We are blessed in Clinton County to have a number of great examples of unity. For years, leaders of different organizations have come together to serve the needs of the community.
With any joint venture, it’s not always easy. At some point people will struggle to agree on a given issue and the success of the venture requires that those involved set aside differences and sacrifice for the common good. In a world where so many want their way on their timeline, the heart and attitude of doing what’s best for others seldom wins out.
But for those of us fortunate enough to see the overwhelming fruit of laying aside our agenda for the good of the community, it is worth it every time.
Sugartree Ministry Center is a good example of how a community can come together to serve others. Every month more than 30 churches work alongside each other to cook, clean up, and provide food for families in need across our community. Every Monday night, different worship teams serve so that those in attendance can worship God together.
Different ministers from different backgrounds and denominations share scriptures to bring encouragement to those in attendance. Addiction recovery groups meet together and real change happens as people share their story and hold each other accountable. Allen Willoughby, the director, is a friend to everyone no matter what your background and has been a catalyst for unity throughout the last two decades here in Wilmington.
The New Life Clinic was started more than 25 years ago by several leaders in our community from different churches who wanted to address the needs of young women who are dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. They partnered together to encourage young moms not to abort the baby, but to deliver the little life and either raise the little one with the newly found support system or give the baby up for adoption to a family that would be excited to raise him or her.
For years the board of the NLC has represented multiple churches with different doctrinal stances, but a unified passion to serve young women and their families. Currently, Sherry Weller leads this organization as its executive director and oversees a multi denominational staff and very diverse team of volunteers. Over 30 churches are supportive of this ministry and involved different aspects of the vision.
I have been privileged to serve in both of these organizations over the years and consider it an honor to be a small part of what God has done in these organizations over the years. There are many other examples of community organizations that have succeeded through unity.
Over the years there have also been unified efforts that came to a close for different reasons. It may be possible to learn from those ventures and avoid any fallout that comes from disappointment and disillusionment.
For several years in the late ’90s/early 2000s our community of churches worked together to put on a Harvest Party during Halloween. It was held at the Fairgrounds and grew each year. The final year there were over 20 churches represented and over 2,500 people in attendance. Literally tons of candy was passed out generously and lots people put in countless hours to make it a success.
Part of the challenge was that like many other things in volunteer world — 20 percent of the volunteers do 80 percent of the work. Many in the community were very thankful and grateful, but in this case the event outgrew the capacity of the volunteers that put it on.
Another example was a joint youth ministry venture that we called the Warehouse. It existed between 2002 and 2005 and was a partnership between at least four churches. It was highly successful with 75-100 teens in attendance every week, although it lacked funding from any organization. Lots of amazing people poured their life and time into making this outreach a success, making it the largest youth ministry in our community at the time. Sugartree was gracious to host the ministry and lots of fruit came from this season of unity.
In the end, leaders moved on from our area to other ministry assignments, student leaders graduated and moved on to college, several of our adult youth leaders married each other and started families, and the ongoing work of keeping an effective ministry running with an all volunteer staff eventually became overbearing.
All in all, there is a time and season for everything.
Unity is exciting and brings tremendous opportunities for our community. It also requires real work from real leaders who are willing to put themselves last and invest their lives and time into the greater good.
Would you consider joining the team?
Shane Rhodehamel has been the lead pastor of Faith Family Church since 2006. He has been married to his wife Amie for 17 years and they have three kids who are involved in Wilmington Middle School. You can contact him at email@example.com.