Wilson United Methodist Church
Church Conference May 17, 2011
Let me start this report by sharing some personal reflections. First, this Church Conference (and the upcoming Annual Conference) represents two full years of service together here within the Wilson Church community. July 1st will actually mark the start of year number three of my appointment here at Wilson. Without reservation, I can tell you that it has been a joy to serve with you.
From our home to your home, I join Sue and Ana in saying thank you for letting us become a part of the Wilson family. We cherish the relationships that have been built and look forward to new relationships and service opportunities that are on the horizon.
As we look back at the past year it is easy to see that we have several things to celebrate together. In many ways it has been a remarkable year of mission and ministry. In this report, I want to highlight some of the events and experiences that have touched the broader life of the church and share some personal desires and dreams for the future.
By this time, it will be no surprise that I stay in close touch with some key indicators that provide us a snapshot of health for the congregation. One of those indicators is our average worship attendance. You will find a helpful chart on the last page of this report but let me share some highlights. Our average annual worship attendance at the close of 2009 was 157. At the end of 2010 our annual average attendance had increased to 176. Our current average worship attendance (up to May 8, 2011) is 215 individuals. You might think of it like this: it we close 2011 with an average of 200 in worship attendance that would represent an increase of 27% in three years. Way to go Wilson!
In addition to our regular Sunday attendance, we also track the flow of worship attendance related to special worship services like Christmas Eve and Easter as an indicator of our connection to the community and our potential for the future. Our Christmas Eve attendance for 2008 was 224. In 2009 we took a step forward by adding additional services to our Christmas Eve schedule. The result was 345 people who joined us for worship. Our 2010 Christmas Eve worship reached 465 people who shared this sacred experience in our worship center. The growth from 2008 to 2010 represents a rate of 107% increase. For some Christmas Eve attendees, this will be the first step into a life of faith and service. Again, way to go Wilson!
Easter worship attendance has seen a similar pattern of growth. Since 2009 our Easter attendance has increased from 203 to 400 in 2011. We can take two approaches to this Christmas Eve and Easter outpouring of participation. We could be troubled by the fact that folks only attend occasionally. Or we can do our best to establish a deeper relationship and celebrate what might be a first step of faith. I much prefer the latter. I love it that you do too!
We can attribute these growth patterns to several dynamics. First, without question we are seeing the power of the Holy Spirit at work. Individuals are taking new steps in faith, more people are engaged in missional service, and we are experiencing a growing number of new families and individuals who are finding a church home here at Wilson. Second, we are always on the watch for ways that we can strengthen our worship services and our total Sunday morning experience of education, worship and fellowship. Third, we made a key decision at the close of 2010 to expand our worship schedule from two services to three with expanded Christian education opportunities available at all three hours. The three service schedule has opened the doors of the church to make space for a positive future.
Along with tracking what God is doing among us in regard to worship attendance, we also find strong indicators of growth in our mission ministries. In fact, this may be our strongest indicator of what God has in store for us as we faithfully step into the future.
We were blessed over a year ago when the Church Council and Charge Conference took a leap of faith to authorize the establishment of a non-profit structure to provide leadership for our missional outreach. Diakonia came to life with a strong focus on establishing our in-house and community based preschool ministries. Since that time, the missional directions of Diakonia have continued to expand. They now incorporate the guidelines that were endorsed through our Bold New Step efforts. Today we are blessed by the Wilson Christian Preschool, the Westside Community Preschool, and are working toward the full establishment of the Meadows Park Preschool.
In addition we have a wonderfully growing number of people who are serving through the ministry of WestSide CARES. In fact, our relationship with WestSide CARES continues to be stronger with each passing day. Our missional ministry has now also expanded to incorporate a growing relationship with the Methodist Church of Costa Rica and Bishop Luis Fernando Palomo. Our first mission team to Costa Rica will be on site at the Iglesia Metodista Faro del Este outside of San Jose. The team will be engaged in preparing and presenting a Vacation Bible School program for children in the area while others mix concrete and work on the foundation for the church parsonage. We look forward to a long, personal, and fruitful relationship with the church in Costa Rica.
