Following the Plan
The twins have names now: "Summit" and "Connect." The births of two churches in the Edmond area were announced at the 2010 Annual Conference. And the United Methodist family is encouraging those children as they grow. Personifying the term "mother-daughter church," used by congregational development specialists, Connect and Summit are being nurtured by two established churches.
Summit UMC, pastored by Allen Buck Jr., is partnered with OKC-Chapel Hill. "Summit" was the name first chosen for the location that became the city of Edmond, according to a real estate website. A train station was located at the high point of a railroad grade between Cimarron and North Canadian Rivers.
Rev. Dr. Buck pointed to Genesis 22:14: "On the mount of the Lord, it shall be provided."
Connect UMC, pastored by Adam Ricks, is anchored by Edmond-Acts 2.
"We will strive to connect people who are unconnected," said Rev. Ricks. "It is our mission to connect people to Christ, one another, and the Edmond community."
Both churches will hold preview services on Oct. 3. Think of these as practice sessions. That’s when pastors will team with musicians, sound technicians, and others to audition worship ideas and styles. The launch of public worship services is expected next year.
The two young clergymen reported taking first steps to meet people in their target communities. They host cookouts; introduce themselves in restaurants, on golf courses, at the YMCA, and to news media; join civic groups; meet business leaders; and organize movie nights. They convene small groups around common interests.
"I do a lot more ministry on the street now," said Ricks. "You run into people who don’t have any kind of ministry influence on their lives. I’ve gotten to meet people very successful according to the world’s standards, but hurting spiritually because they spend a lot of time working. You invite them to meet with other people, talk about life and start to build community."
He declined an offer of office space as unnecessary. "I go meet people where they are. If I could make up a job, this would be it," said Ricks, who was commissioned as a provisional elder in May. "I like starting things."
His first staff role at a church was as youth minister for a congregation with no such program. Within two years, 20-30 youths were participating, Ricks said. At another church, he led the successful launch of an alternative worship service.
He pointed out the Church’s call in 2002 to make disciples. In 2008, Ricks explained, the General Conference "said this is how we’ll do it: we’re going to start new churches." That prompted him to ask his district superintendent how the Oklahoma Conference planned to fulfill the mission.
"A long time ago, I settled on the fact that you follow God’s call," Ricks said.
I’m really excited about the potential for reaching unchurched people and people who, for whatever reasons, feel outside of church life," Buck said.
He saw heartbreak in one man’s eyes when meeting a family in which one child had special needs. The father "said they hadn’t found a church where they felt their whole family could be included. I assured them they would be welcome and could fully participate.
"They started to show up at some of our activities," Buck said. "It’s just one example of people—this time, a whole family—who felt they couldn’t be included."
Buck created a webpage and posts on Facebook, creating a virtual church community for now, until a concrete worship site is secured. Go to www.summitpeek.com.
"Small groups will be a big part of our identity," said the Summit pastor. "I think we are going to call them Base Camps."
Buck told some Chapel Hill members about God blessing his family's move to Edmond. His wife, Erin, received an unexpected offer to teach special education at a school in the new church’s target area.
The bulk of the financial support for a new church comes from the Oklahoma Conference. Over four years, a total of $240,000 is provided to each startup, through the Department of Congregational Development.
The mother church agrees to supply substantial infrastructure help—workspace, volunteers, equipment, funds—and the senior pastor becomes the supervisor for the new-church pastor, who is appointed as a "church planter."
The twins need aunts and uncles, too.
"Help us give birth to these brand-new congregations," said Craig Stinson, Conference director of Congregational Development and Connectional Ministries. "Even if you’re not a planter or a member of an anchor church, here’s what you can do."
• Pray for the new churches.
• Throw a "baby shower" to help purchase needed equipment (sound system, nursery toys).
• Volunteer to help in person.
• Provide financial support, committing a set amount for a specific period of time.
Having a baby is a sign of life" in the Church, said Tom Harrison, at a meeting of the Conference Council on Finance & Administration.
Rev. Stinson agreed. One part of the Conference’s ongoing Strategic Plan is "new places for new people."
Welcome to the world, babies Connect and Summit. Your Oklahoma Conference kinfolks praise God for you.
—By Holly McCray