Congregational Development Report to the 2003 NC Annual Conference

The commission supports our annual conference as we respond 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 reflects the diversity of the people called United Methodists and the geography we are called to serve. Many of our congregations are deployed to serve rural communities and small towns that are being transformed before our eyes into urban and suburban centers. This is why about half of the people called Methodist in our annual conference now worship in just 120 of our 800+ churches that typically average 175 or more in worship each weekend.

In the next year we will challenge our conference to substantially increase our membership in the “Ten Dollar Club.” This 50 year old venture in our conference provides grants to start new ministries across the state and launch missions in other nations as well. We hold before the annual conference an ongoing goal of starting 5 new churches annually utilizing the resources made available from Ten Dollar Club moneys and other investments held by the commission. In the coming years this will require a greater commitment from the commission as we move to start new churches in areas where start-up costs are pushing beyond the reach of our current funding processes. To this end we are supporting the emerging work of the Congregational
Development Foundation, Inc. as it engages in a capital campaign that we hope will provide a ten-fold increase in the support to new faith communities.

As we ponder the changes in North Carolina’s cultural climate we are reminded of the challenge to reach people for Jesus Christ. Jesus’ commission to be witnesses “to the ends of the earth” remains, even as persons from “the ends of the earth” have moved into our neighborhood. We celebrate the growth in membership, and worship and Sunday school attendance in many of our churches. 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 existing congregations. We are excited about the Hispanic Circles of Ministry in Wake County and the launching of community ministry centers in the Rocky Mount District. These initiatives are in response to our bishop’s challenge to open 20 new faith communities in places affected poverty by the year 2004.

Again, the work of the Office and Commission on Congregational Development is varied as we seek to serve rural, small town, suburban and urban churches in various socio-economic situations and cultural traditions, offering to each one the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers and your support.

Wm. Allen Bingham, Chairperson