Woodlands UMC Celebrates Forty Years of Ministry
By: Sherri Gragg
Members and staff of Woodlands UMC reflect upon their humble beginnings and cast a vision for the future as they celebrate forty-years in ministry.
Forty years ago, Woodlands UMC senior pastor, Dr. Edmund W. Robb III, pulled his U-Haul into the fledgling community of The Woodlands. As the moving van rolled to a stop, he took stock of the “soil” of his new church plant. There as an information center, a few new homes, and…pine trees. Lots of pine trees. “How am I going to do this?” he asked himself.
And then, he got busy planting the seeds of ministry.
The Seeds of Ministry
Robb began by knocking on doors, introducing himself, and inviting his new neighbors to join him in a community journey of faith. Then, on January 8, 1978, he and a handful of others held their first worship service in the only place available to them- the community information center. At the end of the service, the attendees present took their vows of UMC membership and The Woodlands UMC was born.
This year, a dozen of the original members will join the 13,000 who followed them in celebrating God’s amazing forty-year work. Over and again, the founding members express the same sentiment- They never could have imagined that the few seeds of faith they sowed and faithfully tended would have ever yielded such a miraculous harvest. They assert that they great work of The Woodlands’ UMC was, and remains, God’s alone. They have simply walked in obedience to His leading.
Today, The Woodlands UMC forty-acre campus is home to four unique worship communities as well as a satellite campus in Woodforest. The church has kept pace with their thriving community’s growth over the past four decades, offering an ever-wider range of creative ministries to meet their neighbor’s needs.
An Abundant Harvest
Creative Director, Mike Sims asserts that the church’s secret to steady long-term growth is Dr. Robb’s commitment to two fundamentals of ministry-strong Biblical teaching and an investment in the young. Sims cites a 2015 Barna study that reports millennials are turning to the church for answers about how they can live a “meaningful life.” (“What Millennials Want When They Visit Church,” Barna, March 4, 2015) “The Woodlands has always maintained an unwavering commitment to Biblical truth,” Sims said. “It doesn’t matter what else you have, if you don’t have someone who brings a message that means something to people, they won’t come back.”
The Woodlands UMC shares an equal commitment to invest in what Pastor Robb calls, “growing younger.” The church aspires to see families in their community involved in their church beyond Sunday morning. In addition to quality children’s ministry, The Woodlands UMC offers a variety of recreational activities for kids that are not only fun, but also build community. “We realized that if we provide the community the opportunity to come on our campus and get to know us,” Sims said. “they often take that next step and begin attending church.”
As The Woodlands UMC casts a vision for their future, they are prepared to invest heavily in the ministries that reflect their core values. A new $300-million-dollar capital campaign will strengthen children’s ministry through the refurbishment and expansion their children’s areas and the construction of a new gym. Additionally, the campaign will fund local missions through construction of a new worship facility for the Woodforest satellite campus while continuing to invest in global missions as well.
“We continue to seek out ways to be the church in the 21st century,” Sims said. “We move forward and seek God to be used wherever he makes available.”