News and Views

BWC hatches innovation

Posted by Melissa Lauber on


Reggan Chapin, 10, loves macaroni and cheese. When her church, John Wesley UMC in Hagerstown, began to brainstorm about innovative ministry and how they could use the church’s commercial kitchen to benefit the community, they turned to Katie. Her response?

“Macaroni and cheeses for Jesus.”

It was a lightbulb moment in a room full of 48-hours of inspiration and experimentation at the Baltimore-Washington Conference’s Ministry Hatchery last month.

Led by the Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean and Ministry Incubators, the Ministry Hatchery gave 12 groups an opportunity to be missional entrepreneurs, creating and planning new ways of being church in their communities.

When Christie Latona, the BWC’s director of Connectional Ministries, posted one of the exercises they did on Facebook, people responded, celebrating "the creation of a space for dreaming with God.

“God has promised that God will make all things new, and the way that God does that is through us,” Latona said. “It is the church’s responsibility to be in a posture of creative co-creation with the Holy Spirit.”

Too often, churches dream and imagine and plan for months, or even years, and never launch new ministries. The Hatchery, Latona said, “reduced the amount of time between an idea of what God might be calling you to and actually trying something. It’s the whole idea of failing boldly and learning quickly, so it’s not just in our heads and hearts, it’s in our hands and feet, too.”

As she and her colleagues gave the 50 participants “the lumber to build ministry plans,” Creasy Dean explained that “the goal of what we’re doing is not innovating; the goal is finding better ways of loving each other.

“Love,” she stressed, “makes us inventors.”

She encouraged people to use design thinking – a process that calls on people to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. And, she stressed that “human-centered” design is at the heart of everything. “Listen," said Creasy Dean. “Design from the perspective of the person you’re designing for. When you start making empathy the starting point, you end up in conversations you never bargained for.”

The values with which one creates are also essential.

“How you do things speaks more loudly than the things you say you want to do,” said Creasy Dean. To shape shared values, she encouraged those present to: put people first; care for the experiments, not the results; believe it’s safe to fail; celebrate what you want more of; and measure what matters or what you measure will be what matters.

As they explored creating avatars of their target audiences, writing mission statements, doing marketing plans, finding income streams, and more, the participants learned that “part of the magic is just taking yourself seriously,” said Trey Wince, one of the presenters.

For the Rev. Bill Brown, the BWC’s director of New Faith Expressions, the Ministry Hatchery was an opportunity for people to step apart from church as it has always been done and approach ministry from different angles with new ways of thinking.

“Too often, we're doing the same things we’ve always done and we’re getting the same results,” he said. “Experiences like this help us shift our stance and look at things differently.”

The Hatchery was an expansion of the BWC’s Change Maker’s initiative, an experience in missional entrepreneurship for young adults, sponsored in part, by the Baltimore-Washington Conference. This experience was open to people of all ages and is part of beginning to build a culture of expectation, Latona said.

The Hatchery’s “ecosystem of experimentation was not, ultimately, intended to be about end results and creating spectacular, sustainable ministry," Latona said.  “It’s about looking outward and developing empathy and faith — empathy for those who are not in our churches and faith that, with God, we can do something about it. It’s about loving well. How do we love our neighbor better?

“We’re hatching hope.”

Learn more about eight visions/projects/innovative ministries presented at the 2019 Hatchery, below.

At Hughes UMC in Wheaton, their vision is to offer affordable housing. "We have enough land to do this," said the Rev. Diana Wingeier-Rayo. "We may have to demolish some existing buildings,...  but we're not afraid of doing all kinds of crazy ideas."

Part of the team from John Wesley UMC in Hagerstown work on their project. This downtown church hopes to provide space and support for small business owners in their community. "The future of Hagerstown is on the kitchen table," they said. "Pull up a chair."

One of the opportunities around Francis Asbury National Korean UMC in Rockville is that many yound adult Koreans don't know about God. To reach them, the church seeks to create fun events where 18 to 20 people can build relationships with each other and with God. 

In an effort to take the church outside its four walls, New Market UMC is looking at a coffee truck. "Cup of J.O.E." would be a mobile coffee house, ministering to people in the church's ZIP Code. "The coffee truck would be a new door to the church," said Local Pastor Scott Clawson.

At Reisterstown UMC, they've noticed that there is no gathering place for kids in their community. To address the need for an "authentic place," the church wants to open "Junction Coffee," and is seeking support to re-do part of their church building and offer "coffee on the porch."

St. Mark UMC in Hanover realized that many people struggle with loneliness. They want to build a community where everyone belongs, and part of that is "Heart of Hanover." The vision is to create a "third place" that merges Bus Boys and Poets, and the "On Being" project.

The Revs. Sarah Elliot, left, and Tiffany Patterson stand with Christie Latona, right, after receiving some seed money for their project. Their aim is to address poverty by working to feed hungry students in Harford County through paying off the lunch debt for more than 900 students.

Members of Colesville UMC have done research in their community and found a lack of opportunity for young adults. Their idea: "SALT - the Social Action Leadership Team," which will be a presence in their area and offer events, forums and platforms for young adults.


Ann Dec 20, 2019 4:18pm

I was on the John Wesley UMC team and would love to know how the other teams are doing.