2 baptisms, 1 profession of faith, 15 first time guests, attendance 0f 251, offering $7100, 9 small groups. Those were the numbers reported on the weekly statistical report for “The Village UMC” last week. These numbers are very much in line with previous weeks and months.
I smiled reading them. A few years ago this project was stuck and going nowhere beyond a struggling weekly bible study and launch team meetings. Shrouded in stresses with the Mother Church, I seriously doubted if it would ever get to public worship, let alone grow steadily if not spectacularly over the last thrity-six months. They are on track to charter later this year.
The project stayed committed to pacing itself for worship. First, they included a worship element even in bible studies and launch team meetings. Gradually, they held a few preview worship opportunities monthly. Then they went on to pre-launch worship on a weekly basis to work out all the rough spots. From the day St Luke South (now, The Village) publicly launched with weekly worship it was powerful, emotional, and experience-oriented worship that has driven the project forward.
It has been through worship that The Village has claimed its identity as a relevant church experience that keeps much of the African American tradition, yet presents it in new ways. Derek Jacobs, the planter, was committed to doing spirited Black Church Worship within the confines of one hour. Critics said it couldn’t be done and among many in the African American church culture, he was openly questioned. But it has worked!
Worship has also given the planter his voice. Upon first meeting Derek he would strike you as a bit shy, almost withdrawn. But O’ Lordy, when he stands up to preach that all changes! Of course, before he ever utters a Word from the Lord, the worshippers have been brought into the presence of God through awesome music, prayer, and engagement. It has to be paced within the context and the season of the new church plant, but it is getting to frequent worship, then weekly worship, that drives corporate hope, memory, and purpose.
Oh, and worship is not just to get a new church going, it’s even powerful in its closing. Sadly, one of our most promising projects, FaithBridge in Rockwall, just never gained traction. After a dutiful season of discernment, it was agreed to bring the project to a close in as good, orderly, and positive manner as possible.
So the planter, Frank Rahm, took it upon himself to make sure that his little congregation understood that the closing of their fledgling new-church dream need not be seen simply as “an end” by the members. He was intent on making sure they understood The United Methodist Church was larger than them. So, for the eight Sundays following their closing, he has personally taken members of the little congregation with him to attend worship in other neighboring churches, then discussing and debriefing the experience so that the attendees could truly see that worship in the UMC, transcends the walls of any one church. Amen!
Launching your first worship service as a new church can be both an exciting and stressful endeavor. Share with us any tips you would give to a planter team as they prepare to launch.