From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Everyone gets mugged at booming Kansas City church

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 20 Apr 2000 14:53:12

April 20, 2000 News media contact: Thomas S. McAnally* (615)
742-5470*Nashville, Tenn. 10-21-31-71BP{213}

NOTE: Two of the fastest-growing United Methodist churches are located in
Kansas, one a predominantly white congregation in suburban Kansas City, the
other a predominantly black congregation in Wichita. UMNS writer John
Lovelace and photographer Mike DuBose visited both for this report and UMNS
story #212. Photographs are available with this report.

A UMNS Feature
By John A. Lovelace*

Want to board the Love Boat? Ride the Soul Train? Explore the Underground?
Quench your thirst at the Mugging Station? Climb your own Spiritual Summit

Start at the narthex of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection
(COR) in Leawood, Kan. Grand Central Station has nothing on this spacious,
high-ceilinged passageway where crowds come and go following four Sunday
morning worship services and one each on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

For a church that grew from zero to 5,000-plus in its first 10 years
(1990-99), it's a friendly, name tag-wearing crowd. "Friendly" gets a severe
test, though, in the parking lot, where it may take up to 30 minutes on
Sunday mornings to exit into this booming Kansas City, Kan., suburban

Therein lies the indicator to a major challenge the church faces - the need
for more space, not only for parking but for expansion and control of
adjacent property priced at $250,000 per acre.

But back to the present.

Love Boat? That's the name for this year's Vacation Bible School, June
12-16, featuring adventures on Noah's Ark. Pre-registration maxed out at

Soul Train? That's the Sunday school for children ages 4 through second
grade offered during Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. worship services.

Underground? That's the subterranean space occupied by high schoolers.
Students have a choice of seven Sunday school courses per quarter at their
chosen level of spiritual knowledge. Middle schoolers are nearby in The
Living Room, with classes divided by grade.

Mugging Station? Volunteer Sue Moore explains: "Any first-time visitor who
signs the register during a worship service will receive a COR mug delivered
to his or her house by a COR volunteer within 24 hours. By the time the
service is over, we have mugs arranged by ZIP codes here on the table for
volunteers to pick up." Inside each mug will be a welcome letter, a church
newsletter and a Yahoo-generated map guiding the volunteer to the visitor's
exact address. "We average delivering 100 mugs a week," Moore says proudly.

Judy Cannon, working at the nearby ushers' table, remembers when her family
"got mugged" four or five years ago. They live 20 to 25 minutes from COR,
but they've been active there ever since. Now their house is on the market
so they can move closer to the church. She helps oversee more than 200
volunteer ushers available for assignment to 19 locations plus a 20th
"rover" post within the fan-shaped, 1,600-capacity sanctuary. 

At an adjoining table, Debra Howell checks assignments on the map for the 34
volunteer bread and juice servers needed during monthly communion services
at 17 stations - 14 on the main floor, three in the balcony. One man on his
way to the 9:10 service stops and offers to help during the 10:30 service if
needed. Howell assures him that all the spots are accounted for and tells a
visiting journalist that it's not unusual for people to check in like that.

The church emphasizes volunteerism not merely to get jobs done or even to do
ministry. Rather the objective is to lead each member to do what God is
calling one to do with his or her own spiritual gifts. And in COR's own
trademarked program known as Spiritual Summits, the metaphor of
mountain-climbing (summits) conveys the goal of personal growth as well as
the ultimate goal of returning to "base" and being a trail guide for others.

Under the heading, "What kind of spiritual mountain climber are you?"
Spiritual Summits identifies these:

The Spectator - You enjoy observing others climb from the safety of the
worship service and fellowship events . . . but mountain climbing is not
really you - yet.

The Novice - You've moved beyond attending services and you are considering
other ways to become more involved. Perhaps you're using the sermon study
guides or reading the Bible on your own. You may have attended an Academy
for Spiritual Enrichment course. You might also participate in a Sunday
school class, small study group or support group. You're discovering what
all of this means to you personally. ...

