By Fred Koenig
Aurora, MO is located 28 miles southwest of Springfield, and has a population of 7,000. Pastor Jan Bond led Aurora UMC through the HCI consultation process in March of 2012. The church reported an average worship attendance of 164 that time. Pastor Kathy Osiel was appointed to the congregation in July of 2012, and under her leadership worship numbers increased to 177. To address the concerns of the church, the HCI Consultation Team assigned it five prescriptions.
As with all HCI churches the first prescription called for the church to accept as its mission the making of new disciples for the transformation of the world. It also had to agree to having a Day of Prayer and Repentance as well as creating a vision for the church through a Visioning Workshop.
The church adopted a vision motto of Seek, Grow, Serve and Live, which means the members are to Seek God and others, Grow in Christ, Serve our community and Live for God.
The second prescription dealt with Intentional Faith Development. Aurora UMC had .67 weekly first-time guests. In order to retain them and bring spiritual growth to the current members, the pastor was to create an Intentional Faith Development team of 4-5 people using as a resource the book, Go Big With Small Groups. Churches with strong small group programs are most successful at retaining guests, so the team was to initiate a small group plan to help the church have 60% of their total membership in small groups and Sunday School. The church is close to that goal with 80-90 participating.
Kathy Woodcock, chair of the Intentional Faith Development Team created a Small Group Fair after worship where five new groups were organized with a sixth to follow. Also, a step by step discipleship plan was developed, which included tracking and measuring participation in worship attendance, in small group participation, and in doing hands on service. The process also involved sending “We Miss You” cards to members who missed several Sundays of worship. Wonderfully, weekly first time guests have almost quadrupled to 2.4.
Accountable Leadership and Structure was the center of the third prescription. An Accountable Leadership Workshop using the book, Winning on Purpose, resulted in setting goals, hopes and dreams for fulfilling the mission and vision of the church. This focus also developed a strong leadership team for Aurora UMC.
In addition Pastor Osiel led both the paid and unpaid leadership teams to use the excellent book, Effective Staffing for Vital Congregations. It is very impressive that Kathy has regular meetings with key leaders to get rich feedback. The lay leadership is to be commended for its wisdom and commitment, and Kathy is to be commended for having a humble, learning spirit open to these relationships.
With the average age of AUMC being 57, there was a need to grow the number of children and younger families in the church; therefore, prescription four addressed that need. It called for the hiring of a Children’s Coordinator, who would recruit a Family Leadership Team to reach younger families.
Through the leadership of Vince Osiel, the new Children’s Coordinator, Aurora neighborhoods were saturated with advertising for the VBS. As a result 73 kids attended the 2013 Vacation Bible School with 15-20 adults helping.
VBS was followed by a Saturday Fun Fair for whole families with 165-170 in attendance. The names of many new children and families were obtained for follow-up ministries. The church offers a free Wednesday evening dinner where 70 kids come with 25 of them being bused.
Parents with infants and toddlers feel more comfortable if their children are in a nursery near the sanctuary. Prescription four called for the church to create a nursery with an access door from the lobby. This turned into a beautiful project enhancing the joy and security
of new families.
A Bridge-Building Team was recruited that engaged the church in many activities serving the community in 2012 and 2013.
One community connecting event was a free picnic for the neighborhood and city including a moon walk and other activities for kids. The church also set up a church booth at the community festival and built a float for the Aurora parade. The five acre church lot offers adequate space for an exciting trunk and treat event at Halloween.
AUMC has a phenomenal buddy pack ministry, whereby 120-140 food packs are assembled and delivered to homes every Saturday morning. This involves both enormous financial as well as human resources.
During Serve 2013 AUMC learned that the children of one family were about to be taken from the parents because of the unsafe condition of their home. Church members helped the family clean their home, fix windows and enhanced the safety of the home in other ways. Through their efforts the state allowed the parents to keep
Aurora UMC has been heavily involved in serving schools. As a result the church was given an award by the school district during an assembly program. In appreciation the school has allowed students to do many projects for the church. First time guests report to Pastor Osiel the influence of the church on the city drew them. As a result, whereas 13 new members joined in 2013, 14 have already joined in the first four months of 2014. Aurora UMC is making a great impact on the community in the name of Jesus Christ.