How a Hickory church overcame complacency and wrote a new future for itself

Seeking new energy after years in “static mode,” leaders of St. Luke’s UMC sat down to define who they are as a church and how they are uniquely called to serve God.

The vision that grew from this work informed a wide-ranging slate of campus improvements. The church elevated the worship experience and upped its investment in children’s ministry. At the center of the effort is an intentional process to welcome newcomers and help people find their place.

Results are beginning to materialize in the form of new members and a sense of energy among the congregation. “We have experienced small victories over and over again,” says Pastor Amy Spivey.

How the Foundation played a role

A low-interest loan from the UMF Development Fund helped St. Luke’s to modernize two worship spaces with higher-quality lighting and A/V and also to transform a 1960s-era classroom building into bright, airy spaces for children with better access and security.

“Even with an amount of generosity that has exceeded what we expected, we have needed the Foundation,” Amy said, “to fill that gap and make it possible for us to complete the project.”

The Foundation was more than a lender. The team advised St. Luke’s on ways to structure a capital campaign and cultivate year-round stewardship practices.

The church had previously invested in the Foundation’s balanced fund as well as the UMF Development Fund, a low-risk option to generate consistent returns and embody the spirit of Methodists helping Methodists.

Blueprint for growth

The formula at St. Luke’s emphasizes three key areas: Communication, children’s ministry and worship.

The church exceeded its goal to reach 75 new people in 2022, connecting with 90 new people in an eight-month time period. One new guest shared, ‘This is the most welcoming church—and not the fake welcoming, but an authentic and genuine welcome.’

It has taken a lot of work to re-orient the congregation toward new ways of doing ministry. But God’s presence, Amy believes, is reflected in the energy and vitality now evident on campus.

“We whole-heartedly believe the work of the spirit is moving,” Amy said. “The momentum that we’ve gained is hard to imagine without the power of that spirit.”

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