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Conference churches receive grants, welcoming recognition

Conference churches receive grants, welcoming recognition

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference churches receive grants, welcoming recognition

July 18, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0703}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

Eight Florida United Methodist churches have been awarded nine grants, totaling more than $44,000, to participate in local Igniting Ministry advertising campaigns.

Two others have been certified as Welcoming Congregations.

The new electronic sign Sun City Center United Methodist Church will be purchasing with the help of a matching grant from the Igniting Ministry campaign will help the church continue to attract and welcome guests. Photo by B. Larson. Photo #07-0625. Web photo only.

Each of the eight churches will receive matching grants for half of their advertising purchase, which helps promote the local congregation and The United Methodist Church through its “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” campaign. The local advertising will run during the “Back-to-School” season in late August and early September or in Advent later this fall.

The largest grant — more than $12,000 — was awarded to Sun City Center United Methodist Church in the South Central District for a new LED, or electronic, outdoor sign.

“We used to use large banners on the front of the church,” the Rev. Warren Langer, pastor of the church, said.

About 800 people worship on the church’s two campuses every weekend. The church was recently recognized for having the fastest growing worship attendance in the Florida Conference.

“We noticed that the banners were effective because our numbers were up for events we publicized this way, versus the previous year when we did no such publicity,” Langer said.

The switch to an electronic sign was prompted, in part, by the county, according to Langer. He said county government recently limited church use of banners to one per year. Langer was concerned the church was losing one of its most effective forms of communication.

That’s when the Igniting Ministry grant money idea came to church members, Langer said. The new sign will function like many bank and storefront signs, able to flash “as many messages as we want,” he added.

The new sign will replace the church’s traditional movable-letter sign, which Langer says is unreadable for many people because the letters are too small.

To get people to read the sign, the church will be posting community announcements in addition to church announcements.

“We’ll be a source for community information beyond our church,” Langer said. “That will also show the community that we’re cooperating and keep people reading every time they drive by.”

The new sign, situated on one of the busiest roads in the community, will be ready around the first of September, Langer said.

Other churches received grants for LED signs and cinema, radio, billboard and newspaper advertising:

  •  First United Methodist Church of South Miami — $3,406.50 for cinema advertising during Advent;
  •  First United Methodist Church of Lutz — $2,553.93 for outdoor advertising during the back-to-school timeframe;
  •  Killearn Lakes United Methodist Church in Tallahassee — $1,500 for radio advertising during Advent;
  •  First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville — $4,204.39 for an LED sign, installed during the back-to-school timeframe;
  •  First United Methodist Church of Eustis — $8,750 for LED sign, installed during the back-to-school timeframe;
  •  Korean United Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale — $1,620 for newspaper advertising during the back-to-school timeframe and a second $1,620 for newspaper advertising during Advent; and
  •  Swaim Memorial United Methodist Church in Jacksonville — $750 for cinema advertising during the back-to-school timeframe.

Igniting Ministry, the media and welcoming ministry of The United Methodist Church, is administered through United Methodist Communications in Nashville. Now in its seventh year, Igniting Ministry has helped raise awareness of The United Methodist Church significantly. According to recent polling data done by the Barna Research Group for Igniting Ministry, the awareness level of The United Methodist Church among those polled was at 30 percent; 47 percent of those polled were willing to visit a United Methodist Church, and 11 percent of that 47 percent were “very willing” to visit. First-time attendance was up 11 percent.

An essential part of Igniting Ministry is developing a welcoming ministry in local congregations. United Methodist Communications encourages churches to enhance their welcoming ministries by recognizing churches as Welcoming Congregations.

First United Methodist Church of Port Orange was recently certified as a Welcoming Congregation for the third year. Lakeside United Methodist Church in Lake Worth received the designation for the second year.

To date, 51 Florida Conference churches have been named Welcoming Congregations, with eight receiving the designation more than once. A list of Welcoming Congregations is available at

The certification means the church has cultivated hospitality skills to both attract visitors to the church and help them become active members of the church family. In addition to the certificate churches receive, United Methodist Communications has placed a special designation next to the church’s listing on the denominational Find-A-Church database at

A Welcoming Congregations checklist and information about the certification process can be found at

Through the Igniting Ministry campaign, more than 46,000 people have been trained in more than 10,500 churches around the world, helping local congregations welcome visitors and guests to their church. Funding for Igniting Ministry was approved both at the 2000 and 2004 General Conference. Igniting Ministry allocates $1 million in matching grants per year.

The Florida Conference offers trainers and coordinators who can help identify resources, assist with becoming a Welcoming Congregation and other resources. Individuals interested may contact Pam Garrison at 800-282-8011, extension 148, or

The next opportunity to apply for a matching grant starts Nov. 1, 2007, and runs through Dec. 1, 2007, for Lent 2008. More information is available at under the “Matching Grants” link.


This article relates to the Igniting Ministry and Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.