If I could choose just one word to use to characterize 2017, I would use the word “Hope”. We have had our hope renewed and restored. This past year we have seen God at work in our gathering and it has been invigorating! But to get a sense of what He has done in our family, we need to back up a little farther and look at the months leading up to 2017.
In 2016 NCAC leadership took a long hard look at our situation and our stats over the past twenty years and realized that, while we had both ‘ups’ and ‘downs’, we were on a long-term decline. We acknowledged that it was time to sound the alarm and that, unless we took some immediate steps to turn that trend around, we would eventually cease to exist (churches, like people, can die from poor health and old age).
With that in mind, we embarked on a journey called Changing Course Consultation led by Terry Smith & Duane Stine (district staff). NCAC leaders met monthly with Terry & Duane for six months from September of 2016 through February on this past year. The purpose of these meetings was to seek God and His will for our church family.
At the conclusion of this time the pastor presented a strategic plan for the upcoming months (continuing on still) covering several areas for focused ministry. These were presented to the church family in April and we have been working on them since then.
These are some highlights that have been accomplished:
- Bolster music ministry
- Hold quarterly Praise & Worship services that include a time of sharing testimonies
- Utilize “The Hour that Changes the World” for special prayer events
- Provide opportunities for the congregation to actively join in prayer during worship services
- Designate and design a prayer room/area (in work)
- “Prayer walk” Buttonwood neighborhood
Children & Youth Ministry
- renovate our nursery and children’s rooms
- Recruit additional workers
- Continue to monitor background check records
- Have “Children’s Sunday” where the service has a ‘young’ focus
- Host a “5-Day” club at the church (See Below)
- Preach a series of messages on spiritual gifts
- Conduct a church-wide spiritual gifts inventory
- Create a method to collect and track peoples’ gifts in order to match ministry needs with gifted people
- Plan & carry out a short-term mission trip to St. Petersburg Russia in spring 2018
- Utilize Alliance Video Magazine / Skype with international workers (IW)
- Focus on Irvin Partnership
- Host spring and fall mission conferences
Community Involvement, Outreach & Assimilation
- Promote our facility to community groups for their use (see below)
- Host at least two casual, fun events specifically designed to invite ‘unchurched’ friends to in order to give them a level of comfort to join us for other events
- Redesign the foyer (See Below)
- Insure Guest follow up
- Increase our ‘digital presence’
- Introduce our app both internally, and to the community
- Utilize Social media (Facebook)
Included here are some specific events/projects/ministries, with more detail:
Easter – Once again as a part of our Easter Celebration we included a baptism service, with two individuals making public their commitment to follow Christ. This is ALWAYS a joy and one of my greatest privileges as a pastor!
Community day – (organized by the New Cumberland Ministerium) is held on Baughman United Methodist church’s property every year on the first Saturday in May. It is simply an opportunity to be visible in the community by giving out free food and providing games/activities for children. There is also live music. This past year, your pastor was the chairman and organized the event. Our church passed out soft pretzels and had a “duck pond” for children to win prizes. This event has never produced any measurable results for our church (no one has come to NCAC because of Community Day) but I believe that it is an important event because it shows churches as members of the community and as ‘giving’ groups; it also combats the stereotype that ‘Christians are anti-everything’. Thank you to everyone who helped with this event.
5-day club – Realizing that our people were giving a lot of their time and energy to various ministries but also recognizing the need to invest more in our children’s ministry, we made the decision to partner with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) to host a Five-Day Club. We provided the place, they provided the teachers. We augmented their program by adding games, crafts and snacks – to give it the look and feel of Vacation Bible School (VBS). We canvased the neighborhood, passing out invitations. We did not have any neighborhood children join us, but our own kids brought their friends and three children made commitments to follow Jesus!
National Night Out – is another event that give us an opportunity to dispel the stereotype that churches are “all about themselves”. Every year, on the first Tuesday in August, we (along with other churches, businesses and other organizations) partner with the Fairview Township police department to provide a family-friendly, safe environment for the community to get to know one another. This event is similar to Community Day in its goals as well as its results – while we have not seen ‘fruit’ from our involvement, I believe it to be a worthy event for our involvement.
Punch List – One of the things to come out of the CCC was a ‘walk-through’ the building with a fresh set of eyes – looking at our facility the way a guest would see it. The sad reality is that we had become blind to a lot of issues that desperately needed to be addressed. As such, we developed a “Punch-List”, a list of things that we could do to improve a person’s first impressions and provide a welcoming atmosphere. This was a long list and still has many things on it, but we have made great headway and have given our property a much-needed ‘facelift’.
Prayer garden – The most noticeable, physical improvement (to our neighbors) this past year was the prayer garden. This area (in the center of our parking lot) had been an eye sore and a source of ill-will with many of our neighbors for a long time. That area used to have a large buttonwood tree in it. In the spring of 2010 we made the difficult decision to remove the tree (for safety reasons); this decision upset a lot of the surrounding community as their Neighborhood is named for these trees and there are only a few left. After the removal of the tree the area quickly became overgrown and was a blight on our property. And while the project to reclaim this area was started before 2017, and still continues, a bulk of the work was accomplished last year. Several people in the area have made positive remarks about the new use and look of this spot.
Foyer – Inside the building there have been many changes (too many to list!). Arguably, the most notable is our coffee area. This had been a ‘coat room’ that was dark, damp and mostly unused. We now have a cozy spot for people to chat and build relationships. It is just one example of the many updates that are taking place as we work to make our facility an attractive and inviting place of worship.
Building Use – One of our goals as we work to improve the appearance of our facility is to make it available to our neighbors and community organizations for their use and benefit. Over the past year we have opened our doors for home owners associations, West Shore Recreational Commission, Vision Resources of Central PA, Life Line health screening and the 2017 graduating class from Cedar Cliff high school for their baccalaureate service.
As we continue to seek God for guidance to know his will and for His Spirit’s filling & enabling to do His will, we look forward to 2018 with anticipation – fully expecting to see lives impacted and souls redeemed for God’s glory.
Serving as your pastor,