Yes-sayers of First UMC,
Santa Monica First UMC has a long history of vital ministry with children, youth, and families. The mother of college students recently spoke with me about the gratitude she feels for this congregation that nurtured her daughters so lovingly and faithfully, helping them develop into the generous, caring, committed young women they have become.
For the last several years, we have been working hard to significantly revitalize those ministries, ministries that touch lives now and frame a bright future for the church and the faith we cherish. We are experiencing a season in the life of the congregation when everything seems to “click.” We have launched Messy Church, an intergenerational worship experience where families learn about God’s love through crafts, activities, story and a shared meal. Led by Pastors Robert and Tricia and a committed group of laity, with an average attendance of 40, this monthly experience of worship and fellowship has become a much-loved opportunity for families to worship together and to build relationships of support and friendship. Messy Church also provides an open door to worship for Preschool Families and families from Family Place, friends inviting friends, many experiencing church for the first time.
In Sunday morning Sanctuary worship, baptisms, weekly Children’s messages and Sunday School, and monthly Children’s Church and Faith in Action Sundays nurture spiritual formation and discipleship in our children and families through prayer, learning, music, and service.
Our youth group is strong and very active. Many of our youth and families, frazzled by crazy-busy schedules that fill weekdays and weekends as well, make Sunday night UMYF a priority. They are here. They bring friends from school. They worship, pray, sing, eat, have fun, support one another, and eagerly await their summer mission trip. Their love for one another transcends whatever cliques and in/out groups they may experience at school. In UMYF, they simply embrace one another for who they are on their shared journey of faith.
We’re now seeing wonderful cross-over among CAST (Children’s After School Theater), Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, youth group, our Preschool, and Messy Church. We’re even experiencing new families getting involved through ancillary programs we host such as the Scouts, the Swedish School, and Destination Science. Nothing works more effectively in building programs and ministries than word-of-mouth publicity, personal witness, and one-on-one invitation. I could go on and on, because I am so excited and grateful to see first-hand how God is indeed doing a new thing in our midst. One Sunday morning after Coffee Hour, two families with young children wouldn’t let me get away until they had shared their enthusiasm and appreciation for this wonderful congregation that nurtures their children and their family. “This is the perfect church for raising our kids,” they insisted.
It’s time for us all solidly undergird these ministries through our generous giving. It takes pastors, custodians, maintenance crew, administrative and communications staff. It takes beautiful and welcoming facilities. Let’s make sure that our budget reflects our deepest values and commitments.
Someone once asked two questions of us: will our children have faith? Will our faith have children?
We know that the answer to both can be YES. Say YES through the pledge of your financial support. Reach out across generations to touch the hearts and lives of children, youth and families through your gifts.
May God open our eyes and hearts to perceive the new thing happening in our midst.