Children changing country church
Morrison’s priority is sharing Christ
By Holly McCray
A dozen professions of faith. That statistic reported by Morrison UMC absolutely got the attention of District Superintendent David Wiggs during the church’s charge conference.
He’s eager to share Morrison’s story. And more recent reports confirm that church’s increasing vitality.
In a town of 735 people, this growing church proves "there are possibilities even when all circumstances make it look like there are none," Rev. Wiggs said. "Morrison is a great example of what can happen in a small, rural, long-established church with the right leadership."
Part-time Local Pastor Arron Grant and the laity "have come together in a way that creates a great dynamic," Wiggs said.
Worship attendance was averaging 45 when Rev. Grantz was appointed in 2010. On a Sunday in January 2013, the count was 115, overflowing a sanctuary built for 70.
Growing small groups crowd classrooms. A committee is studying building needs, and the church’s Strategic Plan is being revisited.
"God’s made His point here loud and clear," Grantz declared.
"He’s calling us to do as a united group, to help each other inside and outside the walls."
Even before Grantz’s arrival, the congregation studied the book "Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation," by Robert Schnase.
"We want to share Christ," said Lay Leader Jerry Cottom, "and once you start doing that, other things fall into place."
He points to "SuperKidz" as one of several key ministries. Several years ago, church member Paula King "felt the burden for children in our community," Cottom said, and the Wednesday evening program was launched.
Initially SuperKidz did not meet weekly. "Four to five kids" attended, and Cottom found himself turning away people confused about the schedule.
Yet the church remained committed. Then God inspired Cottom, and he shared with King. SuperKidz retooled.
In January, the program averaged 60 children plus some youth, and 15 adult volunteers.
"God spoke to us: This is not a pew-filling exercise for you guys. It’s about building the Kingdom, not the Morrison church," Cottom said. "It’s a great thing to share Christ with children!"
He continued, "There’s a new energy in our church to accomplish things." Among other community ministries is the Funny Farm, which is a safe recreation center for youths on Friday nights.
Cottom said the Grantzes encouraged the church to increase its outreach.
"We are glad we are here, and that brings trust," Grantz continued. "Most of my ministry is done in house calls. For people to realize God’s calling them, not just the pastor, then everything’s rolling."
He also pastors at Ripley, where the family lives, and is a seminary student.
He praised volunteers who "faithfully participate with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength — whether the van driver that spends two to four hours each Sunday and Wednesday picking up children, or our talented musicians who make worship such a wonderful experience, or our Sunday School teachers that make learning about Jesus just plain fun, or our SuperKidz4Christ … or the Funny Farm and thrift store… and our men’s group and women’s group …"
In December, "A Night in Bethlehem" transformed the church to resemble a marketplace in Jesus’ time, with activity stations and a live nativity. The event attracted more than 100 people, a majority of them not members.
"God gives us ideas and, when we follow obediently, God makes things happen!" Grantz declared. "And I have found that prayer, meditation, scriptures, journaling, and the other spiritual disciplines draw us nearer to God and one another."
Morrison is north of Stillwater. Superintendent Wiggs was present in September when two families with children joined the church. Grantz posed the membership questions to each family, and the congregational response used that family’s name.
"I wanted to make sure everyone understood that each person is cared for and loved by our community of faith," Grantz said. "It is important for the congregation to speak out their name, and for those joining to hear their name being lifted up to the Lord. As we closed the vows, I asked several people from the pews to come and lay hands upon them as we prayed. Everything we did on this particular Sunday was related to being a part of the family of God, of belonging."
In 2013, Morrison UMC continues to celebrate baptisms and welcome new members.
Wiggs summed up, "God has a way of reaching people everywhere."