Celebrating What God Is Up To
Volunteers are sorting and stacking Angel Tree gifts, the Choir and Band are rehearsing for Christmas Eve Candlelight Services, and a manger is glowing softly beneath the cross in the Sanctuary. What a wonderful time to celebrate all that God is up to at Ebenezer!
Our Church Is Growing
Coming out of COVID, we have an average worship attendance of 878 compared to 852 at this time last year. That includes those worshiping in person, online, and through the Love Your Neighbor Network. We are grateful for our Broadcast team that enables us to worship beyond the walls of the building and our Connections team that enables us to fellowship between services at The Bridge Café.
New Members & Baptisms
In the past year, we have welcomed 67 new members, including 33 students through confirmation, many adults who transferred their membership here, and over 20 adults who professed their faith for the first time. What a blessing! We have also celebrated 37 baptisms so far this year, four of which were part of our Love Your Neighbor Network. Each number is an individual story of God at work in people’s lives; together, they are strong indicators of growth as a church with disciples making disciples together.
Love Your Neighbor Network
The Love Your Neighbor Network is moving into a new phase as Pastor Donovan Archie reframes the idea of neighborhood churches. Ministry looks different now than it did years ago. God is guiding us forward into a post-COVID season with the adaptability and resiliency to show up wherever we need to be…at church, online, and out in the community.
Adult Ministries are also growing. We celebrate having 25 on-campus and off-campus small groups. United Methodist Men relaunched and has worked tirelessly to support our church and community through their Woodcutting Ministry, Yard Sales, and UMCOR Relief Kit Drive. United Methodist Women became United Women In Faith and reaffirmed their commitment to live out their faith through service. Empty Nest Ministries continue with the Spirituality In Nature Group, Game Day, and special outings. Our Young Adult Ministry has been revitalized with fall and winter gatherings.
Children’s Ministries continue to offer Christian growth opportunities. In June, we invited parents to join their children at our first in-person Vacation Bible School since COVID. KidzRock Sunday School students packed 60 gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child in November. Our KidzChoir is rehearsing for their upcoming Christmas program, and we look forward to the return of quarterly preteen gatherings in February.
Our Student Ministries team helped 7th, 8th & 9th graders own their faith and provided support and guidance throughout the Confirmation process. In June, 37 high school students and 10 adult leaders had an amazing summer mission trip experience in Harrisburg, PA. We were able to hold in-person retreats again. Our TNT middle school and Axis high school ministries continue growing through mentor-based small group discipleship.
Missions & Outreach
Missions are thriving. In September, we raised $50,000 for the ministry of Helping Children Worldwide in Sierra Leone, with help from the 400 runners and many sponsors who participated in Go For Bo. Closer to home, we continue to support our community through partnerships with the Brisben Shelter, Stafford Food Security, Operation WARM, Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank, S.E.R.V.E. Food Pantry, Afghan Family Support, and Micah Ministries’ Fourth Saturday Meals, Street Church, and Cold Weather Shelter.
We harvested over 1,100 pounds of fresh produce for S.E.R.V.E. at Ebenezer Acre. We appreciated teachers at Moncure Elementary by saying “Thanks A Latte” with coffee and breakfast and provided a meal for new county teachers in August. We filled over 200 backpacks with school supplies for students in need at Moncure Elementary and Hampton Oaks Elementary. This year’s Angel Tree ministry collected a total of nearly 400 gifts and $4,000 in food boxes for local families and seniors in need.
Welcoming Our Neighbors
We have been out in the community through Tuesdays at the Park, Via Colori, and National Night Out. We also welcomed our neighbors to Cloe Field for our Imagination Library Pumpkin Patch, which benefitted young readers in Stafford’s 22405 zip code. Thank you, Ebenezer, for the ways you live out God’s love in real ways for other people.
Focus 2025 continues developing ministry areas of online engagement, neighborhood engagement, mental health, and the mission idea bank. We have much growth in the mental health initiative. In addition to providing counseling, Christian Counselor Keith Priest has facilitated workshops on marriage, parenting, forgiveness, and grief, and is preparing to lead a Wellness Workshop in January.
Answering The Call
At our recent Charge Conference, we sent Becca Runkles and Anji Budzynski into ministry as they take their next steps in answering God’s call. We will be praying for them. We also welcomed nine new people into lay leadership at the church. We thank God for their willingness to serve as we thank God for all the volunteers who continue serving faithfully in the Body of Christ. Ministry would not happen without every incredible volunteer.
Like most churches, we have blessings and challenges in our finances, especially with COVID and inflation. However, we have already received more Estimate of Giving cards through our fall stewardship series than last year, and at a higher total amount. More cards continue to come in each week.
As you may know, we have carried a deficit for the past few years. We are discerning how best to reverse that trend through different, measured approaches. We were not sure what to expect regarding a deficit for 2022 but now, between budget adjustments, giving, government grant programs, and investment income, we may only need $70,000 to $80,000 of General Fund Reserve to cover the deficit. Thank you, church, for pulling together in these challenges. Our Governing Board is working to discern priorities in ministry strategy, finances, and vision as we move forward in ministry. With God’s guidance, we will meet these challenges and figure out next steps together.
Thank you for how you serve God through Ebenezer United Methodist Church as a faithful disciple in your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Every week we hear stories of how God is transforming lives. What a blessing that we get to be part of what God is up to in Ebenezer, Stafford, and beyond. We thought you’d want to hear this great news as we near the end of 2022 and prepare once more for Christ’s birth. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Serving Christ with you,
Pastor Emily, Pastor Jeff, and Pastor Donovan, and B.J. Priest, Executive Director