Chapelwood, Lake Jackson Maps the Journey of Discipleship
As a part of their recent focus on discipleship, Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson and area leaders are hosting sessions on “Discipleship Forward” and “Going Deeper” in early May to help other congregations clarify this essential pathway.
Like the Apostle Paul, Rev. Cathy Richardson Hastie truly loves to encourage churches to “make disciples,” but this phrase often has a different meaning from one congregation to another. Cathy, an extension minister with the consulting firm of Ascending Leaders, helps teach congregations about the four basic stages of faith and how to help people at all stages move to the next phase of spiritual development. “Paul wrote to his churches that he wanted to come be with them and encourage them,” she says, “and that’s something I love to do as well!”
Chapelwood UMC, Lake Jackson is one of the congregations Cathy is encouraging through this essential leadership process. According to Rev. Peter Camerano, Chapelwood leaders focused first on redefining the church vision, mission and values, guided by the book, Church Unique, by Will Mancini. “Once that was implemented,” he explains, “we turned our attention to thinking about how people move through our church.” Leaders started with two things 1) contracting with Faith Perceptions (a Mystery Guest Worshipper program that rates a variety of characteristics using unchurched folk in the area) and 2) researching organizations skilled at formulating a discipleship pathway in area churches.
“Formulating a discipleship pathway can be a huge undertaking,” he admits, “so we quickly found Mike Johnson and Cathy Richardson Hastie (of Ascending Leaders) and began asking them questions, and viewing their YouTube workshops and presentations on this process,” he adds. Chapelwood began the New Year with an Epiphany Worship Series entitled: Find your Path. Notes Peter, “We are already beginning to reap the harvest of our first six months of work with Ascending Leaders. Through the series, we used the Move Study and Reveal Work published by Willowcreek Association along with videos of ‘coffee shop’ interviews with church members.”
According to Associate Pastor Kate Walker, the Discipleship Pathway helps take people from where they are to where they want to be, in a spiritual sense. Cathy has helped Chapelwood set up a12- to 18-month process that defines what the church will offer people in each of the four key faith development stages. “I thoroughly enjoy working with different churches and denominations to determine what is needed to help members grow as more committed disciples,” notes Cathy.
Chapelwood Lake Jackson’s work is ongoing and incorporates the input of about a half-dozen church leaders. Adds Peter, “We continue to tweak the various best practices so that they speak to our missional context. We have joined an online learning cohort through Ascending Leaders where we can learn together, swap success stories, and evaluate frustrations. Mike Johnson has put together a comprehensive program that can help a mid-size to large church like Chapelwood learn, develop and implement a discipleship pathway.”
Learn More in May
Ascending Leaders is holding a two-part discipleship conference at Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson on Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6. The workshop will provide a practical framework for understanding the stages of spiritual growth. Find out more about the May 5 and May 6 conference in Lake Jackson or host one in your location at: http://www.ascendingleaders.org/discipleforward.
“ So far,” says Peter, “the experience of focusing on our discipleship pathway has been delightful. Church leaders have a better language for describing what people need to grow in discipleship, where they might get stuck and how to offer ministries that will enable people to ‘Find their Path’ and grow in grace. We expect to continue this work with Ascending Leaders for at least another 9 months and we are thankful to have the collaboration.”