The Missouri Conference Center was closed on September 26 as the entire staff spent the day visiting local churches. Last year the staff made a similar trip to St. Louis, this year they went to Kansas City. The following story is a brief summary from locations visited.
Woods Chapel UMC
Woods Chapel UMC in Lee’s Summit moved to it’s current location in 1999, with the help of a $405,000 grant from the Missouri Conference Congregational Development Team. At the time some other pastors voiced disapproval of the Missouri Conference (then the Missouri West Conference) investing so much money in a single church. But if you’re looking at the business side of things, you couldn’t have made a better investment.
“Since then we’ve paid $1.3 million in apportionments,” said Rev. Jeff Brinkman. “Currently our apportionments are $220,000 a year.”
The church’s contribution to the connection doesn’t stop with always paying its apportionments at 100 percent. Whenever the church has a capital campaign, it sets aside 5 percent of the money raised during the campaign to give to other churches. Churches can contact Woods Chapel and apply for $5,000 grants to help with their own building projects.
“We have about $50,000 set aside for this right now,” Brinkman said.
The church has a narrative budget, and has recently started putting a master wish-list for ongoing projects in the church newsletter once a month. The first month this was done, the new coffee bar was fully funded by a donation from one couple.
“We present giving as an opportunity, not an obligation,” said Gina Kennedy, associate pastor of finance and administration.
But Woods Chapel is not a business, it’s a church, and it’s bottom-line is concerned about people, not profit. In that respect, it’s return on investment for the Conference has been even better. Since the move, Woods Chapel has had 665 baptisms. Before the move, average worship attendance was about 350. Last year the church averaged 1,160, and Brinkman said the church has been well ahead of that average this year.
Part of the boost this year comes from a new addition. The church moved into a $2.1 million expansion last Easter that includes a new worship center for contemporary services. Attendance has increased since the opening, particularly with young people.
Woods Chapel isn’t just about worship, though. It’s also a very mission-minded church. Following Hurricane Katrina, the church maintained a continued presence in New Orleans for years. It has done the same with Joplin following the tornado, sending a Volunteers In Mission Team there every week for more than a year, and keeping a person in Joplin to help coordinate the work.
Saint Paul School of Theology
The next stop on the tour was Saint Paul School of Theology. Rev. Lee Johnson, a former Missouri Conference pastor who is now a member of the Nebraska Conference, provided information about the seminary, which was established in 1959 and is one of 13 United Methodist seminaries.
The seminary had 44 new students start in the fall. It has a second campus in Oklahoma City, and there are two interactive video classrooms that link the campuses. Total enrollment at Saint Paul is 172.
Scott Chrostek came to Church of the Resurrection in July of 2009 to start a new satellite campus. He had a core team of nine people from Church of the Resurrection. They started pre-launch services at the end of August, and launched in full in December of 2009, partnering with Grand Avenue Temple.
The church later moved to a location in a ballroom across the street from Grand Avenue Temple, and then bought a building across the street from the Kansas City Star. The building was originally a car dealership, and it’s previous use was a bar that was known for having good live bands.
The purchase and rehabilitation of the building cost about $2 million. The congregation has paid for 75 percent of that on their own. They moved into the new building in January, and are now up to 650 in attendance at three worship services. There are about 50 children in the congregation.
The building is extremely stylish, from the bathroom faucets to the art on the walls, which changes monthly. In the first eight months in this location the church has had 65 baptisms. There has been 18 births in the congregation.
The congregation isn’t all young adults, though. Chrostek said they also have a large number of people 45 to 65 years old.
“The thing they have in common is that everyone here is excited about having a worship experience here in the city that is something new and different,” Chrostek said.
The church is now looking to expand to another location nearby where they can have more space for offices, other programs and offer an alternative worship venue.
Resurrection downtown has about 200 people involved in small group ministries, and one to three times a month the church is involved in a local mission project.
St. James UMC
Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III became co-pastor of St. James UMC alongside his father in 2008. In 2009 he became senior pastor, and Emanuel Cleaver II was appointed to be Missouri Conference assistant to the bishop for African American leadership development.
St. James moved to its current location in 1981, combining with the Paseo United Methodist Church. The church built a new sanctuary in 2001. It’s location has at times been considered one of the highest crime areas in Kansas City.
Every Wednesday at 3 p.m. people line up outside the church for groceries. About 200 families are fed by this program each week. On Thanksgiving the church gives away 800 to 900 turkeys.
There are about 60 children involved in the after school program at St. James UMC, and during the summer an all day program (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) has about 100 children in it. The mission of the church is to connect people with God in practical ways.
The church is currently in the process of building back up its music program.
“Worship has always been one of the most important ways we could draw people into the life of our church,” Cleaver said.
Many of the members of St. James UMC live in Johnson County or Lee’s Summit. Cleaver is considering ways to start small group ministries at different locations throughout the area, so members of St. James can take part in midweek ministries without driving 25 minutes one-way back into the city.
The sanctuary at St. James UMC seats about 1,200. It’s average attendance last year was 1,165.
Central UMC is the oldest church in Kansas City, tracing its roots back to a meeting at the Kansas City river market in 1844. It has been at its current location directly across the street from the University of Missouri – Kansas City since 1939. Rev. Nathan Scarritt was once pastor at the church. In 1965 the sanctuary of the church was gutted by a fire.
The church opened a new addition in June, which makes a social space out of an area that used to just be a front door. The new construction and remodeling cost about $2 million.
Rev. Adam Hamilton of Church of the Resurrection was associate pastor at Central UMC.
The church averages about 170 in worship. Rev. Jim Simpson is pastor. When he was first appointed to the church, he found he had 20 members over the age of 90. The church also has a lot of young families, though, and Simpson said they’ve had many infant baptisms.
Renaissance UMC started in Longview in a community center. The church then moved into the former Longview UMC building. This move was supported by funds from the sale of the former Epworth/Roanoke Church. That church had requested that when the property was sold that the funds from the sale be used to support the start of a new church.
When the church looked at remodeling the original sanctuary to make it an attractive fellowship hall, the bid came in at $80,000. The project is now nearly complete, with the total cost being about $5,000 in materials, and the labor supplied by five Volunteer In Mission teams.
When the neighborhood around Longview UMC changed from a suburban white neighborhood to a primarily African American neighborhood, the church no longer reflected the community that it was in, and decreased in size.
The population Renaissance is focusing on in its outreach is families with young children. McIntosh has a 3- year- old and a five-year-old herself, and her next child’s due date is only about a month away.
Lia McIntosh was a member of the St. James congregation for 10 years, and was on staff there for two.
Every time Renaissance does an event, they promote it with 3,500 fliers through the local school district.
“They will let us distribute anything through them, as long as it is free and open to the public,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh is intentional about using the appropriate language and activities that may appeal to a family that has never been to church. Renaissance has hosted several events with music, free food and a bounce-house. Rather than Vacation Bible School, they church offers a Mega Sports Camp. She is now happy to have a real “church” building to invite people to on Sunday mornings.
When worshipping at the community center, the church couldn’t seem to get over about 35 in attendance.
“Everyone kept asking me, ‘Where is your church?’” McIntosh said.
McIntosh is hopeful that a new waterpark next door will spur other economic development in the community. The church now averages 92 in attendance.
Renaissance welcomes assistance from other churches as they work to get established in this community.