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Enneagram personality type

What’s your type?

The Enneagram is a personality type theory that argues nine different personality types exist in the world. It’s time to discover why it’s an effective tool to implement within organizations, ministries and workplaces. Bringing the Enneagram as a tool to use within your church increases the quality of communication among your team members.

The Enneagram’s surge in popularity among Christians has spawned an increased demand for resources from spiritual seekers hoping to identify and explore their personality types. In response, New Church Hacks invites you to its latest episode to:

  • Apply the principles to your personal and spiritual growth
  • Strengthen successful relationships at home, at church and in the community 
  • Develop leaders, build teams, and enhance communication skills 
  • Integrate into your Bible studies, therapy sessions, retreats and individual spiritual practice.

The featured guests include Trey Flowers (Senior Pastor at Downey Avenue Christian Church), Christiana Rice (leading practitioner and visionary voice in the Parish Movement), and Kim Ryan (Co-Director/Pastor of Bethany Fellows). As always, the host will be Terrell L McTyer (Minister of New Church Strategies for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada).

And don’t forget to join us on our Facebook page following the webinar for a live Q&A with our guests, host, Assistant Minister for New Church Ministry Jose Martinez, and Disciples Church Extension Fund Creative Writer/Digital Media Specialist Nadine Compton.

Stay tuned for our final episode of the year, airing in October!


New Church Hacks provides practical (and sometimes peculiar) prompts for churches from start to restart. This free webinar series is jam-packed with clever solutions to tricky problems and empowers courageous leaders with the tools, tips and how-tos to start, sustain and strengthen congregations. For regular updates, be sure to follow along on social media with #NewChurchHacks!

New Church Ministry hosts first-ever virtual Coaching Academy

At New Church Ministry, a coach is a partner who comes alongside a pastor as they plant or start a new church here in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). They don’t tell pastors what to do and what not to do. Instead, they assist pastors in fulfilling their ministry’s vision, mission, and values.

“A coach elicits from a pastor what it is that they want to accomplish, but also serves as an accountability partner,” says Rev. Dr. Joi Robinson, Associate Minister of New Church Ministry, “someone the pastor can check in with, someone they can vent to while still focusing on the goals for the ministry.”

Each time a pastor connects with their coach, (once a month, for one hour), each session is confidential. That way, a relationship of mutual respect and trust is formed. 

“Sometimes things don’t go as the pastor had planned,” Joi points out. “And so, the coach helps the pastor reassess, and sometimes refocus to determine new priorities and action steps.” 

Many sessions take place over the phone, and Zoom is now an available option. But no matter how a coach chooses to communicate with a new church pastor, the most important skills they must practice are precise listening and strategic questioning.

In fact, you don’t even have to be a pastor in order to be a coach. Those who are pastors as well as coaches have to work extra hard to guide the new church pastor to her/his own decisions rather than simply provide suggestions based on their own pastoral experiences. All coaches are trained in the skills and processes of coaching during an initial 16-hour Coaching Academy.

However, this year’s Coaching Academy was history-making.

Hosted by Rev. Dr. Robinson from May 27 to May 29, this was the first time that the Coaching Academy went virtual! Using Zoom, 13 coaches from across the country had an opportunity to learn the next level of coaching for New Church Ministry – Group Coaching. Now, instead of only coaching the lead pastor, our coaches will include the Core Team as well. This year’s Virtual Coaching Academy was an opportunity for both veteran and novice coaches to expand their coaching skills and competencies for the purpose of supporting a newly starting congregation.,

Prior to this first virtual Coaching Academy, new coaches attended four Online Coaching  Sessions from November 2019 to February 2020. The November and December sessions were conducted by John Mocko – Professional Coach with International Coach Federation, ELCA Coach Trainer, ICF Mentor Coach and a CoachNet Global Trainer who has been coaching since 2006.

The January and February 2020 Online Coaching Sessions and the 2020 Virtual Coaching Academy were conducted by Rev. Gregg Carlson, Director of Coaching and Contracted Services at Convergence US. During the Virtual Academy, Rev. Carlson prepared a Pre-Academy Preparation Video that reviewed everything that had been taught in the Online Training Sessions. After watching this video, each novice coach applied the information they had learned by participating in a recorded Zoom Practice Coaching Session in which Joi played the role of a new pastor – and each coach applied their newly learned skills to coach her. These recorded practice sessions were shared with Rev. Carlson, who then provided written feedback to all of the participants.

“Most of the coaches received their feedback before the Academy began. That provided them with a reference point as they prepared to learn new information and skills related to Group Coaching,” shares Joi. 

Practice really was key to the event.

Participants practice their coaching skills in one of the Breakout Rooms.

