South Georgia churches seeing fruit from SBC21 participation - Canaan Community UMC


This is the final story in a series 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.

Canaan Community United Methodist Church wants to be the church they were created to be.

Through The United Methodist Church’s Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) initiative, the small Savannah congregation has the opportunity to work with a coach and mentor, a seasoned veteran who has faced similar challenges and can share his wisdom and insight.

Formed five years ago when Miller Inner City and Palen UMCs merged, Canaan Community UMC is surrounded by schools and a rapidly growing neighborhood.

The congregation is eager to reach their unchurched neighbors and be vital part of their East Savannah community. They are hopeful that participation in the SBC21 program will help them more fully live their calling to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

“The congregation wants to be the best church that they can be. They want to be the best disciples they can be,” said Rev. Vicki Scott, pastor. “This SBC21 program gives them the chance and a feeling that they are doing what they can to be the best they can be.”

Rev. Scott has been working with their mentor and coach, Rev. Frederick Outlaw, a retired elder from the Alabama-West Florida Conference, since January. Having served 28 years in local churches, seven years as a District Superintendent and two-and-one-half years on staff with the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Rev. Outlaw has decades of experiences and a wealth of knowledge from which to draw.

Enthusiastic and passionate about resourcing and strengthening predominantly African-American congregations, Rev. Outlaw says that the core principles of growth are the same for all churches.

“The principles that grow a church are the same, whether it’s a predominately white, African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian American congregation. It’s the context that is different,” he said. “You have to take the basic principles and adapt them to the context of the ministry and community. The principles come straight out of the Bible from Acts 2:42-47. We find, throughout the history of the Church, that revival, renewal, revitalization, transformation … they happen when those four principles are applied.”

Canaan Community UMC members recently met with Rev. Outlaw for the first time. He traveled from Alabama to spend time with the congregation and meet with church leaders.

“They were excited to hear his ideas to help us be the church we were created to be, to be vital to this community, and to reach those who are lost,” Rev. Scott said.

Rev. Scott has already felt the positive impact of mentoring on her ministry.

She and Rev. Outlaw have frequent phone conversations during which he asks what she and the congregation have to celebrate.

“It’s all about staying positive and celebrating,” Rev. Scott said. “There are always things to celebrate in the midst of the challenges.”

Rev. Outlaw is a sounding board, an encourager, and an “objective lens and troubleshooter,” giving Rev. Scott an outlet to discuss ideas and talk about the challenges and opportunities of ministry.

“Coaching is a dialogue,” he said. “We are not experts, but we are unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their growth.”

Rev. Scott and the Canaan Community UMC congregation are excited about their participation in the SCB21 program and their work with Rev. Outlaw and eagerly anticipate how God will transform and use them for His glory.

“We look forward to learning,” Rev. Scott said. “You never get to the point where you don’t take assistance and learn from those who are more seasoned.”