First UMC Somerville Laity Inspired to Help Fund New Avenues of Outreach
First UMC Somerville is a small town church with a big passion for finding creative ways to invest in the young, the community and the world.
Congregations with limited budgets need not get discouraged according to Rev. Vickie Simons, pastor of the FUMC – Somerville, in the West District. “We have an average attendance of 60 in worship, yet by following the Lord’s leading we have developed creative sources of funding over the years,” she shares. “We are grateful to be so generously supported by the community and our dedicated congregation.”
The excitement is obvious in Lay Leader Dottie Rhodes’ voice as she recounts a few amazing and touching stories from over the last few years. “We have an Outreach Ministry Team that is very enthusiastic,” Dottie shares. “After hearing the Bishop’s goal for each church to work with the youth in their community, eight individuals decided to re-establish a Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) group again in our church. Many thought it would be an impossible task as we had no money in the budget earmarked for youth. However through Pastor Vickie’s leading, we were inspired to exercise our faith and try.” For example, this year, Dottie shares that they were able to raise $5,300 in their 5th annual garage sale – money that will be used principally for funding MYF fellowship and activities.
Notes Dottie, “We started a few years ago with two families who brought their kids and grandkids to our Sunday evening MYF gatherings. Soon they brought their friends -- and the group has expanded to between 10-15 active members and is continuing to grow! The goal is to make both the youth and older volunteers feel like the church is their second family and that is especially apparent at the family style meal that is shared after recreation, worship and fellowship together.”
Pastor Vickie states, “There are no secrets in a small town, so when the word got out that our youth group was growing, a regular guest in our worship service joined forces and helped us connect with a church in Africa. He set up a telephone conversation over Skype with some of the youth and their pastor in Soweto, Kenya and it was life changing for all of us!” She adds, “In the course of an hour, the youth from both countries learned a great deal about each of their respective cultures. When the Somerville kids learned that their new friends could not attend school because they didn’t have the required books or uniforms, they offered their own money so their new friends could go to school, and it was amazing.” According to Vickie and Dottie, Evie donated her birthday money and Seth gave his jar of savings so both Anna and Josef could attend school for one year. “Soon after that, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and with additional funds from our incredible congregation we sent 22 kids to school for a year,” Vickie adds.
“By responding faithfully to God’s leading and through a lot of creativity and hard work by our members and volunteers,” Pastor Vickie shares that, “we continue to miraculously come up with the necessary funding to share the Gospel, build community and reach out to youth – both in our wonderful township and half way around the world, in Africa!” Over the last five years the Outreach Ministry Team has raised approximately $13,000 -- which is no small feat for a town of less than 1,400 residents. Additionally, FUMC, Somerville hosts an annual “Christmas/Angel Tea” and a “Battle of the Chefs” that the community loves to attend. These proceeds also support the youth in our church and Lakeview camp experiences, respectively. Pastor Vickie shares, “Sending 10 youth and three counselors to Lakeview this past summer was a big accomplishment for our little church. God continues to provide a way!”
Dottie was particularly touched that two of their MYF youth members have expressed a desire to explore ministry in the future. “Their prayers are wonderfully heartfelt and they are attuned to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives,” shares Dottie. “We couldn’t be more delighted to be a part of their growth and love in their Lord.”
“These kinds of creative fund-raising events only happen when we align our hearts for God’s glory,” says Vickie. “We have seen it time and time again that God will provide if we are faithful.”