Planters take first steps in starting new ministries


The new church planters pray over the Rev. Matt Miofsky, founding pastor of The Gathering UMC in St. Louis. Photo by David Burke

Trees don’t sprout the minute they’re planted in the ground. It takes tending, care and patience for the finished products to bloom from the earth. That’s the theory behind two initiatives in the Great Plains Conference, both of which accompany a 2015 goal to nurture 20 new church starts by 2020.

The first of 12 monthly sessions – for New Church Crucible and Planter Incubators – kicked off July 19-21 at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. Ten individuals began the Crucible training, 16 for Planter Incubators.

The next session is scheduled for August in Holton, Kansas.

Crucibles, said the Rev. Nathan Stanton, conference coordinator of new church development, are a covenant group of people planting new churches and moving into new church situations.

“They’re essentially there to love God together, learn together, learn best spiritual leadership practices and best practices around church leadership and development. They’re to go out there and lead as pastors, restarts, campus ministers and starting new Hispanic communities,” Stanton said.

“We’re focusing in on developing a core group of leadership that will help us with a new campus ministry, a new plant, a new church service,” Stanton added. “Everything they’re doing is about developing this small group of people who are loving, learning and leading together, and we’re encouraging and offering training and support and financial resources, the kind of fundraising it takes to start a new church community and sustain it beyond five years.”
Incubators, he said, are volunteers interested in seeing if they have what it takes to be a church planter.
The Rev. Nathan Stanton, Great Plains Conference new church development 
coordinator, begins to serve communion at the close of the first Crucible and 
Planter Incubator session. Photo by David Burke

“What we want them to do is come in contact with some of our very (best) talented church planters in United Methodism to hear what it takes and the kind of goals they will set personally,” Stanton said.

The group heard from the Rev. Jeff Kirby, director of discipleship ministry at Church of the Resurrection; the Rev. Matt Miofsky, founding pastor of The Gathering, a St. Louis-based ministry that has grown to three locations and a “Bar Church”; and the Rev. Scott Chrostek, campus pastor for Resurrection Downtown in Kansas City, Missouri.

Besides hearing from the speakers talking about starting new ministries, the class members hit the streets in three separate projects:
  • Along the new streetcar line in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, handing out cookies and bottled water and inviting persons to Resurrection Downtown.
  • Near Roeland Park UMC in the Johnson County, Kansas, suburbs, greeting shoppers at nearby big-box stores, strip malls and the public library;
  • In the neighborhood of LifeBridge UMC, a new church plant in Shawnee, Kansas, introducing the church to people in the neighborhood.
In each situation, Stanton said, the activities got some of the individuals out of their comfort zones by having them approach strangers and telling them about the churches and talking about Jesus Christ.

“This is a whole different method to build a new church community,” he said. “You’ve got to be there with people who aren’t thinking about church, who don’t care about church. They might not like the church.

“It’s a way for them almost to shift their DNA a little bit in how they do ministry,” Stanton added.

Those ideas, Stanton said, originated in conversations he had with the Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz Jr., then director of congregational excellence for the Rio Texas Conference, who has been appointed as the new bishop of the Great Plains Conference, effective Sept. 1.

“He was talking about the kind of experiments where you put people in a position to do planter work and see how they do,” Stanton recalled. “We want to teach you, and then we want you to go and do it immediately. We’re not going to let you off the hook – it’s not optional. If you’re going to plant a church, meeting new people is not an option.

“We’re going to push you out of your comfort zone,” he added. “That’s why we’re here.”

The experiments were generally successful, from the cold water bottles on a 90-degree day in downtown Kansas City to a major pharmacy chain near Roeland Park making arrangements to donate its perishable food items to the church’s food pantry.

The sessions gave encouragement to those considering new church starts or changes in their ministry. Among those were the Rev. Richard Randolph, pastor of Christ UMC in Lincoln; and Beth Menhusen, a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and ministry intern with the church.

Menhusen, who is considering seminary, has plans for expanding the Christ UMC ministry into a restart of the campus ministry at UNL and empowering students to go out into the community, as well as utilizing a former church facility closed after a merger of congregations.

The proposed church start is called Connection Point.

“The idea is that we’re connecting the church, the campus and the community for everybody’s benefit,” Menhusen said. “We’ll be able to pool our resources and make some wonderful connections and be the hands and feet of Christ.”

Randolph said he was encouraged by the first sessions – even by the stories of pastors telling about setbacks in starting new churches.
“We’re just taking the first steps on this journey, and we know it’s not always onward and upward,” he said.

What is New Church Crucible?

New Church Crucible is a new community providing an intentional experience each month where Great Plains new community planters can gather to worship together, continue their learning and be accountable in their leadership with one another.


What are Planter Incubators?

Planter Incubators is a supportive, five-session group process which includes the teaching of current and past new church planters in new church planting principles and competencies. Participants will be supported and encouraged by conference staff and outside resource people to push themselves in a process of incorporating planting competencies in their current ministry setting. Each participant will leave the incubator with a ministry plan to reach new people where they currently serve.

David Burke, communications coordinator, can be contacted at

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