Churches have important functions in their communities; church members and leaders must be passionate about people outside of their walls.
One irrefutable criterion for external impact, however, lies within the church walls. Churches need a solid, stable, enduring platform for those inside — clergy, congregants, staff and volunteers — to learn, grow and develop programs that can benefit their larger communities.
The church building where members gather for services, programs or fellowship needs to be secure.
Fifty years ago this month, a group of leaders at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth founded an endowment that could provide financial stability for the long term.
In 1964, with just $2,500 in initial donations, 11 members formed the First Methodist Church of Fort Worth Foundation, an entity that today has assets sufficient to contribute in excess of $2,500 a day in 2014 to FUMC for facilities maintenance, renovation and expansion.
All funds donated to the foundation’s endowment remain intact; only income generated through investment of donated funds is released to the church for its use.
For five decades, the foundation has received donations large and small from wills, estates and generous contributors looking for a way to provide timeless support. Such generosity enables stability.
Because of the foundation, our church can encourage a focus on the future of our church family as well as catalyze efforts that extend beyond church walls. The church can securely participate in the community at large.
Canadian Pastor Carey Nieuwhof, in an article about traits of churches that will impact the future, published last year in his blog for Connexus Community Church, mentioned a number of characteristics, among them:
• Focus on the outside. Selfless, mature churches care about people that God cares about, not just themselves.
• Be agile and flexible. Slow, complicated decision-making will not keep pace today. Decisions must be quick, made via processes that enable speed.
• Respect for the small. Large churches like ours succeed by embracing smaller venue options, locations and partnerships.
• Valuing new media. Online relationships are real relationships.
• Openness to questions. Without questions, there are no answers.
• Willingness to customize experiences. The message is sacred, but how we share it must vary in our ever-shifting culture.
At our church, one of several that comprise the spiritual heart of downtown Fort Worth, we have an accredited preschool with a waiting list; a broad range of different types of services to appeal to many individuals; fresh ideas from professional staff dedicated to connecting with younger church-goers; streamed Sunday services on our website, available for anyone to view at any time; and accessible and inspiring clergy who share our messages in ways meaningful to so many.
The church and the foundation were instrumental in helping initiate Samaritan House, provided startup funds for the YWCA kids programs and are working with a Habitat for Humanity project involving former President Jimmy Carter this fall.
First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth facilities are the focus of our foundation. The founders in 1964 had the foresight to set aside funds that would ensure the long-term success of the institution it was created to support.
Today, because the Internet allows people to ask questions of a sensitive nature that are challenging to ask in person and to interact with spiritual leaders in times of difficulty, churches are even more important.
We hope all churches will join us and create enduring legacy endowments to ensure that 50 years from now, the spiritual center points of Fort Worth are here for our children, grandchildren and the greater community.
Lou Ann Blaylock is executive director of the Roach Foundation and president of the First Methodist Church of Fort Worth Foundation.