By Fred Koenig
The Missouri Conference Center has had a new role in recent months, as the location for a new church start. Rev. Jim Voigt was appointed to start a new church in Columbia last summer, with a focus on Northeast Columbia. The last United Methodist Church started in the growing community was New Horizons UMC in 1994. Columbia’s population has been steadily increasing, even through the recession, and the school district just opened the community’s third public high school last year. The new high school, Battle, was built on the Northeast side of town. The next newest high school, Rockbridge, was built on the south side of town more than 40 years ago.
Jim Voigt grew up in St. Joseph, where he went to Missouri Western College. He worked as a youth director for Ashland UMC in St. Joseph, and was associate pastor at Schweitzer UMC in Springfield while taking online courses from Asbury Seminary. He completed his seminary education on campus at Asbury, and although he spent more time in the process than most, the on-the-job training he got in was invaluable.
“I learned so much while working at churches while in seminary, it gave me a much different perspective than I may have had if I had just gone straight through seminary after college,” he said.
After completing seminary, Voigt was appointed to Weston UMC. But he had planting a church on his heart from way back. Even when he was at Ashland, he had gone to the New Church Leadership Institute. So when Bob Farr, director of Congregational Excellence, asked him if he was ready to plant a church, after some prayer the answer was clear, if not easy.
“We really loved Weston, and it was very hard to leave, but I knew that planting a church was what I was called to do,” Voigt said.
As a planter, Voigt feels pressure – to get more done, and to keep things moving the right direction.
“With a new church, you can’t afford to wait around and possibly miss a moment of opportunity,” Voigt said. “The foundation is thin when you’re getting started, and messing up can mean closing the doors.”
The northeast side of town is expected to have 500 new homes in the next five years. The United Methodists are not the only church that has noticed this. Voigt knows of four other denominations who are trying to plant a new church with Northeast Columbia as its target community.
So far Water’s Edge has participated in local mission, doing a clean-up day at Indian Hills Park. The church has hosted barbecues and dinners. After the initial start of meeting in homes, it tried meeting at the Holiday Inn on St. Charles Road before meeting at the Missouri Conference Center.
The church launched on March 16 with about 60 adults and 20 children.
“Normally you would want to launch bigger, but we don’t have the space for a real big launch here,” Voigt said.
The church has been advertising on Google, which has pulled in a few people, but most of the people involved so far have come to know about Water’s Edge through personal invitation.
Other churches have been supportive of the launch, including other denominations. A Lutheran church has loaned Water’s Edge audio/video equipment, and a non-denominational church from Hallsville has helped with the children’s ministry.
Voigt is trying to make this stage of church development very relational, and is trying to keep the church very outwardly focused, with a focus on courage, compassion, honor and humility.
“We’re trying to create an atmosphere of authenticity, where we recognize that we are all a broken people, and we approach Christ as one who brings wholeness,” Voigt said.
The Water’s Edge has worship service on Sunday mornings at 10:30. For more about the church, go to www.thewatersedgechurch.org.