A Vision of Hope for Central United Methodist Church
The Desert Southwest Conference and Central UMC are entering into an exciting, strategic partnership to bring about vitality in this local church and in the immediate community it serves. The New Faith and Vital Faith teams along with the lay and clergy leadership of Central UMC are cooperating to create a vision for a future with hope.
Central UMC has a long history of discipleship and service. It has launched multiple new church starts and was the first church in the Desert Southwest Conference to launch a TV ministry. In addition to the innovative ministries that Central has launched, Central UMC has also had a history of developing relationships with the community surrounding the church, including a strong relationship with the local arts community.
Throughout the years Central UMC has worked to understand how God is calling them to be relevant in a time when many people are simply done with church or believe that the Christian faith no longer has anything to offer. However, like other churches, in recent years, Central UMC has experienced decline.
In the past decade, the Conference Vital Faith Team has partnered with the church by offering multiple trainings and providing two all-church assessments with recommendations. The church has made numerous efforts to try new ministries. In spite of these efforts, the decline has continued. Central UMC was faced with a decision: it could continue the downtrend until it closed, or it could take a bold step (one of our core values as a Conference) and partner with the DSC in a collaborative experiment to bring vitality and hope to this congregation. Prayerfully, Central UMC has voted for this opportunity for new life.
The Desert Southwest Conference and Central UMC have held several joint meetings and have developed a plan. Each partner has committed to support the plan with its appropriate strengths. Rev. David McPherson, Director of New and Vital Faith became aware of a team of pastors who had particular gifts and experience in not only turnaround strategies with a church, but also in creating new communities of faith. Bishop Bob Hoshibata, in prayerful discussion with the appointive cabinet, made the decision to bring this team to the DSC to help us learn new ways to enhance growth and vitality in our Conference. The DSC New Faith Communities Team voted to commit endowment earnings to add to the resources of the local church to enable two new pastors to be appointed to Central UMC. The Conference commitment to this endeavor will be over five years, with appropriate benchmarks in place.
One pastor will oversee daily church operations and will locate community-based resources for generating new income. The second pastor will be the Missional Consultant—using the strengths of Central UMC to help create new spaces for new people. It is our hope that we will learn from this experiment. While the New and Vital Faith Teams wish we could offer this type of support to many more churches, it is our hope that If successful we will be able to duplicate the model throughout our Conference.
Revitalizing a church takes courage. We applaud the people of Central for their commitment to this bold vision. This will be a time of letting go of old ways and learning new ones. There will be grieving because some things must die for new life to be born. But with God’s grace, we pray there will be new learnings that can be used to help other churches become stronger witnesses of hope and resurrection!
We ask for your bold prayers of support and unity of spirit as The Conference with the lay and clergy leadership of the church continue this journey of visioning and hope together.