As I travel around the Arkansas Conference meeting new folks for stories and other projects, I’m consistently reminded of how important it is to make a conscious effort to meet people where they are.
By that, I mean meeting people in the place where deep conversations are already happening.
Whether that’s in a local coffee shop, at a community baseball game, at a tattoo parlor, at the hair salon, a grocery store or even a bar; wherever people congregate and build community, that’s where the church needs to be as well.
Our cover story this month is all about engaging with communities through a different way of doing church.
The Vine of NWA, a new church concept initiated by the Arkansas Annual Conference, was created with the specific goal of meeting people where they are in an area of the state that’s rapidly expanding and evolving.
For years, Christians have relied on the strategy of bringing people to a building rather than going outside their four walls and bringing the church to the community.
Because we’ve stuck with this concept for so long, every year our membership has declined. The number of young families and young singles who regularly attend church has gone down significantly.
That’s not to say that traditional church buildings and Sunday morning gatherings aren’t still relevant. But when other denominations grow and expand while others decline, you have to ask yourself, “What are they doing right and what are we doing wrong? And what can we do differently?”
As you’ll read, the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church is doing something completely different than previous church plant projects.
And by doing so, we are opening up the opportunity to reach people and communities that we’ve neglected to engage with in the past.
People who have given up on the church. People who think the church is too traditional and too elitist. People who have never heard the Gospel. People who have heard the Gospel but don’t see how it’s relevant to their lives. People with exceptionally busy schedules who don’t think they can make time for church.
The Vine is looking to reach these people and more.
It’s a way of doing church that seems scary and foreign because we’ve never done it before, but it has the potential to fundamentally change the way people think of church.
I invite you to join me in praying for the success of The Vine, for its strong and capable team of leaders, and for the potential to transform lives, communities and the world through the United Methodist Church in Arkansas.