5% Challenge: Union United Methodist Church Moves Beyond the Walls


Union United Methodist Church, located in Shelby County is certainly in one of the fastest growing areas in the state. Union is working to keep up with the county's growth and to make the transition from a small rural congregation to a growing suburban one. The congregation has now grown beyond the walls of its sanctuary and is worshipping in their Family Life Center. Union is in the process of developing plans for a new sanctuary and educational space. They have also moved from being a church that rarely paid its apportionments to a church committed to paying 100% of their conference and district apportionments. This goal was achieved in 2005 and are on pace to continue this in 2006 and beyond.

Pastor Jonathan Todd, a second career clergyperson and elder in full connection, who is certified as a Natural Church Development coaching consultant, has a vision for ministry that goes beyond the traditional walls of the church. A part of his vision for ministry is the understanding that Church membership is one of commitment and conviction. Members of Union UMC are taught that the integrity of Church membership is upheld only as they participate in Church life through faithful participation in worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and outreach. Jonathan leads by example by volunteering at the local Elementary school, coaching little league baseball and teaching a welding class. It is his belief that, wherever people's passions exist outside of church and profession, is where Christ should truly be present.

A unique aspect of Union's ministry is their welding class. Pastor Todd, a certified welder, agreed to teach the class if the following conditions were met: (1) that each lesson would have a 15 minute devotional; (2) members of the group would minister to each other when needed; (3) prayer would be held during each session; and, (4) each of the 6 class members would bring a non-churched friend to the class. After the first classes were complete, 5 of the 6 non-churched friends began attending Union UMC and eventually joined the church. From this one class came the vision of a classic car show complete with fish fry and bluegrass music. This has become a treasured annual event at Union.

With the recent addition of a Ballroom Dancing Class, inspired by the television show Dancing with the Stars, Union is truly tying to have something for everyone. More than 80 people are attending the ballroom dancing lessons and a church Dancing Gala is planned at the end of the lessons.

Pastor Todd believes that making disciples of Jesus Christ begins with establishing genuine relationships that are born out of mutual interest and passions of life. These shared experiences become the bridge that connects the people to church and to Jesus Christ. Union UMC is truly moving beyond the walls to build bridges to Jesus Christ.

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