A fresh idea arose in the Central East District office and was embraced with open arms by the local church. In lieu of the traditional church/charge conferences, each church would instead hold a celebration of ministry.
Superintendent Bob Burns said, “It has been my great pleasure and joy to discover how enthusiastically our Central East churches have leaned into this new process. The celebrations to date have been uplifting and descriptive of ministry accomplished and ministry planned. We have had dinners, worship, and discussion/brainstorming sessions discovering God’s preferred future for the church. I want to congratulate all the churches Paul Browning, our District Lay Leader, and I have met with for the awesome experiences we have had.”
First UMC of Gilbert, AZ had one of these transformative experiences on February 11, 2015. After opening with prayer and a simple meal, the celebration began with songs from the Kids Worship Team.
Each person received a booklet containing reports from each of the ministries in the church, and their ongoing outreach efforts. Each ministry highlighted how they met certain goals, and how their ministry lived into the vision, core values, and foundational beliefs of their church. With booklets in hand, less time could be spent going over reports, and more time could be spent celebrating.
Unexpectedly, a meaningful part of the celebration was conducted in silence. Black cardboard posters were displayed with a community issue or problem. Once each poster was silently read by everyone, it was flipped over. The reverse side shared how First UMC of Gilbert had responded in Christian service to address the problem. Church members were able to see and celebrate the difference they had made in people’s lives. The church’s mascot, a smiling Bumblebee who recently marched in the Gilbert Parade, brought out the last poster and reminded everyone of the joy in their past and future service.
A group discussion of how to use the Ignite Grant funds to start a future ministry was led by Pastor Deborah Lerner. The top four ideas previously presented by church members were considered, and it seemed as if most people in attendance were in favor of beginning a Sidewalk Sunday School Ministry or a public Bible study outside the church walls. Superintendent Bob Burns remarked, “There is no end to what God will inspire us to do in ministry to all of God’s people.” Other uniquely inspired ideas at FUMC of Gilbert were hosting a sports camp, starting a cooperative garden and farmers market, hosting a car show, facilitating after-school tutoring, and beginning a Cowboy worship service.
The February celebration was just the beginning of a year of festivities at FUMC of Gilbert. Their centennial takes place in 2015, and they have much more to celebrate.
If your church is either planning or conducting a new ministry with the Ignite Grant money, share the good news and inspire others as they are in the discernment process by e-mailing with a brief description.
For more Ignite Grant inspiration, see Bishop Bob’s video at https://vimeo.com/115225588.