On another international front, I will also be exploring a missional relationship with the Methodist Church in Haiti. Right now, I plan to be in Haiti with a small team in November to explore possibilities.
While these significant mission events are unfolding we also are blessed to have many people who serve from a quiet and humble posture. We have people who visit shut-in homes, deliver meals-on-wheels, serve through our WestSide CARES food banks, assist people in the community with meals and rent assistance, teach adults how to read, build homes with Habitat for Humanity, and a number of additional ministries that transform families and bring the Kingdom of God to the lives of others in our community. I celebrate the blessing you are and rejoice in the many ways you express your faith. Again, way to go Wilson!
I don’t have the opportunity to speak about every ministry that helped shape the past year, but I would be remiss if I did not mention our experience with our summer study of the Book of Revelation, the Advent study of the Gospel of Luke, and our Lenten Circle of Love devotions. It was a wonderful blessing to see so many people reading Scripture daily and committing to new levels of growth and discovery. And who among us was not blessed by the African Children’s Choir! Sometimes great gifts come in small unexpected packages that are filled to overflowing with wonderful energy!
One additional set of highlights stand out very significantly for me. In the past year, we engaged and supported two Chrysalis youth retreats and four adult Walk to Emmaus events with Wilson participants and servants taking part in all six events. From my past experience I can tell you that Chrysalis and the Walk to Emmaus (along with Kairos prison ministry) has the potential to reshape the foundations of our local church leadership as we continue to serve strongly through a robust spiritual framework.
In general, our ministry task is to stay faithful while not being complacent; to be ready to risk without being reckless; to stay balanced while we remain on target; to be open to wisdom and revelation that will help us know God better; and to care for our own personal spiritual journey so we can invest in building others. In the end, everything points to Jesus and Jesus always points us to other people as we seek to be the obedient servants of God.
On a personal note, I am blessed to serve side-by-side with a wonderful leadership team that includes our paid and unpaid staff team. We have a great (and growing) team of folks who are committed to servant leadership. It has been (and will continue to be) a wonderful gift to my spirit to share this small part of the Wilson journey with you.
I think most of you know by now that I find great joy (and personal renewal for my soul) through my teaching relationship with Asbury Theological Seminary. I serve the Asbury community as an Affiliate Faculty member and teach each semester through the online program. I teach a course called United Methodist Discipline and Polity and a practical ministry course called Cross Cultural Mentored Ministry. Both of these courses are within the Master of Divinity curriculum. I also teach an on-campus course with the Doctor of Ministry program called Spirituality of Leaders. I will be leading the Spirituality of Leaders course in early September with a group of 18 students from around the world. That class group will include students from Japan, South Korea, Germany, Bulgaria, Sierra Leone, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even students from places like Texas, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina. It should be great fun!
Let’s shift gears a bit and review a set of goals that I presented to the Church Conference on June 15, 2010. I presented the following eight goals:
1. Develop and equip an increasing number of emerging leaders within the life of the congregation.
2. Equip a group of individuals who feel called and comfortable with long-term in-depth relational visitation for members of the congregation who are shut in, hospitalized, or in nursing care.
3. Work with the current leadership to create a structural and organizational pattern for the leadership of the church that will allow for ease of decision making and maximize the ministry opportunities of the church.
4. Increase our overall average worship attendance by 10% in the next year.
5. Work to develop the 11:00 worship service and to increase worship attendance during that time.
6. Develop (and implement as appropriate) a plan for expanding our worship opportunities to three regular Sunday morning services.
7. Create a plan to improve our visual appearance along our Flying W Ranch Road frontage.
8. Expand and enhance the missional base of the church from our neighborhood, to our region and on to a global perspective.
