May 13, 2020
Tipping points are moments in time when momentum and synergy collide, creating new possibilities – possibilities that can change neighborhoods, communities, and churches.
Rev. Melvin Amerson was that tipping point for Rev. David Briggs. As a TMF Area Representative for the Texas Conference, Melvin had been working as a coach with David, pastor of Abundant Life UMC, encouraging him to tie the church’s bold new vision to stewardship.
It was a vision of discipleship, vetted by the community of Lufkin, TX.
“This vision sprang from our meetings with key stakeholders, like principals, parents, and counselors,” David noted. “We held a local community meeting hosted by the city council and did focus groups, so we could learn the hopes and dreams of our community. As we listened, we realized they were very concerned about the youth and children of our town. We also learned that there was no strategy in place to address their concerns.”
Abundant Life decided they could meet some of those needs. By building a youth and children’s center, they could offer mentoring, tutoring, and childcare. This would invest in young people, provide opportunities for nurturing them, and give space for discipling as well. Since the church had ten acres, they planned to add on a wing just for this purpose. They started by implementing Melvin’s recommendations, aligning their stewardship practices with their vision for the community. They saved for three years and invested in TMF’s Methodist Loan Fund.
When their savings were sufficient, they came to TMF for a construction loan and started working with VP of Loans and Real Estate, Robert Hoppe. “Robert was impressed by how committed we were to funding our vision and we were impressed with his transparency,” David shared. Robert let church leaders know that a commercial bank would probably give them a larger loan, but TMF would work to ensure Abundant Life had the right size loan for their ministry goals. “After our conversations with Robert, I felt like TMF was invested in our success. It was just a beautiful moment of spiritual growth because the church wanted to see God do a greater work in us and we could feel that was going to happen. A local bank would not have given us that moment.”
But the momentum and synergy didn’t stop with Melvin and Robert, soon TMF’s Director of Grants Ministry Jacki Lammert heard about the church’s plans to enhance education outcomes in Lufkin by developing a high-quality preschool for lower-income families. Jacki was so impressed with their vision, she invited church leaders to write and present a grant proposal. They accepted her offer and effectively described how they planned to use their ten acres of land as an asset to invest in discipleship, health, and education for the children of Lufkin. They elaborated on the fact that 46% of the African American students at the local elementary school failed the reading portion of the STARR test and described how a high-quality preschool could walk with families to better prepare children for public schools.
Their presentation and vision was so compelling that they received a multi-year grant from TMF.
Along this journey, David was also connected to TMF’s Leadership Ministry. As a participant in the Courageous Leadership Imperative (CLI) Launch events and cohort groups, David has pitched this ministry vision to peers, heard other leaders’ stories and visions for ministry, and felt encouraged to courageously pursue this ministry vision for his community.
“One of the most meaningful things that happened during CLI was standing in front of three impressive church buildings, all on the same corner, that had each closed. They were described as tombstones, reminders of what our future would be if we refused to be relevant in our own neighborhoods, as they were. My goal for Abundant Life is that our town will feel the impact of the living gospel of Jesus Christ because of our ministry, so we are approaching discipleship with the wisdom of the community in our ear and the courage of the Holy Spirit pushing us forward.”
It is for tipping points like David’s that TMF exists, to steward the potential of leaders who will change communities, embolden congregations to dream new dreams and create the world God imagines.
Your church can work with an Area Representative just as Abundant Life UMC did to have conversations centered around generosity, purpose, and courage. Find the Area Representative that works with your conference and start a conversation today!