By Rev. Dr. Sunny Farley

The Texas Annual Conference awarded more than $60,000 in grant money this week to support innovative ways to make disciples of Christ.

The Innovations Grant program is funding projects at nine churches.

This is the third round of grants awarded by the Conference Leadership Team (CLT) and recipients plan to use the funds for creative new ministries like a music program for Hispanic children and a new Christian podcast.

The grant program and the Innovation Lab – conversations organized by the TAC to explore and flesh out ministry ideas – are part of Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey’s vision to reimagine, revive and renew our collective witness.

Rev. Michael Jarboe, senior associate pastor at Memorial Drive UMC in Houston, enthusiastically pitched the grant opportunity to clergy at the annual Clergy Gathering at Lakeview in September.

Jarboe and Bea Garza, a lay member of the Conference Leadership Team and a member of Ashford UMC in Houston, serve as co-chairs of the CLT Innovation sub-committee.

Garza said she sees excitement in churches focusing on initiative over numbers.

“It certainly gives churches a boost as they try to reach the community in ways they may not have before and, in some cases, this was because the church didn’t have the dollars,” she said. “It’s also about how we do church differently to reach the under-served and unchurched. What can that look like? Let’s put everything on the table.”

Deborah Hawboldt, Director of Leadership Formation, also serves on the CLT Innovation sub-committee. She said the grant applications were inspiring.

“We had 12 submissions and some really interesting ones,” Hawboldt said. “There were proposals for work with children, fine arts programs, programs aimed at economically disadvantaged people. There was a proposal to create a church coffee bar and one for a brunch church meeting.”

Churches that applied were asked: What will getting this grant mean for you and your ministry and how are lives going to get changed?

“The grants are designed to encourage people to try things that are different in order to reach their community better, to make disciples and have a bigger impact on their immediate ministry field,” Hawboldt said. “That’s what the dream for innovation was all about.”

Innovation Grant recipients:

  • First UMC in Longview’s Iglesia Casa de Luz for a music and dance program called the Joyful Echo Boys and Girls Music Ministry.
  • Disciples UMC in Houston for a children’s fine arts program called The Joshua Project.
  • Trinity East UMC in Houston for a church coffee bar called One Cup.
  • First UMC in Pearland for a podcast called Real Talk.
  • McKinney Memorial UMC in La Marque for a youth program called Super Kids 2.
  • Grace UMC in Houston for a brunch worship experience called Brunch Church @ Grace.
  • First UMC in Hallsville for a meal delivery program in which church members dine with food recipients. The program is called The Johnny Way.
  • Faith UMC in Spring for a mentor program with a local elementary school. The program is called Bridging with Bradley.
  • Servants of Christ UMC in Houston’s Iglesia Siervos de Cristo for an outreach program aimed at immigrant youth.