January 29, 2015

By Royal Speidel

A newly appointed pastor can have a very positive effect on a congregation. It happened when Pastor David Scott was appointed to Arch United Methodist Church at Hannibal in July of 2011. Worship attendance was 140 during 2010, and it was 182 at the end of 2011 which reflects 30% worship growth in one year. Very few churches experience such a dramatic jump. Why did the church experience this wonderful gain?

Pastoral Care & Visitation

Pastor Scott understood that home visits are not a thing of the past. God uses them today to help a pastor develop a loving relationship of trust with his or her people. When a pastor calls or has a secretary make the appointment for a visit, people sense a deeper caring in their pastor. Sitting in the living room of a family gives a pastor a unique atmosphere to learn about church members. A bonding occurs that often creates not only a deeper relationship with the church but also with God. When asked, “What happens when you visit people in their homes?” David said, “I become their pastor. There is a new warmth between them and me.” Within the first year at Hannibal he visited over half of the church homes. 
    
This home visitation also has been extended to new families joining the church. With new members the pastor has a comfortable setting to talk about the discipleship path of Arch UMC.
    
Every pastor wrestles with how to help married couples dealing with serious conflict. Arch had a couple on the threshold of separation. Pastor Scott learned the couple’s marriage proposal took place in a restaurant fifty miles away, and they agreed to meet him there. Giving up nearly four hours to drive to that special restaurant, counsel with the couple and return home, paid off. God used that gracious and creative self-giving of a pastor to restore a marriage to a good relationship again.

Outreach

Arch has many new guests at worship services, and each one gets a warm welcome and is introduced to at least two other persons of a similar age group upon arrival. After filling out a “Welcome to Arch UMC” card, each first-time visiting families is presented a welcome gift and an information packet before they leave the worship service.     
    
Tours of the church are offered and an invitation to a fellowship coffee and donut gathering after church. A letter is mailed to the family on Monday expressing appreciation for their having worshipped at Arch. If the family returns the third week, Pastor Scott attempts to make a home visit.
    
For Easter the church distributed 325 colorful brochures stating worship times to eight different communities. God used this extensive door knobbing program as 330 worshipped at Arch on Easter Sunday an increase of 30 over the previous year.

Technology

Pastor Scott brought technology to Arch UMC by establishing a website: www.archumc.com. It is a very current, informational and forward looking web site, which is also easy to navigate. All of David’s sermons are on the web and this has proven to be a wonderful way to encourage unchurched people to come to Arch by allowing them to watch a sermon or two beforehand. While on a mission trip, he did the children’s sermon from Nicaragua during worship through Skype. Laity are involved in the production of the sermon videos every Sunday, by manning the media ministry operations each week, and Arch UMC has recently hired an executive assistant that assists with the creation of power points and the visual worship experience. 
    
Ninety percent of the congregation has e-mail, which is used to send out prayer requests as well as sharing congregational news.

Discipleship Opportunities

Members and visitors are encouraged to attend the Wednesday Night Fellowship meal at 5:30 p.m. where they learn of a different mission project sponsored by Arch UMC each week and the laity share in a short devotional. LEAP classes are offered for children of all ages through high school and Faith Development University courses are offered for adults following the meal. This year the church is offering a men’s bible study, two book studies, a health topic course, and two on-line courses for the very first time for those who are unable to attend or who simply want more opportunities to grow deeper in their walk with the Lord.
    
Five small groups have met in homes using a variety of curricula. One of the most exciting was when small groups watched and then discussed the TV series, The Bible, together. This resulted in rich discussion and buzz throughout the church.
    
Two hundred copies of the devotional book, 100 Days of Hope, were distributed to the entire congregation. This church wide reading deepened faith and brought much energy to the church.

Sustaining Growth

Arch UMC grew from 182 to 189 in 2012, then had a slight drop to 184 in 2013. Pastor Scott and his people are seeking God’s direction to know how to sustain the excellent growth they had in 2011. They are praying and working to move beyond the 200 barrier. 
    
When a church has had a jump in worship numbers, to sustain the growth sometimes slight changes need to be made. It is not easy knowing what God needs to be done next, but God has answers.