We Got The BEAT! Recent Barnes Fund Grant Recipients Share Their Award Outcomes and Advice


Pictured: Some “Joyristas,” friends of Java Joy and ESP (Extra Special People), in the SERVE ROME kitchen at Rome First UMC. They use the kitchen 7 days a week for Java Joy a mobile coffee cart that goes all over Rome and Northwest Georgia!

By Rebecca Wallace

In 2020, the North Georgia Conference established the Barnes Evaluation and Administrative Team (BEAT) to oversee a new process to grant funds to churches for innovative mission and ministry. As of March, BEAT has granted nearly $3 million to NGUMC churches. Here’s a sampling of how the funds have been put to good use.
The very first Associate Pastor position at Golden UMC in Douglasville was created as a result of the BEAT grant. Rev. Debra Stewart was appointed as Pastor of Discipleship and Congregational Care, and she is leading small group support and bereavement ministries, as well as providing oversight of congregational care. The church received additional funds to purchase a new management software program.
Golden UMC is a church on a great trajectory, in no small part to its leadership. Rev. Robert King shared how it can be a blessing to “dream big.” Their initial proposal was for a part-time pastor of discipleship, but in the process, the church was encouraged to imagine how they would utilize a full-time position, and it paid off. He advised others considering applying for a Barnes Fund grant to have a clear sense of what you want for your church and ministry when applying. “Naming our church's mission and vision with clarity and vitality was a great gift for applying and being in conversation with the BEAT committee,” said King.
Having outgrown their nearly 35-year-old modular units, Lanier UMC in Cumming is using their BEAT grant to build a new fellowship hall and education building (pictured). Much of the new space will be used to serve their neighbors, as community groups meet at the church on a regular basis.
According to Rev. Dr. Ed Tomlinson, being an inviting and encouraging neighbor to organizations that change lives is a large part of Lanier UMC’s mission, so the investment made through the BEAT Grant funds is a big gift for this small church.
Lincolnton UMC partnered with Bethany UMC, Pine Grove UMC, and Midway UMC congregations in Lincoln County to launch the Barnabas House Counseling Center. Together with Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta and the Lincoln County School District, they created a space for the center in a former high school.
Since opening in November 2022, the center has quickly doubled its initial counseling availability from one to two days per week. Prior to Barnabas House, there were no counseling services in the entire county. This program is an example of the power of connectional ministries, and how churches and their partners are better together in serving their communities. According to Rev. Randy Kanipe, families, children, teens, and adults are benefiting from this gift from the conference.
Things are cooking again at Rome First UMC, as Rev. Robert Brown and his congregants used the BEAT funds to remodel, renovate and purchase new appliances for its commercial kitchen. The new kitchen is used daily by Elevation House and Java Joy, two partners of Serve Rome – a collaboration of ministries working with the church to serve the community in various, life-changing ways. Rome First UMC is also obtaining the necessary permits to share the space as a Commissary Kitchen, which will be used primarily by minority- and women-owned small businesses.
“The commercial kitchen of the Serve Rome model is a great way to share space and resources to further the mission of our church and community partners,” said Rev. Brown.
In addition to purchasing technology equipment that has already improved their online worship service, University Heights UMC in Decatur is using their BEAT funds to grow their relationship and partnership with PATH preschool, and also to grow vegetables! In February, the church built its first raised garden beds on the church front lawn ((pictured). Volunteers included PATH preschool parents, church members, and neighbors. Preschool students planted tomato seedlings in their classrooms to later transplant to the garden.
“Our congregation members are empowered. We have a renewed spirit, especially coming out of the height of the pandemic,” said Rev. Briggs Smith. “As a church, we are making ourselves known to the community in new ways.” 
For more information about the BEAT grant, please visit www.ngumc.org/BEAT. Review a summary of the grant investments being made through the Barnes Fund of the North Georgia Conference on the BEAT Dashboard at www.ngumc.org/BEATdashboard. And find our inclusion review at ngumc.org/BEAT.

Rebecca Wallace is a communications consult (and United Methodist) in Atlanta.