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Church recognized for community outreach

Posted: February 20 2022 at 12:00 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt, Dir of Commumications


Oregoncleanup

Jerry Martz, a member of Oregon UMC, and pastor Rev. Megan Smick take part in a community clean up day in partnership with the local chamber of commerce.

Attending the local Chamber of Commerce's annual awards banquet last August, the Rev. Megan Smick, who leads Oregon UMC in the Prairie South District, received a big surprise for her small church. 

"I was flabbergasted!" said Smick, who had no idea she would be presented with the 2021 Civic Leadership Award for Oregon UMC that evening. "Someone wrote a beautiful nomination letter outlining some of the many ways we have served our community. I'm so proud of our congregation and our outreach ministry team for being recognized."

When the pandemic happened, shutting down churches and changing everything overnight, Smick says the church developed a new mindset. She says that more people started getting involved and the congregation is engaged in more ministry than ever before.

"Our motto has been the building is closed, but ministry is open," said Smick. "Our congregation has been very open to doing new things. Whatever crazy idea we have come up with, members have said, 'Okay, let's do it.' And I haven't heard anyone saying 'we've never done that before.'"

Smick says while the church has always desired to be a force in the community, changes began to happen through a year-long coaching process with Paul Nickerson of Griffith Coaching supported through apportionments. Oregon is one of five churches invited to participate by Rev. Martin Lee, NIC's Director of Congregational Development and Redevelopment.

Rev. Lee says the coaching emphasizes a teamwork approach between clergy and laity with the end goal of reaching new people. They meet together monthly, working on mission alignment and community engagement. 
 
The church began building relationships in the community. 

Oregonvbs

Thanks to a relationship with the Oregon Park District, children participate in outdoor activities at a local park in free space for a reimagined, hybrid Vacation Bible School.

Smick reached out to the Chief of the local fire protection district. The church learned that the firefighters had to provide their own beverages while on duty, so they held a community water drive to help keep them hydrated. The church began partnering with the Chamber of Commerce, opening the building for events and participating in a community-wide clean-up day to help homeowners and businesses spruce up their property. 

The Children and Youth Ministries team kept Sunday school going through Facebook and Zoom meetings, reaching new people. They contacted the Park District, which offered space at the park for the summer Vacation Bible School. The church held blood drives and gave out Valentine's to the staff at the local schools. 

In turn, businesses and non-church members from the community have helped the church with some of its ministries such as donating to their Wednesday night free meals program, which shifted to a drive-through service and has grown from serving 50 to more than 100 people during the pandemic. Some also have come to Worship on Sunday.

"These are some of the examples of ways we have forged really good relationships in the community," said Smick. "What's worked for us is finding out what people need and asking 'how can we partner with you?'"

Beth Shenberger has been a member of Oregon UMC since she was a kid and says the community outreach impact she's seen under Rev. Smick is exciting.

"I would say since Megan has been here, we have taken on the most outreach, and I'm sure it's a combination of her leadership, what we've been learning through Paul's coaching, and having to think and work differently," said Shenberger. "We have been trying to adapt during the pandemic and not doing something just because it's not the way we have always done it. We are asking how can we serve and what can we do? And so we hope that we're making a difference in the lives of those in our community."

Prairie South District Superintendent Rev. Brian Gilbert congratulates Oregon UMC for being an inspiration to other churches to find new ways to be the change in the world. 

Oregonwedmeal

Oregon UMC members Lisa Hinricks, Heather Tinsman, Grace & Warren Druien help serve free carry-out dinners for the church’s Wednesday night meal ministry.

"It's amazing how all this started with the question of 'how can we help?'" said Gilbert. "When it comes to making disciples, discipleship isn't just that moment that you accept Jesus into your life. It is aligning your life to model after Jesus and taking the time to listen and genuinely help our neighbors – that is a very effective way of evangelizing."

Rev. Smick says making disciples is a work in progress. 

"At this point, we are very good at community outreach and forming partnerships," said Smick. "The next thing we are talking about is making sure we are using all that as leverage for making disciples and looking at new directions to do so. But will keep reaching out to the community because, at this point, it's coming naturally."

To learn more about Oregon UMC, visit oregonumc.org.

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