Schoolchildren enjoy fresh, safe water from a well provided in 2009 by Union UMC, a small church in South Carolina.
By Klay S. Williams*
June 7, 2012—Are you wondering how to effectively and passionately involve your small congregation in mission while still attending to your parish’s needs? Meet Rev. Scott Johnson, pastor of Union United Methodist Church in South Carolina. His congregation is energizing their mission spirit—and renovating their buildings—through mission.
“Mission work is leveraging your God-given gifts, talents, and resources for the betterment of others, be it at your front door or around the globe,” remarks Rev. Johnson.
Union UMC got involved in mission in the fall of 2008, when there were only about 60 people regularly attending Sunday worship. At that time, the parish leadership held a series of meetings to address not mission but the church’s structural needs. They discussed much-needed repairs, congregational development, and the members’ felt mission call to respond to the needs of others outside of the parish community.
“This calling led Union into a working relationship with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The leadership bodies of Union and UMCOR decided that God was calling us to dig wells and latrines in Africa, specifically in the town of Kamina, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” explains Rev. Johnson.
Union UMC began a stewardship campaign to address both church repair and mission needs in equal proportion. For example, of a $100 gift to the campaign, $50 goes to church renovations and $50 to the Congo well project. Today, funds raised by the church and leveraged with other support have allowed UMCOR to build six wells and nine latrines.
Rev. Johnson offers the following tips to small congregations seeking to deepen their engagement in mission:
- Don’t compete with one another. To date, Union UMC has not organized a single mission project without the guidance of an agency or partner in ministry. “We feel there is no need to reinvent a wheel that has been rolling for some time,” he says.
- Take stock of the resources you have and put them to work. “God has equipped the church to bring about real change in this world. We simply forget that we have at hand what God wants to use,” Rev. Johnson says.
- Our job is to connect the resources of heaven with the needs of earth. “That’s how we participate in the incarnation of Jesus,” he states.
For Rev. Johnson, being involved in mission is key to an effective congregation. The big-time ministry of this small congregation is changing lives and empowering others through mission in their community and across the globe. And regular attendance at Sunday worship has increased about threefold since Union UMC began its innovative stewardship campaign.
“The real energy is in taking our role as the hands of Jesus personally. Being mission-minded is where it's at! You can get people all excited, teach them how to be moral, and to love Jesus, but if there is no real action ‘outside the church,’ then we have fallen short of what Christ calls us to do,” he states.
Your gift to Water and Sanitation, UMCOR Advance #3020600
provides safe water and sanitation facilities where they are needed most. UMCOR pools these gifts to increase their impact in providing fresh water and sanitation to under-served communities around the world.
*Klay S. Williams is a writer and regular contributor to www.Umcor.org.