Community Engagement

Quincy Brown


What questions are people in your community asking? I've asked several congregations in the district to consider this question as they think about its impact of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I wrote about how to answer this question back in July 2019. If you missed it, click here for the information.

Recently, I caught up with Dr. Doug Gilreath, senior pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church, (CFUMC) and asked him how Covington First addresses this question through its community engagement efforts. Below, I share Doug's responses about the commitment that Covington has of "owning" its mission field of Covington.
As a county seat church just off the square, CFUMC has the reputation of being “the church that helps people” in the community.  In the past few years, Covington First UMC has taken on the role of the leading church in community engagement in downtown Covington. 
Our approach to ministry involves finding creative ways of engagement to meet the needs of our community that fit with our vision of being "Charged by God with a passion for ensuring the next generation of this community will have a relationship with Jesus Christ."
Food Insecurity
In 2019, the church’s food pantry served over 6000 people from the community with food and the love of Jesus and was voted the #1 Place to Volunteer in Newton County in 2020.  Last fall, Change the World Day had an attendance of around 4000 people which included businesses, schools, and 16 different churches of all denominations, coming together on our campus to educate the community about services that are available in our community, and to serve people in our community who are in the greatest need. 

We hosted a Gifts of Grace section for people in need to receive blankets, food, and many other services and resources, and we provided free food and a free fall festival for families to enjoy while inviting churches to offer music for the day.  This year, Change the World Day was the "Best Community Event in Newton County," and this event has earned us respect and participation from the community in other activities as well as several community-wide recognition over the last ten years.
The Gathering
Covington First UMC is home to the community's top preschool, and we see families of over 160 students come into our doors each day.  We pondered the following question: "How many families coming to preschool do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ or a church home?"  On our registration form, we added two simple questions:  Do you have a church home?  Would you like information about Covington First UMC?  The response was astounding!
Approximately 60 percent of our families responded that they do not have a church home and would like information.  So, we started dreaming about how we could find a way to reach this population of families for Jesus Christ.  They already trust us to teach their children about Jesus, and we needed to discover how to draw the families into the life of the church. 
In speaking with some of the families, we found out that many were not interested in attending traditional worship or even contemporary services.  So, we decided to start something completely different that would fit their needs – a casual Dinner Church-type of experience for unchurched families that meets in a facility these families already know – our church fellowship hall.  We prayed, planned, held formational meetings with a core team of three families of preschool teachers, gathered our meal plans and guest lists, and sent and gave out invitations specifically to a group of interested families in the preschool.  The result, “The Gathering,” meets twice monthly (which we determined was all that busy families could attend), and we have grown in number and spirit as we grow in Jesus Christ together.
A Night to Remember
Children and adults with special needs exist in every community, but few churches offer spiritual resources for this growing population.  A few years ago, we started Pure Hearts, an individual needs Sunday school class for special needs children and young adults in our church.  Then, two years ago, members of our youth group volunteered at a Special Needs Prom in a neighboring county. They were convinced!  They began dreaming for us to host a Special Needs Prom in Newton County.  We reached out to the School System for their ideas and involvement, and we were overwhelmed by the number of volunteers and community businesses that enabled this to happen.  Our greatest joy is seeing a community of God's people working hand in hand to bring people together from all walks of life.

Involving the community begins by showing the community how much we care and want to work together with them as a team.  We work hard to keep our identity as a long-standing historic church in the heart of the community with a heart for the community.  Our vision for this community will always be for everyone in our community to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. 
To learn more about Community Engagement, you can check my webinar by clicking here.
On the Journey,

Raw Spoon is the artist name of Ross Boone. He is doing a project to make 14 mandalas, one for each of the stations of the cross in time for Good Friday. Support his project and purchase posters.

Purchase Ross Boone's Posters

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