First UMC Blog

Communications Team Update!

The Deep Water Communications team has been meeting since mid-July to discuss effective streams of communication for FUMC Salem. As we consider the recommendations from the Deep Water town hall, it has been our goal to “walk a mile in the shoes” of a new visitor or member as we identify potential placements for electronic screens.  We have frequently taken our meetings on the move, exploring each entrance and hallway from the perspective of our diverse community.

On September 25th, we finalized a job description for a part-time communications specialist which will be considered by the Staff Parish Relations & Finance Committees as they prepare the 2019 operating budget. Our meeting on October 3rd we continued these ongoing projects as well as discuss Communication Guidelines published by United Methodist Communications ( as we continue to take inventory or our current communications strategy and begin to discern our way forward.
Meghan O’Brien
Deep Water Communications Team Member

More news from the Discipleship Team!

Hello All! The Discipleship Team met on September 16th to further discuss how we can influence those attending our church by using the new vision statement (Seek a Relationship with God, Grow in Faith, and Serve God through caring for others).  There are many types of people in our congregation and we are exploring ways to guide each of them to grow in their individual relationship with God.  During our meeting, we listed various types of people that may attend one of our church services.   Some examples include: a non-Christian person visiting our church, a new family interested in becoming members, a person transferring their membership from another UM church, a person transferring membership from another church, a youth coming to Genesis with a friend, and a current member of our church that is retired and only attends a service.  What would these individuals need to move through our Vision?  What would that look like? 
Our team listed what is currently being done at our church to welcome/ inform current members and visitors as well assist them in seeking a relationship with God.  We then brainstormed other ways that we can build a better relationship with the various types of people attending our church.  Some of the ideas shared in our meeting include:  an improved greeting system, name tags, passing of the peace weekly, and an online directory.  There was also discussion of having a group of trained individuals who can guide newcomers attending services through mentoring, giving tours, providing information about all FUMC has to offer. We discussed how to better connect with new Christians or those exploring a relationship with God by providing a “Christianity 101” class.  This class would meet 3 or 4 times a year and focus on an overview of the Bible, prayer, and making connections with Christianity. If we can build a relationship with individuals seeking a relationship with God at our church, we can better lead them to the next step in their faith journey (i.e. small groups, Sunday school classes, etc.). 
Ashley Cross
Discipleship Team Member

New Outreach and Diversity Update!

Greetings! The Deep Water Outreach and Diversity team continues to meet. Great discussions are being had to explore how we can become more engaged in our community but more importantly how we can spread Gods love to those not currently in relationship with God or Church. The possibilities are endless as we try to envision opportunities that impact our personal lives, Church, and community.

The theme for the 2018 Virginia Annual Conference, was “Servant Leaders Making a Difference.” The conference theme was based on I Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” For us, Church in the community can take on many forms. It’s the goal of the Outreach and Diversity team to help guide and create pathways to help support an aligned vision and be Servant Leaders.
David Prosser
Outreach and Diversity Team Chair

Discipleship Team Update!

Hello All!

The Discipleship Team wanted to give an update to the church about our two meetings which we have held.  Our first meeting was on August 5th and our second meeting was on August 21st.  The Discipleship Team is a wonderful representation of First UMC with different ages and people from many active groups within our church.   The goal of our team is to align with the church vision statement and move Christians along their faith journey to becoming strong disciples for Jesus Christ.   What a big but wonderful job we have been given which we as a team all take very seriously.  

Our first meeting we discussed how to help people learn where they are as a Christian and disciple of Jesus Christ.  Our homework was to read the book Simple Church and two of our members researched a Spiritual Growth Assessment Tools from other churches around the country.  These Assessment Tools are for members or nonmembers alike to be able to take a survey to find where one is on their faith journey, and how we as a church help develop them into disciples of Jesus Christ. 