The Explorer - You've taken a few risks to invest some time and energy by
volunteering in the church, regularly attending a Sunday school class or
enrolling in Disciple Bible Study. Making friends within the church
community has become important to you. You're discovering what it really
means to know Christ. . . .

The Enthusiast-Your relationship with God has become a priority to you. You
spend time daily praying and studying God's word. You willingly give of your
time, talents and treasures because you value the gifts God has given you
and others around you. You realize the importance of surrounding yourself
with a community of believers for mutual support as you hike in the rugged

The Guide - You know what it's like to have experienced the summits. ... You
long for others to see this beauty, and you consider how you can minister to
them through your own journey and efforts. You realize the importance of
returning to the base of the mountain to train, equip and encourage new
hikers on their journey. ...

To help climbers at all levels, COR suggests both Sunday school classes (13
for Novices alone) and additional study or courses (such as Disciple Bible
Study I for Novices, Disciple Bible Study II and III for Explorers). It is
through this kind of structured, targeted study that, for example, the
church enrolled 700 in Disciple Bible Study last year.

As a reminder that spiritual summitry may begin with study but doesn't end
there, COR provides a 14-page Mapping Your Volunteer Path of Summit
Stewardship booklet listing literally hundreds of service and volunteer
opportunities. Major headings include Adult Ministries, Audio-Visual & Media
Relations Ministries, Children's Ministries (37 separate programs),
Communications, Congregational Care, Evangelism, Facilities Care, Missions
and Outreach, and Music.

To illustrate Summit Stewardship's role in just one phase of COR, Senior
Pastor Adam Hamilton says that 1,500 volunteers helped make worship possible
during 1999 by giving their time at least once a month. This included
average weekly worship attendance of 4,200, up nearly 50 percent from 1998,
and 9,000 at Christmas Eve services. (On Feb. 27, 2000, the church reached
its all-time high for weekly worship attendance: 6,000.)

Then there were the 1,500 adults and 800 children who joined the church in
1999. Pastor Hamilton - "Adam" to virtually everyone at the church - says a
survey showed that only 26 percent of COR attendees were committed
Christians active in another church before joining COR. The remaining 74
percent are fulfillment of COR's purpose statement to make active Christians
out of the unchurched, the non-religious or the nominally religious.

COR isn't exactly a well-kept secret across the church. In 1996, it won the
Circuit Rider award presented by the United Methodist Publishing House for
being a leader in evangelism and church growth. In 1998, during his
sabbatical, the pastor traveled 13,000 miles visiting 26 other large-member
churches, many of them not United Methodist. All, he said, will face the
need for more land within five to 10 years. (His journal from that travel is
available on the church's exemplary Web site, And in 1999, COR
staged its first Leadership Institute, receiving rave reviews from the 1,352
pastors, staff and lay leaders who attended from 179 churches in 20 states.
The aim of the institute was to foster renewal in mainline churches while
sharing insights from COR's ministries.

Adam, COR's founding pastor at age 25 who admits he hopes to be its pastor
when he's 55, preaches the same sermon in all six worship services. The two
evening services tend toward contemporary and casual - praise band, vocal
ensembles, knit shirts, jeans, overalls. The four on Sunday mornings are
more formal - robed choirs and ministers -- and, per force, keep tighter
schedules. Music leadership comes from the COR orchestra, organ, piano and
multiple choirs of all ages.

Ushers hand each worshiper a packet of announcements, news items (one recent
Concerns column showed 22 members of the church family undergoing cancer
treatment) and sheet with a Sermon Study Guide on one side to follow during
the pastor's presentation and Sermon Notes on the other for study through
the week. 

On this Sunday, Adam begins a new sermon series on portraits of Jesus in the
Gospel of Luke. He admits that after completing an eight-part series on
"Christianity and the Controversial Issues of our Time," he felt a deep
longing to go to the Bible. Many worshipers follow him step by step through
the study guide, some completing fill-in-the-blank questions like "John the
Baptist's parents were ________" as he supplies the answers in the sermon.

