Leaning Into Our Community Connections


Pictured: A card written by a young volunteer from Mt. Bethel UMC's new ministry, The Buddy System!

We are continually inspired by stories of United Methodist churches engaging in ministry with their members and their communities. You have heeded the call to "do good" while we "do no harm." Here are just a few inspiring examples from across North Georgia.

Working Together to Serve the Community 

First UMC of Lawrenceville and Rev. Adam Hilderbrandt have been involved in a community-wide, ecumenical initiative called the Lawrenceville Response Center to provide food, housing support, income assistance, and other care for families in need in their community. 

The church is uniquely positioned to work with city government and local non-profits--the mayor of the city and three of the four city council members are members of Lawrenceville First UMC and three of the community non-profits helping with the initiative were born out of the congregation.

Their work was recently featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Read it here.


Drop Off / Drive Through Food Bank

Acworth UMC capitalized on the success of its drive-through Sunday School by expanding to include a food drive. When families pick up children’s ministry materials, they can also drop off food donations at the same time. Last week the church held a drive-through food bank for families who otherwise might in hungry in their community. 138 families representing 597 people received 7,966 pounds of food!

Acworth UMC also hosted the Red Cross Blood Drive on Sunday, May 3. That day, 58 pints of blood were donated in a safe, happy environment. 

Coming Together Even When We’re Apart

Many of us are using Zoom creatively like having an open lunch call for conversation for people who might be eating alone. Others are hosting crafting groups on Zoom. Rev. Cassie Rapko of St. Paul UMC Atlanta has held community office hours since she was appointed to St Paul more than a year ago, and is now having Zoom office hours so that people can check-in and chat:

“Each week since I was appointed as the pastor at St. Paul UMC, I have observed 'community office hours.' These are specific times during the week when I would be at a local coffee shop or restaurant where members, visitors, and community members could stop in and have a chat with me. I realized that most folks were much more inclined to have a casual conversation in a coffee shop than they were in my office. It also helped me get to know the community and support local establishments.

Well, when we started to shelter in place, that meant no more casual gatherings at coffee shops. I was sad because not only was I missing those local places, but I missed the opportunity for conversations with my church. But then I realized that everything else was moving to an online platform, so why not my community office hours? I scheduled a ZOOM meeting and sent out the log-in information in an email to the congregation and also posted it on Facebook. I invited folks to BYOC (bring your own coffee). 

At first, I was worried that I would just be staring at myself in Zoom for an hour and a half, but it didn't take long for people to start popping in. In fact, this online platform has allowed those who work during the day, and weren't always able to come to my daytime hours at the coffee shop, to participate. Online Community Office Hours mean I can have more casual conversations with church members, get a read on how they are doing, and get any prayer requests they have. I continue to yearn to be with my members in person, but I am so incredibly grateful for technology that still allows us to be a community.”

I Just Called To Say…

Many churches across the conference have implemented systems to call and check in on members. North Fayette UMC ushers and greeters each took a list of member names and contact information and have been calling and keeping in touch. It has helped the pastor stay informed of care needs and helped the congregation stay connected. 

North Decatur UMC used their existing small groups like the choir, UMW, and Sunday School classes to organize a calling tree for members to check in on each other weekly over the phone. 

Mt. Bethel UMC Marietta calls it's new "check-in" ministry The Buddy System. The ministry began by pairing church leaders with older adults and medically fragile adults to check-in. The volunteer was asked to call their "buddy" every three to four days. The effort was very well received, so the church began adding the names of anyone who was a healthcare worker or first responder. Volunteers continued to sign up to make the calls. Next came a request for "Buddies" for essential workers – grocery store and delivery drivers. Then a member who is involved in the trucking industry asked if the church could add some of her guys to the list. So, of course, they did.

The church is also sending cards, in addition to the calls. Mt. Bethel reached out to the families and students at Mt. Bethel Academy about an opportunity to be a buddy with healthcare workers thanks to nonprofit caterer, The Gathering Industry. The caterer is providing about 200 lunches daily to hospitals around the metro area, and families are now sending letters and pictures to go with the lunches. The cards are being mailed to one volunteer who delivers to The Gathering Industry. Most recently, the ministry expanded to send cards and encouragement to the healthcare workers and residents at the nursing homes and assisted living homes near the church. 

Learn more about the Buddy System at https://mtbethel.org/buddy-system/ including the letter templates provided to the congregation. If Mt. Bethel can help your church launch a Buddy Ministry, contact Kibbie Parish at kibbie.parish@mtbethel.org.

How is your congregation leaning into the connection? Share in a comment below or email communications@ngumc.org!