Korean UMC Leaders Discuss Strategies for Growth

The Korean Christian force has been growing in strength over the decades, but because of several theological issues and conflicts in leadership, the number of Korean-American churches within mainline denominations began diminishing from its peak in the 1990s.

In light of the challenges facing the intra-mainline Korean Christian population, twenty three Korean United Methodist pastors from across the States gathered for a conference to revitalize their churches, Dec. 6-8, 2004.

"Leaders of our Korean community and pastors from three different size churches –small, mid-size and large—gathered to talk about our situation in the spirit of truth telling and to address the issue of our churches’ decline and how to revitalize our congregations and grow them to do the work of the Great Commission," said the Rev. Paul Hak Soon Chang, superintendent of the Tri State Southern District in the New England Annual (regional) Conference, during the gathering.

According to the United Methodist News Service (UMNS), there are currently 310 Korean United Methodist Churches – down from the 420 congregations at the end of 1990.

“Possible reasons for the decline—theological issues, changing social context, leadership and lack of vision, good strategies and resources—were considered,” the UMNS reported, noting that the decline is a reflection of the “general decline in membership of the United Methodist Church in the United States.”

The leaders considered ways to “raise awareness” of the Korean-American United Methodist caucus, so the ministries can grow effectively within the 8.3 million-member denomination.

“We had a good representation at the 2004 General Conference, but it is not enough. By sharing our ministries and resources with others, we can grow together and do ministries effectively,” said the Rev. Sang Yean Cho, director of Korean resources for United Methodist Communications, according to the UMNS.

After praying for strength, wisdom and vision, the participants shared their goals until the next time they would meet.

"The name of our church is Good Seed. As the name itself says, it is our goal and vision to plant the good seed for the next generations," said the Rev. Daniel Dong II Chang, pastor of a small church, Good Seed United Methodist Church in Fairview, Texas, according to UMNS. "All of our focus and direction is to nurture and teach them to be leaders of the kingdom of God and society."

"For the past 20 years, we have focused on the vision of Christ for us," said the Rev. Young Jin Cho, pastor of Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington, McClean, Va., during the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. meeting. "Every five years, we go through the discerning process to find out what to do, what our Lord wants us to be. We want to be faithful to Christ’s vision first. As a result of these efforts, we have been steadily going up and experiencing many changes."

The partipants will develop a booklet to help district superintendents and other English-speakers better understand the Korean culture, and will draft a comprehensive study report to present at the Korean United Methodist Leadership Partner Church Association conference in March, 2005.