5 Talent Academy audience hears about the importance of evangelism
Janet Ayers, a staff member at Wilderness Community UMC in Spotsylvania, joins in the singing time at the start of the 5 Talent Academy held Oct. 6 at Oak Grove UMC in Chesapeake.
“Evangelism” is no longer a word to be shunned and avoided, but simply “sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in word, sign and deed” according to the Rev. Randy Orndorff, one of the presenters at the 5 Talent Academy on Oct. 6.
A crowd of more than 400 people, representing 140 different churches in the conference, attended the teaching event at Oak Grove UMC in Chesapeake and learned how evangelism is the responsibility of all members of a congregation.
Eighty of those churches were “sampling” a 5 Talent Academy event for the first time. During 2012 Annual Conference another opportunity for congregations to sign up with the conference program for revitalizing existing churches, so organizers opened this even up for other congregations to try.
The format was somewhat different. Five Virginia Conference churches – Salem, Arlington Temple, Wilderness, Culpeper and the Hispanic ministry at Floris – made presentations of their best practices of evangelism.
Probably the best “take-away” moment came from the Rev. Rita Staul of Salem UMC, part of a two-point charge in the York River District, where worship attendance has more than tripled in the past eight years. Staul told of baking her husband’s favorite chocolate cake but leaving it out on the counter. A single ant looking for food discovered the cake, then went back to get all his friends so they could and share in the feast.
“That’s ant evangelism!” said Staul.
| Julie Lohr, a lay member at Culpeper UMC, talks about her church’s evangelism efforts.|
The secret to Salem’s success, Staul said, lies in three simple steps: prayer, hospitality and service.
In addition to the attendance jump, during the eight years Staul has been at Salem the average age of the congregation has dropped by 20 years, participation of children has gone from 2 to 30, youth from 3 to 18, and the amount of tithes and others has nearly doubled. The church has also raised more than $100,000 in an annual auction, with proceeds going to help people in the community.
“Meet people’s need then lead them to Christ,” Staul encouraged. “Then send them out to lead others.”
At one point the Rev. Tom Berlin, senior pastor of one of the largest congregations in the conference, asked the audience for additional appreciation for the efforts at Salem.
Berlin spoke about the growing Floris ministry to the Latinos in the area around Dulles Airport, which was generated by lay people within the church. “A lay person asked me ‘when will we start to meet the spiritual needs of our Latino neighbors?’,” Berlin said. “When the laity starts asking for programs, you can do anything.”
The Spanish language service at Floris currently has about 120 participants. But that was not started until the church had been involved with the Latino community for 15 years, through English as a Second Language classes and other ministries.
| The Rev. Rita Staul describes the amazing growth experienced at Salem UMC in Gloucester.|
The Rev. Keith Boyette, pastor of Wilderness UMC, along with lay member Tina Page, spoke of how that church articulates its mission and vision, its “core values,” in shaping its message to the community. “It’s like our DNA,” said Boyette, “which determines and directs our witness.” The church asks every member to sign a pledge making evangelism a responsibility, and provides training for sharing their faith to others.
Arlington Temple UMC representatives talked about how they first made their church more attractive, identifiable and assessable, then worked to appeal to the diverse community around their facility.
Orndorff spoke about Culpeper UMC’s confirmation classes, which have brought many new families into the church. “We expect the whole church to be involved in our confirmation process,” he said, “and to offer a program that the entire community wants to be a part of.”
The next 5 Talent Academy event will be Feb. 23, 2012, at Ebenezer UMC in Stafford. Bishop Ricardo Pereira from the Cuban Methodist Church will be the guest speaker.
By Neill Caldwell, Virginia United Methodist Advocate