While it's not unusual for new missions to start worship services, few begin with an attendance of 150 and with small-group and community outreach programs already running.
Joyful Servants Lutheran Church, Tampa, Fla., hopes to change all of that with its PRIME project.
People Responding in Mission Efforts was created by pastor/developers Rita and David Gardner Tweed. The plan calls for recruiting 10 families from other conference churches to leave their congregations for a year to form mission teams.
These families will be trained to raise awareness of the new church; to develop programs for worship, music, drama, education, serving opportunities, small groups and retreat ministry; and to recruit and develop new leaders within the congregation. They also will plan for the first service--a Wonderful Opening Worship (WOW)--scheduled for the end of August.
David Gardner Tweed said planning for a mission start usually begins three or four months before the first worship service. "But we'll be at 10 months before we worship," he said. "We're hoping all that training of [the mission volunteers] in discipleship, in-depth Bible studies and other programs will allow us to really take off from the first service."
Joyful Servants received a $4,000 start-up fund from its synod conference and $7,500 from the Division for Outreach of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is also paying the Tweeds' salaries.
In February the mission families were commissioned during a service at Grace Lutheran Church in Carrollwood, Fla., and their official one-year commitment began Palm Sunday. They now meet on Sunday mornings for PRIME time--worship, fellowship and training.
The volunteers won't return to their home congregations until next Easter. During their yearlong commitment the families will offer their home churches a workshop on outreach to be led by a team from Joyful Servants. Workshops and training events will be open to all conference pastors and congregations too.
Once their commitment is concluded, David Gardner Tweed said the PRIME families will be encouraged to maintain contact through newsletter articles, periodic temple talks, training events or other methods.
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