4:00 P.M. EST April 8, 2010
Mayor Richard Rober (center) of New Port Richey helps distribute food at
Joining Hands Community Mission in Holiday, Fla. A UMNS Web-only photo
courtesy of Joining Hands Community Mission.
Many congregations find themselves struggling amid economically
challenging times when membership rolls are shrinking, financial
resources are dwindling, and operating costs are rising.
To further complicate the problem, the neighborhoods surrounding
many churches have evolved, becoming increasingly diverse.
The Rev. Phil Maynard, director of the Florida Conference Center for
Congregational Excellence, and the Rev. Dan Campbell, chief executive
officer of Joining Hands Community Mission in Holiday, hope to offer a
new model for doing ministry in challenging circumstances like these.
Maynard and Campbell have developed a partnership over the last two
years, as the former Community United Methodist Church in Holiday,
where Campbell served as pastor, transitioned from a self-sufficient,
functioning church to Joining Hands Community Mission.
The mission opened in 2009 as a faith-based social services agency
for homeless and at-risk families. It is part of the Southwest Pasco
United Methodist Church Cooperative Parish, which also includes First
United Methodist and Asbury United Methodist churches in New Port
The Rev. Dan Campbell
“The big picture here is how do we
develop a process that allows struggling congregations … a way of
redefining ministry in the communities that they serve?” Maynard said.
Based on their experiences, Maynard and Campbell are co-writing a
customized ministry redevelopment guide for leading congregations
toward effective ministry in their communities. Many of the lessons
they learned from their experience will be incorporated into the
blueprint they are developing.
“We want to try to share this with other churches that are kind of
struggling to find new life,” Campbell said.
Guide replaces old models
Several categories of churches are potential candidates for the
redevelopment process, Maynard said, including congregations serving
the same demographic within a defined and limited geographic area.
Other candidates are churches located in areas that have experienced a
significant demographic change or are so economically depressed the
community can’t support the typical ministry structure.
Some of these situations are rooted in church development that took
place a half-century ago, Maynard said.
“In the 1950s, one of the ideas was that every neighborhood needed
to have a church, and now the neighborhoods have changed dramatically,”
The Rev. Phil Maynard
People are also using different methods
to choose the church they plan to attend, basing their decision less on
location and more on “where they feel connected with God,” Maynard
These collective changes have resulted in churches that no longer
effectively serve their neighborhoods and that are located too close to
one another, Maynard added.
But these churches also have a unique opportunity, Maynard says.
Congregations have the chance to explore their community’s needs and
adjust the church’s mission accordingly.
“It really has to be their decision,” Maynard said. “The
congregation has to decide that there are better ways to do ministry
than what they’re doing now.”
District superintendents or pastors themselves might identify
potential candidates for the process, Maynard said. The church cluster
system, which connects pastors with their peers, may be another way to
facilitate this kind of awareness among clergy, he said.
Mission bears fruit
Although the visioning process at the Southwest Pasco churches took
longer than 12 months, the investment is paying dividends by meeting
“We had a lot of people come and tour from other (United) Methodist
churches, and the number one comment I get is, ‘Now this is what I
thought the church is supposed to be like,’ ” Campbell said of the
One measure of success is the variety and number of people who have
been served, Campbell said.
In addition to its ongoing resource center, the mission’s Holiday
Center outreach prepared 277 Thanksgiving meals for needy families in
November, according to mission director Nancy Dougherty.
In December, 643 families received Christmas groceries, as well as
gifts for 1,238 children. And every week, about 100 boxes of emergency
food are given away. Since its opening last July 1, the mission has
provided services to 2,714 clients.
“Those services mostly consist of crisis food distribution, but also
include providing clothing, shoes, diapers, ACCESS (a Florida public
assistance program) services, summer feeding, kids’ camp, hygiene
package provisions, mail-handling services, and case-working referrals
for rent (and) utility assistance and shelter help,” Dougherty said.
“It’s been a phenomenally busy and exciting six months.”
The mission is partnering with Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa and
several other community organizations and business, Campbell said.
Changes that build on other partnerships are possible, too. One
example is the potential receipt of a grant from the state that would
kick off the construction of a certified hurricane shelter for 300
people on the mission property, Campbell said. The building would be
available for daily use by the mission when not needed as a shelter.
Relationships with other organizations are the key to developing these
kinds of opportunities, Campbell added.
“The future, I’m convinced, is that you don’t do this kind of thing
without a partnership,” he said. “The churches, government and local
businesses have to work together.”
More information about Joining Hands Community Mission is available
More information about the redevelopment model is available by
contacting Maynard at Phil.Maynard@flumc.org
or (321) 217-6007.
*De Marco is a writer for the Florida Annual Conference. This
article originally appeared in a different form in the Florida United
Methodist News Service Weekly Digest.
News media contact: Cindy Caldwell or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn.,
(615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.