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Preaching to the congregation of Urban Abbey, a United Methodist congregation meeting in a coffee shop in Omaha, Nebraska, is the Rev. Debra McKnight.

PHOTO COURTESY URBAN ABBEY

Preaching to the congregation of Urban Abbey, a United Methodist congregation meeting in a coffee shop in Omaha, Nebraska, is the Rev. Debra McKnight.

The Rev. Leonardo Haro leads worship at Iglesia Unida in Grand Prairie, Texas.

PHOTO COURTESY Iglesia Unida

The Rev. Leonardo Haro leads worship at Iglesia Unida in Grand Prairie, Texas.

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Grants Help Churches Get Noticed

 

Cindy Solomon
May-June 2016

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, NEW UNITED METHODIST CONGREGATIONS HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPLY FOR A NEW CHURCH START GRANT FROM UNITED METHODIST COMMUNICATIONS. THE GRANTS HELP NEW CHURCHES MAKE THEIR PRESENCE KNOWN IN THE COMMUNITIES THEY SERVE. TO HELP RAISE AWARENESS, THE GRANTS HAVE FOCUSED ON PROVIDING PROMOTIONAL MARKETING ITEMS SUCH AS COFFEE MUGS, REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES, TOTE BAGS AND T-SHIRTS

“These are not just items,” said the Rev. Ashleigh Joyner, director of local church outreach at United Methodist Communications, “rather they are a personal way to bring church to the people. Promotional items increase recognition of the church, particularly since these products have repeated exposure to people in the community.”

The program seems to be working based on the number of applicants each year and the responses of those who have put the promotional items to the test.

THE WELL CHURCH

Launched in September 2015, The Well Church in Lubbock, Texas, ordered travel mugs, T-shirts, hats, tote bags and pens. Church members hand out shirts, mugs and pens to first-time guests and regular attendees. The tote bags were used during a special event called “garage free.”

“Instead of having a typical Easter morning worship service,” said the Rev. Dustin McEwen, church planter and pastor, “we held our ‘garage free’. It is like a garage sale, but all the items are free.

“Thanks to our connectional system, members of local United Methodist churches donated items to us. We turned around and gave everything away on Easter morning with the thought being if people come see us, more than likely they aren’t connected to another church.

“This year we had more than 500 people walk through the doors. Each person received a tote bag with our logo, website and, more importantly, information about Jesus. They were able to fill up their bags with any needed items.

“We were able to pray and share the Gospel with people and connect several families to our worship service. We also connected with non-churched people donating items and plugged them into our worship service.

“The ‘garage free’ is how people at The Well Church did Easter ... after all Jesus gave us salvation for free; the least we can do is help meet the practical needs of people in our community while sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them!”

McEwen concluded, “Keep us in your prayers as this year is a vital one in our existence. As we continue to grow, we are hoping to become financially independent within the next 12-18 months!”

IGLESIA UNIDA

Iglesia Unida (IU) launched in September 2014 as a bilingual church in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Rev. Leonardo Haro went back and forth between English and Spanish. IU members today worship in Spanish on Sunday mornings. The church continues to grow in size every month.

Haro meets with visitors for a few minutes, provides them with information about the church and upcoming events and asks them to share something about themselves. Church volunteers use the information to identify which promotional item – coffee mug, pen, travel mug, water bottle, ball cap or T-shirt – will work best for them.

“Eighty percent of the people who come to our services live in Grand Prairie; many live no more than a mile away,” said Haro. “The community is able to hear, read or find out about us through the different promotional items; they help us get more exposure in the community. The quality and the presentation shows what IU offers and what we are about. All for the glory of God!”

CROSSROADS NORTH UMC

For Easter this year, Crossroads North United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, used some of its grant money to promote its first sunrise service with two full-color banners and 50 yard signs. Several people said they attended because they saw the signs.

Additional promotional items such as travel mugs, pens and water bottles will support the church’s launch in September. “We want to cast a broader net in our community,” said the Rev. Kyle Burrows, lead pastor, “and get the word out about who we are at community outreach and pop-up worship events. It is said that ‘visibility leads to credibility.’ These items will help us become visible as we continue to reach out into the community.”

URBAN ABBEY UMC

Founded in November 2011, Urban Abbey United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is a coffee shop church. Urban Abbey is a hub for the community, said the Rev. Debra McKnight. “We blur the lines between sacred and secular space with every latte we make and Communion feast we serve.”

This May, church members plan to connect with people during a farmer’s market near the church using bags, hats and coffee tumblers ordered using their grant money.

“It is a time when we meet several hundred people,” said McKnight. “We have a place where we work to connect people a little more deeply. We plan to give a bag to those who give us their email. We also plan to invite our leaders to be out in the market with their hats, shirts and shopping bags to start conversations.” McKnight added that they plan to give away tumblers to college-age students in the fall.

To learn more about the New Church Start grants, contact the Local Church Outreach team at United Methodist Communications, rethinkchurchgrants@umcom.org.

Cindy Solomon is a marketing consultant and content writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.