Home Christian News Haitian Migrants Bring Vitality to Declining San Diego Church

Haitian Migrants Bring Vitality to Declining San Diego Church

Haitian Migrants

At the beginning of this century, the Rev. Bill Jenkins did not imagine that he would see a deep transformational process in the congregation that he was starting to serve.

Jenkins had been appointed pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in 1999 in San Diego, and for 12 years, he had worked hard to revitalize a declining church.

“The first six years, we tried to grow the church in the old Billy Graham way: revivals, knocking on doors and all of that. The harder that we worked, the smaller the church got,” he said.

In 2005, he told the congregation, “If we don’t do something different, you know what could happen: The church will be closed, the property sold, and you know that movie.”

Jenkins shared with local and conference leaders a proposal for a different church model, focused on community ministries and services. Based on the biblical passage in Matthew 25, about the final judgment and the importance of caring for those in need, he proposed changing the traditional congregation model into a ministry center.

“I wanted to let them understand that it would be such a great loss if we just closed the church and sold the property,” Jenkins said.

One of the big differences between a traditional church and the ministry center model is the use of the building. In the traditional church model, members focus on their Sunday activities.

“Almost everything is around Sundays,” Jenkins said. “If 90% of the time, energy and congregational resources are focused on a few hours during Sundays, the church is on its way to death. The ministry center is a seven-day church.’

The decision to change the church ministry model affected attendance significantly. “In 2011 — the last Sunday that I preached in the old congregation — we had around 35 people in attendance. Now, during the pre-pandemic days, we had around 2,000 people a week,” Jenkins said.

Even amid the pandemic, more than 1,000 people meet every week in the building. Sunday worship alone draws about 300 people to the 10 racially and denominationally diverse congregations hosted in the United Methodist Christ Ministry Center.

Migrant ministries are common in border areas. The former Christ United Methodist Church had a refugee assistance program that was revitalized and expanded under the new ministerial model.