, and efforts,” said Willingham.
      “The quarter of a century success of New Church Development represents much more than one office. Every church in our Annual Conference - from the little white-framed church out in the country, the high-steeple church in the city, the mega-church in the suburbs, and all in between - has resourced, supported, and partnered with us to insure our high-calling of making disciples for the transformation of the world.”