The Heart of a Small Church: Part 3
The Three Point Team vision stemmed from Judy Claycomb, former Firelands District Superintendent, during her last full year on the district. Claycomb had noted the need to provide gifted pastoral leadership for several of her smaller congregations throughout her district. She envisioned a partnership of churches (in this case three churches including Fitchville) who could benefit from the experience and gifts of an ordained Elder who had a passion to be in ministry with small congregations and their communities, one who could support the ministry of part-time local pastors or lay servant ministries. Each congregation could have someone to lead worship and provide other ministry with the churches to their respective communities. Rev. Doug Lewis, current Firelands District Superintendent, has continued to support this vision. The result – Rev. Tim McCollum (ordained Elder) was appointed as lead pastor of a Three Point Ministry Team -three churches, one team.
An Interesting Relationship
By Rev. Timothy McCollum*
Fitchville UMC is located out in the midst of farm country. While there are a few dozen houses close to the church itself, it is only a short distance in any direction to the rolling fields with both crops and livestock in abundance. The farmer mentality shapes our community and our church. In many ways, people are self-sufficient. And, at the same time, people know how important it is to watch over others. Some aspects of the community have changed, like the local school closing. But we are working to use technology and community connections to better reach out with wider arms into our community. Doing what we can to provide for the needs of others is still part of who we are. Learning to do so in ways that bring people into Christ’s loving arms is part of who we are becoming.
I lead a three point ministry team, with each church having its own pastor.
Fitchville UMC is also connected to the New Haven and North Fairfield UMCs. This has been an interesting relationship. It encourages us to find new ways to do church together. At the same time, our three churches are in three different and distinct communities. The normal commonalities that connect us in mission settings aren’t there. But, the connection in shared ministry keeps us bouncing ideas around in hopes of encouraging our churches to Kingdom ministry beyond our local congregations. We have done shared worship services as well as sharing a website at 1820ministry.org. It has taken us a few years to understand what this different type of ministry together looks like, but it is about to start putting some ideas into action and that is exciting.
The 18:20 Collaborative
We believe that the work of God’s Kingdom is bigger than any single church. We also believe that working together we can accomplish far more than working alone. Matthew 18:20 reminds us that where two or three are gather, Christ is there.
New Haven UMC
The New Haven UMC has had a challenging summer walking through some of Wesley’s historic sermons in their Sunday school class with Pastor Bob James. They have pushed people out of the comfort zones and it will be interesting to see where it leads next. As the church works to reshape itself in the image of Christ, things like the prayer garden which was built last year are a very public expression of the church’s commitment to God and the community.
Pastor Bob James comments:
“We celebrated 200 years as a church last year with the opening of the prayer garden that Tim mentioned. The parsonage is used as an art gallery open to the community. The Art Junction is a community-based art education program designed to bring gallery space, local art exhibitions, lessons and creative opportunities to the area for adults, teens, seniors, and children to learn to create together a better community. Kevin Casto, the church lay leader, director of The Art Junction, is also the elementary art teacher and has many community programs. The church is very dedicated to our community and is active in many of our local community outreach programs.
Tim also mentioned the Wesley Sunday school study. I think it is important to understand our “roots” as Methodists in order to make decisions about our future. The study was well attended and was a huge success and the attendees have a better understanding of what it means to be a Methodist beyond coming here to church because my parents did. Overall this is a caring congregation that is very active in the life of the people around us.”
North Fairfield UMC
At North Fairfield UMC, Pastor Sara Englet has been working with the church as they develop key relationships with their community and especially their local school. Within the past year, they have focused on providing “Fifth Quarter” events that give young people someplace to hang out and something to do after football games. In addition, even as the church “ages” they are hearing the sounds of young people in worship and it is uplifting the shared heart of the church.
Pastor Sara Englet comments:
“One of the biggest challenges of being a bi-vocational pastor with a family and a full-time job is getting connected with the congregation and the community in meaningful ways, even when time is limited. This is one of the reasons that our Fifth Quarter events are so meaningful. These events provide a dedicated time when members of our church family can connect with one another and with the young people in our community. I think that it is important to make the most of our ministry time and not just “do church” for the sake of doing church. Each opportunity that the congregation has to be in touch with our community makes a difference in someone’s life. We are learning through this ministry that our presence makes a difference!”
The Laity Shine
One of the things we are thankful for as a church is the lay persons who are stepping in to serve. While our church is like many churches, sometimes it seems like a handful of people do most of the work, helping other people find a place to join in has been a focus and a challenge for us this year. None of the things we do can be done without the lay people in our churches, even in simple ways. Allow me to share an example.
A few years ago, we started doing quarterly meals as community outreach. Well, we didn’t define outreach well or what it means to do outreach together. And at the first meal, only a handful of outsiders showed up who needed something to eat. Since then, we regularly remind folks that doing outreach well isn’t about providing for needs, providing for needs is about building relationships. Now, when we do outreach events, many of our church members show up just to share tables with others in our community. And when people from the community come, they often sit down with people from our church they already know. Building these relationships takes time, but it’s something everyone can do.
Our ministry collaborative shares in different communities and leadership but with the same goal – to change hearts, minds, and communities for Christ.
*Rev. Timothy McCollum is pastor of Fitchville UMC.
Whether in a quaint, rural setting or in a bustling, ever-changing urban area, every church has a unique story to tell. Each works with its own story-line and parameters with its blessings and challenges.
East Ohio Conference is seeking to find more defining stories among our churches. We’re looking to continue this popular series on small churches. What is your defining story? Contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for The Heart of a Small Church Part 4: Two Denomination Churches Become One – Chatham Community, a Federated Church