My mother had to move over ten times during her first twelve years of marriage. My father worked as a salesman and the companies he worked for were constantly assigning him to new places. We asked my Mom how she had managed to pick up everything and move with a family of five to a new town or city where she didn’t know a soul. “I would find a Methodist Church,” she replied, “because there I knew I could make a friend.”
I thought it interesting how she worded her response. She didn’t look for a “friendly church,” but rather a church where she could make a friend. There is a big difference. The difference was underscored for me recently upon hearing of a colleague who moved to a new town and sought out the closest United Methodist Church.
Last month I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by the Reverend Jim Downing, lead pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Sedalia, Missouri. Jim arrived at this old, downtown church in 1997 when the average worship attendance was 136. Over the course of the next 10 years the church established a second site about ten miles away and has taken in over 250 persons by profession of faith. Today the combined worship attendance of the two campuses is 750.
He shared his story with us and also talked about the seven things people look for in a church. I want to pass along the wisdom through this blog.
One of the most important steps in starting a new church is gaining clarity around your vision and mission. In the book I wrote, Roadmap to Renewal, I emphasized the importance of two key words when articulating a Mission Statement for the church. The words are “so that.” Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin agree. In their book, Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results (Abingdon, 2011), they dedicate an entire chapter to the same two words: so that.