St. Luke's United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 26, 2020
The Friendly Church


Vibrant Church Initiative Update





“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Proverbs 29:18

One of the first task that was assigned when St. Luke’s UMC began the Vibrant Church Process was to work on our vision statement. We had a mission statement.  The words “Love God , Live His Word and Share His Grace” were easily recited with enthusiasm by almost every church member. “Love God, Live His Word and Share His Grace” is a great way to describe we what do, not just as members of St. Luke’s, but also as children of God.  But what we do and why we do it are sometimes a very different thing. St. Luke’s has a mission statement, a statement that tells us how we do it, but we lacked the why. We lacked vision.

Proverbs 29:18 speaks directly to the heart of our first task.  The King James Version says it clearly. If there is no vision, no unifying purpose, then we run out of steam and forget about what we are doing.  We love God but why? We live His Word but why? We share His grace but why? While I believe we all know why, we as a church never put it into words.  The Vision team began their work on helping to annunciate why (vision) we do (mission) what we do. The team spent a great deal of time looking at the history of the church as well as the legacy into the future we hope to leave. The NRSV puts Proverbs 29:18 this way. “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint.”  I had never thought about that proverb in this light. I had always heard vision and never thought about prophecy. Prophecy is proclaiming the word of God. Prophecy is helping to usher in God’s vision for the church and this was very important for the Vision team. The team wasn’t explaining what we think is best but was discerning what God’s vision for this church is.  

After much work with both the understanding of the vision statement and the semantics along with a great deal of feedback from many town hall meetings and unofficial gatherings this is the vision statement they developed.

“We invite people to participate in deeper relationships with God, a faith community of all ages and a world in need”

As the team did its work of discernment story after story sprang up of how people first came to this church because of relationships that were formed.  This church has shown great care at both helping members deepen their already existing faith while also helping others start their relationship with God.  God calls us into the world and St. Luke’s has and will continue working to help meet the needs of the community around us.

The Communication team has worked to develop a new logo for the church that isn’t just a pretty picture but is a visual reminder of who we are at St. Luke’s. You can see the three circles that correspond with our desire to build deeper relationships with God, with our faith community and with the world.  The three circles gradually grow bigger showing the impact and importance of each circle and how it is helping us learn to Love God by living His Word and then Sharing His Grace to the world in need.

If you have any questions or want to know more about the vision statement I encourage you to attend the Town Hall Meeting on January 17th at 6pm.  Along with a time for questions, we will be discussing the Vision Statement and the new logo.

Vibrant Church Initiative


One of the questions that we as a church have had to address during the Vibrant Church Initiative how do we best serve the church and the community around us. What are we doing well and what are areas that we could work on to make us more effective at inviting people into deeper relationships. One area that was identified by the Vision team and then taken to the Administrative Council was a desire for a more streamlined and efficient way of doing the Administration of the church.  

Our three administrative teams are the Finance team, that is responsible for ensuring we use what we have in the most productive manner, the trustees, that ensure our campus stays welcoming and inviting, and the Staff Parish Relations team , that ensures that we have a great staff.  While each team has served well over the years many issues we are facing now require work from more than one administrative team. When this is the case each team faces more meetings and a lengthy process that takes longer than most would hope.

One possible option that the Administrative teams are proposing and moving towards is the Single Board.  This will bring all three teams together to help expedite decision making and allow the Single Board to begin looking forward towards the futures.  The single board will work have members nominated by the Nominations team and each member will serve a three year term and then have to rotate off. By combining these teams, it allows more people to be actively involved in the ministry of the church without having to attend as many meetings.

If you have any questions about this new model  or would like more information, I invite you to attend the Town Hall Meeting on January 17th at 6pm.  



The Worship Team met for their first official meeting as a team.  Up until this point the team had been working on what the purpose of the team would be and how they would go about helping to create a more impactful worship experience.  This meeting was the first time the team began actively working to improve worship based upon the feedback they had received.

The team was asked for this meeting, and for every future meeting, to bring feedback from the congregation.  We then sat and listened to the celebrations that were brought as well as the growth opportunities that were brought forward.  Several exciting possibilities were mentioned about collaboration between our different musical groups and everyone left genuinely excited about the work that they did to help bring worship to a new level.  


The worship team will continue meeting monthly following the same meeting format of the first meeting.  The only way the team has anything to discuss is if you provide feedback. After worship on Sundays grab a member of the team and let them know what about worship really speaks to you and what are some things that seem disjointed.  If you notice any changes, let them know your thoughts on the changes. No amount of feedback is to small or too big to bring to a team member.



