Open Doors - Issue #215 (December 19, 2014)
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Marty Sloan is a longtime member of Northwest Hills United Methodist Church in Austin, TX. He believes that in order for the church to be a part of the community, it must be open to everyone. Marty says, “The church is God’s most visible physical representative on Earth. We need to welcome all of His people, because to do otherwise is to signal that some people are unwelcome to God. Jesus assured us that God loves all of us.”
Marty is representative of Northwest Hills UMC’s vision. The congregation takes “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” seriously when it comes to being a place for the surrounding community to gather. When walking through the church, people see visible evidence of this. Northwest Hills is filled with children, many of whom come from the community. In addition to their large child development center, they welcome “children from all nations in Sunday school and offer ESL classes.” The congregation supports disadvantaged people through donations of food, clothing, school supplies, and money for an afterschool program in southeast Austin. They have also provided labor to make facility improvements. Each September, the church sponsors a carnival for children in the community, focused primarily on children’s participation in activities that give them opportunities to accomplish tasks, receive small prizes, and be encouraged in their efforts.
Jean Marinus, Minister to Children at Northwest Hills UMC, has seen the members of the church grow in faith through the ministries offered to the larger community. She makes note of “the number of people willing to participate in ministries such as Stephen Ministry, Walk to Emmaus, prayer groups, and teaching both youth and children.” Both Jean and Marty have witnessed those in service to others awed by the way God is working not only in the lives of those that they serve, but in their own lives. As they have opened their doors, they have found their hearts open, too.
Questions for Reflection
- How is your congregation open to everyone in the community?
- In what way is your church meeting the needs of the children of the community?
- How have you seen the members of the church grow in faith through the ministries offered to the larger community?