|Equipment including black drapes and quality sound and lighting transforms a school room into worship space, where Adam Ricks preaches on a Sunday in Edmond.
Younger people embrace entrepreneurial spirit
By Holly McCray
Church planters experience what Craig Stinson calls "a kind of holy terror." What if they make all the preparations to welcome worshippers and no one shows up?
Unlike an established church, no safety net exists for them, said the Conference’s director of Congregational Development. "It is extremely demanding work, like the difference between raising teenagers and a newborn."
In Edmond, the people are showing up at newly launched Connect United Methodist Church, led by planter Adam Ricks.
On Sept. 25, weekly worship services officially began. Attendance averages over 100, Rev. Ricks reported in December.
He said people joining the Connect community embrace its entrepreneurial spirit. Another way he describes them: pioneers.
"Right now we’ve got so many people looking for a place to serve," he said.
Connect certainly offers opportunities for them to articulate their desire to help. On any Sunday, at least 22 people are serving at Centennial Elementary School, 4400 N. Coltrane, Edmond, where the new church family worships at 11 a.m.
One person arrives with the "Church on Wheels" trailer, and more help unload it. The Oklahoma City Bi-District Board of Mission & Church Location provided $75,000 to purchase the staging equipment.
"Volunteers make it happen," Ricks said. "People set up the sanctuary, set up the hospitality in the hall, children’s church, the nursery. Volunteers are in the band. And we try to be respectful and clean up; it’s a nice facility.
"People get involved. They fellowship. It’s wonderful."
How often do I pray?
Only at church or at home?
What am I supposed
to pray for?
Small groups meet on Sunday and Tuesday nights.
Connect also embraces missions. Money gifts have gone to Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries and the Circle of Care. Layette kits were packed and donated for hospitalized babies. Bottled water was collected and delivered to crews battling wildfires. Meals were served at Skyline Urban Ministry.
"Being a church plant, there is a lot to do. We ask a lot of people," Ricks said.
"And I sit and talk with them about what it is to give your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
"It’s a disservice not to do that. I tell them, ‘This is what it means, this is how you do it, this is the way witness is expressed,’ so they understand how it is lived out in context."
He continued, "People who want to connect with Connect are asking MORE. ‘How often do I pray?’ ‘Only at church or at home?’ ‘Once a day or once a year?’ ‘What am I supposed to pray for?’
"We have many non-churched people or people who have not been to church in a long time. If they’re new and trying to grow in the Christian faith, they need somebody to help them along their journey."
Ricks said most worshippers at Connect are ages 28 to 40. He has baptized an infant, a child, and an adult.
Volunteers from the new Connect United Methodist Church in Edmond serve a meal after a Saturday night worship service at Skyline Urban Ministry's Eighth Street site in Oklahoma City.
"That’s a big deal," he commented. "You stand and say you are channeling God’s grace through baptism so this child is marked for God. Intimidating; humbling. Communion is that way, too."
He offers Holy Communion weekly. He recalled when he first presided at that sacrament (at another appointment). As he served, he looked at his hands. The previous day, they were soiled by grease from car repairs.
As he handles new goals for Connect in this new year, Ricks’ hands also soon will hold his first child. His wife, Jacinda, is a hospital nurse.
His short-term goals for the new church include starting two more small groups and launching a youth ministry.
"We want to maintain momentum, to grow 20 percent by summer," he said.
He declared Fridays and Saturdays are the best evangelism days.
He plays flag football and coaches a basketball team for 5-year-olds. Cookouts and neighborhood outdoor movie nights attract people. Ricks is active in the Edmond Chamber and Edmond Young Professionals.
"It’s not just about meeting people to get them to come to church," he said. "Hanging out with people, we become friends. It’s about being authentic."
Rev. Stinson said new churches set clear and high expectations for discipleship.
Ricks is "very much on track" as a church planter, Stinson said. "I am confident that Connect will continue to be all we hoped it would be."