By Dwain Pyeatt
On Sunday, May 28, 2017, I visited the Bethesda Church of God, Sumter, SC, a historic church with a progressive spirit. They have remodeled a Lowe’s “big-box” building into a sophisticated, nicely-decorated church building, housing an exciting, well-organized, future-thinking multi-cultural congregation.
Pastor Al Sims began MOBILIZE two years ago, with 26 participants; 16 graduated Sunday. Associate Pastor Cecil Browder administered the program. MOBILIZE is designed to be completed on one calendar year, but their program was stretched over two years. Reason: they designed a supplemental schedule of “extra” activities and requirements woven into the fabric of their MOBILIZE plan. They called this enhanced program “Taking Things to the Next Level.”
1. Police officers and counselors sent material for the group about problems that they face (drugs, divorce, unruly children) and their suggestions to remedy these sociological ills.
2. Every MOBILIZE participant took their turn “opening” the Wednesday night service: welcome, announcements, offering, prayer, etc. (This took many of these people “out of their comfort zone!”)
3. Extensive altar training was given, including instruction on dealing with various problems and needs.
Example – “What do I do if someone threatens suicide?”
4. Church protection training was given, including safety and security information, how to watch a person’s “body language,” and how to react to sudden dangerous situations.
5. Training was given on how to set the furniture and microphone stands for a service, and how to troubleshoot sound system problems.
6. In the next session of MOBLIZE, the whole group will go to a local funeral home, and the funeral home director will explain the process of dealing with the family of a dying person, how to assist in planning the funeral service, and post-funeral counseling.
7. A nursing home and a hospital will be visited, and proper visitor technique will be discussed.
8. Role-playing activities explored “almost anything and everything that could go wrong” during a worship service, a hospital call, a home visit, or a phone call ministry. “What happens when the pastor isn’t there to handle these problems?”
9. In one memorable session, each person explained and defended one of the Articles of Faith. The other participants evaluated then on content and on presentation skills.
10. Entrance interview: at the beginning, they were asked in front of each other what their strengths and weaknesses were, and their friends also were asked to evaluate that person. “The answers were different 90% of the time.”
11. Exit interview: Each person (and their friends) will be asked about their changes during the program. They will also be asked to become recruiters for the next session of MOBILIZE.