By the time you read this, our annual Charge Conference for the year will be complete. Charge Conference is a way that we remain accountable to the mission of our church and the mission of the United Methodist Denomination. Much of the reporting is related to the business of the church; our budget, our financial audit, our insurance coverage and care for the building and parsonage, etc. However, we also use this meeting to both celebrate and remind ourselves of some key areas of ministry we need to focus on as a church.
We report on any new baptisms or professions of faith we've had throughout the year. We report on weddings and funerals, along with transfers of members to other communities or denominations. We look through our membership rolls to see who has fallen away, no longer attends regularly, or has moved to another community. We look to see who does attend regularly but has not been invited into membership. We evaluate our leadership positions and discern who had the right gifts for leadership that best fits our needs. We put together goals for our church related to specific needs, issues and hopes that we have. And we dream a little each year as well. We try to determine where God is calling us as a church, and who God is calling us to be for the next year.
This year, in our goal setting, we determined 4 areas of need that we feel God is calling us to step forward. First, we believe that there are a number of families and young adults in the community who do not have a church home. Many have moved into town in the past 5 years and have never attended a church in Henry, and others have simply stepped away from churches they may have grown up in. We feel a strong call to reach out to these families by creating a new expression that opens the doors to faith and community for them. This new expression may be a Bible Study, or a focused discussion group, or even a simple fellowship group that allows them to form a community with each other and the church.
Our second goal is to look at a plan for fixing our parking lot. Parking lots don't last forever, and ongoing maintenance is needed, specifically in places where grass and weeds have pushed through the normal cracks that have formed over time. This project may require us to simply patch the lot, but may also include a much larger fix. We may develop a stewardship campaign for the project, but we know that the best thing to do is remain proactive, to prevent the minor damage from getting worse over time.
Our third goal is to take a discerning look at our financial position. Due in part to the weather (two long, cold months in January and February), but also due to the loss of many key members to death or moving out of town, we borrowed far more from our building fund to cover our operating budget than in past years. We are able to do this for the foreseeable future, but we need to take a hard look at our financial position and create a five year plan to both decrease spending and increase income. Our finance team will be working with Ad Council on developing a financial vision for our future.
Finally, we have discerned that our church needs to have a needs based ministry protocol in place so that we have a process to help members of the church and community when a financial need arises. We've had multiple situations this year where people have reached out to the church with needs, and we have struggled to find the right ways to help them. Many churches face this difficulty in small communities with few resources. It is hard to know the right way to help people, that empowers them (rather than enable them) but also sees them through an emergency at their most difficult times in life. Part of this effort may include raising funds for emergency use, but may also include members of the church becoming more educated on available local and state resources, community and church partnerships, and general poverty-based education that helps us help others.
None of these goals will be easy, but we feel like God is calling us to attempt them. If you are looking for ways to be involved, please speak up. We need prayer warriors, but also sharp minds and enthusiastic hands and feet. We believe that God is still working in this community, and that God is still calling us to be a church on behalf of this community. With your help and commitment, we can continue to build the kingdom in Henry. Amen.