By Austin Webster
Growing up in Johns Creek, when not at school, I spent almost all my free time at the church. Between my brother’s Boy Scout meetings Monday nights in the Chapel, Wednesday Night Dinner and choir rehearsal, and soccer practice Thursday or Friday nights on the recreation fields, the church became the “center of life” for my family and me. Even at a young age, I quickly found that my closest friendships and communities were forming in activities at JCUMC.
In fact, I met my very best friend playing recreation soccer at JCUMC. She and I never attended the same school and, at least at the time, had seemingly nothing in common other than that we happened to sign up for the same soccer team year after year. As our teamwork grew each season, so did our friendship, and we eventually grew old enough to start participating in Catalyst Youth activities, which I invited her to attend with me. Humorously enough now, our friendship truly blossomed during our first youth event: the Created by God class. Although I do not need to go into the details of why we suddenly became so close during that class, I proudly recognize that had it not been for the church and its outreach activities, she probably would not have started coming to church regularly, and I would not have the best friend and support system I have today.
That support system includes not only her, but handfuls of other students, teachers, coaches, parents, siblings, mentors, and others who made me feel so welcome and loved in the church and in the community beyond. It includes the people who I can and do go to whenever I am struggling, need advice, feel lost, or just want somebody to listen.
I know that regardless of my situation, they will be there to support me, no matter the time of day or day of the week. The light will always be on to comfort me when I need it.
That light must also always be on for anyone in our community who needs it whenever he or she needs it. Just as JCUMC gave me a support system through a variety of activities, so too does it provide a community, a place to be heard, a source of counsel, and a safe sanctuary to those who we may not know or even realize need it.
In order for JCUMC to uphold this duty, though, it must receive the proper funding. On any given week, a multitude of outreach activities, support groups, and other events takes place on church grounds.
Within the fiscal year, JCUMC will host:
More than 1,000 children and youth in recreation programs including basketball Monday through Saturday, running Monday through Thursday, and soccer Monday through Sunday.
30 and 45 concerts
Up to 500 preschoolers and kindergartners during the school year
25 to 28 Wednesday Night Dinners
Boy Scout troop meetings three nights per week plus several special events throughout the year
At least eight support groups meeting weekly to comfort those dealing with tragedy, depression, and addiction, among other things.
All of these programs are only possible through our congregation’s tithing.
I have tried to imagine how my life would be different had I not been able to spend so much time at JCUMC, and it is near impossible. Had the church not been able to offer recreation soccer, I never would have met my best friend and invited her to church, my mom would have had to drive me an hour to soccer practice during the week, and my relationship to the church and its surrounding community would not be near as strong. Had the church not been able to offer Boy Scouts, my brother probably would have quit years prior to earning Eagle Scout or may have never even joined in the first place. Had the church not been able to offer Wednesday Night Dinner, I would have missed out on the best fellowship I had as a kid and the foundation of building a relationship with God beyond Sunday School.
My point is not to bore you with hypotheticals, but rather to show you the impact JCUMC’s activities had on my life and to help us all realize how important tithing is to providing these outlets to so many people in our community. If our church cannot offer a support group, then who will? Where will people in our community go to feel God’s love and be reminded of their own strength? How far will they be pushed out of our community, rather than meeting at the light in the center of it all?
Please, during this giving season, thoughtfully consider and pray about your tithing. Together, we need to do more than just keep the lights on for services on Sundays. JCUMC’s light should be a beacon to all, any day of the week, to come and make themselves at home.