Project Helps Churches with Disciple-Making



NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A pilot project initiated by Discipleship Ministries is underway to help United Methodist churches in the United States articulate what discipleship looks like in their context and to engage in dedicated disciple making as they become vital congregations.

 Details of the project were discussed at a recent Discipleship Ministries board of directors meeting in Pittsburgh, hosted by the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference, one of the annual conferences where the Building H.O.P.E. Pilot Project is occurring.  Read more about the WPAUMC gathering.
“Every church has the ability to make disciples, and Discipleship Ministries wants to help them do it,” said Sara Thomas, Chief Strategist for Vital Congregations and Deputy General Secretary at Discipleship Ministries.
“The Building H.O.P.E. Project is a life-giving process for a local church to engage in to say, ‘We can make disciples and live into our mission.’ And it doesn't matter if your church is in rural Kansas or in the urban center of Los Angeles, God has gifted you in ways that God has not gifted other congregations to do the work of disciple making,” Thomas said.
More than 30 U.S. congregations representing a variety of annual conferences are participating in the pilot. The Building H.O.P.E. Project has two primary goals: Equipping leaders with adaptive leadership skills and helping congregations identify in their local contexts what a disciple-making process looks like and begin to develop a culture of discipleship.
A group of 25 clergy and lay leaders are being trained as Discipleship Coaches who will focus on coaching, facilitating and supporting local churches as they seek to become sustainable, disciple-making congregations. The coaches will work with individual local churches within the United States as they discover and assess their strengths, and then develop and deploy transformational strategies to be vital congregations.
Building H.O.P.E is a process of discovery and mobilization for the local church that is facilitated by the Discipleship Coach. It includes a congregational survey using a quantitative assessment tool to learn about the church’s health and transformation, focus groups with the congregation to gain qualitative data about realities within the church and demographic data to help the congregation understand the context of its specific mission field.
The gathered data will be incorporated into a Comprehensive Discovery Report to affirm the unique strengths within the congregation that must be leveraged, to identify key issues the church may choose to address for transformational success and to frame future possibilities in a way that inspires hope for future missional impact.
A Building H.O.P.E. Guide to Disciple-Making will help congregational leaders use the Discovery Report to have conversations about disciple making, mission, congregational life stage and culture. The guide will include print and multimedia resources, including episodes from Chuck Knows Church and THE COMMITTEE.
The H.O.P.E. acronym for the core process of making disciples, which is found in paragraph 122 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, is:
  • H – Hospitality: Proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ
  • O – Offer Christ: Lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ
  • P – Purpose: Nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing
  • E – Engagement: Send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel
The need for local churches to have clarity on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in their local context and how to make is happen was recognized early on by Dr. Timothy L. Bias, General Secretary (chief executive) of Discipleship Ministries.
Discipleship Ministries challenges and supports annual conference leaders in their task of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. (For more information, go to
The Western Pennsylvania conference staff has been developing models and strategies to help congregations become vital through discipleship. One tool, the Road to Discipleship, is an intentional guide for local churches that leads an individual from exploring Jesus to being centered in Christ.
“The Building H.O.P.E. Pilot is a part of an overall strategy for vital congregations that the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference is already working on,” Thomas said. “We're coming alongside the annual conference to help their efforts to be grounded in discipleship. They recognize disciple making is essential and foundational to the work they are doing in revitalization and in starting new churches.”
Participating in the Building H.O.P.E Project will be only a minimal expense for local congregations. “We're setting it up so that whether a congregation has 25 people or 1,500 in worship on Sunday morning, they can participate in this process,” Thomas said.
For more information about how to participate in the pilot, go to

The mission of Discipleship Ministries is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit, the Press Center at or call the Communications Office at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 1726.