On the first day, attendees watched a recording of another role-play interaction, this time between Gregg and Terrell L McTyer, Minister of New Church Strategies – with Gregg as the coach and Terrell as the new church pastor. After observing and discussing what they saw, coaches were divided into Breakout Rooms on Zoom, where small groups of three played different roles in a given scenario (that of a pastor, coach, and observer), using the skills they had been taught. While these skills included asking the kinds of questions that help new church leaders make action steps to answer God’s call, they also included cultural competency. Keeping church leaders accountable to the mission, vision and values of their ministry may vary according to cultures, but Joi reminded coaches to be attentive to cultural differences while still helping pastors follow the action plans they have set for their ministries.

Participants play the roles of pastor, coach, and observer in Breakout Room #1.

“[Disciples] speak in dozens of different languages, and have just as many cultures,” Joi points out. “One of the things that we were talking about was, ‘how do you present things to people to get them to think, and to get them to move in the direction that they say that they want to move in, without you telling them how to do that?’” 

The second and third days had live coaching sessions, where group coaching was introduced.

Coaches learned about “The Nine Roles of a Coach in Team or Group Coaching” and then practiced these roles in small groups of four – one as lead pastor, two core team members and the coach – rotating between the various roles.

“The veteran coaches – who’ve already been coaching – brought up real-life issues to address,” recalls Joi. “Although the new coaches hadn’t yet coached anyone, they anticipated possible areas of concern which provided rich problem-solving discussions.”

The third and final day, continued with more practice sessions and culminated with Terrell presenting a powerful Commissioning Service and Closing Communion.  

Terrell presents the Closing Ceremony to all the participants.

The lessons learned at New Church Ministry’s first Virtual Coaching Academy have proven to be valuable in other areas of the lives of its participants, especially when so many of their communities are currently struggling with various systemic issues that are targeting their most vulnerable members. 

“[Coaching] has made me aware that there is always a solution to conflicts,” reflected one participant. “It has opened my eyes to the possibility of growing even in the midst of challenging scenarios.” 

“The Coaching Academy has positively influenced my ministry since I have learned techniques to use not only with my projects, but with my congregation,” reflected another.

New Church Ministry seeks to provide coaches for our new church pastors from at least 12 different languages. So if you, or someone you know, has a heart to serve God through the Coaching Ministry, please contact Joi Robinson at jrobinson@newchurchministry.org. We are especially in need of Haitian Creole, Chuukese, or Korean-speaking coaches.

Anti-racism webinar

Will you use your voice for anti-racism?

People are suffering. How can the church show that it is listening? How do we exercise Biblical justice as Disciples of Christ? There are some practices that leaders, congregations, and organizations can adopt to eradicate systemic racism. The Bible is clear that all people are made in God’s image. Racism and oppression are against the heart of God, who does not tolerate injustice.

You can courageously and radically transform your church and community into an active force for justice and solace when the world seems to tell certain people that they do not matter. Racism is a sin that needs to be called out. In our latest New Church Hacks episode, participants were empowered to:

  • Dismantle racism from the pulpit and beyond
  • Engage anti-racism training at all levels of formation in your church
  • Support organizations and community activists that are at the frontlines
  • Discuss different ways in which others are fighting against racism
  • Celebrate humanity’s rich cultures and diverse ethnic backgrounds and traditions.

Featured guests

April Johnson anti-racism

April Johnson is the Minister of Reconciliation for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada). As Minister of Reconciliation, Rev. Johnson facilitates the church-wide process of awareness, analysis and action toward healing the fractures in the body of Christ that are caused by systemic racism. She collaborates with organizer trainers, regional and congregational staff leadership, anti-racism teams and ecumenical partners in her efforts to guide this work. To read her hacks and resources, click here.

Mark Anderson anti-racism

Mark Anderson is the CEO and President of the National Benevolent Association (NBA). In this role, Mark leads the NBA in living out its mission of “creating communities of compassion and care” – a mission that NBA fulfills by utilizing a network of ministry partners and by equipping congregations and other direct-care providers to deliver services to those in need. He strongly believes that health and social service ministries can respond to both the immediate need in marginalized communities, as well as fighting to change the systems that prevent people from overcoming their challenges in life. For his hacks, click here and for his resources, click here.

Yvonne Gilmore is the Associate Dean of the Disciples Divinity House at the University of Chicago. As Associate Dean, she fosters educational opportunities, vocational development, and transformative conversation among current students, alumni/ae, and friends as well as in wider venues. She is in demand as a speaker and preacher and as an anti-racism trainer with Reconciliation Ministry. She has team-taught in the Divinity School’s Arts of Ministry sequence, and she is a member of the Board of Directors of Higher Education and Leadership Ministries (HELM) and former member of the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Her hacks and resources are accessible here.

Joining us in her first Facebook Live was guest, Nadine Compton (Creative Writer/Digital Media Specialist for Disciples Church Extension Fund). Here are her hacks and resources.

Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly together in Des Moines

The New Church Ministry team met Rev. Debbie Griffin, the Senior Minister of Downtown Disciples, last summer at General Assembly (GA). Since the pastor’s congregation is based in Des Moines, IA, it offered worship services, hosted pre-assembly activities for general ministries, prepared a meal for regional ministers, and chaired the local GA mission committee.

All of that as a new church planted in 2015.

To celebrate the culmination of the 2020 Vision goal to form 1,000 congregations within the first two decades of the 21st Century, we spoke with Rev. Debbie about Downtown Disciples. 

How do you describe Downtown Disciples?

It’s a progressive faith community. We are LGBTQ+-affirming, and we proclaim Black Lives Matter. We say that every time we gather, because it matters to us. We are a new church formed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest Region.

Why did you plant Downtown Disciples?

I was about to give up on the Church. I love many things about it. I was raised in the Disciples Church. I love the faith. I love the stories of Jesus. But I was really frustrated that some folks within the Church were really challenging progressive theology. I just felt like the Church wasn’t being the inclusive, boundary-breaking, justice-loving presence of Christ in the world. I thought I would just go work in the nonprofit sector. I secured a position with the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa when I was called by the Region to consider a small congregation that needed a short-term interim minister. I started serving that church full of beautiful people and they really changed me. They were doing such great ministry, in western Iowa of all places, which is very conservative. This small church of faithful people was doing amazing work in the love of Christ. They had two queer women in leadership positions. They were serving a home-cooked meal to more than 100 people every Wednesday night, no questions asked, opening their doors and not pressuring people to be church in a certain way. A diverse group of people came for many reasons. Relationships were built. It was just organic, and it was ministry. They gave me hope for the Church. I thought to myself, “If this can happen in western Iowa, it can certainly happen in downtown Des Moines.” I thought, “there must be more people like me, who love Jesus and miss faith community, but whose theology is too progressive for most people.” So, I laid out a vision of starting as an LGBTQ+-affirming book club. We started with a book called Saving Jesus From the Church by Robin Myers, who’s a UCC pastor. People came! We read one book, and then we read another book. Then we started serving meals at the homeless shelter down the street. Then we walked in the Pride Parade. Then we started doing a variety of other activities, going to our city council about policing and racial profiling. Pretty soon someone said, “When are we going to worship?” That’s when I knew we had a church. 

The Pentecost Offering allows local Disciples to support new church plants like yours, across the United States and Canada. What does the Pentecost Offering mean to you as a church planter?

We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Pentecost Offering. Downtown Disciples wouldn’t have had a place to worship that worked for us. We needed to be in a neutral place, because we’re reaching out to people who’ve been wounded and excluded from church. Also, we wanted to be in an urban setting. That costs money. Plus, we needed a full-time pastor to make this work. The Upper Midwest Region has been exceptionally supportive of us. Ultimately, they set out a three-year plan of sustainability for us. And the other people in our Region have been just as supportive of this amazing ministry.

The 2020 Vision prioritized forming 1,000 congregations in 1,000 different ways. What is the “way” your faith community demonstrates that diversity?

We didn’t start with worship. When we did decide to start worshiping, we were clear that we didn’t want to do so in a typical church building. At Pentecost, we’ll be five years old, and we’ve had three worship locations: a community center, a loft-type space above a music venue, and now a bakery. We also started out with worship on Sunday nights. Then as we grew, we added a Sunday morning worship.  We also have a podcast called Like Micah, because our mission is Micah 6:8 – “do justice, love kindness, walk humbly.” We tell stories of our faith. We like to say we’re nimble, and we respond to the needs of the community. Most of our people were not coming to us through worship. They were coming to us at the wine bar when we were having Word Up Wednesdays. They were coming to us for Bible Geeks on Tuesday mornings at the local hip coffee shop. We were meeting up at a laundromat where we would just do random acts of kindness and hang out and be there with children’s books and food and quarters. People found us at other places that were easier entry points, and then once they could trust us, they would move to worship. 

Senior Minister Debbie Griffin leads worship at La Mie, the bakery that serves as the church’s worship location. (All services are now online.)

How would you define the progressive Christianity you promote?

We spell it out in our website. People who have been wounded or excluded by the church, need to know who you are. I’m specifically referring to LGBTQ+ people. They have gone to churches that say they’re welcoming, until you want to marry your beloved; or you want to be a leader in the church; or you want to attend seminary. So, when we say progressive, we mean LGBTQ+-affirming; we proclaim Black Lives Matter; we are curious about other faiths. We do not condemn or judge others, because Jesus calls us not to do that. And we are passionate about social justice.

What role do new faith communities have in the church?

They are the heartbeat of the church right now. I know that in the Upper Midwest Region, other Disciples churches that identify as traditional look to us. Oftentimes people worry the new churches are going to “replace” the traditional churches. I don’t see it that way. I see that we can be an outreach for traditional churches who see in us something that they love, but they can’t be right now. So, we become an outreach of their ministry. We currently have one church in the Upper Midwest Region that supports us financially. They send us part of their outreach budget. They send us a check every quarter because they can identify that we can do some things that they can’t do right now. I think we’re the hope for, not only people who have been excluded and wounded by church, but for traditional church people who see in us an opportunity to partner and extend their ministry.

