Friday, November 6, 2009

New Church Development Conference

This past week six of us from Chain of Lakes attended a New Church Development conference sponsored by our denomination. The conference was called, “Can I Get a Witness” and was hosted by San Clemente Presbyterian Church.

The conference was a marvelous opportunity for the six of us at Chain of Lakes to spend time together and to learn more about New Church Development. I have gone to church conferences for the past 16 years; I love them. In some ways I am a conference junkie. The problem I always encounter is translating the excitement I feel about a conference back to the people of the church I serve.

The good folks at the Church Growth Office of the PC(USA) made it easier to bring lay people to this conference. The registration for the conference was only $200 and the lodging was free. The Church Development Team of our Presbytery also made it easy for us to bring people as they contributed over $1,000 to the airfare of our group.

Having five others from Chain of Lakes join me will deepen the impact of this conference into the ministry of Chain of Lakes.

One highlight of the conference was having our group meet Doug Cushing. Doug has been my New Church Development coach since last December. Our denomination has wisely instituted a New Church Development coaching program. Every New Church Development pastor has the opportunity to have a coach. Doug and I talk on the phone once a month. He doesn’t tell me what to do—but reflects back from his experience and training what he hears from my stories.

Doug spent a significant amount of time with our group in San Clemente. He ate with us, sat down in fellowship with us, worshipped with us, and spent Tuesday afternoon in Dana Point with us. He asked good questions of our group about what is happening at Chain of Lakes and shared stories from his experience of being a successful New Church Development pastor. As a Packer fan he endured our ribbing of the recent triumph of the Vikings over the Packers.

Both of the speakers at the conference were from third-world countries. The speaker that resonated with our group the most was Murithi Wanjau, the senior pastor of Mavuno Chapel in Nairobi, Kenya. In his humble speaking style Pastor Wanjau shared the amazing work of the Spirit in his church. Their church has experienced tremendous growth, but what was amazing to me is the impact the people of the congregation are having and will have on the nation of Kenya. One statement that he made that resonated with me was his encouragement to depend on God and not strategies. Certainly strategies are important for churches, but too often we look to techniques for our answers instead of sitting down and patiently waiting for a word from the Lord. Prayer is not a substitute for action, but action without prayer is not complete.

On Tuesday afternoon the six of us and Doug Cushing went on a site visit to Dana Point, California. Dana Point is a beach town located about ten miles north of San Clemente. The Presbyterian Church in San Clemente is investigating the possibility of starting new churches in different areas. The participants at the conference went out in a number of groups to learn about different areas and bring back a report and suggestions.

We interviewed people in Dana Point asking them about the community, the needs of the community, and how a church could make a difference in the town. Paulette Zvorak and I ended up talking to two folks in a surf shop for about thirty minutes. Our group discovered that one need of Dana Point is ministering to surfers. No faith community is successfully reaching this group of people. We at Chain of Lakes came up with the idea of hiring a married couple who would develop relationships with this community, open up a storefront, and eventually start holding events. This could be a ministry under the umbrella of San Clemente. Over time it could evolve into a worshipping congregation, but the start would be a ministry of relationship.

We were touched by the hospitality of the people at First Presbyterian in San Clemente. They went out of their way to help us feel welcome. One small example of this was a welcome pack that they shared with us in our hotel room. Their modeling of hospitality will be one we at Chain of Lakes will lift up as an example.

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