The Communication team had a great workshop with April Canik. April is our communication expert and works with churches on how they can be better communicators.  While she praised St. Luke’s for many of the ways we communicate, she also brought many new ideas. The communication team spent time discussing how we can better communicate so each person that comes to St. Luke’s has all the information they need available to them.  

The team came away with several takeaways from the workshop and with a new found sense of creativity.  Each of the team members agreed that the best way for us to improve our communication is to work on planning ahead.  By planning ahead we have the ability to make sure the information is passed along in many different ways. This ensures that we have adequate worship announcements, sunday school announcements, newsletter articles and website information.

The team is also going to begin looking at all of the different communication pieces.  While we do have many different ways of communicating, there are some areas that we are missing or underutilizing.  By focusing on new ways to communicate as well as improving what we already have, we will begin seeing better and more open lines of communication.

If you know of anything that we could add or do better, please let me know.  We are always looking for feedback on ways to improve and need your suggestions.


Rev. Ben





After our Worship Team met with Craig Gilbert (our worship expert) he sent a worship evaluation.  The only way that we will be able to grow our capabilities in worship is if we are honest with where we are currently and where we feel God is leading us.  Craig encouraged the Worship Team to spend some time with the evaluation so that we could use it as the base for our conversation during the meetings.

While the team leads the conversations, we really need feedback from everyone. I encourage you to spend some time with the evaluation and share your thoughts with a team member.

Grab a bulletin. Then, very every action listed, answer the following questions. The resulting list will give you base info for growth and development.

1. Why is this action appropriate to be included in worship? Or is it?

2. Why is this action important to the worship? Or is it?

3. Why is this action included at this point in the worship? Does the order of the actions make sense? Does the service flow well with these actions in this order? Is there clarity to the “story” being told in worship with these actions in this order?

4. What is the congregation supposed to do during this action in worship?

5. Is the congregation engaging as planned? (this will have to come from active observation during a worship service)

6. If they are not engaging as planned, how can this action be adjusted in how it is presented to get the appropriate engagement, or, should it be scrapped in favor of a different action?

Push yourself to ask questions of worship that you never would have asked before. Be a skeptic (but a positive one!!!). Wonder if worship is being done as good as it can be or are there things about any or all of the areas that could be improved. And if so, what and why? Remember, “I like/don’t like this” is only the beginning of an in depth examination, not the end of the discussion.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, let me know.

Rev. Ben




The Worship Team met for the first time last night and started exploring worship at St. Luke’s UMC. Craig Gilbert (our worship expert) was quick to point out that worship is not just an activity that happens on Sunday mornings for one hour a week.  Worship is something deeper and more impactful. In fact one of the best ways to look at the word worship is to use it as a verb. Worship is something we do while at church, something we do while the music is playing and something that we do even long after we have left the church campus.  

With this understanding in mind the team began talking about the different areas of worship that we do exceedingly well. Everyone had great insight as to the elements of worship that brought us back week after week. We then delved into areas that we could improve in.  What are some of the areas that we have room to grow and improve so that worship is meaningful for more people, both those in the congregation and those that we hope to bring into worship.

No changes were made or solution devised but the team started the conversation about worship.  The important next step is that you as a member of the congregation join in on the conversation.  The conversation about worship is not just for the team to have, but I need feedback from each person that worships hear.  What do you enjoy, find exciting and meaningful? What do you think needs work or is distracting?

If you have any feedback, thoughts comments or concerns please let me or another member of the team know.




The Spiritual Formation team had its first meeting last night.  This team is responsible for looking at all of our means of discipleship and helping us to grow stronger.  Discipleship is the process that we undertake as Christians that helps us develop our faith and to become more mature in understanding how God is calling and using us.  This means that the Spiritual Formation Team will be looking at Sunday School, small groups, Bible studies and any other way that we as a church grow in our faith and work to improve it.

The first step this team will be taking is looking at what we already do and what areas we could improve in.  In order to do this the team needs your help. In a month there will be a survey that they will use called Reveal.  This survey will ask questions that will help us to learn exactly where we are as a congregation. I encourage you, when the survey becomes available, please take it. The only way that we can be successful in this process is if everyone is willing to be a part of it and participate.  As we get closer to the survey, more information will be sent out to let you know exactly how and when to take it.


