A fresh vision brings new opportunities for Bethlehem FUMC


A man, a dream, God’s help! Harold Harrison, a long-time member of Bethlehem First United Methodist Church in Bethlehem, Ga., had a dream to move the small country church his family had historically attended into a growing, dynamic church to attract new Disciples for Christ.

 The new church facility of Bethlehem First United Methodist Church was completed and occupied in 2002, and God continues to bless that vision Mr. Harrison had more than 10 years ago.  The membership of 232 moved from the old church property to the new facility on Christmas Avenue in Bethlehem.
 As time went by, from 2002 – 2008, the congregation grew to 603.  Time to grow again!  A capital campaign brought money in to build an addition which virtually doubled the property.  This addition allowed: more Sunday school facilities, additions to the pre-school, a gym & fitness center for recreation, better nursery facilities and more.
 At a long-range planning session in 2008, a direction priority was established to also target the needs of the younger families in the community. By addressing these needs, younger families would be attracted to the church for their children’s activities and recreation, as well as, other activities.  Once there, they would be introduced to the church and its mission.
 How would they attract and keep these new younger families? At the time, BFUMC offered traditional and contemporary worship services. As a part of the planning, ideas developed to offer a “different” service even more in tune with attracting the “unchurched,” but not to take away from the other services.
 The Office of New Church Development, the Athens-Elberton District, and three “New Church Plants,” The Vine UMC at Chateau Elan, The Orchard UMC in Loganville, and Impact UMC in Atlanta, partnered with the vision of BFUMC and invested monies to jump-start this growth area through the direction of the Athens Strategic Growth Team.
 Several new undertakings were initiated in order to best resource BFUMC:
·         Research the region surrounding the church to better identify the mission field and understand the type of new services to offer;
·         Appoint a new associate pastor;
·         Define the newly completed Worship Center for additional uses;
·         Create an assimilation process to move new members into ministries and build leadership in those ministries;
·         Hold leadership support/training to encourage a younger leadership group;
·         Refine ministry support for children such as additional nursery services and children’s church activities.
 As of the end of 2011 these are the successful bench marks for this program:
·        Professions of faith                 2010 = 22             2011 = 37
·        Baptisms                                 2010 = 29             2011 = 50
·        Membership                                      2010 = 705                    2011 = 810
·        Average Weekly Attendance   2010 = 425           2011 = 555 
·        Easter                                                2010 = 648                    2011 = 928
·        Independence Day                            2010 = 280                    2011 = 461
 The church goals for 2012 are to continue this growth and continue to offer additional ministries and programs for the congregation and community.  “The benchmarks are high, but we believe they can be exceeded.”
   From all the Bethlehem First United Methodist Church, we thank the Office of New Church Development, the Athens-Elberton District, the three partner new churches of The Vine, The Orchard, and Impact, and, the congregations of our Conference whose commitment to the connection through apportionment support has helped  a vision become a reality for lives radically transformed forever-for-the-better through the life and ministry of BFUMC.