Our Four-Year Plan of Ministry at OUMC is “G.R.O.W. the Fruit of the Spirit.” In 2017, our emphasis is Witness. Jesus commanded his followers to be witnesses: “Go and make disciples of all people” (Matthew 28:19).
Paul in turn asks, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10:13-14).
It is our job as Christians to witness—to proclaim Christ so that people may believe in him and be saved. This isn’t a weird thing. It can be as normal as telling your friend about something great going on at church, or sharing about some challenge you’ve overcome with the help of your faith.
At OUMC’s fall leadership retreat November 12, our church council members and staff looked at our congregation’s strengths and weaknesses. While our church is very successful in discipleship and outreach, we aren’t as good at witness, especially “inviting, welcoming, and accepting” guests and new members “so that all may become devoted followers of Jesus Christ,” per our mission statement.
Here is why improving our witness and growth are essential: A typical church loses 6% of its membership annually due to deaths, people moving, etc. That means OUMC needs to bring in 32 new members each year just to hold even. Churches with very successful guest-to-membership programs convert about 25% of first-time guests into members. So if we were doing everything right, we’d need to have 120 guests in order to get 30 new members. As of November 12, OUMC had seen 113 guests this year… but only received 13 new members. (Update: we expect seven more new members December 11.)
With this in mind, Onalaska UMC leaders set these strategic, measurable goals for 2017:
- Witness for Growth—train and equip our members to talk about their faith and our church in a way that people find inviting. Our goal is to double the number of shares (God Moment stories at church, newspaper articles, personal invitations, Facebook shares, re-tweets, etc.) every three months, from 10 January-March, to 20 April-June, to 40 July-August, to 80 October-December.
- Organize for Growth—hire a part-time staff person to build an “assimilation system” that organizes volunteers to do the best job possible welcoming people to church and accepting them into full-time membership. This will be funded by a grant from the Memorials fund. Our goal is have at least 180 new visitors and 45 new members during the year.
- Build for Growth—make space for our church’s growing worship attendance, discipleship, kids’ ministries, and community outreach by successfully completing our $2.7 million capital campaign and beginning the building project to make our facility more inviting, welcoming, and accepting.
All of our members, leaders, staff, committees, worship participants, outreach programs, fundraisers, etc. are asked to consider how they witness to the love of Jesus Christ, and contribute to the growth of Onalaska UMC. We draw strength from Christ: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18,20)