If you have any questions or feedback about any part of this process or questions about what happens next, please let me know.



One of the first components of our Vibrant Church Initiative prescriptions was that we take a very close and careful look at the vision of St. Luke’s UMC.  For several years our vision has been to “love God, live His word, and share His grace.” While it is a great statement and one that the congregation has taken ownership in, it also needs more depth and clearer understanding.  What exactly do we mean when we say ‘love God?’ How are we enabling people to ‘live his word?’ In what ways are we ‘sharing his grace?’ How is our motto driving our ministry into the future and helping us determine how God is leading us.

The Vision team was tasked at looking at the church’s past, present and future so we could better define our mission and add more depth to our motto.  The Vision team met for the first time yesterday and had a three hour workshop and crash course lesson in church vision. We looked at several scriptural stories about God’s vision and had great conversations about how God is using us to be a part of God’s mission.  There is still a great deal of work to be done, but the team left excited about the upcoming work.

The next time the team meets, they will focus on putting words to the vision of God in our community for the next 20 years.  I encourage you to be a part of this process as well. Use your imagination. What are ways you feel God moving in your life that seem out of the box or different? What are new and creative ways that you feel St. Luke’s UMC can be a strong presence in the community of Kilgore?

If you have any ideas or questions, please let me know.

Rev. Ben Bagley




This entire process has been very eye opening.  There was a great deal work that had to be done to prepare,  meetings to attend and participate in, listening sessions, meetings, workshops and so much more.  As the Pastor of St. Luke’s I want to say a huge thank you. Many have given selflessly of your time and energy to make this process happen and to help us start on such a great foot.  This is not just aimed at our team members either, but at everyone who will be a part of the process. In total we needed roughly forty people to serve on our Vibrant Church Initiative teams.  One of the hardest tasks I had to do was put together the teams that were prescribed to us. I worked to ensure the gifts and graces of the team members matched with the teams goals. I also took into account the work that each of you is already doing. Many of you serve in a multitude of different ways and I worked to ensure that no team members would be overburdened with the ministries they are already involved in.  But just because you are not on a team does not mean that you are not vital to the process. Each of the teams is tasked with working with the congregation and other individuals that are passionate and excited about that given area and bringing more people into the conversations of ways we can grow the future of our congregation. Just because you are not on a team does not mean you will not be instrumental to the process.  If you are interested in taking an active role and helping the teams complete their work, let me know and I will get you in touch with the teams and ways that you can help.




Last Thursday, James and I sat down with Craig Gilbert, our Worship Expert, again. During this meeting Craig sat down with us to offer an outsiders take on what our worship experience is like and some suggestions of how to improve the experience.  Many people expressed that worship was missing ‘something’ and we have been working to identify what that ‘something’ is. As Craig met with us, he gave us ways we can work on our worship planning process so that we can begin shaping the worship experience in a new and creative way.  Both James and I are excited about this new worship planning process and you will begin seeing some changes in worship. What we really need from you is feedback. If you thought worship was great, spend some time figuring out what made it so great and let us know. If something didn’t seem right or some part of worship seemed out of place, I welcome that feedback as well.  We are committed to continually working on worship so that the experience is meaningful and impactful to all that worship with us.




Again, I want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone that has been, is doing and will be a huge part of this process.  If you have any questions, let me know.



Rev. Ben Bagley





On Sunday August 26th, we had a special guest in worship.  Dr. Craig Gilbert traveled to Kilgore for the weekend so that he could be present with us in worship on Sunday.  Dr. Gilbert is our worship expert. One of our prescriptions was to take a closer examination of worship to determine areas that we could grow and work to create a more meaningful and participatory worship experience.  Dr. Gilbert met with both James Vermillion and I and talked with us about what we saw in worship and how our roles help to shape worship.

After his time in worship with us, he gave the congregation some homework.  One of the desires expressed during the initial part of the Vibrant Church Process was that we sing songs that are more familiar.  Many times each of us has songs that carry a special meaning to us. Songs that we heard at a wedding, funeral, baptism or another special moment in our life.  These songs have deep meaning and we want to hear them as a part of our time of worship. In order to faithfully live into this, we have to have a way of knowing what these songs are.  Starting on Sunday September 2nd, there will be a bulletin insert and an online survey. There will be one simple question. What are songs that you would like to hear in worship? You can put down as many songs as you like for both the traditional and contemporary service.  I encourage you to take time to be a part of this survey. The survey will run during the entire month of September and at the end of the month we will compile the list so that we have better knowledge of the songs that hold significant meaning to the congregation. As with every part of this process, it is only successful with your help. Every voice matters.  

