As is often the nature of the Church, things happen seemingly “behind the scenes” that become evident only by the results they achieve. So it is with the Rio Texas United Methodist congregations that are involved with “Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century” (SBC21), a program designed to assist predominantly and historic Black United Methodist congregations become more effective in mission and ministry. This program links successful congregational resource centers (CRC) and coaches with congregations that are in search of new ideas and revitalization.
The SBC21 program for the Rio Texas Annual Conference kicked off in 2015 under the guidance of the Mission Vitality Center’s then Director for Leadership Vitality, Reverend Dr. Marcus Freeman. The fledgling “Rio Texas Black Church Development Design Team” (RTBCDDT) selected Reverend Dr. Jack Gause and Dr. Beverly Woodson Day as co-leaders and immediately set about the mission of welcoming congregations into the SBC21 program.
While the Rio Texas Annual Conference has yet to designate its own CRC, team members have traveled to visit a CRC elsewhere in the South Central Jurisdiction and have experienced coaches who bring CRC experience from across the country. Pastors and Laity from participating congregations attest to the value and blessings that have come from the SBC21 experience. During a recent team visit to St. James UMC (Kansas City MO/Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, III), the Rio Texas delegation of RTBCDDT members and partnering church representatives were amazed at how much information and how many resources and new ideas could come from one visit to a CRC! More CRC visits will be scheduled in the year to come.
Positive results in our partnering congregations were evident from the onset, as evidenced in renewed enthusiasm and missional focus, increased worship attendance, enhanced lay leadership development, more effective worship and local church administration, and the welcoming of new members. Partnering congregations are reporting fruitful results from adopting relatively simple changes to worship times and formats, starting new ministries, increasing community involvement, and more. Of the original eight partnering congregations in the 2016-2017 program, five have opted to continue for the 2017-2018 program. Additionally, one first-time partnering congregation has shown an interest in joining SBC21 in the coming year!
Through training and consultation with SBC21 coaches and other congregations, partner congregations receive hope, inspiration, encouragement, resources, equipping skills, and the determination to go forward with their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Churches qualify to be partner congregations if they demonstrate a willingness to change. This willingness requires that they are open-minded and are eager to devote time and resources to making the training process a success.
The SBC21 program is NOT designed to help congregations become better Black churches; it’s purpose is to help congregations become more effective churches…period! Regarding SBC21, one participating pastor recently commented, “This is a no-brainer!”
For more information about SBC21 and to see if your congregation is ready to make a change for the better, visit sbc21.org or contact Reverend Dr. Gause (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Woodson Day (email@example.com).
The following was written by Ralph Thompson, Rio Texas Conference Lay Leader