“ABIDE” Pilot Program Underway for Churches Worshipping under 50

Date Posted: 2/9/2017

A dozen small churches in the North, Northwest and East districts are forming an ABIDE pilot group geared to boost their effectiveness at learning, leading and loving.
For years, overworked and burned out pastors and leaders have tried to no avail to turn the tide from that of a church in decline to one of transformation and health. This is particularly challenging for a church with a solo pastor or even part-time clergy – which happens to be the staffing model for the largest percentage of churches in the U.S.
Apportionment Dollars at Work
Bishop Scott Jones affirms, “I am concerned about the vitality of all of the churches of the Texas Annual Conference - large and small.  Each and every congregation has a mission field that calls for a commitment to improve the lives of children and families. God has a purpose for each church and our conference is here to help those churches serve that purpose.”
“The Center for Congregational Excellence for the TAC is serious about helping all churches be everything they can be,” notes Center Director Dr. Jesse Brannen, so we are excited to begin a special partnership with Spiritual Leadership, Inc(SLI). SLI has a team of experts who are sensitive to the special issues and opportunities facing smaller congregations. Bishop Scott Jones has introduced us to this group, having seen amazing results in the Great Plains conference.” According to Jesse, the pilot program within these dozen churches will last 18-24 months. “If we see quick results by the halfway point,” adds Jesse, “we may start additional pilot groups.” The greatest news: all costs are covered by apportionment dollars via the Center for Congregational Excellence.
Staffed by small membership church experts, SLI will be providing the ABIDE ministry to several pilot groups in the TAC this spring. The ideal congregation for these initial pilots will average 45 in worship. “We view this as another tool in the Vibrant Church Initiative toolkit, since the smaller congregations are not typically well suited for VCI,” explains Jesse. “In some ways, the ABIDE program will be the missing piece in VCI that will bolster the health of the ever-essential small church.”
Much like the traditional VCI model, ABIDE incorporates training, coaching and peer support for the smaller congregation. Small membership churches will have the opportunity to examine the process in two retreats before committing to the longer process. Churches across the nation are testifying to the results of a stronger focus on abiding and discipleship. ABIDE churches are benefitting from having experts walk alongside as they move through the intentional process of building a transformative environment.
“The goal will be to build teams of ministry leaders with new spiritual unity that leads to better problem solving, more fruitful ministry outcomes, more stable transitions during a pastoral change and a multiplication of ministry,” adds Jesse. Additionally, the participants will create a ministry action plan for making disciples in a way that can be measured, improved and duplicated.
Churches interested in being considered for this new program can contact Robert Besser at rbesser@txcumc.org.