Do you have any advice for people looking to plant a church?

What God is doing in new church is different in every single place. What worked for Downtown Disciples was unique to what God was doing here and is doing here in our time and our place. New church planting here is not the cookie-cutter for other new churches anywhere else. Still, some things are true for all church plants. I would say, don’t do it alone; listen to the Spirit and to the people who you’ve gathered. We wouldn’t be who we are without the people who gathered with us, allowing the Spirit to work through them.

How is your congregation responding to the coronavirus?

We worship and gather virtually. We share what type of bread we are breaking together in our homes during communion. We raised $1,000 for PPE, donating those funds to our local hospitals that need life-saving equipment. We continue to deliver supplies to our homeless neighbors, wearing face masks, gloves, and staying at a safe distance. We write cards to our friends who are isolated. We cook and deliver meals, flowers, and groceries to members who are quarantined or at high risk. In summary, we are still a movement for wholeness in this fragmented world. The Spirit still calls and empowers us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly together.”

Downtown Disciples holds a worship service over Zoom.

New faith communities like Downtown Disciples are supported by the Pentecost Offering. Half of the offering supports New Church Ministry to coach and train new church leaders. Half supports local Regions to sustain new churches. Join us in celebrating the 2020 Vision by making a gift through your congregation or the DMF website. This Special Day Offering is received on May 31 and June 7.

“We walk with our community:” How new church planters are doing ministry

UrbanMission, a joint congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), lies at the intersection of White Avenue and Ninth Street in Pomona, CA.

The city sits just north of a men’s prison, and is one of the areas in which formerly incarcerated individuals are released. South Pomona struggles with gang violence and drug abuse.

None of that was a deal-breaker for Rev. Al Lopez, the congregation’s Lead Pastor. He felt called to plant a new church where folks could be themselves and still belong. 

In this New Church Ministry interview he shares how UrbanMission reframes church in the 21st Century.

What is UrbanMission?

We are a church without walls. We have several ministries that are interconnected and interdependent… plus we get together and worship. 

In our Open Table gatherings, people from all walks of life create a sense of belonging and provide a free meal.

An Open Table gathering

Rev. Nora Jacob, our Restorative Justice Minister, goes inside Chino State Prison every week and facilitates several groups. She also heads up the Reentry Coalition, which assists, and provides a place for, people coming out of incarceration.

Rev. Nora Jacob serves communion outside.

In 2014, we founded UrbanMission Community Partners (a non-profit organization) with a vision and purpose that really aligns with that of the church, although it’s an independent entity.

So UrbanMission has been kind of like a seed planter. UrbanMission Community Partners takes those seeds and helps them grow.

What was the impetus for you to plant UrbanMission?

A few years before starting seminary, my theology began to change. As it expanded from the faith that I had grown up with, I found myself feeling less and less part of my community because of our different insights and interpretations of scripture. There’s a very dualistic way of understanding who’s in and who’s out. 

When I received the call to start a church, I began meeting with Rev. Dr. Felix Villanueva, the Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, Conference minister. I indicated I felt the call to plant a church, but one where I belonged. I couldn’t find a community that I felt a part of, where I could be myself. The Southern California Nevada Conference really offered me the opportunity. 

They essentially handed me the keys once we looked at the property. A congregation there had closed. Rev. Villanueva said, “You do what you feel God is calling you to do and just keep reporting to us. You’re part of our staff.” They’ve given us the freedom to really pursue this the way that we feel led. 

I am Mexican American. I’ve learned in being part of the immigrant community that you don’t look at what you don’t have. You look at what you do have and make the best of it. 

I had: an empty building, no people, no connections to the (local) community. So, I started looking at communities where I had connections.

I had just started seminary at Claremont School of Theology. I was meeting people who were passionate about several issues that overlapped with (the neighborhood’s) needs. (We discovered) an organic fit.

I happened to know Rev. Jacob through other regional work. She started our prison ministry.

I was introduced to Rev. Stephen Patten by the Disciples Seminary Foundation. Steven is our Community Wellness Minister, and in his role, he addresses drug abuse in our community.

My main focus is the Sunday morning congregation.

The three of us approach this planting of a new church as a team.

An UrbanMission worship service

This collaborative leadership model is one other new churches use. How has it helped you be successful?

Our congregation is in a community that’s financially challenged. So, we knew going into this that we needed to approach church planting in a very entrepreneurial way. We were not going to be looking at the income from the Sunday morning gatherings as the main revenue in order to sustain the ministry and all the other work that we do. That shapes our understanding of leadership and what each individual contributes. 

We recently had our very first church council meeting. It’s made up of people who had previously come to UrbanMission that had never even attended church, or had never been part of church leadership, or were against the thought of church. We’re playing into their strengths. 

