United Methodist Communications (UMCom) adopted a number of new strategies to complement the $25-million, 4-year plan to increase first-time worship attendance, church visibility, member participation, and congregational offerings, during the UMCom meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Sept 23-25, 3004.
"To meet the great human needs of the people of the world, and to bring light-giving messages into the darkness, we must focus the leadership and energy of the whole church toward our shared ministry," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, UMCom’s top staff executive.
In essence, the new strategies utilize the denomination’s well-established Igniting Ministry Campaign; the campaign, launched several years ago, is a national television advertising and local church hospitality ministry. During the 2004 General Conference, members of the United Methodist Church (UMC) authorized a $25 million budget for the Igniting Ministry’s campaign.
With the Igniting Ministry tool at hand, Hollon said the local church will be able to extend outreach more effectively. According to Hollon, the local church leaders, church agencies, bishops and annual conferences should work together to make the evangelistic efforts successful.
"We must build upon the outreach of the church," Hollon said. "We must seek to create communities of deep support that understand themselves as part of the fabric of the global community."
"The promise of open hearts, open minds, open doors, leads us to collaborate and to outward focus to carry out shared mission to the world," Hollon said.
In addition to mission, Hollon said the agencies and congregations should plan together to increase giving from its members. Furthermore, as members increase giving and participation, it will allow the UMC’s agencies to promote visibility.
One such example of “visibility” is a possible initiative focusing on the “health and wholeness” of the United Methodist individuals, families, local churches and clergy. Already, the UMC adopted a health-benefit partnership with one of the largest pharmaceutical providers, to help cut the costs of drugs, contacts and over-the-counter medication for its congregants.
"Compared to the general population, we know that our clergy are not healthy. The increased cost of health care is one of the biggest problems local churches and annual conferences face," Hollon said. "We need to reframe the discussion about health care to identify wholeness of body, spirit, mind and community."
Going beyond the health-benefits plan, Hollon asked, “What would it be like if every United Methodist health care clinic and practitioner offered a free clinic visit on one day during the quadrennium?"
He then answered, “We would be opening doors, with the church leading people to getting the health care they need."
Following the UMCom’s meeting, the organization’s president said the proposed concepts are a good reflection of the “call for unity” made during the 2004 General Conference.
"We are called by Christ to be trailblazers," said Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of Pittsburgh. "To serve God, we must work together at all levels of the church. We must take bold steps to serve the poor and give voice to the voiceless. As we do that, the people of the United Methodist Church are showing their hearts, their minds and their doors are open to the world."
The commission also elected officers: Bickerton, president; Rebecca L. Kohler, a development and marketing consultant from Oneida, N.Y., vice president.