The Commission on Congregational Development seeks to support our annual conference in responding to Jesus’ challenge to be “my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Our response necessarily reflects the diversity of our churches of the people called Methodists and the geographical area we are called to serve. Many of our congregations were founded to serve in ministry in a rural and small town state that is transforming into an urban and suburban centers. This results in half of our annual conference membership now worshiping in only 120 of our 840 churches. These 120 churches typically average 175 or more in worship on a typical weekend.
We continue to hold before the annual conference a goal of starting 5 new churches each year. Many of us now realize that this is a break-even proposition for the conference as a whole. Our worship attendance each week across the annual conference has grown from 72,794 in 1990 to 83,742 in 2000, a 15% increase, while North Carolina’s population has increased over 20% in the same time period. Further, the addition of 29 new churches over the past seven years has resulted in most of the growth in worship attendance experienced in the annual conference. We are also especially excited about the formation of the Wake Circles of Hispanic Ministry in Wake County and the launching of community ministry centers in the Rocky Mount District. This is in response to our bishop’s challenge to open 20 new faith communities in places affected by poverty by the year 2004. We encourage our annual conference to maintain these commitments to growth affirmed by the 2001 Annual Conference.
The Office of Congregational Development continues to consult with nearly 100 churches each year. The assistance provided includes demographic research, local consultations, training and planning services for already existing congregations. The office is now leading our conference in two important initiatives for the coming year. The first is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ten Dollar Club. This long-term commitment to new church development has contributed to the launching of 80 churches that currently constitute over 15% of our membership. We hope to substantially increase the numbers of people committed to making new church development a priority in their giving. The second is to undergird the emerging work of the Congregational Development Fund. We hope to realize a ten-fold increase in the investment funds available to support formation of new faith communities. This funding should support future growth among the people called Methodist in eastern North Carolina.
The work of the Office and Commission on Congregational Development is multifaceted as we seek to serve rural, small town, suburban and urban churches, in a variety of socio-economic situations, within varied cultural traditions, offering to each one the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers and your support.
Wm. Allen Bingham, Chairperson