The Rev. Heather Scherer
Pastor, Living Water United Methodist Church, Glenpool, OK
Phillips MDiv class of 2011
Her first appointment after seminary: start a new church
Tell us about your place of ministry: the context, the mission.
I was assigned to the Highway 75 corridor between 71st and south to Glenpool. In this area, I was asked to create a new church that would reach young people and the un-churched, demographics the mainline churches have been trying to reach in the last 20 years with little success.
What did you find when you started?
I found that there was no place to meet or to rent in the area and rents were high. I learned from a demographic study that this was a commuter area and residents were fairly conservative. Two conservative congregations had already launched satellites there.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
My challenge was two-fold: to meet people and to be relevant in an area already highly churched. I needed a church model that wasn't dependent on the "rock ‘n’ roll show" style of worship.
I read about a church in Dallas that established used a no-alcohol, “coffee house” program, something that did not exist in the Glenpool area. I drove to Texas to meet the pastor. I believed this could be a door to relevancy in young people's lives and a blessing to the community.
Another challenge was being alone in a church plant assignment which, statistically speaking has a 10% success rate nationwide. They tell you in training that you will work harder than you ever have, but they don't tell you about the isolation. I have never been lonelier in my life. And, I have never felt closer to God.
Tell us a story of success or that gave you hope.
So many people have come through the doors of the coffee house and shared their stories with us. Stories of how churches have hurt them. Stories of grief. We met a young, homeless man at our church in the park. He began coming to the coffee house for food and someone to talk to. He said that we had given him something that he hadn't had in a long time: hope. He has a new job at McDonald's and is on a path to independence. Un-churched people have told me the only reason they tried our church was because it was a coffee house. The admitted they would not have come otherwise. We are opening a door to the un-churched of every age who are looking for a life of meaning and a community of hope.
What about your theological education have you found most useful in meeting the challenges you face there?
The Pastoral Counseling and Evangelism classes have helped me on a daily basis. The evangelism lessons about seasons to promote the church and its activities has informed our promoting and planning. I was thankful at my church planting training that I received this training in seminary. The power of listening is the greatest gift I took from seminary. In pastoral counseling I learned that, while I could not fix people or their situations, I could listen and ask questions that might help them see their situation in new ways.
If you could go back in time to when you started your current ministry, knowing what you know now, what would you say to yourself that would help you be better prepared for the road you’ve traveled?
I would say to myself, "Un-churched people will feel hugely committed if they are in church monthly and you can count that as a success. Don't expect them to come every week. And, people who have been out of the church for years, or always, can't teach or lead a group. You should demand that the other United Methodist churches send you some help! People who would commit their gifts and talents to two years of helping you get started. Don't take this assignment without those people!"
I have discovered that I don't really know how to see the church as the un-churched see it. They are teaching me. One young man and I are putting together a starter pack for new Christians because he asked me for one and I had not considered this before. I am hoping that this will be something that other churches committed to reaching individuals outside their buildings will be able to use.
Connect with Heather’s congregation on Facebook or at www.livingwatertulsa.com.