During the most recent meeting on August 21st we discussed three different example surveys from Church of the Resurrection, St. Stephen’s UMC, and Marion Methodist Church Survey.  What the researched showed, is most churches do not give this survey early on but once a discipleship plan is put into place.  The second point we took is the layout of the survey must be quick, simple, and an immediately response must be received.  

We also discussed the book Simple Church. We all agree First Church could use some simplifying. Though we did discuss how change will be difficult for staff and members alike.  We recognize and understand change is scary but needed.  

Finally, we discussed the question of “What Kind of Disciple do we want to see?”  We conversed over a few points of members being comfortable to invite others to church, children/youth exited to learn about God, being Christ centered, and ultimately we came back to the disciples we want to see should reflect our Vision Statement as a church.  

Our next meeting will be September 16th, and we will discuss our church Vision Statement and how we can align our team with this statement.  How do we make disciples out of our vision statement? Please continue to pray for our team as we dig into the vision statement and making disciples for Jesus Christ. 


Jessica Kauffman
FUMC Youth Ministries Coordinator

Discipleship Team Member 

Outreach and Diversity Deep Water Team Update

On Sunday, August 5th The Outreach and Diversity Team met and launched enthusiastic discussion on how to create a pathway of vision for our church, in which we can enhance our opportunities for service to others, while establishing spiritual relationships as we serve.  Ideas were shared as to how we can partner with other churches and nonprofit organizations to enhance and expand the scope and depth of our outreach. Discussion followed that by working side by side with others in a “ministry of engagement” we  can greatly expand diversity in our congregation. 

Our next meeting on August 26th will be to establish vision goals and focus on the criteria to “serve and care” for others. Before our next meeting we will be reading a chapter out of Phil Maynard’s book, Shift, called “From Serve Us to Service.” Please lift us up in your prayers that we would follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our work!


Shelia Barber
Outreach and Diversity Deep Water Team Member

Expanding Contemporary Worship Deep Water Deep Update

Hello all!

The Genesis Deep Water team wanted to give you an update from our first meeting. We gathered with the Rev. Dr. Margaret Kutz, Pastor Alan’s Clergy Coach, and our team leader from the Deep Water Weekend, in order to set goals for our work. We discussed what each member brought to the team, and we prayed that God would guide us as we discerned the way forward for our area of work.

In between meetings, our team is reading excerpts from the books Shift by Phil Maynard and How to Start A New Service by Charles Arn.

We are also in the process of setting parameters & gathering demographics using the MissionInsite resource.

This past weekend several members visited different churches to learn how they have structured their services.

Stay tuned for updates as we move forward, and see any of our committee members if you have questions!

Ashley Powell
Expanding Contemporary Worship Team Member

Vision and Alignment Team Update

The Vision Committee met on Sunday, July 15 and Wednesday, July 18 to begin crafting a cohesive vision to move forward with the recommendations from First United Methodist Church’s Deep Water study. The Committee met first with Deep Water facilitator Rev. Marg Kutz to explore the concepts for church organization in Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s book Simple Church. The easiest illustration of the book’s theme is that a church should provide a way for individuals to enter the church (the foyer), a way for individuals to deepen their faith (the living room) and opportunities for more profound commitment (the kitchen). The book explains the necessity for creating a vision that FUMC can incorporate into the church’s organizational DNA, use to measure current church growth and programming, and permit movement of disciples from worship through small group study and onto service opportunities.
While the vision is not yet fully formed, the Committee asked itself the questions “what sort of disciples does our church want to create?” and secondarily, “what processes are necessary to encourage those disciples to grow in faith across church programming?” We have begun to hammer out what specific vision best embodies FUMC’s history and mission and will provide FUMC with the best opportunity for continued growth as individual members and collectively as a congregation. Committee members welcome questions or comments, and the Committee looks forward to reporting further on our work when we meet again in August.
The goal is to have a clearly enunciated vision that can be presented to Church Council at the late August meeting. Please continue to hold us in your prayers, and pray that our vision would be God’s vision for FUMC.
Christine Poarch
Vision and Alignment Team Member

Deep Water Teams Announced!

