Friendship UMC is transforming its community in generous ways
Love God, Love Others and Serve. These words are printed and spoken regularly as they are the Mission/Vision statement of Friendship United Methodist Church in Athens (Northwest District). These words are one of the high standards by which all ministry is measured, the litmus test if you will.Knowing that Christianity was once known for its extreme generosity during the early plagues and beyond, generosity undergirds much of what we do. We strive to impact and transform our community (read lives for Christ) in generous ways.It all begins from the top down as we encourage staff to be in the community. We encourage them to set up mobile offices at Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A and work some days from there. To know your community best means being in it! So you might find any of our staff on any given day at the Wildwood Deli eating a Reuben sandwich or outside Limestone Drugs licking an ice cream cone. While there, they talk and listen to the needs of people in the community if the opportunity presents itself. It all starts from the top down as our lead pastor does the same.
Future meetings with school Principals, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Mayor, and other city and community leaders will also allow us to hear what they believe the community is in need of for the vision casting of tomorrow. Those needs may then be incorporated into future generous opportunities.
Knowing our community has led to various generous opportunities for all who would like to participate and get involved. Here are just a few that could very easily become a template for any size congregation…
- Full Tummy Project – feeding hungry Athens elementary children. We periodically do a Pack and Pray where weekend meals are packed then placed in a circle and prayed over.
- Empty Bowls – raise awareness for world hunger. Local artists make pottery bowls to be taken home, not used, to remain empty as a reminder of world hunger. Proceeds go to a local charity to feed the hungry in Athens.
- Operation Santa – Host the mental health center clients for a Christmas lunch. Complete with show and Santa.
- Community Egg Hunt – Host an egg hunt for the entire community that sees over 1,000 people each year (yes, we count them as they enter). The event culminates with a nighttime flashlight egg hunt for all ages – including adults.
- Community Harvest Fest – Host a community harvest festival that also sees 1,000 plus people from our community. This event now includes “punkin’ chunkin’ “ where we launch pumpkins from a giant slingshot!
- Summer XP – Host a summer vacation bible school in 5th Avenue Park for three days in the community. We feed everyone – children and parents, provide a band, inflatables, etc… And of course, tell them about Christ!
Our desire to be a generous church is not only a local emphasis but we also travel. Travel to places like India, Africa and Latin America. Here is one highlight.
Friendship Bible Institute
We’ve made a six-year commitment to Jinotepe, Nicaragua to teach the bible to pastors in what we call the Friendship Bible Institute. We cover Nicaraguan pastors’ tuition, room and board to attend a week long school in which we provide close to a seminary level education for them. They in turn go and teach and preach the material to their congregations. We believe this is the most efficient way to multiply the Gospel. As a result, many have come to know Christ for the first time.
While in Jinotepe, we also offer a compassion component. We help feed the hungry and visit local orphanages.
All of this is done two times per year so that we can create a bond with the Nicaraguan people. We believe that this helps build trust for future visits as they know we’ll be back and it’s not a one and done situation.
A Teaching Church
Through Friendship’s generosity we have seen many come to profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We hope that people will continue to see what the church is doing and say, “I want to be a part of that, they’re really making a difference in the community for Christ!”
Northwest District Superintendent Rev. Kelly Clem says, “Friendship UMC offers very intentional ministries, and use the best creativity of their leaders and members to envision a great future. It shows in everything they do! If you visit Friendship, you will want to come back, and the growth this congregation has recently been experiencing makes them the highest attendance church in the Northwest District.”
While Friendship is larger than some congregations and smaller than others, we strive to be a teaching church. If you’re interested in anything we do just call. If you’re considering becoming a generous church but question what impact can we really have, remember what Andy Stanley once said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” So until next time, Love God, Love Others and Serve.