West Virginia has a lot of United Methodist Churches (about 1,000) “but just because we have a lot of buildings does not mean we have a church everywhere a church is needed,” said Ken Willard, the WV Conference’s Director of Discipleship, Leadership and Congregational Vitality.
“There are a lot of people in our communities that do not have a church home,” Willard said. “That’s why we’re looking at new ways to reach people.”
Willard has been working closely with Rev. Joe Webb, who is shepherding a “church without walls” in the Little Kanawha District (see accompanying article).
In addition to shepherding the Little Kanawha District group, Webb is the conference’s New Ministries Coordinator.
“What Joe is doing with the group is called ‘Fresh Expressions,’ and it’s part of the conference’s initiative to help equip people across the conference to try something new,” Willard said. “We’re not saying traditional church is wrong or another form of church is right. We’re saying there are lots of ‘expressions of church.’
“I’m intentional about calling what Joe is doing a ‘church,’ within our Methodist audience,” Willard said. “It’s a church without a church building. He’s just doing church in a different way.”
West Virginia has experienced Methodist church closures in recent years. In fact, “every conference is closing churches,” Willard said. “But many conferences are also starting churches where there is a need for a new church. We are looking at many options to reach people who are not currently connected to a church of any type.”