The Partner Church Program at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR) seeks to partner with a select group of small churches around the country to help train and empower them to be resources not only to their community, but to other small churches. This modern day “circuit rider” system is what Church of the Resurrection hopes will be the catalyst for this renewal to take place.
Four churches were selected to begin this program. These initial four churches include Decatur and Highfill United Methodist Churches, both part of a charge in rural Arkansas; St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in the mid-sized city, Odessa, Texas; and Hampton United Methodist Church, a church in urban Baltimore, Md. Each of the partner churches is asked for a commitment of one year, with the option of a second year if the church decides to continue. Church of the Resurrection provides the initial and ongoing training as well as resources for the churches for those first two years, including sermons on DVD to be used on select Sundays. Each partner church maintains its independence and charge through their annual conference.
St. Luke’s was the first church to begin using the video sermons on November 27, 2011 in conjunction with Advent. The other three churches needed to make necessary technical upgrades and adjustments, and began using the video sermons in January, 2012. All of the churches have experienced an increase in attendance since the first part of 2012, including a higher number of first time visitors. Pastor Russ Hall of Decatur and Highfill UMCs said “Just during this first five weeks, we’ve had more first-time visitors than what I’d experienced over the previous year. Attendance at Highfill has risen by nearly 24%, and at Decatur by 17%. It’s pretty amazing. For all we know, this may be the beginning of a new revival within the [United] Methodist Church.”
This partnership is much more than putting in a DVD on a Sunday morning and pressing play. The churches receive weekly coaching on ministry processes and worship planning. They also gather together for a monthly webinar to allow groups to take part in online teaching around relevant topics. Pastor Robin Johnson of Hampden UMC expressed that using books and studies from Church of the Resurrection and other places was just not enough. He said, “We needed the constant interaction and accountability to a program.”
This is not just a one-way process, but a way for the churches to support and learn from one another. Travis Morgan, Director of Resurrection Online and Partner Church Ministries for Church of the Resurrection shares, “This is a partnership, and that means that we are learning from these churches and they are also learning from each other.”
The Foundation for Evangelism has provided a grant to assist this program with technology costs for training through online virtual connections and sermon delivery through a secure broadband internet connection. Grants such as these are funded solely by the generous donations of individuals.