BALTIMORE, MD - At Franklin United Methodist Church, they are "getting back to the basics."
Three years ago, Franklin UMC was one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the state of Maryland. Multitudes were flowing through the doors each Sunday, with membership rising each week. Franklin actually led the state in (infant) baptisms for the year of 2004. Everything seemed to be headed in the right direction.
Pastor Evelyn Chervis, who has been at Franklin since 2003, told TBNN that things took a gradual turn for the worse in 2005. According to Chervis, "We started to plateau in numbers, fewer people were joining the church, and the excitement seemed to drop bit-by-bit each week. Some people even left for other churches. We had tried some new-fangled programs that just didn't pan out. I'm still not exactly certain what the problem was, but we decided to take action anyway."
The Franklin UMC leadership determined that something had to be done to "stop the bleeding." After fifteen minutes of prayer, they devised an action plan. The key to it all was getting back to the basics.
David Byerly, a long-time Sunday School teacher, told TBNN, "This church was founded in 1887 on the basics of the Christian faith. Preaching of the word, discipleship, prayer and fasting, and church discipline were keys back in the beginning. We knew that in today's modern society we couldn't return back to those things, but we were inspired by what our forefathers at Franklin were trying to do. Because of that, we have come up with our own ideas for for renewal. We believe God will bless this plan as He blessed this church back in the 1800's."
Byerly went on, "We have entitled our church renewal program, Getting Back to the Basics! (GBB!). We have been excited by the response so far."
The Franklin GBB! renewal program is 4-pronged in nature:
1. Worship - Franklin UMC is committed to bringing back the church band, which will be playing primarily praise choruses. An occasional Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, or Billy Joel song will be mixed in.
2. Teaching/Group Discussion - Franklin UMC is committed to re-instituting non-confrontational preaching and self-esteem based teaching. Only The Message or the TNIV will be used during these group discussion times.
3. Youth and Kids - Franklin UMC is committed to starting up both drama and puppet ministries. At least one of these programs will make an appearance in each worship service. This may cut into the length of the sermon, but Franklin is willing to make that sacrifice. Also, Children's "FUN" Church will be offered for all kids ages 12 and under (children will leave the worship service at the beginning of the sermon). Finally, we will soon begin construction on a separate youth building. This "Youth Refuge" will help our young people experience church in a way that is relevant to their difficult lifestyles.
4. Comfort - Franklin UMC is committed to being a welcoming place to all people. We will encourage our members to wear jeans and T-shirts. At the very least, suits and dresses will be discouraged. Additionally, a fresh cup of Starbucks coffee will be handed to each person ages 10 and up as they enter the front door. For ages 9 and under, we will serve Mountain Dew.
Pastor Chervis summed it all up, "We just want to be a New Testament church. We believe that by getting back to the basics, in a relevant way, we can do this."