Small Churches - Big Impact
“Never say your church is too small or too old to participate in mission work,” says Mary Riley of Cade Memorial UMC in Chester, Tx. “We have a dedicated group of 20 or so Christians wanting to keep our church alive as well as the Methodist tradition of being involved in missions. Although it has been years since we took action to serve outside of our church, we were inspired by the Texas Annual Conference to buy Cote’ d’Ivoire fabric and be able to send an African child to school for a year.”
Cade Memorial/Mt. Hope member Sarah Bourne took on the job of making Bible covers, potholders, aprons and handbags out of the bluebonnet fabric and raised the $600 needed to sponsor a child. “This sparked an interest to do more mission work,” she adds. Four of the ladies decided to make a trip to UMCOR and spend four days working in the warehouse.
Several of them even ventured out into the community to help a group of men working on a home. “It was so rewarding, they have already started planning next year’s visit.” Although the average age of the congregation is 60+, Mary describes Cade Memorial as “a church that knows God intends for them to be about His work. Small numbers or age will not stop us. We pray this will be a spark for other small churches to step out in faith and serve.”
200 in 2012
Sunset United Methodist Church’s story is familiar - great history, currently declining, older membership, transitioning neighborhood. In 2011, the church decided to “clarify our vision and boldly catapult it into action,” says Nancy Hinshaw, one of 15 church members serving on the vision project team.
Through a series of strategic videos, activities and prayerful discussions, leaders redefined their divine calling and began living it out. Although they averaged 160 in worship, church leaders issued the giant challenge to recruit 200 people in 2012 to participate in hands-on ministry with children and youth.
Why did this small congregation agree to this “stretch” goal?
Following the lead of many other Methodist churches in the conference (FaithBridge UMC, Pasadena Asbury, St. Luke’s UMC) team members chose to follow the vision clarity process known as Church Unique by church consultant Will Mancini. “We all read the book and expected to end up with a clearer vision,” adds Nancy, “but we were surprised that the process produced not only a plan, but opportunities to recognize God’s presence along the journey in amazing ways.”
By early 2012, leaders declared Sunset UMC’s unique vision was to “Glorify God and make disciples by serving as God’s lighthouse for the community” but their final task was to set an immediate goal: a one-year mountaintop vision paired with a milestone that can be measured. “By going through the exercise of identifying our values as a church,” explains Nancy, “we decided to Be a Beacon of Light for Children and Youth, but the more difficult piece was how to measure this mountaintop vision.”
Even though the average attendance hovers around 160, the renewed focus on children and youth began in earnest when Reverend Winston Goens challenged the church to get 200 disciples involved in hands-on ministry with children and youth in 2012!
“200 in 2012 pins were designed to give to each person that helped with youth ministry to be worn on nametag lanyards,” says Nancy, “and they have become the coveted badge of honor as we near our goal of 200. People tried to justify their activity or donation to get a 98-cent pin, but they were required to demonstrate hands-on interaction to get one.” There was no age limit, no membership limitations and no boundaries on where the ministry might occur.
By March, 70 pins had been awarded to workers in the current ministries, volunteers in the schools, and hands-on participation in the after-school program, and the numbers grew from there. Pins have been awarded to disciples who have assisted with fund raisers, provided transportation, served as prayer partners during youth mission trips, those who have opened their homes to youth scavenger hunts, or worked in Vacation Bible School.
Youth have earned pins for helping in the nursery and hosting the Egg Hunt for the church. “Children are even earning pins as disciples assembling school kits for UMCOR and helping with flyer distribution,” adds Nancy.
To date, 184 people have received pins during worship and there are still three months of the year to get to the mountaintop. Notes Nancy, “Small congregation and all …200 in 2012? No problem.”