South Central District churches claim cabinet priorities

March 27, 2007

By Sandy OKelley

PRIORITY - (noun) greatest importance, main concern, precedence, right of way
Im not sure that we all have a great consciousness of what our priorities might be, but here in the North Alabama Conference our Cabinet has defined what they feel the priorities are based on our conference mission statement, Every church challenged and equipped to grow more disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives.  

The four Cabinet priorities are
1) New Congregations
2) Natural Church Development  
3) Effective Leadership  for the 21st century
4) Empower a new generation of Christians.
The South Central District is claiming those priorities in its daily disciple making.  

Priority #1 New Congregations


The Church at Cahaba Bend Prepares for Move
contributed by Linda Holland

Doughnuts for 200 worshippers:                                                                     $30
Seat cushions to make school cafeteria benches more comfortable:                 $300
Moving into your own church building after worshipping in four locations:     Priceless

After gathering for worship in homes, a restaurant, an office and a school, the Church at Cahaba Bend is preparing this spring to move into its first-phase building on a 15-acre campus.  The United Methodist church, planted in 2000 to serve the growing Helena/Hoover area, will hold its first worship service in the new 14,000-square-foot facility on Sunday, April 29.  Designed by TurnerBatson Architects, built by Acton Construction and located on Highway 52 across from Helena Intermediate School, the building features worship, educational, hospitality and office space.

The church started with twelve people gathering in the pastors home.  Average worship attendance is now 200 each Sunday at Helena Intermediate School with 30 percent being children under the age of 12.  

Many of the members and friends of the congregation are helping to put the finishing touches on the new church site.

"We are blessed with many talented, hard-working people who are helping with various projects like landscaping, audio/visual equipment installation and even the design of the church signage," noted pastor Lyle Holland.  "While worshipping in temporary locations has been strenuous at times, having to set up and take down a sanctuary each Sunday, God has used it to generate a great work ethic among this congregation.  Pitching in to help is just what we do.  When many churches will have egg hunts in the next few weeks, well be laying the sod our eggs hide in next year."

Worship at the Church at Cahaba Bend is comfortable and contemporary.  Led by Ben Williams and a seven-member praise team/band, worship features music from artists such as Chris Tomlin and David Crowder.

"While we may open worship with a song by U2, we're also likely to sing a hymn or two," said worship leader, Ben Williams. "Our goal is to create an environment where people can encounter and honor God, and discernment and creativity play a huge role in that process."  Worship at the church also includes other traditional elements such as an altar table, the Apostles Creed and Communion on the first Sunday of each month.

For more information about the Church at Cahaba Bend, visit their website at .
Other new church starts in the South Central District include New Heights, Liberty Crossings, InnerChange, Tabernacle, and New Church West End, with plans for another new church start June 1, 2007.


Priority #2 Natural Church Development

South Central District Churches ready to release their God-given growth potential

Natural Church Development (NCD) is all about releasing the potential that God has already implanted in our lives. Based on research in more than 40,000 churches on all six continents, NCD describes universal principles that are applicable regardless of culture or spiritual style.

The NCD process is not a one-size-fits all program. Instead it provides a way each congregation can develop custom goals and plans to help tap into its God-given potential. The NCD process includes a congregational survey, focusing on the congregations minimum factor (the area with the lowest score from the survey), setting qualitative goals to improve the minimum factor, using the congregations strengths to develop a plan to meet the set goals, then finally evaluating the congregations progress by doing another congregational survey.
In the South Central District, the following churches are participating in Natural Church Development.

  • Aldersgate
  • Arnolds Chapel
  • Ebenezer
  • Good Hope
  • Harpersville
  • Irondale
  • Montevallo
  • Oakmont
  • St. James, Irondale
  • The Church at Chelsea Park, Union UMC

The following South Central District pastors are trained coaches for Natural Church Development.

  • Sally Allocca
  • Dave Barnhart                  
  • Keith Elder                  
  • Clay Farrington         
  • Will Garrett                  
  • Brad Henderson        
  • Terry Hill                  
  • Marvin McCormick
  • Tom Parrish                  
  • Bobby Scales                  
  • Ron Schultz                  
  • Jonathan Todd         
  • Don Wright         


Priority #3 Effective Leadership

Harpersville UMC reaching out to community as the Church on the Grow
contributed by Danette Clifton

(photo provided by The Birmingham News)

One example of pastoral leadership beyond the bounds of the local church is Lori Carden, pastor at Harpersville United Methodist Church.  Lori and her congregation are reaching out to and beyond their immediate community to feed the hungry.

What started last year as a mission project of the men's Sunday School class has now grown into a church-wide mission that involves every member of every generation.  The congregation plants crops - such as peas, potatoes, corn and cabbage - then, works with the Society of St. Andrew to harvest the fields so that the food can be donated to feeding ministries.

This year the main field the congregation planted is an acre right next to busy U.S. Highway 280 that was been donated by church member Louise Cole. A bright green sign tells all those who pass by that this field is a mission of the "Church on the Grow" Harpersville United Methodist Church. Recently, a Birmingham News reporter noticed the sign, and a story about Harpersville's ministry appeared on the front page!

Lori explains that she's never taken a seminary class on how to plant peas, but when she first arrived at Harpersville UMC she asked God for a vision.  She heard God tell her, "Be the church on the grow. Don't worry. These people know more about growing things then you do."

During the last year, she has tapped into the congregation's agricultural heritage to help them develop a re-energized mission of growing disciples. She has learned a lot more about growing peas and she has also been able to use the same tactics Jesus did and use agricultural images to point people back to God.

Rev. Carden explains that her role as the pastor/leader of the congregation has been to take what the laity already know and to encourage them and to equip them to use it in mission.

"I keep pointing it back to Christ." she says.

During the last year, not only has the congregation been able to provide food for needy people. They also have provided spiritual food for new professions of faith and new members as the church has seen growth.

Lori says her leadership secret is to remember, "We plant. God grows."

-Click here to read full related story -


Priority #4 Empower A New Generation of Christians

CELEBRATE LIFE at Columbiana UMC helps youth grow in discipleship 

contributed by Myra Wright

On March 9-11, Columbiana UMC held its first Discovery weekend.  There were more than 60 youth grades 6-12 that participated and more than 100 adults that helped in some way during the weekend.  The youth participated in small groups, worship and celebrated their life in the church.  The senior high youth helped with the weekend by being group leaders and speakers.

Discovery is a 43 hour spiritual formation weekend for youth that is held in the local church.  There are three different Discovery Programs.  Columbiana UMC chose the Celebrate Life program. Truly it was a celebration of the love, joy and grace of God and the life that God gives.  

After a lot of prayer, Gods presence was with us in a very real way.  It was described as a refreshing wind blowing through our church building and in peoples hearts.  Another description was, its as if God has poured out a breath of Himself.

For more information about Discovery, please contact Melody Traylor at or Myra Wright at



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