Visitors flock to Port Orange church (March 9, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Visitors flock to Port Orange church

March 9, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0037}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

A variety of worship styles, ministries and friendly people keep visitors coming back.

PORT ORANGE - Visitors are part of the life of most churches, but the sheer numbers of people visiting First United Methodist Church here have been more than ordinary.

The church, located on the south side of Daytona Beach, logged a record number 460 visitors last year alone.

PORT ORANGE - An information area is set up in the foyer of First United Methodist Church here. The church's ability to reach out to visitors resulted in more than 400 people visiting the church last year alone, with 25 percent becoming members. Photo by Anita Sholtes, Photo #04-0011.

The Rev. Kim Joyner attributes that high number to a variety of factors-the location of the church in a community experiencing rapid growth, the construction of a new sanctuary, the church's involvement in the community and its welcoming nature. He said the church offers a variety of worship styles to fit all preferences.

"There are some small churches in the area, but not many large churches," Joyner said. "We clearly know that people like a variety of services. We offer contemporary and traditional in services and a mid-week service. We built a new sanctuary recently. That could have attracted some people, and we advertise on a local movie screen."

The church's commitment to positively impact the community could also be a factor in attracting visitors, Joyner says.

"We are very community-oriented," he said. "We work with the homeless, Habitat for Humanity, and do a one-day mission each year where we reach out to the community."

Joyner said he also crafted challenging worship messages that encouraged visitors to return and eventually join. Heidi Fleming and her family visited the church and joined two years ago. She said a number of things attracted her to the church. "The pastor, he is a great preacher," she said. "We enjoy the challenging messages and also the energy of the church."
 Fleming said the church works hard to give special recognition to visitors.

"We have greeters and ushers that enjoy greeting and ushering," she said. "They are friendly and helpful. The congregation itself is welcoming to visitors, introducing themselves, inviting people to come back, inviting them to the fellowship hall after our services and recognizing return visitors."
Fleming said visitors also receive a thorough information booklet about the church. It is designed to answer many of the questions visitors have and provide basic information about the church's ministries and programs.

If all that doesn't make visitors return Joyner says he creates catchy marquee signs in front of the church to grab people's attention.

Many of the visitors are also choosing to join, according to Joyner. He said about 25 percent of the church's visitors become members. They are inducted into the church through a new-member orientation that is designed to build community within the church, Joyner said.

"I think we are offering options to people in the different styles of worship we have," he said. "We use drama and a combination of styles so we can reach out to all kinds of people. The spirit of this church is we want to be creative and relevant."

That relevance is something the church will strive to carry into 2004 and beyond, according to Joyner.

"We have every reason to believe it will continue," he said. "We want people to get that warm and fuzzy feeling."

Fleming believes that feeling is coming through loud and clear.

"I believe our visitors sincerely find a church that is a church, not some special club where visitors are not welcome" she said. "Our church has so much to offer every age group. We have mighty music and powerful preaching; you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit."


This article relates to Welcoming and Outreach.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.


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