5% Challenge Celebration: The Story

April 03, 2006

Fairview United Methodist Church is a rural congregation in the Gadsden District who discovered a few years ago that one-fourth of the congregation was over eighty years old.

The idea to start a coffee house came out of a few small group meetings with young adults.  They called the Saturday evening event the Escape Coffee House.  Participants entered the safe space for Christian fellowship by way of the fire escape.  The goal of the Escape was to build Christian relationships and create a community out of which might develop a new worship service and other ministries.  Dr. David Barnhart, pastor of Fairview, and the members found the interested people for whom they were looking through the Escape.

Next, a group of five adults began meeting on Sunday morning before Sunday School to pray for each other and ask toward what was God leading them in the new worship service.  This small Wesleyan group became an accountability group and the basis of a worship team.

When the new service began it was given the name “The Story”.  The desire was and still is to tell the Bible story, beginning with creation and going through the Bible, with occasional breaks for special seasonal emphasis.  The Story draws from multiple traditions, both ancient and contemporary.  There is coffee, worship stations, an acoustic—more contemplative—sound in music, interaction, and discussion.  The word has gotten around the community and the church is having visitors.  Attendance at the new service ranges from thirty to fifty-five, but the real fact is that they are reaching new people for Christ and building Christian relationships. David Barnhart shared these words, “For me, the glimpses of the kingdom happen when someone tells me that this is the first church they’ve been to which sees them as a person instead of a problem, where they are loved instead of merely tolerated.”

Another worthwhile note is that the third person from Fairview in five years has just started candidacy in the ministry.  As David says, “Who knows what might happen next?”

Yes, Fairview has seen the desired 5% increase in attendance, but this isn’t about a successful program—it’s about building relationships with Jesus and each other—and that’s “The Story”!

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