Congregational Development Report to the 2004 NC Annual Conference

The commission supports our annual conference as we respond together to Jesus’ challenge to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Our congregational responses reflect the diversity of the people called United Methodists and the geography we are called to serve. Many congregations are deployed to serve rural communities and small towns that are rapidly becoming urban and suburban centers. Today about half of the people called Methodist in our annual conference worship in 120 of our 840+ churches – this is a shift we are still trying to understand.

This year we continue to invite our conference to substantially increase 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 grants 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 Fund, Inc. as it engages in a campaign to provide an increase in support to new faith communities.

As we ponder the changes in North Carolina’s cultural climate, we are reminded of the challenge to each of us to reach people for Jesus Christ. Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations call us beyond the bounds of who we used to encounter a new reality for many of our churches – the nations have come to our backyard. We celebrate the growth in membership, worship and Sunday school attendance in many of our churches. The Office of Congregational Development continues to assist 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 Wake Circles of Ministry in the Raleigh District 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 by 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