VCI Success Story Series: Mineola First UMC ‘Walking the Talk’

Date Posted: 1/22/2015

Mineola First UMC members walked the surrounding neighborhoods five times in December – eager to get better acquainted with their mission field. Blessings followed.
So much has happened so fast, Rev. Bobbie Maltas might describe the last few months as a mere blur. When Mineola First UMC entered the Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) process, volunteer leader teams and staff members flew into action to complete a comprehensive “self study” that provides a strategic snapshot of the history and key indicators of the church. Then leader teams began praying, reading and discussing books on church revitalization, and prepping for the September “Consultation Weekend.”
During that weekend, a VCI team assigned by the Center for Congregational Excellence arrived on the church campus Friday morning to conduct a series of interviews, focus groups and workshops with key leaders with the goal of assessing the congregation’s strengths and opportunities. After the service that Sunday, the VCI lead consultant read a short report to the congregation, endorsing five strengths and five recommendations (called “prescriptions”) for the church to adopt. “The team felt our strengths were in the areas of hospitality, community involvement, facilities, pastoral leadership and children/youth,” adds Bobbie. One of the areas the church voted to work on relates to bridging to the community. “The report noted that our church is extremely active ‘in’ the community but not ‘with’ the community,” she adds, “so we are now making a concerted effort to build relationships and share our faith at a deeper level with our immediate mission field.”
While the VCI process requested at least one neighborhood walk to observe surroundings and meet residents, Mineola members took it up several notches and conducted five neighborhood walks in the month of December alone.
“I'm so proud to be associated with the United Methodists here in Mineola,” notes Bobbie. “The door-to-door survey may have been a required prescription but the folks in Mineola completed it as naturally as breathing.  We changed the name to Christmas Neighborhood Walks and over the three weeks prior to Christmas Eve we distributed over 225 gift bags to our neighbors living around both of our church locations.” Adds Bobbie, “In teams, we prayed and caroled our way up and down the streets, offering gift bags filled with information -- not only about our own ministries but contact information for every church in the Mineola area because it's not merely about getting people to connect with our church but to connect with a church so that they grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The bags also included information about city events, non-profit ministry services, a Christmas ornament, a Christmas prayer that told the story of Jesus' birth, and candy canes. Bobbie shares, “God blessed us with multiple opportunities to pray with people in their doorways and front yards.  Several residents requested additional information about our church and we also visited one man during a hospital stay.” While teams were making their way through the neighborhoods, others remained at the church or ministry center praying for the neighbors, the walkers, and the city of Mineola.
“At the conclusion of the walks everyone came back together for hot chocolate, goodies and to share heartwarming stories of what it means to bridge back from the community,” she adds.