Leadership Summit 2015: What does a mission-shaped church look like?

September 26, 2015
Leadership Summit 2015
Tonya Whaley talks about a "Fresh Expressions" movement at St. Luke's United Methodist Church called "Holy Listening." Whaley works as a trauma chaplain, bridging the gap to those who have experienced trauma or attempted suicide. Holy Listening allows her and others to be in the community and broaden the network within schools and social systems. Photo by Charmaine Robledo, Director of Communications, Mountain Sky Area
Story by Charmaine Robledo
Director of Communications, Mountain Sky Area


Focusing on people – not projects – was the core idea that nearly 100 leaders of the Rocky Mountain Conference heard during the annual Leadership Summit held Sept. 25 and 26 at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

The event was sponsored by the Board of Stewards and the Mission & Ministry Office (Youngsook C. Kang, Director of Mission & Ministry), and was led by the Reverend Graham Horsley, Connexional Fresh Expressions Missioner with the British Methodist Church, who asked participants to reflect on what a mission-shaped church looked like.

"God has already initiated all sorts of creative mission responses," he said, adding that Fresh Expressions was set up "in response to what God is doing."

Fresh Expressions is a movement that begun in the United Kingdom that "seeks to transform communities and individuals through championing, resourcing and multiplying new ways of being church," according to its website (www.freshexpressions.org.uk). Fresh Expressions also has a U.S. component (freshexpressionsus.org) offering resources to be a "changing church for a changing world."

"Go to where people are and make disciples there." -Rev. Graham Horsley, Fresh Expressions UK

The Leadership Summit was extended to Friday night and all of Saturday so Horsley could fully engage participants in identifying ways to grow and develop churches, and in turn, transform the community. The illustrations and examples he gave were of churches in the United Kingdom located in places that had the most need – whether spiritual or social-economic. Horsley emphasized that churches should adapt to the mission field.

"Go to where people are and make disciples there," he said.

For the summit, Horsley did a mixture of teaching and table discussions, encouraging people to explore more deeply the subjects of "Mission Context and the Mixed Economy," "Starting Something New," and "Handling Opposition, Setbacks, and Failures." Members of the different conference boards and agencies were tasked to not just brainstorm new ways of ministry, but develop action plans.

Horsley showed video clips of various Fresh Expressions churches, including a pastor in Liverpool, England, who formed a spiritual community for homeless people through bread-making; and a couple who opened up their home to welcome people as part of their church family.

Horsley has 25 years experience leading local churches in a variety of settings, always with an evangelistic edge and often planting new faith communities. He previously served the national church as Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for 10 years. In addition to Horsley, the Rev. Kerry Greenhill led worship at the summit along with Board of Stewards co-chairs, Chris Frasier and Jeff Hirota. Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky opened the summit with her remarks on the missional church work of the Mountain Sky Area.

See more photos from the 2015 Leadership Summit on Facebook.