It has been a learning curve, especially because this past year was particularly difficult for me on a personal level. I haven’t been able to do the kind of training that I wanted to do. But that’s the wonderful thing about church. When you empower people, they take the ball and run with it. 

So, they each bring their gifts — that has made us successful. The impact we’re having in our community has gone above and beyond what I ever thought possible.

How do you measure that impact?

We use some traditional metrics, such as: How many families are being fed? How many community groups are we housing in our Community Wellness Center? The more life-changing (measure) for me has been, how many lives have been transformed? 

This woman showed up at one of the nonprofit’s art shows, where we highlight art created by people who were formerly incarcerated. This woman looked very familiar. Eventually, Nora pulled me aside and said, “You need to hear her story.” 

We had her on camera sharing that she actually was one of our guests on Sundays. She was houseless and dealing with addiction, so the only reason why she was coming was because she was invited with no strings attached. Just welcomed. She took that and went from there, little by little. Now she is a counselor working with people that are still on the street. She’s completely turned her life around. She came back just to show her gratitude.

She said: “This is where my life changed because of the way that you greeted me and what you were providing.” 

Our first moderator is the very first person that I met when I started in Pomona. When he found out that I was a pastor, he said, “I don’t want to offend you, but I don’t trust pastors.” We spent about six months developing a relationship over coffee, over food, over imagining what could happen in that place. Eventually he told me, “I want to be the first member of your congregation.” 

He went from having some really serious legal issues that prevented him from working, to becoming a contractor, to owning his own company. He’s been very successful at it, giving great prices to a lot of our congregations in the area. His company was hired to remodel the Conference offices. 

All of that from a conversation that started with us being vulnerable with each other. Me saying, “Hey, I need help. I don’t know anything about property,” and him saying, “I don’t trust church. Here are all the things I don’t like about church.” And me saying, “Hey, here are all of the things that I don’t like about church, either. A lot of them match up. How can we change that?” 

Do you feel like being a hybrid church has helped you folks do ministry?

Both denominations have wonderful things going for them, and they both have their unique challenges. I think for those of us who are somewhere in between the Millennials and the Gen-Xers, we have the ability to be part of both worlds, speak both languages – think in both ways. It gives us freedom to not be shackled by some of the things that would hold others back. 

Case in point, I was asked, “What about baptism? What about communion?” Those two happened to be some of the contentious areas between both denominations. At that point, baptism was far into the future. But I said we will teach what both bodies believe, and then we will leave that up to the person to decide. 

Rev. Al Lopez baptizes a woman while Rev. Stephen Patten looks on.

Having the congregation be in community with other churches both within our denomination and outside helps them see the way that they’ve been growing up in their faith with us. Sometimes a congregation from a well-to-do area will drop off donations. In the conversations after, one of our people will say, “Did you notice that they kept saying that they’re helping us?” It’s a very transactional way of doing mission work. They are able to tell the difference between the way that we approach it and the way that some other churches do.

How is UrbanMission responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our leadership struggled to find an appropriate response that would honor our commitment to our community, while also ensuring the safety of our volunteers. We decided to continue supporting our community via an “Outdoor Open Table.” This includes distributing dinner in to-go containers and limiting contact as much as possible. Our food pantry continues to work with our partners to provide emergency food services during this time.

Volunteers of an organization that partners with UrbanMission on its Open Pantry.

What do you see in UrbanMission’s future?

We’re just about to start talking with both denominations about the UrbanMission Training Center. We have learned lessons that can help a lot of churches, both established and new churches, even nonprofits. Several of us are trained coaches now, so we would do some coaching. And that’s actually really transformed the way I approach ministry, by just asking deep questions and just doing a lot of listening. It’s very much walking with, instead of trying to lead. I think that’s one of the things that the Church really needs to own.

Is there anything you want to add?

The importance of vulnerability. I mean, we follow a man that, depending on where your Christology is, made himself, time after time, vulnerable with those that he was with. It’s something that we’re trying to emulate. I think that has been part of UrbanMission’s success. We don’t see ourselves as an institution, but as part of a community.


UrbanMission, and the 1,034+ new churches–and counting–that have formed or become affiliated with the Disciples since 2001, are supported by the Pentecost Offering. Half of this Special Day Offering is used by New Church Ministry to coach and train new church leaders, and the other half is used by local Regions to sustain new churches. Join us in celebrating the 2020 Vision by making a gift online or through your congregation when this Special Day Offering is received on May 31 and June 7.

30 Hacks for Managing Change

Successfully managing a period of change takes art, intuition, skill, strong listening, effective communication, and spiritual discernment. When done correctly, change management can help a leader gain respect and loyalty. Done poorly, it can have adverse effects on the organization and its people.