A quick review will reveal that we accomplished several of these goals while others are ongoing and continuous elements of the congregation. I would highlight goal number seven above as a component of our overall ministry that may seem insignificant but is critically important to our relationship with our neighboring community. It would be wonderful to develop a plan to modestly improve our visual and inviting position in this area.
As I think about new goals for the coming year I know we will all want to continue to expand and implement the bullet points that are identified above. But my specific thoughts about new goals tend to circle around one particular area of our life together. That area could be summed up in a single very potent word: generosity. It will make all the difference.
As you will soon discover, the Finance Team and the Church Council will be presenting a budget proposal for this next six months that will represent a step of faith for the coming year. Friends, without any desire to create a spirit of guilt among us (because guilt is the worst motivator in the world!), I want to say that there is really no need to see the new budget as a ‘step of faith’. We can do this. And we can even move well beyond the limitations of the past by seriously considering what it means to be the generous people of a gracious God. I would invite you to join the conversation and the commitment to personally tithe. I believe the church is the hope of the world. It is that important.
In the context of this conversation about our financial picture, we can also look at the wonderful gains we have made through our commitment to A Bold New Step. This campaign has already helped us significantly to reduce our debt, decrease the time line on the payoff of our mortgage, and create remarkable funding for our missional outreach. I celebrate the commitments that have been made and invite others to become a part of the Bold New Step effort.
Our current mortgage time line has been reduced. We also received a reduction in our overall interest rate. And we are paying ahead of schedule each month to continuously decrease the debt. As of March 2011 we owe $316,774.50 with a scheduled payoff in March 2019. I would suggest that a payoff timeline that takes us to a March 2019 mortgage burning is way to far in the future. We must create a plan now to address this significant need when we come to the close of the Bold New Step commitments in two years.
Our growth rate invites us to begin thinking ahead so we can develop plans about our staffing patterns, our financial commitments, our facility development, our missional outreach, and the overall vision that will motivate and lead us into the future. This is a leadership task that rests with our Church Council and out entire leadership team. But we all know that this is a conversation that will significantly touch (and bless) all of our lives. Let me tell you straight out, Sue and I are all in.
The annual report of the pastor should also include a statement regarding continuing education and personal growth goals. In the last year I participated in our Wall of Cedar Worship Conference, our Missional Leadership Conference, and I am a part of a study / growth group with our district Missional Leaders project. I will be making the missional trip to Haiti in November as a part of my personal renewal plan. I have also added my 2011 Personal Rule of Life as an appendix to this document.
This is much too long but I wanted to share these thoughts with you. I cherish your conversation and input as we move forward. Remember, in the end, everything points to Jesus and Jesus always points us to other people as we discover new ways to be the obedient servants of God.
Yours in Christ
Personal Rule of Life
1. Morning prayer and meditation seeking God’s will for my personal and professional life.
2. Daily prayer for family, staff, lay leadership, and general intercession.
3. Daily study of the Scriptures that are outside teaching and preaching responsibilities.
4. Be obedient to the hours . (9 ~ 12 ~ 6)
1. Seek increased ways to simplify life style in accordance with the Gospel.
2. Set aside specific time of solitude outside designated time for personal prayer.
3. Continue serving through Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis.
4. Work to develop a strong positive missional relationship with the Methodist Church in Costa Rica
Continuing Education Goals
1. Participate in at least one major conference related to congregational life, preaching or leadership.
2. Participate in the August Leadership Summit.
3. Create a continuing education event for pastors and lay leaders related to prayer and spiritual formation.
4. Read at least one new book each week related to leadership, spiritual formation, church development, stewardship, or vision.
1. Board of Ordained Ministry for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference
2. Availability for relational conversations with pastors in and beyond the area
3. Asbury Theological Seminary through teaching, dissertation mentor, stewardship, and student development / support
1. Ride at least 1000 bicycle miles on Old Blue in 2011
2. Ride two century days in 2011
3. Stay in touch with my physical health through indoor / outdoor riding, time at the fitness center, and healthy eating habits