In the fall of 2018, Embry Hills UMC member Sharon Hunt visited with me in my office and suggested that we craft a new mission statement for Embry Hills UMC. We had a good talk about what mission statements are, what they do, and how to recruit from many segments of the population of our congregation to craft a new expression of what we are called to be and do as a church. The result of that conversation was a team we recruited to craft the new mission statement which now adorns the wall of the entry-way into the Education Wing of our building:
The mission of Embry Hills UMC is to welcome all into a nurturing community of faith, to serve others, and to grow in Christ.
In the fall of 2019, as we recruited leadership for 2020, we decided to reorganize our leadership structure to reflect this statement. We now have 4 ministry work areas: Welcome, Nurture, Serve, and Grow. These work areas encompass ministry that was already happening at Embry Hills; it's all simply organized according to our mission. This is one of the reasons having a mission statement is helpful: we can discern whether and how to continue on with ministries we are currently offering, AND we can discern what new ministries to pursue. Does a new ministry idea align with our mission statement? If so, let's give it a try! Does a new ministry idea not really align with our 4 stated areas of ministry focus? Let's put that idea aside for now.
I've spent some time reflecting on our mission statement and the things we are currently doing and planning:
To welcome all. I've traditionally thought of the act of welcome in two ways: 1) what we're offering to the community that would get folks interested in engaging with our church on a deeper level and (2) hospitality we offer once folks walk through the door. That "walking through the door" piece is different now and hard to track. Sometimes I see names that I don't know or that I haven't seen in a while pop up in the comments on our Facebook worship premiers on Sunday morning, but I don't know who is watching on YouTube. And unless folks reach out to us through social media or our website, I am not sure how to contact new folks who might be checking us out since the pandemic began. Welcoming folks feels challenging right now. The worship our staff has been able to produce virtually, however, has been a blessing! We are grateful for our team now more than ever.
A nurturing community of faith. Cards, phone calls, emails, "Office Hours" at the church, even the occasional masked and socially distanced chat on the front porch--these are ways we are continuing to nurture one another in this strange time. For a few weeks our prayer list was empty, but recently we are beginning to reach out to one another for prayer again. This has warmed my heart as I watch you pray for each other and join you in praying for the needs of our congregation and community. Add to this the countless points of contact you're making with one another that the staff will never know about, and we are doing a decent job of looking after one another.
To serve others. This is a place where we excel, as usual. Unable to host Camp Buzz or our EH Preschool day camps this summer, we found ways to serve children and their families through Smart Lunch/Smart Kid food and supply donations and letters, school supply drives for NETWorks and WellRoot, and my helping each other out with grocery shopping, delivers, and phone calls to check that neighbors have the food and supplies they need. This fall we'll continue our relationship with La'Amistad, helping children from Henderson Mill Elementary School with their homework--virtually, of course.
To grow in Christ. We are fortunate to have gifted staff and lay leadership who have helped adapt and develop ministry opportunities for children, youth, and adults. From video Sunday school, to virtual VBS, to Youth hangouts on Zoom, to Centering Prayer every Wednesday at noon, to Theology on Tap, to book studies--we continue to try new ways to reach and gather folks in a time when we can't be physically together as we once were.
The key is to try. We must always be trying new ways to reach and welcome new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ while continuing to nurture the growing body of Christ that is Embry Hills UMC--all while figuring out how to serve our community in new ways. How shall we offer the grace of Jesus Christ to our community without the "normal" use of what we previously believed to be our biggest tool for ministry, our building? We do this by realizing that WE are our biggest tools for ministry. WE are called to welcome all, to nurture each other, to serve others, and to grow in Christ.
You'll remember our tagline: Faith for Life. Right now life is not what we expect or want it to be. But together, we can and will find ways to continue to live into the faith that grounds us and connects us to God and each other.
What are your ideas about how we can focus on and live into our mission statement as we continue on in this new reality, this new normal?