Managing change is often daunting to oversee, especially during challenging circumstances. The hacks we will share will help you adjust to change by working with your team to create and execute imaginative plans. Learn to:

  • Launch major transformation efforts to keep your members’ heads above water,
  • Make plans to overcome those who oppose the transformation,
  • Enable others within the ministry to drive change themselves,
  • Build the necessary skills to foster flexibility,
  • Contribute to an organizational culture of adaptability, and
  • Get your mind, emotions, and behavior in the same direction of the shift.

Featured guests

Joining us for our webinar were Carla Leon (Innovation & Special Projects lead for EDGE – A Network for Ministry Development of the United Church of Canada), Jennifer DeCoste (Community Host of Life.School.House), and Terry Crump (Mental Health Initiative Team of the National Benevolent Association, owner of Crump Wellness Services, and clinical psychologist).

And just like we did for our previous episode, we gathered with our guests, plus Associate Minister for New Church Strategies, Jose Martinez, for an after session, where we continued the conversation on Zoom. To watch this video, visit our Facebook Live link.


Hosted by Pastor Terrell L McTyer, Minister of New Church Strategies, New Church Hacks provides practical (and sometimes peculiar) prompts for churches from start to restart. Why only do something new or better when you can be both?! Our ministry’s free webinar series is jam-packed with clever solutions to tricky problems and empowers courageous leaders with the tools, tips and how-tos to start, sustain and strengthen congregations.

Amie Vanderford, the pastor of The LabOratory Church, a new faith community that provides healing for those with mental illness in Indianapolis.

The LabOratory Church provides a safe space for health, healing, and hope in Indianapolis

Rev. Amie Vanderford has experienced trauma.

She knows what it’s like to distrust others; how damaging isolation can be to recovery. That’s why she and her husband, Thaddeus Shelton, launched The LabOratory Church. This new Indianapolis church offers safe space for those with mental illness to worship, cultivate strong connections and seek healing.

New Church Ministry spoke with Pastor Amie about The LabOratory Church, one of the 1,034 congregations (and counting!) that have formed or become affiliated with the Disciples since they adopted the 2020 Vision in 2001. 

Tell us about your new church’s name: LabOratory.

It’s a play on words. It’s a lab. But it’s also oratory, like preaching. We’re a new church with a focus on mental health and building community in new ways.

We really want to reach people who have been hurt by the church, people who are afraid of others. They isolate because they’re like, “I just can’t deal with humanity anymore.” We’re trying to create a brave space where people can be fully real. If they want to come in sad or angry or frustrated, or happy or joyful, they could bring their whole selves. We’ll still work with them, no matter what feelings or problems they’re having. I feel like too many churches try to be positive all the time. It has its place to be positive, right? But we can’t really minister to people if we don’t also name what is wrong, and name what we’re struggling with and have support in our struggling times. So, really, it’s a place to be whole and do relational healing.

Trauma psychologist Judith Herman talks about the three stages of healing. The first is about naming the trauma. You work through it in the second stage, like in the therapist’s office. The third stage is relational healing, being in relationship with each other. That was the stage where I had stalled. I felt like if I was fully myself, people would reject me. We want to be the place where people find healing in relationship.

We understand from what you were saying that this was a personal journey of yours because you’ve dealt with mental health issues and your partner is trained in therapy. Are these issues particular to the neighborhood that you’re in? Or are you addressing a local context of a wider problem?

It’s definitely a wider problem. I think it’s cultural. You have to start with yourself and the people around you. It’s a concentric circle sort of thing. We name individualism as the problem. That’s what damages relationships. All the sins that break our relationships are based out of our culture saying that individualism and competition is the only way to survive. But that’s actually the only way to make sure that no one survives. We are created to be relational. So, we have to learn how to be in relationship with each other, despite the cultural norms telling us, “You can’t trust anyone, they’re always your competition. They’re gonna’ steal your stuff, they’re gonna’ steal your glory.” It’s a scarcity mentality, right? We’re trying to emphasize an abundance mentality, a mentality of mutuality, a mentality of generosity, compassion and, shocking, “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Is your team-leadership style a response to individualism? 

Absolutely. We’re really focusing on training people to internalize (the values of the community) before we give them more power over decision making. Most of the people on our launch team get it. But we’re in the early stages. We’re being very intentional about making sure that the values are the most important thing. We’re open to suggestions on how we do worship, on who we serve, all of that. But what we’re teaching people is that every question has to go through the lens of, is this supporting individualism or cooperation? Is this supporting everyone? Or is it self-serving? We ask those questions every time we decide to do something.

Pastor Amie and Thaddeus, on the right, pose with a local painter and artwork that he created at The LabOratory Church’s first worship service.

I’m the main person because Thaddeus has a second job as a therapist, but he is in charge of the mental health aspects. I am in charge of pastoral care and worship. But we talk everything through together. When I figure out what scripture to preach on, for example, we’ll sit and say, “What is going on in the world right now? What sort of mental health challenge fits what people are dealing with? And how does that tie to the scripture? And how does that tie to our mission?” I’ll read through his stuff and he’ll read through mine, and we’ll give each other feedback. 

