Facilities & Beyond: Mont Belvieu UMC Focuses on the Future

9/10/2015

Leaders are prepping their campus and congregation for the growth projected in the Mont Belvieu area.
 
Stewardship is not just about raising money. Many believe it is less about giving and more about taking care of what has been given – whether that’s possessions, people or facilities. In fact, the word translated as “entrusted” in the NIV version of the Bible is used 55 times.
 
Facility Stewardship
Some years ago, like many congregations, Mont Belvieu UMC was able to pay their apportionments and stay in their budget but they needed a plan to address a worn out campus. In recent years, Rev. Jamie Lea, has been building a vision called Fulfilling the Dream to establish a bigger church presence in the fast-growing Mt. Belvieu area. “For years we’ve had a quiet, rural setting but with the Conoco and Exxon expansions within five miles of our campus, our community is growing by leaps and bounds,” he says. “We’ve been kicking around ideas for almost 10 years but now we are experiencing exponentially growth and a plan of action is emerging.”
 

The church has been active in the Texas Conference Benchmark program that helps churches look at where they are spending as opposed to where they need to be spending. One of the first steps recently was to update the parsonage. Then the church focused on replacing the very outdated 15-person van. “Thanks to our generous donors, we are years ahead of where we expected to be in our dreaming,” adds Jamie, “so we are now considering  the large parcel of land we have and how to develop it – and whether to renovate the current building or start new construction.”
 
He adds, “Attendance is running about 170, up from 130 in years’ past, so we are in dire need of more space. Churches this old were not built with expansion in mind so we have had to face some hard realities. Having the Small Wonders Christian Academy on our campus also gives us a different perspective on the future.”
 
Dr. Jesse Brannen, Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence, offered to do a “Joe Public” facility audit by driving up and reporting what he noticed. “After a while, we don’t see what a visitor would notice. Most were pretty quick fixes ranging from insufficient signage to stains, worn carpet and furniture. It was a good reminder that it is helpful to have others critique your campus with fresh eyes from time to time.”
 
An Eye toward the Future
Forming a Fulfilling the Dream campaign has helped cast a vision, start conversations, raise awareness of the needs and potential of the campus and get the congregation moving in the same direction. “We are maxed out at critical times which means our members don’t invite people and visitors are likely to feel turned away,” adds Jamie. On August 30, the church hosted a family town hall presentation to get input and share several proposals related to staffing, programming and facility improvements.
 
Longtime member and membership secretary Janelle Harvey has been instrumental in planning and offering encouragement along the way. “I have been a member since 1966, seeing the church grow from the little white chapel on ‘The Hill’—the school district and original community are known as ‘Barbers Hill’—to the 375-member congregation that it is today,” she shares. “One of our mission goals is Helping:  Be a positive influence in our community by serving God in a way that touches our members, our community, and the world.  My observation is that a strong emphasis on this goal, particularly in community outreach, has played a major role in our growth and evolvement into a vibrant, active membership.”
 
 
The church has even changed the perspective of Administrative Assistant Cyndi Cook, who was raised in another denomination. “Having seen a different side to worship, I am pleased to say that I was definitely not disappointed to attend church here. Everyone smiles and welcomes newcomers with open arms.  I attended the Town Hall Meeting in August and I was impressed with the thorough information presented and the opportunity church members had to voice their thoughts and opinions. Each idea was logged and then voted on by the members of the church and ranked by the impact it would have on the church and the feasibility of getting it done.  The participation of the congregation was staggering. Everyone is so eager to improve their church and that really motivates me, as a staff member of this church, to help in anyway that I can.”
 
 
Field of Dreams
Verbal and financial support has been pledged to the idea of leveraging the open land around the church to provide soccer fields, along with a softball backstop and gaga pit for area youth, fondly dubbed the “Field of Dreams.” After the August town hall meeting, the United Methodist Men challenged the youth group to a game of kickball to inaugurate the newly finished "Field of Dreams." Notes Cyndi, “Everyone had a wonderful time to say the least!” Adds Jamie, “On week nights now, I see kids and parents playing on the fields and I did not recognize a single car – praise God!”
 
 There is much work to be done, but the congregation is on board and the action plan is underway to research renovation and expansion without incurring major debt. “Even though we have a 138-year-old church we are praying that, by Fulfilling the Dream, Mt. Belvieu UMC’s best years are just ahead. When the church comes together to build God’s Kingdom, well, it’s a beautiful thing.”