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Florida Conference expands support of new churches

Florida Conference expands support of new churches

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference expands support of new churches

By Erik J. Alsgaard | April 29, 2009 {1009}

NOTE: See related story, “Florida Conference pastors join Path 1 initiative,” at:

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Florida Conference New Church Development office — already a model for starting new churches throughout The United Methodist Church — is taking additional steps to help new churches become missionally effective.

The Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan, executive director of New Church Development, said the office is increasing conference support of new full-time ethnic church starts from three years to five.

The Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan reports to members attending the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event that the conference has launched 86 new churches since 1995, 56 percent of which are racial, ethnic or language new starts. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #09-1163.

“We’ve learned that a three-year funding pattern for new church starts is not enough, especially for racial-ethnic new church starts,” Duncan said. “Nationally, for full-time ethnic churches, it takes between eight and 10 years for them to become self-funded.”

In terms of actual dollars, that means a new church start would receive a total of $180,000 over the five-year period. The money is not given in equal payments; instead, new full-time church starts receive the money in diminishing increments over five years.

Though the increase in funding comes when the economy is down, the decision was not based on that reality, Duncan said. Instead, it came about as new church development leaders looked at their own program and ways they could improve.

“We try really hard to make missional decisions, not institutional decisions,” Duncan said. “We verbalize this goal in all our decision-making processes.”

The changes were the result of a series of summits new church development staff held with Hispanic clergy and laity across the conference. Starting in 2006, leaders began to search for ways they could improve what they were already doing. In 2007 and 2008, groups of people met in Lakeland to review the current support model offered by the conference and determine if any adjustments needed to be made.

In the future, Duncan’s office will meet with Haitian, African-American and Korean church leaders.

In addition to the funding increase for new church starts, the new church development office is also increasing the funding available for “mother/daughter” or multi-site church starts.

“We’ve increased the funding here by 50 percent,” Duncan said. “Instead of these types of new church starts only receiving half of the traditional ‘parachute’ model, they will now be getting 75 percent.”

Part-time mission funding also increased, from $15,000 to $20,000 each year. Duncan said it was the first increase for that area in 14 years.

All the additional support, Duncan said, comes with no increase to local church apportionments. Instead, the new church development office receives its funds through partial proceeds from the sale of closed or abandoned churches, interest on investments and other sources.

La Nueva Iglesia Cristiana del Doral in the Miami area is one of 39 Hispanic churches and missions in the Florida Conference. It began in late 2001 in the home of its pastor, the Rev. Rinaldo Hernandez, with about 30 worshippers. Since then, the congregation has moved four times, outgrowing each space. It now worships in a warehouse facility in Doral, Fla., with an average worship attendance in March of 179. Photo #09-1164.

“The money we give to new churches is not enough, we know, to cover the whole project,” Duncan said. “But it is a big step in helping us make disciples of Jesus Christ in new locations.”

Every new church start in the Florida Conference commits to starting another new church within seven years, Duncan said. This model is in line with what many are saying is the most effective way to create new disciples of Jesus Christ in new places.

“We’re working on getting large churches to be more intentional about starting new churches,” Duncan said. “If we can get congregations who have only been in existence for fewer than seven years to commit to doing this, surely our larger, more established churches can do the same.”

Duncan and his staff and committee members have been responsible for starting between 15 and 20 new churches every year for the past several years, making Duncan a leader in the denomination-wide emphasis on new church starts called “Path 1.”

According to the Path 1 Web site: “Path 1’s … purpose is to provide leadership in the movement to evangelize the United States. This includes providing oversight on the national strategy for new church starts. The inspiration for the name actually comes from our Council of Bishops (of The United Methodist Church) and the story of John the Baptist. Our bishops offered Seven Vision Pathways. In that document, starting new churches was listed as the first pathway.”

By 2012, Path 1 hopes to equip 1,000 church planters who will help annual conferences start 650 churches. Those new churches will then commit to starting a new congregation within their first 10 years of operation, beginning a process that forms millions of new disciples of Jesus Christ within 30 years.

More information about Path 1 is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.