At our Charge Conference in November, our District Superintendent David Nieda challenged us to come up with a plan to help close the gap between income and expenses. The team leaders met together on December 3rd and began this discussion. We soon realized that our problem was not so much a giving problem, but a decline problem. We recognize that the best way to grow forward our giving is to grow forward our membership and worship attendance. We acknowledged that we have a lot to offer others in our community, but we do not necessarily do a very good job of letting others know we are here or what we are about.
And so the team leaders thought a great place to start was to issue a two-fold challenge to each and every person in our congregation (both official and unofficial members). Here is the two-fold challenge: 1) Each and every person make it a goal to invite and bring a friend or family member to worship with them during the course of the coming year. We are especially looking for people who have no current church home. Since we self-identify as a “Safe Harbor,” we encourage you to invite those who have had a bad experience at a church in their past. Maybe they felt judged or excluded? We practice radical inclusion and acceptance at Centralia First United Methodist Church. When we say all our welcome, we mean it! So bring someone with you to worship, or some other church function, during the course of next year. And by the way, you are not limited to just one. If you would like to bring several, we’re okay with that.
Challenge 2) Make Christian education and worship a high priority in your life. One of the things that have changed in our culture is how many people within the church define “regular worship attender.” Regular worship attendance is being defined as attending worship once or twice a month, or once every other month. In order to combat our decline, we need to start with our personal commitment to the life and work of this church. Parents of young children, commit to having your child in Sunday School on a weekly basis. This will have benefits for everyone. It is not wise to try to raise a child all by oneself. The saying is true: It takes a village to raise a child. Your child can benefit from having other, positive adult role models in their lives. Plus they are learning about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and teachers will be able to plan their curriculum with more confidence. You can grow forward your faith as well through the adult Sunday School classes that are offered. And the more people there are in our pews, the better! The energy level in the sanctuary rises with each person who comes to worship. The difference between the energy in the sanctuary when there are 50 people there, as opposed to when there are 100 people there, cannot be overstated. And once we start bringing our friends and family, and the sanctuary begins to be fuller and fuller with each passing Sunday, we’ll see a dramatic change in our church, and we’ll be touching many more lives than we are currently able to reach.
We believe our church is at a turning point. Which way it turns is entirely up to us. We have been doing ministry in this city for over 140 years. We want to be in ministry in this city for another 140 years. But it starts with each person who calls this church his or her home. Consider yourself challenged! I’ll see you in church!
Sermon Texts, Themes, and Titles for January
We strive to make worship meaningful, relevant, and challenging each and every Sunday. You are challenged to make worship a regular part of your life. You are invited to take some time to read the Scripture and reflect on the passages before each worship service.
January 7th: What Are They Doing Here? The Scripture passage will be Matthew 2:1-12, and the theme will be welcoming the stranger.
January 14th: What’s That You Say? The Scripture passage will be 1 Samuel 3:1-10, and the theme will be listening for and responding to God’s call.
January 21st: Sackcloth and Ashes! The Scripture passage will be Jonah 3:1-10, and the theme will be repentance.
January 28th: Back It Up! The Scripture passage will be Mark 1:21-28, and the theme will be actions backing our words.
February 4th: Food for the Soul. The Scripture passage will be Mark 1:29-39 and the theme will be refreshing ourselves for the journey.
Worship is a vital part of a growing and vibrant faith. So make sure you attend on a regular basis. And bring a friend or two with you. It’s a great way to introduce someone to Jesus.
Centralia First UMC's Strategic Plan
Vision: To practice extravagant hospitality and live out the radical inclusivity that Jesus Christ modeled for us so that all persons find a safe harbor in this church.
There are so many people in our community who have felt unwelcomed by the church in general. Particular subgroups (LGBT and those who struggle with mental illness for example) have been judged and condemned, and often feel that the church is an enemy as opposed to a source of comfort and support.Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly reaching out and incorporating into his ministry the disenfranchised and marginalized.His unconditional love and acceptance of others was the catalyst of reconciliation and transformation.
Our target audience is all those who have felt unwelcomed by the Church, as well as the millennial generation who do not see homosexuality as a sin. Given the progressive nature of this vision, those of a more liberal mindset would also be targeted.
One of the first action steps would be for us to launch a study on officially becoming a Reconciling Congregation. The Reconciling Ministries Network only has one official step in becoming a reconciling congregation, and that is to craft a welcoming statement.After the church officially adopts this welcoming statement, individuals would be given the opportunity to declare themselves Reconciling United Methodists.
A second action step in this plan is to rework our published information regarding our church to reflect this change. Newsletters, websites, Facebook page, brochure, etc. would all have to be updated.
A third action step is to establish and nurture a deepening relationship with the student body at Centralia College. In order to reach out to the millennial generation, we would take advantage of our close proximity to Centralia College.Some actions steps include strengthening our connection with the College by holding a Pastor Chat type gathering on a weekly basis at the new Student Union building upon it’s completion.
Another action step is to erect a chalkboard of some sort that engages the students in thought-provoking ways. For example, on the chalkboard are printed, “My Biggest Regret…” and people are invited to share their thoughts.At another time, the words, “Love is…” are printed on the chalkboard, and students are again asked to share their thoughts.This could be an ongoing interaction.Results would be posted on our Facebook page as well as our website.
The timeline for these action steps vary. The goal of becoming a Reconciling Congregation can begin immediately so that it is completed by the end of January 2017.
The chalkboard outreach is in process and should be up by the end of 2016.
And as soon as the TransAlta Student Commons is completed (scheduled to be done by September 2016) we will begin to hold our Pastor Chats there. The hope is to offer the students an opportunity to meet and get to know the pastor, and maybe even engage the pastor in some theological conversation.Hopefully, these contacts will eventually lead to more millennials worshipping in our church.
Benchmarks we will be striving to meet include a greater participation from the LGTQ community in the life of the church.
Another benchmark will be increased participation in worship, outreach, missions, etc. from the millennial generation. The millennial generation is defined as people born between 1977 and 1994.
The stakeholders include the pastor and all the leadership team. They will be primarily responsible for carrying out and sharing this vision.
Most of the action steps do not require any additional funds.
We will begin by sharing our vision with the rest of the leadership team. Their buy in will be key.We will also use publications such as our newsletter to communicate the plan to the congregation.Our website and Facebook page will also be key in spreading the word.