An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes: A Congregational Guide to Discernment and Implementation


The earliest structure of Methodism in American history was communal and creative. The isolated frontier churches shared clergy and operated in cooperatives in which teams of itinerant circuit elders (usually a trainee and a slightly older mentor) would traverse the countryside on horseback preaching, visiting the sick, and holding the many classes and bands to task in their Christian discipleship.

The cooperative parish concept has been knocked around in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and annual conference staff organizational charts for decades. And yet, either out of fear, distrust, or selfishness, few congregations have seen fit to actually live into the possibilities of sharing ministry intentionally. Sure, churches may begrudgingly share a pastor when a district superintendent comes in for consultation and asks nicely. But the powerful impact of intentional regional ministry represented in the cooperative parish model is so much more than just operating as a charge for the clergy appointment-making purposes.

In An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes, Kay Kotan and Jason Stanley offer a roadmap for discernment and implementation for congregations to cooperate strategically and creatively to make a bigger Kingdom impact. Readers will be challenged, directed, and coached by the pages of this book. But all this work begins and finds momentum in the willingness of disciples to serve Christ together in community.


What Readers are Saying about An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes

This welcome new resource is a godsend for congregations who hunger to collaborate and cooperate forward for maximizing God’s Kingdom work together, and who desire wise, experienced-based step by step guidance. Highly recommend!

Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey
Director, Bishop Bruce Ough Innovation Center, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio

A helpful guide full of useful information for churches who wish to further live into God’s preferred future as cooperative parishes. Kay and Jason have produced a must-read leadership discussion resource for churches exploring a parish merger. Read this book and learn from two helpful guides!

Shane Warta
Coordinator of Lay Leadership, Great Plains UMC Conference


Jason and Kay have compiled a work that lifts up the best for our churches in favor of church vitality but are also honest about the challenges and pitfalls. This is what we as the church need in this moment, a consideration of cooperative parishes as one way to achieve church vitality. Every church needs to read this book because all churches need to become more vital. 

Dr. Michelle Holmes Chaney
Bi-District Coordinator for Church Revitalization and Leadership Development, The Northern Virginia District of the United Methodist Church in Virginia


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