When the Deep Water Report and Recommendations were approved at our Church Conference, the next step was for us to begin putting together the teams. This was a difficult task, as we had an overwhelming response of people willing to serve on various teams. However, our Church Council recently met and approved the members of the teams. We sought to create diverse teams with the skills necessary to accomplish the task.
One of the things that we repeatedly heard in the town halls and in other settings was a call for communication about the process. Therefore, we were excited this past Sunday to announce the members of the teams! You will see the teams and the members below.
The next step is for the teams to beginning meeting as soon as possible. The Vision Team will have their first meeting this Sunday after the 11 AM service, and the Genesis Team will meet at 2 PM. The first meeting for each group will be facilitated by Rev. Dr. Margaret Kutz, who led the Deep Water Consulting Team, and preached at our church during the Deep Water weekend. Marg will help the teams to set the agendas, parameters and goals. 
As we embark on this next part of our journey, I want to encourage all of us to pray over each of the names on the list, to pray for the work of the teams, and to pray for our church as God goes before us and behind us on our journey. We will make sure to post about when the other teams schedule their meetings, so that you can pray for them!
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Alan

Deep Water Town Hall Summary

Everyone is commended for their continued interest and comments around our Deep Water Process. After our Deep Water weekend, we offered two Town Hall meetings in order to help clarify the report and answer questions and concerns. It might helpful to summarize some questions that arose at the Town Hall meetings. Here are a few frequently asked questions:

1. Who initiated the Deep Water process? 

The Deep Water process is based on a process called the Healthy Church Initiative, (HCI), which is a process many congregations are going through in to consider ways that they might be more faithful and effective. Our own Church Council initiated this process. Back in the fall, we began to have conversations around our previous strategic plan, our direction as a church, and the organization of our leadership. It was apparent that while our church has many wonderful and thriving missions and ministries, it was difficult to articulate a clear vision of where we are headed as a church. Our previous mission statement was created many years ago.  We set about considering possibilities of how we might regain a sense of vision and direction. Marg Kutz, clergy coach for Alan Combs, offered to help put together a team and a process, as she has been involved with HCI work in other United Methodist congregations, and she has seen the process bear fruit. Our Church Council approved working with Marg to bring together our Deep Water Process. 

2.  Why did the Deep Water Team suggest focusing on a different time and/or location, and not building a bigger building or moving Genesis to the sanctuary? 

The goal of the Deep Water process was to listen effectively to the voice of and data of our congregation, so that the team could echo back to us what they heard. Essentially, they suggested we avoid building or moving Genesis into the sanctuary because they heard those two possibilities as major obstacles and wanted to help us avoid options that might prevent us from developing a timely solution to the overcrowding issue. Buildings require a great deal of conversation and significant fundraising, along with the reality that we are at this point essentially landlocked. A conversation about a major capital project would extend a conversation that is already overdue for action. 

Regarding moving the Genesis service to the sanctuary, they had good reason to suggest we avoid that option as well. On one end of the spectrum, we have worshippers for whom making the changes to the Sanctuary necessary to accommodate the Genesis service would be something they could not abide. On the other end of the spectrum, we have worshippers for whom Genesis ceases to be Genesis if it is held in the Sanctuary. Essentially, part of the ethos of Genesis is being in a different kind of space. The Deep Water team thought it would be a good idea to avoid these solutions.

Their recommendation is that we focus on the possibility for a new time for Genesis in the present location and/or the possibility of adding an additional worship service at a new location. Neither of these possibilities would be without risk and challenges, but both of them would leave the current Genesis and Sanctuary services intact, while allowing us to deal adequately with overcrowding and to have a more consistent vision of our contemporary worship.

3. Where the recommendations call for teams, who picks the teams? How do we ensure appropriate skills and diversity on the teams? 

