When our denomination is preparing to plant a new faith community one of the frequent concerns we hear expressed by established United Methodist churches located in the near vicinity is, “This new church will take away people who might join our church” (or something to that effect).
However, facts do not bear out this fear. here are some ways in which planting a newchurch/faith community actually helps nearby United Methodist churches.
First, it raises the awareness of United Methodism. Have you ever noticed when you buy a new car that you are suddenly aware of how many others there are on the road just like it? Same phenomenon. when a new United Methodist church goes into an area, people notice other United Methodist churches as well.
Second, it encourages these other churches to strive for excellence. Time (and lack of competition) causes most of us to become somewhat complacent. There is nothing like perceived competition to make us step up our efforts at “being church” – being more hospitable, more inviting, more witnessing, more mission-minded, more outreach-focused.
Third, the abundance mentality – there is always enough. Our focus on the season of “gathering” this month highlights the scripture from Luke 10:1-2 where Jesus is quoted, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” when we study demographics in any given community or a five mile radius of any given church, we find approximately 50% of the population either unchurched or marginally churched. Not all of these people would even fit into our current facilities.
Let me give you a real-life example. when my husband was a district superintendent in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, there was within his district a town of about 60,000 people. A new church was established, first operating out of a school, then moving into their own building in 2003. Within three years following the move into their new building, the new church was averaging 1,200+ in worship attendance. There were four other United Methodist churches within two miles of that new church. of the four, one relocated (actually moving closer to the new church) and the other three experienced significant growth. One of the two larger congregations grew from an average worship attendance of 560 to 800+. The other grew from about 600 to about 1,000.
God’s kingdom was advanced not only by the new church, but by the growth of others in the area. There is always enough; the harvest is plentiful!
Where do you see evidence of God’s abundance in your new church ministry?