How is your community responding to the soul searching and in-depth questions you’re asking them?

They love it so far. I think they’re really understanding how it helps the healing. People have been drawn to us, to be in our launch team. They may have associations with other churches even. But they really like the fact that we’re going so deep, it’s not a surface level thing, and that we’re creating a safe environment. We’ve had some conflict already, but I preached on conflict resolution because I wanted, from the beginning, the bar to be set, that we are still human. We are not going to agree on everything. We’re going to misunderstand each other sometimes.

The key to building this type of community is that we have to be brave enough to be honest, and really deal with conflicts as they arise instead of the traditional way of just pretending like it didn’t happen, pushing it down, and developing all of these intense feelings that come out in other ways later.

Who are the current members of The LabOratory Church, or are you not at that point yet?

We have a solid group of people, but I haven’t called them members yet, because we’re still figuring out how we want to name that and what that looks like. A lot of the people that we’re reaching, in addition to the unchurched people, are fellow ministers. We have one minister who’s very active, and she’s a chaplain, and she also serves at another church, but she comes to our church and Bible study as well. We have two elders from another church where I used to serve who are not members because they’re members of another church, but they’re still very instrumental in our programming. So, we’re still figuring out membership.

I’d say if we counted the people who were regular worshipers, we probably have a list between 15 and 20. So that’s a pretty good number for us. We’re not in it for high numbers, we’re just getting to the people that need it and want it. It’s a good mix of people too – younger, older, middle-aged, single families, gay, straight, Black, white.

Because you’re an interracial couple, do you think that people of color consider The LabOratory Church a safe space to worship?

We did a statement of values, which I posted on our website and is in every single bulletin. I usually go over it every single service. We are very clear about everybody being welcome. We named the inclusivity across economic statuses, races, genders, sexualities. We name that we want honesty. We want you to be fully who you are, and we will accept you. In addition to us being interracial, I think, having that constantly represented, stated explicitly, helps people know where they stand.

Eight months ago, you planned to lease a storefront by January, meet on Saturday nights, and have a New Church Ministry coach. Have you met those goals? 

The storefront required way too much work. So, we’re planted inside another church that hosts five congregations. I love that. That’s part of what we loved about being there. Emerson Avenue Baptist Church is right on the border of our neighborhoods. But it also meant that we could only use certain time slots. We now have worship online once a month. But we’re thinking about increasing (the frequency of worship) online to twice a month, (eventually alternating between) once a month online and once a month in person. I’ve also been meeting with a coach. It’s Steven Smith. I’ve been meeting with him for three months. He’s helping us address our bylaw and constitution questions. We’re slowly working toward our goals.

Pastor Amie now conducts her worship services, office hours, Bible studies, and more on Zoom.

You’d been having in-person gatherings in the neighborhood coffee shop, right? 

We did Bible study and my office hours at the coffee shop. The coffee shop that we used, Rabble Coffee, they have just an incredible group of people. They’re very concerned about the neighborhood, they let homeless people come in there without buying anything. They will give them food and they’ll give them clothing and they’re like a church. They’re perfect. They’re not religious, but they do the work that religious people should be doing. So, it’s a really great fit.

Both Thaddeus and you attended Leadership Academy. How did that event impact your ministry?

The packet on demographics that we received confirmed that we had picked the right neighborhood. I liked that we went over budgeting processes. That was very helpful. One of the best things was the relationships we made with fellow church planters. Being a church planter can be lonely. Bouncing ideas off of others going through the same thing was awesome.

What do you see in The LabOratory Church’s future?

I personally have connections with people all over the world, because I was a traveling photographer before I started doing this. I like the idea of us being a dual-type of church, where we do serve our local Indiana neighborhood, but that we really focus on our online ministry to reach people who don’t want to attend (traditional) church who still have questions. We’ve got our Givelify link, YouTube channel, and social media up. We’ve got our messaging out there so that people looking for a place where they can be themselves will find us. We could go global because we’re trying to do life in a new way. It’s not just about church, it’s about how can we live together better as humans.

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New faith communities like The LabOratory Church are supported by the Pentecost Offering. Each year, half of what you give stays in your Region to support and sustain new churches near you. The second half helps train, equip, assist, and nurture leaders across the United States and Canada through New Church Ministry programs. Join us in celebrating the 2020 Vision by making a gift through your congregation or the Disciples Mission Fund website. This Special Day Offering is received on May 31 and June 7.


Celebrating 1,000 New Churches… and Counting!

In 2001 the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada embraced a bold vision: to start 1,000 new churches in 1,000 different ways by the year 2020. And we did it! We started 1,000 new churches… and counting!

Today, we have welcomed more than 1,034 new faith communities into the Church. The Table around which we gather has grown in language, diversity, and life experience. Our church has been transformed by the movement of the Holy Spirit and an audacious vision to start new churches.

