First UMC Humble Invited to Bring the Gospel into Area Schools
The “Bible Club” is just one of several ministries aimed at supporting students while strengthening the congregation’s outreach muscles at First UMC Humble.
If all else fails, try delivering warm kolaches. That’s the word on the street from Rev. Jim Flagg, First UMC, Humble, anyway. “When we initially tried to get a discussion started about supporting the elementary school across the street from the church, we did not get very far,” notes Jim. “I finally suggested Rev. Wesley Duncan, our associate pastor, take warm kolaches to the school office one day – and that opened new doors for us – literally!”
Step one in the process was the result of a Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) recommendation that the church more intentionally find ways to “bridge to the community.” Shares Jim, “We had a few sweet ladies in the church that had helped at Lakeland Elementary, but the church as a whole had not been very externally focused when it came to school involvement and we wanted to change that.
Once we had the principal’s ear, we decided to get a few quick successes underway to show them that we would follow through on our commitment to be more involved.” In no time, two volunteers expanded to 50 as members stepped up to do landscaping and clean up in the school yard and reorganize the library. “The school leaders were in awe,” adds Jim, “and they invited us to start a Bible club as an after school activity for the students.”
The inaugural “Good News Club” in 2015 was such a success, Lakeland Elementary invited First UMC, Humble back again this fall. “The kids had a blast, and one even cried upon learning that first year was coming to a close,” adds Jim, “so we are excited to bring a club back for the younger ages and an older group. Many heard about Jesus for the first time and invited their friends.”
This outward focus into the community has had a ripple effect of positivity. The Humble Tribute has spotlighted the church in new ways, there is a new buzz in the neighborhood and members have a new sense of pride in their church. “Even though First Humble is over 100 years old, we are building a reputation for doing new things,” adds Jim. “I’m so thankful for incredible go-getters like Sally and Jim Demasi, as Sally serves as our school liaison, teaches a Sunday school class, helps with the Gathering Place ministry and countless other outreach activities.”
Sally admits the volunteers had to “wing it with about 40 children the first year, but when October rolls around they will have trained, prepared leaders for the 2016 Bible Clubs. “When we did an activity to place the shepherds and angels around the manger last December, we were surprised to learn that one little girl had never heard the Christmas story,” shares Sally. “She had a hard time believing God knew her name, but she was so excited she told her mom that very afternoon. This is the easiest, most rewarding way to witness and it is precious to see how readily they bring their friends. What a great model for us adults who rarely bring people to church.”
Sally describes the many blessings that invigorate a church that is focused outwardly. “Many of these children are surrounded by problems in their lives and all we have to do is just show up to have a very positive influence on them. Our church is great about showing up.”
This August, members cooked a delicious breakfast for teachers coming back to school and prepared 30 goodie bags for new teachers, including handwritten prayer notes. Adds Jim, “The principal had the teachers go on a community scavenger hunt to get acquainted with their surroundings, and our church was one of the stops. The teachers had to come by and get a selfie with me, so it gave us a chance to reinforce the message with 60 teachers that First Humble is here to support them mentally, spiritually, emotionally and every other way.”
Youth Ministries Director Chris Finley adds, “First UMC Humble has worked hard to live in to our mission statement, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our relationship with the elementary school has also blossomed into an amazing union that has allowed us to start a volunteer reading program.”
The church’s reputation for caring continues to build. Adds Chris, “We were recently approached by Humble High School, along with Strawbridge UMC, to begin a mentoring program.
The school's motto for the freshman class is Vision 2020, so our goal is to mentor 20 males and 20 females in hopes of strengthening these youths to help them stay strong and know that someone cares.
As we have prepped for this program, we have seen God working in so many ways. We also did a prayer walk of the high school and you could feel God putting a layer of protection over the school. We see great things on the horizon this year as we hope to touch these 40 students’ and other lives along the way.”