Discerning Guide

Exploring the possibility of becoming a New Worshiping Community

Who is this resource for?

This resource was designed for either an individual or a discernment team. Please understand that discernment should ultimately be done in community, just like much of what we have done in Presbyterian circles. It may take an individual to get an NWC through its initial infancy, but individuals are highly encouraged to form a team. We are also reminded of this in Acts 4:13–14: 

13-14 They couldn’t take their eyes off them — Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright — so healed!  — what could they say against that? (The Message).  


A new kind of church

In the past, we expected “professional” clergy to be the ones developing and leading the start of new churches. That no longer is the case and follows a biblical precedent of God using ordinary people for extraordinary purposes. We can rest assured that God calls those who are willing and not only those with formal education. 


Holy Spirit led

The purpose of this resource is to provide a process of discernment that a team can work through to form a new worshiping community. This process is not linear! It is tempting to make the work linear (A-B-C-D ...), but this process of discernment is about listening to the Holy Spirit and loving people as God loves them. Following the Spirit is rarely neat and linear. 

Go to a Specific Section

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Missional Leadership Quiz

Have you ever wondered if starting a new worshiping community is for you? The MLQ is a new, self-assessment to help you discern your level of readiness to become a new worshiping community leader. Although this does not take the place of the more comprehensive Discerning Missional Leadership assessment, this short quiz is a good first step in the discernment process. The MLQ is free, and you will receive your results immediately.

exploring missional leadership

Exploring Missional Leadership is a daylong introduction to the skills and competencies necessary to start a new worshiping community. Attending an EML can serve as a training opportunity for NWC leadership teams, mid council leaders and commissions, and individuals in the early stages of discerning a call to start a new worshiping community.

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Discerning Missional Leadership

Discerning Missional Leadership is our most thorough form of assessment, and a requirement for those in our grant process. The DML is a 4-day long assessment designed to help discern the call and examine the leadership capacity of those interested in leading a new worshiping community.

The assessment encourages participation by spouses and potential team members who are called to help model and promote missional living. The DML takes into account: the prospective NWC leader’s personal history observations; perceptions that people have of them from different spheres of their life; observations from actual exercises during the event; responses to competency based interview questions; and results and observations as they relate to church planting from pre-course assignments. 

There is also the opportunity for those being assessed to reflect on the experience and engage the group in how they see God at work at this time. At the end of the DML, those being assessed will be given feedback on their readiness for the lead role in starting a new worshiping community, and what they can do to become ready for the task, or the encouragement that they are more likely to flourish in a different form of ministry.

Discerning fit is essential not merely for success but for enjoying the work. This assessment is for: individuals seeking insight and direction for starting a new worshiping community; for churches and other sponsoring groups to get feedback on the capacity of potential candidates to lead a new worshiping community; and students seeking help preparing.

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starting new worshiping communities online resource

Often, we put our ideas of developing a new worshiping community in front of the theological reasoning to do it. This section will build a theological framework for the work you wish to engage in.  

What is a new worshiping community?

Fresh expressions of the church defined by our mission.

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Mid-Council FAQ

There are a number of questions that Mid-Council’s may have. Download our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that covers insurance, legal, and polity issues.

Additional downloads

Downloads available include Spanish and Korean language resources.

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Become an Apprentice or Resident

If you are currently leading an NWC and would like more support, or are exploring a call to be a part of this movement, we encourage you to apply to one of our apprenticeship and residency programs. Applications will soon be available for the 2020-2021 program.

In being an apprentice or resident you will be inaugurated into a contextual and transformative new ministry from scratch. You will participating in a cohort of peers and mentors for reflection, training and discernment. Each participant will also receive professional coaching session every three weeks fro their own development.

2020-2021 Program Application coming soon

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We have two apprenticeship opportunities: One for ten weeks over the summer in Los Angeles and one that takes place in your local context, part-time, September-May.


Nine-month apprenticeships are located in the context in which the leader feels called to live and work; it is usually near their current residence, but doesn’t have to be. Once an apprentice receives a spot in the cohort, we will work with them to find a coach. The nine-month national cohort members meet for conversation, training and discernment via Zoom on Thursdays from 12-1:15 pm EST, beginning September 5.

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Attend our events

Our events are continually being updated as we are invited to participate with mid-councils and our partners. Check back frequently.

video Resources

Our team has developed a series of videos on our YouTube channel that highlight NWCs in a variety of stages of development, as well as, conversations with NWC leaders.

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Starting new worshiping communities online Resource

Our online and downloadable guide will walk you through the resources and the process to start a New Worshiping Community.

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Consult with a coach

Have you ever left a conversation with clarity, insight, and courage? That’s the kind of feeling you get with a great coach. That’s why we have experienced leaders to coach you as you develop a new worshiping community. We believe this is essential for healthy and sustainable ministry, so we would like to connect you with a specially trained coach. Coaches meet regularly with you to listen, ask great questions, help you discover your gifts, and enable you to discern the way forward when you get stuck.

Do you have a coach? Let us help you find a great one by filling out our application.

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Learn about coaching

Our coaches take the posture of servant, not expert. The coach is there to ask questions that aid in discernment, not tell the NWC team what they should do. They help the missionary leader discover, clarify, and align with God’s mission in a particular context. Therefore, our coaches empower the missionary team members to use their gifts to fulfill the Mission of God in a particular context, developing strategies and the key next steps. Our coaches challenge the missionary leader to rely on prayerful listening and reflection both private and corporate. and finally, the coach is meant to hold the missionary leader responsible and accountable to the Mission of God.

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Consider Funding Options

As you are in the discerning stage, there are grants that are available for your New Worshiping Communities. For a complete list of grants you can go to our funding page.

While you are in the discerning stage there are two main grants that you are eligible for. Those are the Seed Grant, which is a one time grant for $7,500. No matching is required. This grant is designed to encourage the birth of new worshiping communities through congregations and presbyteries rather than to fund the expansion or support of existing congregations or programs.

Leaders of New Worshiping Communities are also eligible for the Health Insurance Grant which supplements health insurance for leaders. This grant is $1,500 per year- twice renewable.

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Grant Deadlines

Grant applications are accepted continually. Watch for specific dates of when submissions are due.


The discernment stage is about exploring the possibilities of becoming a New Worshiping Community. While in the discernment stage it involves numerous conversations and opportunities you can partake in. Perhaps you need to learn more about being outward drive, perhaps you would like more training, or you need to have someone walk with you in this journey. We are here to join you on your journey.


Download the Starting New Worshiping communities resource

Our Starting New Worshiping Communities Guide in connection with this site creates a comprehensive overview or Starting a New Worshiping Community.

contact our team

Perhaps you have a number of questions about the resources that we provide in the discerning stage. Contact us and we can help you.

go to the next step

Once you have engaged with the discernment step, perhaps you are ready to start with the starting stage. Take a look at what the next step takes.