Behind the Scenes with TAC Award Winners
As one of the fastest growing churches in the conference, Dayspring UMC in Tyler was awarded the Copeland award for Evangelism this June at annual conference. Pastor Jeff Olive shares his thoughts about lessons learned in ministry. “As Dayspring began I had an assumption about the kind of people we would attract and the best way to reach them. I was wrong. God was bringing together people from all ages and stages of life and yet I was still trying to reach a particular demographic. At the outset, I was fighting against what God was doing. Although Dayspring is one of the largest United Methodist congregations in East Texas, our real growth began when we faced reality and began to turn our attention toward the people who we were actually attracting. This enabled us to refocus our efforts and become more intentional about investing ourselves in places where God was and is at work in our congregation. I see more churches that succeed at ministry when they take a look within their own congregation to see what God is already doing. It is much easier (and wiser) to more fully invest in what is already working than try to create something without momentum.”
Pastor Keith Bell reports that Galilee United Methodist Church in Texas City, winner of a Copeland Award as well as a Small Membership Church Award, saw an increase in membership “when we transformed our service to a more contemporary service. It’s blended, but a heavier weight was given to the contemporary worship style that younger adults love.” Adds Bell, “We also began organizing our youth programs and increasing the activities and opportunities for our youth. We used our praise dancers, drill team, and youth choir as our evangelistic thrust. We participate in as many community events as we can, but most importantly, our church mantra at the end of every service is Each One Reach One which is a reminder for all of us to try to reach one person for Christ each week and witness.”
“Trial and error” is Pastor Dalco’s secret behind Houston’s Trinity East UMC being recognized with a Copeland Award. “We are a very historical church but we have been revamping everything in a rebirth of energy and creativity. We are always re-examining and tweaking.” Another strategy is literally drawing the community into the church: “We are making the church accessible at no charge to community groups and events, which reaches people on the fringes and brings attention and awareness up. It also sustains activity which sends a message of life to those passing by,” says Dalco. Community outreach via a partnership with Windsor Village UMC called Second Saturday has also elevated the number of first time visitors. Trinity uses open land on the campus to provide health experts for consultation, food distribution and an outdoor worship service that facilitates a welcoming environment. “We are intentional about taking our church to the next level – whether we are creating a new website or membership system or just making people at home when they step on the campus,” he adds.
St. Paul UMC in Bridge City was a Small Membership Church winner. Additionally, Pastor Brad Morgan was recognized for ministry innovation as the Eric Anderson Award Winner and credits his church growth to “gifted and talented lay people who are empowered to be all that God wants them to be.” Adds Morgan, “I have learned that great things happen when I get out of the way and just encourage our people to be the church.” One of St. Paul’s most successful outreach programs is the Outside Our Doors Ministry to meet the needs of hungry children in the area. “We are working with two schools to identify 50 families that are going hungry and we deliver groceries to their doorstep twice a month, early in the morning.” The ministry has facilitated new relationships over time, which has given way to opportunities for spiritual support. Adds Morgan, “Our church has played a central role in the wake of Hurricane Rita and Ike, and made us an epicenter of the community as a place of prayer and support.” Another key lesson Pastor Morgan has learned is to reduce the number of meetings and increase the amount of ministry. “Too many meetings can be a disservice to the kingdom of God. We have a Yes-Why Not attitude here. When lay folks can run and do things without any obstacles, it is amazing what happens. Christianity is at its best when it is a full participation sport with everyone fully engaged in ministry.”
Rev. Joel Purcell says The Woodlands UMC’s largest growth in professions of faith is with the confirmation class. “This is one of the most outstanding programs in our church. The 6th grade school year is dedicated to preparing our confirmands for Christian living. They meet weekly with small group leaders and have an intensive schedule to insure that these â€¨students understand what it is to have a personal relationship with Christ, have a quiet time, and actively serve in the church. This year we had over 200 participate and it was such a positive ministry. Eric Albert is the Director of Children's Ministry and he brings a winsome mix of commitment to the Lord and cool, have-fun-with-kids-in-a-zany-way that works great. He is assisted by dozens of volunteers who work hard all year long to support this program.” TWUMC is a church that does everything possible to grow. Adds Purcell, “We plan to grow, we build to grow, hire to grow and give to promote growth. We believe that we have a good thing going here with ministry staff committed to the Lord and an amazing congregation that partners with us in everything we do. Every Sunday we invite people to join, and we welcome people who are new. Those who come are excited to be here and we are excited that they have come. We follow up each visit with a personal letter and a phone call in the following week but we are continually seeking better ways of keeping track of our visitors and new members. Since we don't think we are doing everything perfect, TWUMC is open to grow in the area of hospitality and assimilation. It makes it so much easier to have warm and friendly people to work with and that is what weâ€¨find here at TWUMC.”
When Mitzi Collins, Minister of Evangelism looks at the increase in professions of faith at Wildwood UMC over the last two years, she sees four areas that may have played a part in the increase.
Stepped up follow-up with guests via a 5-step process;
· welcome letter from the Senior Pastor
· letter of invitation to membership from the Minister of Evangelism
· phone call from a staff member after a first-time visit
· 3 week personal note from a member of the congregation thanking them and sharing what Wildwood means to them
· 3 month follow-up letter
Additionally email addresses from guests are added to church-wide emails to keep them posted on upcoming events.
A New Connections Hour is led by Rev. Rusti Moore on Sunday’s between the two services and those interested in membership are invited to learn more about Wildwood, ask questions, receive church information and complete forms if ready to join.
Missions have grown at Wildwood with a monthly Servant Sunday program doing small repairs/clean-up in local communities as well as a weekly program, Open Table, in conjunction with other local churches helping feed physically and spiritually those in need in the surrounding area. Wildwood also served as a Red Cross Shelter during the Montgomery County fires. These outreach programs have not only brought Wildwood outside of the walls of the church but have renewed a spirit of cause within the walls.
Leadership in Adult Education and Children’s Ministries:
Leadership of young adults and children’s ministries were strengthened the last two years which resulted in offering parenting classes, marriage seminar and family events that bring practical solutions to everyday issues.
“We have a high-inviting culture and one that is highly missional,” says Pastor Ken Werlein of Faithbridge UMC in Spring, recognized during annual conference for its evangelism success in the larger church category of over a thousand members. “Right from the beginning new member orientation, we tell our folks that this is a church that takes ownership in putting shoe leather to our faith and taking it out into the community. That focused mindset creates an overall momentum that transcends most other efforts and programs because it is personal to invite someone who does not know the Lord or have a church home.” With many missional activities to practice faith in action, Faithbridge illustrates its passion for the young by partnering with three low income Klein schools and even hiring staff members to specialize in this outreach. The church provides thousands of eye tests and glasses and bags of groceries to these “forgotten” children. “The Gospel is relational, which means you can’t mass produce disciples,” he adds. “When everyone is one and makes one, that leads to growth and professions of faith!”