Discernment Frameworks



The discernment leadership team has developed a list of six fundamental and distinctive criteria — what we call discernment frameworks — that have served as a measurement tool for comparison of affiliation options: Mission, Theology, Operations, Culture, Community and Vision. Learn more about these categories below.

Currently TWMC is considering two affiliation options:

  • Global Methodist Church
  • Independent Methodist Network
Comparison Chart

There are many factors to consider as the church discerns future affiliation and embarks on a new, post-UMC era of ministry; however, none are more important to the decision-making process than assessment of options in comparison to the foundational pillars that give unique form and purpose to the ministries of The Woodlands Methodist Church.

With the persistent goal of preserving the God-inspired, 45-year-old identity of The Woodlands Methodist Church, its executive leadership team has developed the list of six fundamental and distinctive criteria — what we call discernment frameworks — that will serve as the measurement tool by which all future affiliation options will be compared. Each framework is described below:

• Theology

Today we are working to cultivate the deeply rooted heritage of Christian theology known as Wesleyan Methodism. While principles and practices vary greatly among denominations within the world of Methodism, The Woodlands Methodist Church upholds the traditional, orthodox versions of Wesleyan doctrine and discipline such as scriptural holiness as described by Methodism’s founder, John Wesley.

We believe the historic Christian faith, as documented in Holy Scripture, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, offers a transforming relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be replaced, reinvented or rewritten by individuals that seek to make their own version of personal truth, morality and understanding of righteousness.

• Mission

The church’s mission to Reach People for Jesus, Disciple Them in Faith, and Help Those in Need has remained unchanged since the congregation’s inception in 1978. It was crafted by the first leadership team under the direction of Founding Pastor Emeritus Dr. Edmund W. Robb III, and today this three-part statement is still used as a durable and effective guide for focusing ministry activities in every area of the church.

The first part of this mission statement, Reach People for Jesus, is a call to evangelism — sharing the saving power of Jesus with others who have not yet heard the Good News of the Gospel. Disciple Them in Faith establishes the need for active study, worship and community as the means of growing one’s faith and followership of Jesus. Finally, Help Those in Need encourages outreach and service to others as a means of living-out one’s Christian faith.

• Operations

The overall operations systems and structures of The Woodlands Methodist Church remain unchanged following its disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. The church’s executive staff, discernment leadership team and lay-led Pastor Parish Relations Committee worked to ensure all members of the church’s pastoral staff were fully supported with benefits, pension plans and educational support following their departure from the UMC clergy connection.

Regarding governance, the church intends to maintain its existing model which provides robust lay leadership guidance, oversight and accountability, including active participation by lay members of the church in the following serving bodies: Board of Trustees, Pastor Parish Relations Committee, Finance Committee, Administrative Board, TWMC Foundation Board, and The Woodlands Methodist School Board.

• Culture

The Woodlands Methodist Church enjoys a distinctive culture born from a decades-long emphasis on relationships. Founding Pastor Emeritus Dr. Edmund W. Robb III still credits “sole power” — block walking, door knocking and personally inviting people to church — as the single most effective method for growing a new church plant into a thriving community of faith. Today, more than four decades later, the church continues to grow in size and stature because of its sustained emphasis on the inclusion and welcome of friends, acquaintances and strangers — on every level and in every area of ministry.

Drawing inspiration from 1 Corinthians 10:31, we aspire to be excellent in all aspects of ministry at The Woodlands Methodist Church. The state of excellence is rarely achieved without iterative cycles of trial and error — a practice known as innovation. Through this process, new discoveries are made, relationships are strengthened and best practices emerge; over time, elements of vitality and vibrancy emerge as fruitful byproducts of a rigorous refinement process. Examples of these key cultural attributes — welcoming, excellent, innovative and vibrant — can be found throughout the church ministries, clergy, staff and lay members as well as in its greater community.

• Community

A truly Wesleyan congregation cannot exist without connectional ties to other Wesleyan congregations on a variety of organizational levels, including pastoral leadership and lay involvement. There are both practical advantages and an enhanced spiritual and relational richness that exist among congregations within this community model.

By contrast, we believe there are leadership risks and organizational limits to the kingdom impact one church can make as a truly independent church. This is why, even after disaffiliation from the greater United Methodist Church, The Woodlands Methodist Church seeks to maintain ties with other large Methodist churches with which it can remain in meaningful community.

Whether its future affiliation is an established, formalized Methodist denomination or an informal network of other large Methodist churches remains to be seen, but its leaders — both clergy and lay — agree in the virtues of external accountability and relational affinity that exist in the community of other, similar congregations.

• Vision

The guiding vision for TWMC’s ministry over the next 3-5 years grew from a series of prayer meetings, consultant sessions and brainstorming workshops during the fall of 2021. Senior Pastor Mark Sorensen shared the culmination of this introspective, vision development process in his State of the Church sermon on Sunday, January 9, 2022. Please watch the sermon for more details on each aspect of this vision, but here they are in list format:

  • • 365 decisions for Jesus annually
  • • Raise up 1,000 NextGen leaders
  • • Achieve 100% of members in discipleship
  • • Plant two new worship communities
  • • Expand digital reach
  • • Expand Missions outreach