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Disciple-making

Florida congregation expands evangelism, outreach to be more ‘missional’

March 19, 2010

LOUISVILLE

The Rev. Kirk McCormick believes strongly that the church’s primary calling is to make disciples, and he has led his Boca Raton, Fla., congregation toward that goal for more than 10 years.

Becoming a more missional church focused on efforts including community outreach and evangelism has been a long-term process, but the congregation has become so committed to transforming itself that it changed its name last year.

First Presbyterian Church of Boca Raton — in the Presbytery of Tropical Florida — became Grace Community Church in March 2009, and the church now sees roughly 600 regular worshippers, far more attendees than when McCormick arrived in 1995.

“Our people are taking seriously that challenge of making disciples,” McCormick said. And, he added, the membership understands that it’s not just about growing wider, but also about growing deeper.

McCormick said it was the church’s membership ministry team that decided on its own to start studying what the congregation could do to better reach out to the community. Then, after months of study it came to the session with several suggestions, including the name change.

“We weren’t really growing. We were just kind of maintaining,” said Kim Warne, former moderator of Grace Community’s membership ministry team. The team was trying to discern “what could we do to better reach out.”

In terms of the name change, the church decided to use grace because “we really wanted to make a theological statement,” said McCormick. Also, “we wanted to make a purpose statement, which was community,” he said.

Efforts to grow the church deep and wide also have entailed adding an after-care program to expand the church’s popular preschool.

“People are looking for quality aftercare,” McCormick said. At the same time, “they want to be a part of a church family.”

“That’s what they are finding here,” he said.

Meeting those additional child care needs in the community has directly impacted growth at Grace Community, and the church has seen a significant increase of families joining after being connected via the preschool, McCormick said.

The church also expanded its Sunday school. Grace Community already had Sunday school for its 9:15 a.m. contemporary service, but decided to add one for its 11 a.m. traditional service too.

The church has gotten more involved in local mission opportunities as well, adding mission partners focused on efforts such as crisis pregnancies and aiding families in transition, McCormick said.

The goal is “to be more missional minded” and actually go to the needs, he said. Grace Community, which is part of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Presbytery of Tropical Florida, has doubled local mission partnerships in the last two years.

All of what the church does falls in line with its four core values: connecting with God, outreach to others, responding to needs and equipping for life. Its small group ministries are organized as “core” groups reflecting each of those values.

“We’ve been working to try to make them (the core values) more top-of-mind,” said Warne, currently moderator of Grace Community’s communications team. “What we have tried to do is to get everyone focused on the fact that you have to get involved and make it your own.”

“When you do, it becomes yours,” she said.

Toya Richards is a former PNS reporter now working as a free-lance communications professional in Louisville.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of stories about congregations engaged in significant outreach and evangelism ministries, reflecting the General Assembly’s commitment to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide.” —Jerry L. Van Marter

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