Thanks again for the warm welcome we have received at Central UMC! It has been a blessing to be here. I have enjoyed getting to know the folks at Central, not only learning names but also learning your stories of faith, how you got connected to Christ and your hopes for ministry in the name of Jesus.
In my first 7 weeks here, I have had 21 neighborhood chats with 251 folks attending, both adults, young adults and youth. Some of these were held in Sunday school classes but the majority were in people’s homes. One thing I learned is that we are a regional church serving not only Lenoir City and Loudon County, but also folks from Roane, Knox, Blount, Anderson and Monroe counties. Here is a summary of what I heard from these groups:
What does Central do well?
We are an outwardly focused church. (We are Central Day, 2nd Harvest, prison ministry, cookie ministry, putt putt, rejoicing spirits, PBJ, etc)
Inspiring Worship services (contemporary and traditional)
We have a great staff of high performers
We have excellent facilities that where we serve our community
We are generous
We are a welcoming congregation
We have loving, rich relationships
We have a volunteer, can do spirit
Excellent Lay Leadership
We do congregational care very well
What are some growth areas for Central?
Communication - Communicating to different groups of people (tech and non-tech), what is going on.
Small groups - We need to increase our Sunday school ministry.
Coordinating of mission - Knowing what we do. We can’t do everything.
Organization - We need to be more organizationally focused and develop teams again.
Maximize our facilities - We have good facilities but have to think creatively at times in terms of children’s ministry, new Sunday school classes, etc.
More Bible Study offerings
Process of how to get involved in the life of the church. Where do I fit?
More Mission trip offerings
On-line services/ streaming
Keeping the church growing and relationally connected
What are the primary challenges faced by our community right now?
The Have and Have Nots
Racial Diversity and Tensions
How do we define community? Lenoir City? Loudon County? We are a regional church and how do we minister regionally?
What do you feel God may be calling Central to in this next season of ministry?
Organizational clarity around mission and structure.
Refocus - Have a focused direction - something to rally around
Reach more people for Christ - the unchurched or de-churched population.
Become more diverse as a body
Expand community partnerships (schools, mission organizations)
Pay off our debt.
Based on all of this input, I would submit seven areas of emphasis at Central in the next 12 months:
Communication - As we know, communication is about understanding information, not just receiving information. It is always an area to grow in as individuals and organizations. We are continuing to grow in our communication as a church and different areas of ministry (children, youth, music). We will seek continual improvement in our use of the bulletin, worship announcements, the monthly Connection newsletter, the quarterly Caller magazine, our weekly email, our website, the Youversion App, our use of social media, bulletin boards, outdoor signage, billboards, etc. We recognize the responsibility of church members to maximize the forms of communication they personally receive. In addition, we will work with trustees to update signage externally and internally to help folks navigate our campus. We will seek at producing another church directory this winter, emphasizing using Simple Church, and encouraging and updating our name tags.
Teams - In conjunction with the vision team and the nominations/lay leadership team, we will develop rotating teams of lay leadership for the required teams in the book of Discipline (Staff Parish, Trustees, Finance, and Lay Leadership) by November 2017.
Reaching the Unchurched - The church exists to be salt and light to the world and to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we will continue to do ministry through the lens of offering Jesus Christ to unchurched Neighborhood Chat Report August 2017 people. Our preaching will be geared to insiders and outsiders, no matter if you grew up in church or have little church experience. We will look at how our communication, our welcoming and hospitality can be enhanced to not only attract new people but to help them to say.
Small Groups - We have a number of groups where people are finding connection and spiritual growth in our church. We also have many who are not experiencing the joy of being in these groups. We need to offer more groups on Sundays and perhaps throughout the week for people to connect and grow in.
Mission - We are an active church that reaches out in many ways; locally and around the world. Mission and outreach is one of our strengths and our folks enjoy serving in this area. We will continue to grow in our mission effort. Questions we will wrestle with are:
How do we define mission?
How many mission trips can and should we engage in?
How do we involve children and youth in missions?
How do we balance missions locally, regionally, & internationally?
How do we follow up with and connect with missions we support?
Are there new mission efforts God is calling us to?
How do we do funding for missions?
How do we communicate mission efforts within our body?
How can people get plugged into mission efforts our church provides?
What new community partnerships is God calling us to and which ones can we enhance?
If substance abuse is one of the most pressing issues in our community, what should we do about it?
Looking ahead, our mission team will help us identify next steps for our church to embrace the mission effort God is calling us to as a church.
Serving Ministry - One of our priorities for our members is to serve. We need to make the process easier for new people and existing people to use their gifts to build up the body of Christ. We will more clearly communicate serving opportunities and seek to have more of members engaged in ministry.
Vision/Mission/Structure Team - We need to develop a short term team to re-examine our purpose and mission as a church, and how we best structure our church to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I would suggest this team be made up of 13-15 individuals (short and long term members, different age groups, men, women, etc) including staff who can help us define the win and focus our efforts. This team would meet this fall and report back to administrative council on recommendations moving forward by Nov/December 2017.