By Walter B. Fenton
November 1, 2023
“It is worth remembering that this church started from nothing,” said the Rev. Dr. Edmund Robb, III, Pastor Emeritus at The Woodlands Methodist Church (TWMC) in The Woodlands, Texas. “Never underestimate what God will do when you say, ‘Here I am Lord, send me.”
The church Robb and others planted in 1978 is now the largest one in the Global Methodist Church, and beginning in January 2024 it will offer an online church planters training program for the denomination’s clergy and laity. Consisting of 12 modules, the program will cover critical topics from mission and vision to discipleship development and on to multiplying new congregations.
“We’re investing our dollars where our hearts are,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Olive, TWMC’s Executive Pastor of Church Multiplication and the director of the church planters training program in its final stages of development. “TWMC is pouring significant energy and resources into this effort; we believe the program will enrich and empower church planters to fulfill a mission we share with Global Methodists all around the world: to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.”
In a recent meeting with the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council, Olive outlined the program and answered council member’s questions. He explained that each video module would include approximately 20 minutes of content divided into four segments.
“This program is intended to be a master class on church planting and multiplication,” he said. “We’ve recruited experts in each of the areas the course covers, so clergy and laity will hear from accomplished leaders with extensive experience. We of course draw from our leadership team here at TWMC, but people will also hear from church planters like the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore (founding pastor of Mosaic Church, in Evans, Georgia) and the Rev. Dr. Steve Cordle (founding pastor of Crossroads Church and Executive Director of the River Network in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).”
Since the launch of the GM Church in May 2022, denominational leaders believed church planting had to be one of its highest priorities. Many new church plants are the result of congregations that have come into existence after disaffiliation votes from The United Methodist Church. For a local church to exit from the denomination, two-thirds of its members must vote for disaffiliation. Not surprisingly, some come up short, leaving a majority or a large minority of members wanting to start a new church.
“Yes, we have situations where we have ‘orphan congregations’ seeking guidance on planting a new church, and many looking for a pastor to lead them,” said Ms. Cara Nicklas, Chairwoman of the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council. “I am part of such a church plant myself in Oklahoma City (Oklahoma). We just had our first service, and immediately learned we have one of those ‘good problems’ many GM church plants are having – more people in attendance than our temporary space can accommodate! We’re excited, but we know we have much to learn in the coming months and years. The GM Church wants to start a church planting movement, where those churches that take root turn and nourish new church plants! Programs, like the one The Woodlands Methodist Church is creating, are going to pay dividends for years to come.”
Planted 45 years ago, The Woodlands Methodist Church has planted and nourished other congregations. Under Robb’s leadership, it planted The Church at Woodforest in a community 14 miles north of its main campus. And earlier this year, the church welcomed a Spanish speaking congregation into its midst and formed a partnership with The Church at Montgomery, which now serves as a TWMC campus 30 miles northwest of its central location.
“When we decided to affiliate with the Global Methodist Church, we thought of it as a great partnership, a connection, with brothers and sisters all around the world,” said the Rev. Mark Sorensen, Senior Pastor at TWMC, “We believed our affiliation provided us with the very best opportunity to advance and to multiply efforts to reach people for Jesus Christ. We count it a great privilege to humbly offer the church planters program to the whole Church.”
The GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council has already given preliminary endorsement to the TWMC program, and it looks forward to a final review later this year. Upon full endorsement, the program would become the second church planting and multiplication partnership the denomination has formed. It also works with The River Network, which has led numerous church planting workshops and coached many GM Church clergy and new congregations.
“Despite the huge challenges, Global Methodists everywhere are excited about planting new churches,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the denomination’s Chief Connectional Officer. “I am confident the planting and multiplication resource The Woodlands Methodist Church is producing will help the GM Church grow and flourish for many years to come, and most importantly, fulfill the great commission Christ has given us!”
The Rev. Walter Fenton is the Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.