North Georgia has proud legacy of birthing and nurturing new churches
The Office of New Church Development is charged with the responsibility of developing, implementing, and continually updating a comprehensive plan for the planting of new churches. The responsibilities include establishing, nurturing, supporting and guiding new congregations from conception through birth and until the district superintendent, the new church and the office of New Church Development agree that the support is no longer needed.
Paul Nixon is a former church developer and Director of Congregational Development for the Alabama-West Florida Conference. He is currently a staff member of Path One, a denominational attempt to provide oversight on the national strategy for new church starts. The ultimate purpose is to provide leadership in the effort to evangelize the United States.
Paul said, “the denomination has historically seen the North Georgia Conference as the leader in new church development,” and “everyone looked to NG for direction.”
I am new to the task of leadership in New Church Development but will do my very best during this transitional year. My responsibilities are to maintain the current momentum and help craft a vision for the future of new church development in the North Georgia Conference.
In 1987, Charles Barnes was appointed as the Director to the newly created North Georgia Conference Office of Church Development (the name was changed to New Church Development in 2008). When he retired in 1997, Clay Jacobs was appointed to build upon the foundation that had been laid. Parks Davis (2004-2009) and Tommy Willingham (2009-2012) continued to provide the high caliber of leadership that resulted in North Georgia being a model for the United Methodist Church in the United States.
There have been six Associate Directors in the Office of Church Development since its inception in 1987. Harvey Palmer (1998-1999), Arundel Hope (1999-2003), Nora Martinez (2001-2011), Renita Thomas (2003-2008), Hyo Kim (2004 – current), and Juan Quintanilla (2011 – current). These persons have helped us focus on ethnic minority populations within our mission field.
Prior to the creation of the Office of Church Development from 1959-1987 the North Georgia Conference embarked on 39 new church projects. The wisdom of the move to establish the office and make new church starts a priority is demonstrated by the dramatic increase seen through 2011. One hundred thirty-one projects were undertaken from 1987-2011. These included 80 new churches (48 constituted), 47 missions (seven constituted), 34 “fresh starts”, and two “next steps”.
There is much excitement among new church planters and conference leaders about the new places for new people that have been created in the past and are being created currently. There are seven new congregations that have not yet constituted as united Methodist churches and other missions that are involved in vital ministries to their respective communities and lives are being changed.
I have been energized and encouraged as I have begun working with these new church planters.
Dr. Lovett Weems, professor of church leadership and director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, reminds us that leaders do not need the right answers but they need to ask the right questions.
The responsibility of visioning for the future has begun with efforts to take a serious look at our work in new church development, to ask the right questions, and to see what we can learn. We are receiving input from persons who have started new churches, district superintendents that have given oversight to those efforts in the past, and other leaders throughout the conference. We will also examine statistical data as well as the subjective experiences and insights of these key persons.
I am sure that our experiences will provide us with much learning. The things that have been done “right” and the “mistakes” are equally valuable. We will learn from both our successes and our failures in our efforts to create new places for new people. Different perspectives on our work will enlighten us as we seek to plan for the future in maintaining this vital ministry of the annual conference.
The New Church Development staff and the Board of New Church Development will work closely with the Bishop and Cabinet, Connectional Ministries, and the District Strategic Growth Teams to keep new church development as a high priority and to discover the most effective ways to reach more people for Jesus Christ.
Let us pray and work together for the good of the Kingdom. To God be the glory!
Jamie Jenkins is Director of New Church Devlopment. You can contact him at