There are some tried and true ministry outreaches that so many churches use to make disciples who make disciples, but sometimes a church finds a very specific niche that serves their community best!
West Memphis United Methodist Church has done just that! When Children and Youth minister Carissa Tarkington was hired, she was met by a group of lay leaders that had a passion to go to Church of the Resurrection for their summer workshop training.
West Memphis United Methodist Church is a part of the Arkansas Annual Conference.
|Children and adults play a game of bingo at West Memphis UMC. || Photo provided by Carissa Tarkington.|
Upon arrival at C.O.R., they decided to divide and conquer so that they could get the most out of their workshop experience. One group went to a workshop called Building Better Moms, and they just knew it was a ministry their church could offer in West Memphis.
Once they returned to Arkansas, they were excited about what they learned but didn't immediately take the "build it and they come" approach to programming. They prayed and listened to how this could be used in West Memphis.
They started listening by creating a Facebook support group with moms in their church and inviting other moms from the community. The Facebook Group grew to 300 followers.
The helpful discussions in the Facebook group made it easy to take a poll: "If our church would offer some parent classes and training, what areas would you like to see us cover?" They received overwhelming feedback for parenting children with special needs, and mental health for children and parents.
Carissa and her lay leaders got busy planning their first Building Better Moms training with UMW providing the meal and senior members who were moms volunteering to sit as mentors at each table during the meal and speaker.
|A petting zoo for children with special needs was one of the activities that Building Better Moms helped put together for their community. || Photo provided by Carissa Tarkington.|
They asked several mental health providers to come and speak at the event explaining services and parenting techniques.
Table group discussions during this event lead to another overwhelming need. The parents attending had special needs children, and their kids were not part of social groups or getting chosen for school activities like school plays. So, from that one night, the special needs cast for the Peter Pan production was launched. Building Better Moms members, the youth group, church members financial backing for set and costumes along with the director Carissa Tarkington debuted the first ever special need student theatre production of Peter Pan held at the church.
West Memphis UMC really let the Holy Spirit lead them to what their community needed. Building Better Moms, the program they learned about at C.O.R., does not necessarily focus on moms of children with special needs, but that is what this group became. The church body felt there was a need and just kept listening and following the need. Building Better Moms continues to be a growing ministry with more than 100 moms participating in monthly activities at the church and in the community.
story by Melinda Shunk, Children's Ministry Coordinator
This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.