Northeast District partners with Discipleship Ministries to revitalize churches, make disciples

Northeast District Superintendent Rev. Chris Ramsey and Northeast District clergy coordinators Revs. David Unkles, Bill Bagwell, Chris Shoemaker, Stephanie Smith, Sam Wilder, Jim Smith, and Jim Morrow worked with Discipleship Ministries consultants Naomi Annondale and Jeff Campbell to create a new system to revitalize churches and make disciples.

By Kara Witherow, Editor

The Northeast District of the South Georgia Conference is about to embark on a two-year program to revitalize churches and make disciples.

A partnership between the district and Discipleship Ministries, the new initiative was birthed from a question District Superintendent Rev. Chris Ramsey asked in a meeting nearly a year and a half ago.

How can general agencies resource local churches and districts?

When he heard the question, Bishop Lawson Bryan responded immediately. He introduced Rev. Ramsey to Rev. Junius Dotson, General Secretary for Discipleship Ministries, who then connected Rev. Ramsey to Rev. Jeff Campbell, Discipleship Ministries’ Executive Director of Conference Relationships. Discussions and ideas flowed from there.

Rev. Ramsey has seen the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) at work and knows how to reach them when and if help is needed, and he has experience with the General Council on Finance and Administration, but he wanted and needed help with discipleship formation and in growing churches.

“I’ve recognized there is a need to revitalize churches if we are going to be a vital part of growing God’s Kingdom,” Rev. Ramsey said.

The purpose behind the new initiative is to revitalize small- and medium-sized churches and bring them back into a place of vitality, he said.

To do that, on Sunday, April 22 the Northeast District will launch the newly created discipleship system, introduce it to the district churches, and invite them to participate. The partnership and new discipleship system, still in the early stages of development, will focus on training and leadership development for both clergy and laity.

In the past year and a half, Rev. Ramsey and Northeast district leaders have met with Discipleship Ministries staff to share the district’s unique needs and offerings, what Discipleship Ministries has to offer a district, conduct a discipleship survey, and finalize the Northeast District / Discipleship Ministries Partnership Discipleship System.

“My hope is that each church involved will have a discipleship system they’re utilizing and growing in and that they’re making disciples for Christ. That’s the bottom line, the hope and purpose for this,” Rev. Ramsey said. “As the Church, our product is disciples making disciples for Christ, and I want to increase our level of production.”

Rev. Jim Morrow is one of nine Northeast District clergy coordinators who is helping craft and communicate the new discipleship system. Each clergy coordinator represents 10 to 15 congregations. They meet monthly to brainstorm, share ideas, pray, and plan the future of the district.

Morrow is excited about the project and partnership with Discipleship Ministries because he sees it as an opportunity to help congregations and their clergy have intentional discipleship.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all (plan) for everybody, even in a smaller area like a district, so we want to help as many churches as possible to have intentional discipleship processes and fruitfulness,” Rev. Morrow said. “It’s putting into action the things we always talk about. It’s disciple-making.”

One component of the discipleship system is a leadership academy for laity and clergy. Another is that congregations will create discipleship systems for their context using demographics and community information provided by MissionIniste.

“In a time when we can be easily distracted by the conversations at the denominational level, it is refreshing and important that we are not distracted from our core mission – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Rev. Morrow said of the Northeast District’s new two-year pilot program. “Our district is helping us keep our eyes on the mission.”