“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Matthew 18:20 NRSV
By the numbers, Watsonville First United Methodist Church // Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Watsonville, isn’t a large church. But in small groups we are mighty. What does it take to have a thriving small group ministry?
- Be open to what God’s Spirit brings your church.
- And partner with others.
Behind our church is a little park. When I first came to Watsonville, it was the source of my headaches. It was run down. The play equipment was old, broken and dangerous. This space next to our facility was a magnet for criminal and other unhealthy behavior, which spilled onto our parking lot. Graffiti covered the wall of a nearby residence. There was trash everywhere.
In those days, I called the cops, a lot. And rest assured, our church budget didn’t include anything to do with parks.
Then something shifted.
I began to see this eyesore of a park, as a gift from God. We began to understand its potential. So we started asking questions.
- To the City: What can you do to fix up the play equipment? And what can we do to improve our park?
- To the Police Department: How can we make our neighborhood safer and prevent crime instead of simply reacting to it?
- To the neighborhood children and youth we met in the park: Would you like to help us make this a better park?
And that’s how we began our road to small groups. We began to see our biggest “problem” as a gift from God. We began to understand that the park was “our” park, and “our” problem.
So we found partners to help us do what needed to be done. They were just waiting to be asked. It was amazing! We discovered that we needed partners to accomplish our work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
In this case, the City invited us to apply for a grant to fix up the park, which we did, twice, partnering with the nearby Pajaro Valley Children’s Center and other volunteers to install new fences, better signs, a picnic table, new trash cans, new trees, etc. The City also replaced the old beat-up play equipment.
We found a local muralist and with the input of local children and youth, painted a big mural on a private residence.
The Police helped us start a Neighborhood Watch group at the church with residents from around the park, and we began participating in National Night Out, an annual event to promote safety and introduce church and neighborhood families to our local fire fighters, police officers and city officials.
It was a win-win situation.
How long did it take to accomplish? We were actively involved in these projects start to finish at least three or four years. This is not a fast process! Making connections with the neighbors takes time, one relationship at a time. But it’s worth it. And it started us on the road to our small group ministries.
Check it out on our website: www.watsonville1stumc.org, or call me if you have questions, (831) 724-4434.
Blog courtesy of Pastor Robin Mathews-Johnson