I’ve recently completed the first year of my Doctor of Ministry program (only two more to go!). Now I take a break until the fall when classes resume. One of my commitments to you is to share what I’ve learned after each semester.
I enrolled in two classes this semester. The first class was called Research Methods. I bet you can guess what it was about. We studied different strategies for conducting research through interviews, surveys, and more. The purpose of this class was to get us ready for our mini-research project.
My second class was an independent study where I conducted my own research (i.e. the mini-project). Each student was allowed to choose an area of research that interested them.
I chose to study the successes and challenges of new worshipping communities within the PCUSA. I’m keenly interested in how presbyteries can support the creation of NWCs across the United States. Unity Presbyterian has some experience with this because we helped to plant Artisan Church in Lincolnton (technically a new worshipping community).
My research involved surveying all of the presbyteries within the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic. Ten out of the fourteen presbyteries responded to the survey. Therefore, 71% of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic responded to this survey.
Here are the survey results:
Question 1: Has a new worshipping community been formed within your presbytery within the past five years?
I am interested in how many presbyteries have experience starting a NWC. In our presbytery, we had not planted a new worshipping community before starting Artisan Church.
Out of those ten presbyteries, seven had formed a new worshipping community within the last five years. Therefore, 70% of the respondents had a new worshipping community form within the past five years.
Question 2: If so, did the presbytery help to fund the New Worshipping Community?
I am interested in how NWCs are funded. In the case of Artisan, our presbytery was instrumental in helping to fund the project.
In all seven presbyteries who did have a NWC present, all presbyteries financially supported the NWC in some capacity. Therefore, 100% of presbyteries with a new worshipping community financially supported that NWC.
Question 3: If you answered yes, how was the new worshipping community funded? (You may choose more than one option).
Do all presbyteries fund NWCs in the same way, or are there different approaches to funding? Here’s what I found:
Three presbyteries (43 %) funded the NWC from the proceeds of the sale of property (i.e. a closed church).
Five presbyteries (71%) funded the NWC from an investment or endowment account.
One presbytery (14%) funded the NWC from donations from individual churches within the presbytery.
Three presbyteries (43%) funded the NWC from the operating budget of the presbytery.
All seven NWCs (100%) reported receiving at least one grant from 1,001 NWCs.
Question 4: Who provided oversight for the funding (You may choose more than one option).
I chair the Congregational Formation and Transformation Committee of our presbytery. This committee is in charge of creating the strategy for new church development. I am curious if other presbyteries offer NWCs the same level of oversight.
Here’s what I learned:
Six presbyteries (86%) report a committee of the presbytery provided oversight for the funding.
Four presbyteries (57%) report a partnering church from within the presbytery provided oversight for the funding.
Four presbyteries (57%) report a presbytery staff member provided oversight for the funding.
In my full research paper, I analyze these results and attempt to explore what they teach us about forming NWCs. In addition, I interview Rev. Nikki Collins, National Coordinator for 1,001 New Worshipping Communities, to hear her thoughts on the successes and challenges facing NWCs.
You can read my full research project here:
This semester’s research was considered a mini-project. My major project will occur in my third year of the program (2024). In that project I’ll research whether the results from the survey of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic hold true for presbyteries across the United States.
See you on Sunday!