IMG_0182_1A Path1 training event focusing on the “First 12” was held at the PNW Conference Office and Wesley Homes Terrace. Path1 serves to provide resources for planting, training, and coaching to grow new church starts.  

First Things First

Path1 training event envisions new church through First 12

By The Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson | Photos by Jesse N. Love

Before you can begin anything, there are a few things you must do first. For instance, in order to set out on a walk, you must first take a step. When you begin that new exercise regimen, you first have to decide if it’s a priority. Enjoying that much-needed vacation first involves a decision. You get the idea – first things first.

Recently, The Pacific Northwest Conference hosted a new Path1 training called “First 12”, offered by Discipleship Ministries. First 12 is a new two-day training event designed to help leaders gather and grow the first 12 committed, core people. New ministries first need a gathered team of core leaders who are able to pray, dream, discern, and implement new strategies.



Annette Jones jots down notes at a Path1 training event in Des Moines, Wash. She along with several clergy are learning to strategically “hang out” in order to meet and engage their mission field(s).

Combined with a year of practical coaching follow-up, participants learned the skills, habits, and lifestyle practices that give a new vision the best chance of launching with a team of 12 committed leaders. First 12 isn’t only a new training for new church projects. It is equally valuable for existing church leaders who want to start new ministry initiatives that support the local church vision and mission for community engagement. Such ministries can include small groups, new fellowships, new mission outreaches, new worship services, or new gatherings.

“The First 12 training focused on key aspects of engaging others through ‘crashing parties’ and ‘the art of strategically hanging out’ in order to build both a core group of 12 leaders, as well as ‘orbits’ of contacts and prospects targeted for our ministries,” said David Charcas, Chairperson of the Communication and Evangelism Team for Seattle: First United Methodist Church. “As a result, the Communications and Evangelism Team at our church is excited to incorporate these First 12 guidelines into our strategic plans of social justice, advocacy, and other ministries that matter to our thriving downtown Seattle community.”


The Rev. Curtis Brown leads a Path1 training event at the PNW Conference office.
The Rev. Curtis Brown leads a Path1 training event at the PNW Conference office.

Hosted by the Office of Congregational Development, the training was facilitated by the Rev. Curtis Brown, who serves as the Path1 new church strategist for the Western Jurisdiction. The training consisted of 20 participants, representing churches and new projects across the Conference, and ranged from new ministry and revitalization initiatives to new church plants. The event also included four assigned coaches who will support our cohorts in the implementation of these learned strategies over the next year.

“I look forward to the opportunity to walk with an amazing group of five pastors who are in varying stages of their process to start new ministries or plant new communities of faith,” said the Rev. Gregg Sealey, superintendent of the Inland District and First 12 coach. “Although the program is a kind of ‘facilitative coaching’ directly related to helping them do whatever they need in order to organize their first 12 leaders, there is an incredible depth and intimacy in this kind of coaching relationship. I can’t wait to see what God does with and through them in the next season and beyond!”

Paul Bland listens to a session at this Path1 event.

Beginning anything new starts with gathering a core group of leaders — folks who passionately share in an emerging and compelling vision. In keeping with the first disciples, First 12 provides a biblical backdrop to the formation of what church can be in our post-Christian landscape.

“The content of the training itself was not only informative, but also transformative in that it captured the heart of both how and why we enter into the work of building a faith community from the ground up,” explained The Rev. Sarah Casey, Second Site Pastor for Bothell United Methodist Church. “In my ministry context as a second site church planter, I was captured by the idea that development of a second ministry site is not simply a ‘clone’ of the already-existing faith community, but rather ‘offspring.’ This imagery encouraged me to consider the ways in which the existing church shares the Gospel effectively, while fully realizing that the church in its current state is deeply disconnected from the larger post-Christian context in which we now find ourselves living. This invites planters to be attentive to the current needs of the community when discerning how the Gospel might be both shared and lived in a way that is accessible in our current context,” added Casey.

First 12 has now held four events – the first in The California-Pacific Conference, the second in The New England Conference, the third (most recently) in the Baltimore-Washington Conference – before coming to the Pacific Northwest Conference August 11-12.

For more information, visit or, or contact Program Coordinator Patrick Ferguson at

The Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the PNWUMC.

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