Sweet Home UMC — An Older Congregation Moving in a New Direction

5/15/2009

The amazement of Sweet Home United Methodist Church continues. From a history including questions in late 2007 and early 2008 about whether there would be a future, to a present that is alive and vital with the future opening to new possibilities, this transformation is truly an act of faith empowered by the Spirit of God.

Rev. Clauzell Williams was appointed to Sweet Home in June 2008 and invited the congregation to covenant together, in writing, around the following foci for ministry:

  1. Become a healthy and self-sustaining congregation (including tithing, current membership audits, 100% participation in the conference and district mission giving, and moving away from equitable compensation)
  2. Become a true family of Christ through interaction with each other, as scripture teaches (including nurturing each other, supporting and following pastoral leadership, being trained in Healthy Congregations, and inviting others to worship and service).

She admits, “My appointment at Sweet Home has been a life changing experience.”

Three training initiatives were utilized. Conversations with the Hope UMC of Southfield, Michigan and the use of their pastor’s (Dr. Carlyle Fielding Stewart) book African American Church Growth were engaging. Sheri Ferguson, Of United Methodist Pastoral Care and Counselng, led the church in Healthy Congregations training. Rev. Williams led them in meaningful Bible studies, leadership and budget training and United Methodism training. Empowered leaders and laity began to walk alongside the pastor with a new foundation and new hopes and dreams.

District Superintendent, Rev. Bill Gandy, comments, “Churches can turn and become the mission outposts the Kingdom of God needs them to be.”

The results have been tremendous. Eleven new members were welcomed into the fellowship in 2008 including 5 as new Christians. A Fall Jamboree took place in the streets around Sweet Home in October with 150 persons joining together for joyful celebrations. Average worship has increased from 35 to 75. One hundred percent of conference and district mission giving was shared in 2008 with money for ministry in 2009 remaining. Equitable compensation support has been cut in half for the 2009 fiscal year.  Bishop Will Willimon has been encouraged stating, “After decades of being a congregation in decline, we have now got a pastoral leader at Sweet Home that promises a very different future.” 

This church that was unsure of a future one year ago, has a bright future of ministry now. They are led by a capable pastor who has set a vision from God and is empowering laity to lead. God has always been at work. Now the people of the church have joined God and everything is different. 


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