In the 1950s, more than 180 new Disciples congregations were formed in newly growing suburbs in the United States.
The 1960s, social turmoil and issues with ecumenism led to the formation of only 60 congregations in the decade.
In the 1970s, church planting was not a priority for the Disciples. Of the 70 churches planted in the 70s, very few exist today.
In 1977, Convocation of the Christian Church challenged the denomination once again to engage in church planting.
In the 1980s, the Church Advance Now program was established, resulting in 130 new church starts, nearly double the previous decade.
The 1990s saw about 120 new church plants. It became apparent that Disciples regions were losing interest in church planting because of the expense and lack of skilled planters.
Preliminary discussions at the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) were captured in the book, “The 2020 Vision,” by then General Minister and President Dick Hamm. In his book, Hamm challenges the church to plant 1,000 new congregations by the year 2020. Click here to order Hamm’s book from Amazon.
Since the former Church Extension had been seriously engaged in supporting new church planting for more than 100 years, Church Extension directors accepted the challenge of providing leadership to the Disciples church planting efforts.
In November 2000, Church Extension invited regional partners, a handful of planters and other partners to attend the New Church Summit in Indianapolis. At this summit, the goal of planting 1,000 congregations was adopted, and partners were challenged by church planting experts to think about church planting in a new way. It was at this summit that a new spirit of partnership emerged with all ministries of the church working toward the same goal.
By March 2001, the New Church Ministry team was formed and new strategies for church planting were implemented. The new church movement celebrated 40 new congregations in its first year.
By September 2002, the New Church Ministry team sponsored its first New Church Planter training for more than 40 people. By the end of 2002, the movement celebrated 60 new congregations.
In 2003, during the second New Church Planter Training, New Church Ministry received word that it had been awarded a $1.67 million grant for Sustaining Pastoral Excellence in New Church Ministry from the Lilly Endowment. This grant enabled New Church Ministry to add to staff, while increasing the sustainability of new church projects with an excellent coaching program. By the end of that year, the movement celebrated 80 new projects.
In January 2012, New Church Ministry became a part of Hope Partnership for Mission Transformation. As an important part of the Hope Partnership team, the New Church Movement is alive and stronger than ever!
Disciples new congregations have increased from 50 percent sustainability to more than 80 percent sustainability. Also, the denomination has moved from starting just 5 to 10 churches a year to an average of 40 to 50 per year (about 2 each week.)
Hope Partnership trains more than 120 new church planters and spouses each year. We actively coach more than 60 to 80 projects at a time, while working with regional partners to promote the mission of church planting in the denomination.
Since 2000, Disciples have planted more than 786 new congregations and counting!
New Disciples churches have reached more than 50,000 people for Christ, which is more new Disciples reached by all of our 3,800 established Disciples churches combined.