South Georgia churches seeing fruit from SBC21 participation - Asbury UMC


This is the second in a series of stories about South Georgia’s Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century initiative. Participating churches include St. Andrews UMC and Horse Creek UMC in Sylvania; Asbury UMC in Savannah; Haven Sheffield UMC, Nesby Chapel UMC and New Hope UMC (Nahunta Circuit); Speedwell UMC in Savannah; and Canaan Community UMC in Savannah.

Asbury United Methodist Church’s congregation has a clear purpose and vision.

“We are a part of this congregation for a reason and have a responsibility to make disciples and serve our community,” said Rev. Doreen Smalls, pastor of the Savannah church.

Through their participation in the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) initiative, church leaders and parishioners hope to gain insight, glean wisdom, and learn fresh, innovative ideas to help them continue to focus on those goals and their vision.

Involved in some of the Conference’s initial conversations about the SBC21 program, Rev. Smalls knew their participation would be a worthwhile investment that will reap rewards.

“I understood that it was definitely something that churches could benefit from and something that is working in other conferences,” she said.

Church members jumped on board, excited to learn from and share experiences and ideas with their coach, an experienced clergy from outside the conference who has walked a similar path.

“The congregation has responded wholeheartedly,” Rev. Smalls said. “They have taken some of our coach’s suggestions and implemented them in various ministry areas of the church. They are really excited about having someone come along beside us to speak some additional life into the congregation.”

 The SBC21 program focuses on six key values: discipleship, stewardship, evangelism, vital ministries, connectional strength, and community outreach.

As part of the church’s focus on stewardship, leaders have researched options for electronic giving and are in the process of introducing online giving to the congregation. They’re also having quarterly conversations about the church’s financial situation, and additional teaching about stewardship is planned.

The congregation is also focused on reaching out to their community and serving their neighbors. Once a month, a group from the church serves meals at the inner city night shelter. And in an effort to increase their visibility, awareness and outreach to college students, several church members are partnering with Savannah State University and several youth have sung in the school’s choir.

Knowing that change and growth won’t happen overnight, the congregation is committed to the program for the long haul, Rev. Smalls says.

“We are excited about seeing what new things can be done and about sharing ideas. We are trying something new, something different, something innovative that maybe we have not thought of before,” she said. “This is a very willing congregation that I am blessed to be a part of.”