Courageous leaders have answered the call to grow the Disciples family through the new church movement. They have given their hearts to reaching the underserved, welcoming new neighbors, and creating communities of love. And we, as a church, have committed to supporting those who have stepped out in faith to start new churches.

We celebrate these brave leaders and recommit to continuing to support their call. Because, together, we started 1,000 new churches… and counting!

Participate in the 2020 Pentecost Offering. Express your gratitude for what God has done and contribute to the continued work of starting more churches. Each year, half of what you give stays in your Region or Area to support and sustain new churches near you. The second half helps train, equip, assist, and nurture leaders across the U.S. and Canada through New Church Ministry programs. Your gift to this Special Day Offering will help the movement continue.

Celebrating 1,000 new churches… and counting!

DCEF offers assistance in applying for CARES Act – Paycheck Protection Program loans

The U.S. federal government has allocated more than USD $350 billion to assist small businesses, including non-profits such as congregations and other denominational organizations, in keeping employees on the payroll and covering critical expenses through this trying financial time. The CARES Act created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), providing loans through the Small Business Administration with provisions for loan forgiveness of up to 100%, depending upon how the loan funds are spent.

Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF) is collaborating with an organization we use for some of our employee benefits, Cost Stewardship, Inc., to provide assistance to Disciples congregations and organizations wanting to apply for these loans. Each Disciples congregation or organization is required to apply directly with a bank, preferably one that has their deposit accounts. The assistance will be very helpful in gathering all of the correct information and fully completing the application form. This service is provided at no cost to Disciples congregations, Regions, General Ministries and recognized ministries. DCEF does not benefit financially in any way from this service. 

If your congregation or Disciples organization needs assistance in applying for the PPP loan, here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Download the Data Collection Spreadsheet seen below and begin to compile your payroll data including benefits on the spreadsheet.
  2. Email the file to CaresAct@DisciplesCEF.org and include your name and phone number, your church’s name, city and state.
  3. You will be contacted by a member of the Cost Stewardship, Inc. team to walk you through the process and get your application completed. They will assist you with determining if your current bank is receiving these applications or if you need to take it somewhere else.

The application process is now open; however, many banks have delayed accepting applications pending time to prepare their systems. Because there is a limited supply of funds, if a congregation or ministry determines they want to apply, we encourage them to begin the application process on a timely basis. If you have any questions, please email DCEF at CaresAct@DisciplesCEF.org.  DCEF is here to assist you.

Information provided by DCEF regarding PPP is of a general nature and is not intended to be tax or legal advice or opinions related to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues. Additional facts or information or future developments may affect the subjects addressed in this communication, especially regarding PPP. Consult with your tax advisor or your legal advisor about your particular circumstances.

Links for Application Process

SBA Faith-Based FAQ

Data Collection Spreadsheet

Financial Data Required for PPP Loans

Informational Links

Information about PPP Loans from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation

An excellent guide and checklist for PPP Loans from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation

SBA Federal Relief Loan Comparison

Application (For information only; Application not needed if ministries are using our assistance)


Along with Hope Partnership Services, DCEF is a ministry partner of New Church Ministry.

What does it mean to “love your neighbor” in the midst of a pandemic?

Faith leaders have their hands full trying to figure out new ways of being church together in this season of social distancing. Congregations may also be looking for safe, innovative ways to respond to unprecedented needs in the community.

Create and Continue Community Connection from your Couch

This episode of New Church Hacks offers suggestions for how places of worship can foster a feeling of community and care for their neighbors when they literally can’t be close to them. Many of these ideas for reaching out beyond the congregation may help the church care for its own members more effectively as well. The discussion will help participants:

  • Learn to build a response team, identify assets in their congregation, assess community resources and needs
  • Explore options for community ministry
  • Inform and organize their congregations for their community care ministry
  • Conduct worship online but also connect the dots in between worship services

Featured guests

Heidi Unruh (Coauthor of Churches That Make a DifferenceHope for Children in Poverty; and The Salt & Light Guidebook), Joy Skjegstad (Author of Seven Creative Models for Community Ministry, Starting a Nonprofit at Your Church, and Winning Grants to Strengthen Your Ministry) and Katy E. Valentine (Coach at katyvalentine.com and founder of Creative Christian Spirituality, LLC).

In a New Church Hacks first, our guests, host, AND Associate Minister Jose got together and continued the conversation in an after-show.


Hosted by Terrell L. McTyer, Minister of New Church Strategies, New Church Hacks provides practical (and sometimes peculiar) prompts for churches from start to restart. This webinar series is jam-packed with clever solutions to tricky problems and empowers courageous leaders with the tools, tips and how-tos to start, sustain and strengthen congregations. Stay social with us using #NewChurchHacks!

Every episode is archived and available for viewing on the Webinar page.