Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

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4 Ways Ellicott City Church Members Foster Community—and Growth

Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden

Three years ago, when Bill McClendon (pictured) came to pastor Chesapeake Conference’s Ellicott City (Md.) church, he proactively worked to foster community among the members. Find out what’s helping his once declining congregation grow and thrive here.

Nametags – When visitors and members arrive each Sabbath, they are given a nametag. “It’s not about the nametags,” says Pastor Bill McClendon. “It’s about knowing who is here and who is not. We value people so we count people.”

Lifeguards – Every new believer is assigned a spiritual mentor. “We call them lifeguards,” McClendon explains. “When a baby is born, the parents are required and challenged to raise that child to become a functioning adult. Similarly, when a new believer joins the church and makes a radical life change, it’s a very intense process of helping them to become disciples. It takes a lifetime of practicing five spiritual disciplines---to read God’s Word, pray, worship, fellowship and serve.”

Service – Everyone---members, new believers and even visitors---are encouraged to get plugged in to a ministry or small group. “I can make a believer in five weeks, but it takes the rest of their life to make a disciple,” says McClendon. “You have to instill in people that this is more than just a set of beliefs, it’s transformation. So, we do everything we can do engage people in ministry and integrate them into church life, because that’s how people grow as disciples of Jesus.”

Postcards – When any member misses church, they get a postcard in the mail. “When someone is in spiritual distress, they send out signals. They stop coming to SS. They come late. They leave early. They stop engaging,” he notes. “We can see the risk and intervene.”

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