Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, the Rev. Dr. William Gibson, Kristina Gonzalez, and the Rev. Shalom Agtarap are just a few congregational developers in attendance at “Step One: On the Journey to Starting Something New” - an event for those "curious about starting a new church, a new faith community, or a new place for new people." This event was held Sept. 18-20, 2017 at Seattle: First UMC.

By the Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson | Photos by Patrick Scriven and Teri Tobey

View photos from this event.

Seattle, Wash. – How do we discern, engage, and start something new?

First United Methodist Church (Seattle, Wash.)

I don’t know about you, but the notion “the first step is always the hardest” has occupied different seasons of my life. Regardless of whether we see ourselves as outgoing, risk-taking, or free spirits, when we find ourselves at the edge of change, we sometimes press pause. This part of our humanness escapes no one.

For a people who are supposed to demonstrate what it looks like to “walk by faith,” why is it that we have a difficult time taking that first step along a new, unfamiliar journey?

Starting something new may reveal numerous questions, which outweigh our perceived capacity to dream. This tends to come to light when we try to conceptualize what that “new thing” might be, much less what it looks like. However, when we are able to see an emerging way forward there is one vital consideration: the first step.

It’s important to get off on the right foot.

The Rev. Dr. William Gibson addresses attendees at Step One, a gathering of greater church-wide congregational developers working to create and discover new ways of ministry.


Participants at Step One exercise their creativity in-between teaching sessions.

At the end of September, many leaders from across The Greater Northwest Area and The Western Jurisdiction came together in Seattle to dream about what it would look like to start something new. Creating a new church, new faith community, or new place for new people, while an exciting notion, can actually have fruitful first steps — options, paths, tools, and failures that provide insight and shape what’s next. At “Step One: On the Journey to Starting Something New”, hosted at First United Methodist Church in Seattle, participants were able to engage such discernment and exploration.

“I simply enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other church leaders who were interested in doing something new or different to reach people in the community who are unaffiliated with a local church,” said the Rev. Pat Longstroth, pastor of Brownsville UMC, Bremerton, Washington.

The Rev. Pat Longstroth serves at Brownsville UMC in the PNW Conference.

Gathering with others who share passion, dreams, and hope for the church is not only valuable, it’s energizing. We can be drawn out of our familiar problem-solving modes and into spaces where creative energy is contagious.

“I wasn’t sure whether many of the ideas presented would be helpful in my situation, with the very low number of people I have in attendance at my church. But I was re-energized, and I found new motivation, to think and pray and ask God how God might be calling my local church to be the presence of Christ for the world,” continued Longstroth.

The Rev. Curtis Brown serves as Path1 New Church Strategist for the Western Jurisdiction.

Step One is an annual training, sponsored by The Western Jurisdiction and Path1 New Church Starts and Discipleship Ministries featuring presenters from across our Greater Northwest Area and our UMC Connection. The training featured the Rev. Curtis Brown, Path1 New Church Strategist for the Western Jurisdiction; the Rev. Roberta Jantzi Egli, Messy Church trainer; the Rev. John Helmiere of Valley and Mountain in Seattle; Brian Zehr of Intentional Impact and who is our leader of a new Multiplying Ministries cohort training across The Greater Northwest Area; the Rev. Beth Estock of The Epicenter Group and co-author of Weird Church; and Kristina Gonzalez, director of Leadership Development for an Inclusive Church, PNW Conference.

The Revs. Sarah Casey and Joseph Kim lead Opening Worship.

Congregational Developers from across the Western Jurisdiction were also present and available for conversation, including our Opening Worship leaders the Revs. Sarah Casey, Joseph Kim, and Neal Sharpe. They are each serving and creating new, exciting ministries in Seattle.

To close out the three-day event, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, resident bishop of The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, challenged the group to be bold and recognize the unique opportunity we have in the west and in our own context of the None Zone.

“Are you here to do a new thing with God?” asked Stanovsky in her address to the group. “The importance of discovering the ‘something new’ God is breathing life into in our neighborhoods and communities cannot be understated.”

Elaine Stanovsky serves as the resident bishop of The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area (Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences).

While hosted this year by The Greater Northwest Area, Step One rotates each year within the Western Jurisdiction. In 2018, The California-Nevada Conference will host the next Step One event. Details will be made available in the spring.

“I’m so pleased that my church has recently started up a new prayer ministry, and my church leaders are spending more time in prayer now about this and many other things,” concluded the Rev. Pat Longstroth.

Step One provides a space where creativity and innovation help foster the first leap into the great unknown of God. How will you create a new place for new people in the coming year? It starts by taking that first step of faith. Go for it!

Patrick Scriven serves as the director of Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries. Teri Tobey serves as program associate for Young People’s Ministries.

The Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as the director of Strategic Faith Community Development for The Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

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