Our Senior Pastor will create the initial list of persons to invite, which is then brought to Church Council for approval. The Church Council will have the opportunity to provide a check on those suggestions to ensure that a variety of viewpoints as well as specific gifts and skills are present in each team. 

Our Church Council is where the accountability resides for “follow through” on the recommendations if they are approved. Church Council is made up of the chairs of several committees, as well as people who oversee ministry areas in the church. They are nominated by our Lay Leadership and Nominations Committee, though nominations are accepted from the floor of Charge Conference. Those nominations are voted on at Charge Conference, and those who are newly elected take office in January. If you would like to see who currently serves on our Church Council, you can find it on our website at or you can request a copy from our church office at or (540) 389-5459.

Many have noted that the deadlines seem like they are rather soon. It is true that the deadlines are aggressive, but that is intentional in order to put us to work with a sense of urgency. Many of the areas of concern addressed by the recommendations have been concerns for several years, and it is our hope that we can move toward discernment and action to address those concerns. If we fail to meet a deadline, we will have to adjust accordingly, holding ourselves accountable to the work to which we are called. In reality, even if we do not approve the recommendations, the areas of concern will still need to be addressed, and the gift of the recommendations is to put some concrete timelines on that work. Church Council will be approving any actions. As the work progresses, each committee will be responsible for communicating updates to the congregation through the newsletter as well as a blog we are working to set up on our webpage.

Finally, some wanted a summary of what we will be voting on during our Church Conference on June 3 at 10:00 AM. A brief summary follows, but we will be voting on the recommendations as they are found in the report, not the summary of the report.

Recommendation 1

  • By October 1, 2018, the Senior Pastor, his coach Marg Kutz, and a team the Senior Pastor selects will ensure there is a new aligning vision statement for FUMC.
  • The Finance Committee will formulate a 2019 budget that is aligned with this new vision.
  • By Easter 2019, The Staff Parish relations committee will review current staffing to assess alignment around the vision, update job descriptions accordingly, and all new hires to be made with the updated statement and aligned descriptions. This work will include an effort to reconcile the current disparity between staff resources among the different worship services.
  • Church Council will read contemporary literature on aligning our church with the vision.

Recommendation 2

  • The Senior Pastor will create a team of 5-9 people who have an interest in contemporary worship, approved by Church Council, whose task is to review possible options for solution to Genesis overcrowding, that is aligned with the vision, and to develop a model for contemporary music
  • This work should be completed by November 1, 2018 with plans to implement by spring 2019.

Recommendation 3

  • SPRC is charged to consider hiring a part time communications staff person
  • Senior Pastor will have conversations with other Large Church pastors about how the communicate effectively with their congregations.
  • Church will consider placing electronic screens throughout the building to offer congregational announcements and updates.

Recommendation 4

  • Form a team of 8-12 people (including staff responsible for spiritual formation of children, youth, and adults) by appointed by the Senior pastor and approved by the Church Council
  • This team will review existing discipleship efforts and then seek to deepen the work and develop it into an intentional process that makes and multiplies disciples.
  • Team will meet at least once with Marg Kutz, Pastor Alan’s Clergy Coach, and may also consult with other churches
  • Work to address and create discipleship growth opportunities for new members and parents for basic instruction on living the Christian life.
  • All of this would be developed by December 1, 2018, and recommended to the Church Council, to be implemented in 2019.

Recommendation 5

  • FUMC will seek opportunities for connection and service with those beyond the congregation in our growing community, using appropriate tools and learning new ways to be church in our community.
We are looking forward to the Church Conference on June 3 at 10:00 AM in the Fellowship Hall, where we will have the opportunity to vote on these recommendations. In order to vote, you must be a member of the church and you must be present at the Church Conference. Our goal is to get 70% of members present and voting to approve the recommendations. And finally, please continue to pray for our Church, and for the Church Conference.

Rev. Alan T. Combs

Lead Pastor, First UMC


Charles N. Dorsey
Church Council Chair