Clergy, ministry staff, and laypeople interested in innovation and leading a new startup ministry, gathered in November for a preview of the upcoming New Church Leadership and Innovation Academy. The diverse participants came from large and small churches, from a variety of settings, from Rome to Griffin and many places in between. They learned from each other, from their host, and from workshop leaders.
The preview session was held at Eastside UMC in Atlanta and began with a conversation with the pastor, Rev. Tim Lloyd.
As a seminary student, Tim searched for a local church where he fit in, and when he didn't find that place, he put his ideas for such a church on paper. He was later asked by his District Superintendent to try to bring his vision to life and he launched "Oakhurst Church" in a Decatur neighborhood.
Tim says that when starting something new, the first step is to look inward. Planting a church and starting a ministry are taxing.
"What are your gifts and what are your 'not gifts'" he asked the preview group. "And ask yourself, who are you as a leader? What is your burning reason you have to do this? What vision has God placed in your heart?"
The next step is to build a cohesive team.
Third, he said to look deep into who you feel called to reach.
"Look at geography and demographics," he said. "There are churches that feel culturally disconnected from their community. You want to step in and say 'this church makes sense here. The people in the pews look like the people on the sidewalk'."
Lastly, he said that to start something new, you must—at the same time—watch carefully for culture atrophy and be open to necessary change.
As Oakhurst Church grew, the leadership began to acknowledge that the membership wasn't predominantly from Oakhurst. They decided a name change was in order to more accurately reflect the congregation. From that decision, Eastside UMC was born.
Later, when Eastside UMC merged with Martha Brown UMC — a historic church with a building on the edge of East Atlanta Village — the name Eastside seemed providential.
"Be willing to ask yourself, what's going on and what's possible?" said Tim.
Participants toured the Eastside building from the basement to the rooftop, discussed opportunities and challenges, saw beautiful artwork and water damage, and admired the renovated sanctuary along with spaces the church dreams of renovating.
That afternoon the participants learned about tools for storytelling and for growth from workshop leaders Rev. Allen Hoskyn and Rev. Heather Jallad. They discussed the intersection of creativity and clarity. They dove into the Fresh Expressions movement.
If you are feeling called to launch an innovative new ministry and this type of hands-on, practical learning interests you, there is still an opportunity to register.
The New Church Leadership and Innovation Academy begins in January and includes four classes. Learn more at https://www.ngumc.org/newsdetail/new-church-leadership-and-innovation-academy-opens-13003676 and register at www.ngumc.org/NCLA.