Images on the two large video screens - one on either side of the platform -
reinforce his reference to Nazareth with a slide of that town's Church of
the Annunciation. His description of the Dead Sea Scrolls is enhanced with a
slide of Qumran, the Dead Sea area where the scrolls were found.

He contemporizes his message by asking if worshipers had seen pictures that
week of a Mozambique woman who gave birth in a tree during that country's
devastating flood. "Did you see Mary in that tree?" he asks, emphasizing the
difficult conditions of the biblical Mary's delivery. Minutes later, he
refers to the recent shooting of one school child by another in Michigan,
then says, "If Jesus were born today, he'd be born in their community."

The sermon ends with "Life Lessons," points for gospel application beyond
the service itself. To teens in the congregation, he says, "God doesn't wait
until you're grown to use you." To older adults, he says, "God says, 'I'm
not finished with you yet.'" 

Following the closing prayer of thanks to God "for showing us the way," the
pastor shifts immediately to the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Communion servers move quietly and quickly to their positions. The elements,
served by intinction, are distributed seamlessly. Subtle congregational
singing sustains the worshipful attitude.

Meanwhile, ushers have kept watch over all. The head usher can be reached at
any time on the in-house hot line #911. Members of the Cardiac Arrest
Response Team (CART) sit in prominently marked chairs near the front and
center. On this day, they're not called on. Ten of the audiovisual
ministry's 175 volunteers are at their posts - three on cameras in the
sanctuary, others on production assignments in the state-of-the-art studio
downstairs, projecting the service into the sanctuary and narthex and taping
the sermon for sale in both audio and video.

The sanctuary, destined to become a fellowship hall when the permanent
sanctuary is built in 2002, is a warm, comfortable place. Muted-colored wood
panels predominate. Worshipers sit in individual padded upright chairs,
suggesting that this isn't the furniture's final resting place.

At 2:30 that Sunday, some 135 people show up for the monthly "Coffee with
the Pastor," the first step toward membership at COR. Priscilla Van Guisen,
director of prayer ministries, begins by thanking God "for these unique
people who will become your church."

In rapid order of only 2 to 3 minutes each, other staffers introduce
themselves and their ministries. Fred Porterfield, director of evangelism,
uses a show of hands to disclose that half the people attended a worship
service here this weekend. But he cautions, "This may not be the church for
you. If so, that's OK. We just hope you find a church."

Dave Robertson, director of discipleship, invites anyone to sign up for the
"Next Steps" meeting related to the Spiritual Summits program. "This will
help paint a picture of how you can get involved," he explains. More than
half sign up.

Debi Nixon promotes children's ministries, birth through fifth grade. "How
many here have children in this age group?" Hands go up. "Now," she says,
"you who didn't raise your hands - they need you. And parents, your children
need you to be here."

After similar presentations on student ministries and singles ministries,
Porterfield asks, "How many of you have been mugged?" Nearly all hands go
up. "Something special is going on here," he adds. "You are a part of the
body of Christ."

Adam "bats cleanup" during this vital, informal time together. He begins his
45-minute presentation with his story of being raised by a Roman Catholic
father and a Church of Christ mother. "Like 20 percent of you," he says,
drawing on his seemingly bottomless use of demographics, "I was baptized a
Roman Catholic. But I never went to Sunday school, and church going became a
casualty when my parents divorced."

His life story includes college (Oral Roberts University) and seminary
(Perkins School of Theology) and his initial appointment to this new church
in Johnson County, Kan., hard up against the Missouri/Kansas line.

Now, on a Sunday afternoon, his life and the church's life and those of more
than 100 prospective members are approaching critical mass where they, like
the 2,300 who joined last year, can begin serving Christ and growing in
their journey of faith.

Within the hour, another worship service will begin.

#  #  #

*Lovelace is editor emeritus of the Dallas-based United Methodist Reporter
and a 1998 inductee in the United Methodist Association of Communicators
Hall of Fame.  

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

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