Suncreek UMC’s Integrated Approach Charts A New Course
'We do everything together. It’s been inspiring to see us break out of the idea that every ministry is its own little silo'
Every Tuesday you’ll find the staff of Suncreek UMC planning for the weeks and months ahead. While a weekly church staff meeting is not unusual, their approach to holistic, multigenerational ministry has led the team to spend the bulk of the day planning together. Every event or initiative is viewed as a whole church offering.
“We do everything together. It’s been inspiring to see us break out of the idea that every ministry is its own little silo that does just what they do,” Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Barry Hughes said. “We still have all the typical ministry areas like children’s and youth ministries, but we don’t have the idea that the only thing you’re responsible for is your area.”
Hughes credits Kimmi Cramer, director of programs and youth ministry, for leading the way.
Said Cramer: “The emphasis on intergenerational activities has helped us break free of the feeling that we always have to do things the way we have done them in the past. Through this shift in focus, we have seen renewed energy for serving and living life together as a church family.”
Coming back together after two years of social distancing and isolation, Suncreek UMC staff found their congregation had a deep desire to be together and build stronger connections. New collaborative opportunities have emerged as the team continues to lean into that desire.
“Being apart during COVID-19 reminded us how important it is to be together as a church family,” Cramer said. “So, we decided to be intentional about having an intergenerational aspect of our life together. While still having vital ministries for every age group, we are intentional about bringing the different age groups together.”
Associate Pastor Patrick Littlefield has been inspired by the congregation’s willingness to jump on board and their ability to see the importance of this new approach. “We have not needed to convince anyone, which is often the first hurdle,” he said. “That means we can focus more on meaningful ways to bridge gaps and build enthusiasm.”
The Glory Bee senior ministry and the youth ministry shared in a successful bingo night in March. Since then, several other adult church groups have asked Cramer when they can spend time building community with the youth.
The church also holds quarterly all-church serving days that bring together people of all ages for projects that support mission partners in the community.
One Sunday a month, Pastries with the Pastor gives adults and youth the chance to have meaningful conversation with one another and to hear from Suncreek’s three pastors about theological and contemporary issues.
“Events are easy, but we’re looking for even more meaningful, continual connection and mutual inspiration,” Littlefield said.
When asked what new thing God is doing at Suncreek, Rev. Dr. Hughes only had to look to the visitors and new members for evidence of the Spirit at work.
“One thing God has done in this approach is making Suncreek a place for everyone," Rev. Dr. Hughes said. "Whether they’re retired or a family with young kids, newcomers tell me they feel like, ‘This place is for us, they’re interested in us.’ When I follow up with visitors that come with children, they tell me this is a church that just seems kid-friendly.
"We don’t do anything different from any other church, but it’s our culture that kids are welcome. Sometimes children are loud and that’s ok. That's the best sound for a preacher — a baby crying while I'm preaching.”
The church continues to grow and looks forward to the completion of its new multipurpose building this fall. Lives are being transformed and discipleship is happening as the staff ministers to the whole community together.
“I like seeing the connections and listening to the stories that are shared between the generations,'' Cramer said. “We realize how much we can learn from one another. Suncreek has a commitment to holding fast to its wonderful heritage as we look forward, adapting to the needs of a church and world changed forever by COVID-19.”
Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2022