If you have any questions or want to know more about the process, please let me know.


Rev. Ben Bagley





The Vibrant Church Process is underway.  Many of the teams are beginning to schedule their first meetings and getting prepared for the work ahead.  Over the next month I encourage you to lift up each of the teams in your prayers. Each of the members will work diligently and faithfully to work on the areas that we feel God is calling us to grow in.


The Communication Team had their first meeting on August 22nd.  The communication team has several areas that they will be addressing.  Many people voiced frustration over lack of communication and feeling like some information was not being passed out as effectively as it should be.  During the first meeting the team spent a great deal of time trying to compile all of the different ways that we as a church communicate and pass along information.  The team was surprised when the list was compiled to see how many different avenues we are already using. The team then began working on a way to gather information.  The only way we can become better at communicating is by finding out what we do well and what we need to work on. Over the next couple of months you will see a communication survey.  It will ask several questions that will help the team identify ways to grow in our communication process and how to better utilize the means of communication we have. I encourage you to take the survey and make sure that it gets back to the church office.  This process will only be as good as the people willing to participate.


As more teams meet, I will continue to update you on the progress and ways to be involved.  If you have any questions or concerns please let me know.


Rev. Ben Bagley




We are just over a month into the Vibrant Church Process and it has been a busy time.  During the first several months, much of the work that takes place is “behind the scenes” work. It may appear that not much has happened since the we decided to start this journey, but it only seems that way. Over the last month I have been working to create the teams that will start leading much of the process.  These teams will be responsible for talking with the congregation about everything from communication, to worship and many other things in between. At this moment several of our teams are working to come up with times to meet, but I wanted to make everyone aware of who will be making up the teams for the Vibrant Church Initiative.


The Vision Team will be working to help enunciate a deeper meaning to our phrase ‘love God, live His word, share His grace.’ The members are Kay McKinley, Randy Gaut, Gerry Mount, Andrea McGilvray and Trey Rathbun.


The Spiritual Formation Team is going to be looking at the Spiritual health of the church and find new and creative ways to improve our discipleship process. The members are Tracy Gaut, Misty Shipman, Amanda Gillen-Hall, Danny Harrison, Ginny Anderson, Karen Wilson, Misty Lewis and Kacey Holley.


The Worship team will spend time in conversation with the congregation about what worship means and ways in which we can improve our worship experience. The team members are: James Vermillion, Dennis Ellis, Carol Brady, Carol Grimes, Steffen Jones, Pat Morchat, Lydia Rathbun and Veronica Spayberry.


The Communication team is going to look at all the ways we as a church communicate and find ways we can communicate more effectively. The team members are: Jennifer Powell, Kristi Boone, Anna Rohde, Sara Lugenbeal and Salena Jackson.


The Hospitality Team is going to take a close look at how we welcome our guest and how inviting our campus is for people that have never been to St. Luke’s before. The team members are: Richelle Rathbun, Syrena Witt, Chet Garner, Milton Frasier, Kathe Miller and Kathy Brown.  


If you have any questions about the process or any of the teams, let me know and I will answer them.


Rev. Ben Bagley





After several months of prayer and preparation we, as a congregation, voted on the Vibrant Church Initiative.  The Vibrant Church Initiative proposed five ways that we could grow as a congregation and more faithfully live out God’s calling. The congregation voted on the proposal following the worship service on July 15th and adopted the Vibrant Church Initiative by 88%.  It is very exciting to see how God is moving and working in our congregation but the vote is only the first part. Now begins the hard work. We are starting to put together teams that will help lead the conversation about the five areas of growth. Below is a timeline that will help keep us on track as we move through this process of discernment and transformation.  



Focus Mission


Day of Prayer and Preparation


Create Unity/Vision Team


Unity/Direction Workshop


Read God Dreams


Strategies Approved by Church


Ministry/Facility Audit


Spiritual Formation Team




Worship Design Team


Workshop with Craig Gilbert


Passionate Worship Team


Design Change in Effect


Hospitality Team


Community Connection Team


1st Meeting


Community Study


2 Bridging Events


Building Connection Team




Communication Team


Communication Workshop


We will keep posting updates about the progress but if you have any questions please contact the church office and let us know.