Monday, June 29, 2009

What the Numbers Mean - Part 2

In his comments to "What the Numbers Mean - Part 1" Brother Pat made 3 important points concerning our efforts to attract new folks to Lott U.M.C. in regard to the abundance of church capacity which already exists in that locale. Having previously commented on his first point I'd like to address the others. He said, " Second, while the town may have 700, the surrounding community is larger." Indeed, there is already another historic church in nearby Westphalia which is capitalizing on that - Church of the Visitation.

This is one of the largest and most beautiful wooden churches in the state of Texas. It sits on a one-hundred acre site which also includes the Westphalia Independent (co-operative) School System. This school has a higher academic standard as well as a larger and more modern plant than the public elementary school located in Lott. The attendance figures for the two schools are roughly the same. Yet, there appears to be a strong loyality to the church (and it's school) as 6300 dinners are sold at the annual picnic each year. This figure represents nine times the total population of Lott and one-third of the population for Falls County.

As nothing much exists in the unincorporated area known as Westphalia, beyond the surounding farms, it should be safe to assume that there is a strong (and quite large) Roman-Catholic following in this region which supports the church and school. Indeed, the high percentage of German and Czech descendents reflected in the demographics for Falls County would traditionally indicate such a following. Additionally, it would probably also be safe to assume that a good number of Catholic families in Lott are sending their children to school and worshipping with their families on Sundays there, as well.

So, how does all this apply to Lott UMC? For one thing, our church appears to be a microcosm of the example we looked at above. All but one of the 11 people in worship at Lott UMC the weekend we visited were from out of town. So, Brother Pat has a very valid point in regard to appealing to the greater community of Falls County in the revitalization efforts for the church. We should not limit our thinking (or the ability of our God to bring about miracles) in this regard. When we come to the table for our first meeting in this effort we should be thinking as large-scale as the limitless possibilities (and blessings) that our Lord gives us in abundance each and every day.

- Shalom -

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Revolutionary Approach

Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to go so far as to suggest a revolutionary approach to the revitalization of the FUMC in Lott. I would like to suggest that we plan to implement a program to develop a deep sense of Spirituality in this church, to instill the spiritual passion Rev. Kemp refers to in his book, "Ezekial's Bones". I think this could be an example for us to follow in our home churches, as there is not so much inertia to overcome here. We could develop a culture of Prayer, expectant prayer, witness, evangelical witness, Bible Study, and passionate worship that not only would attract new attendance and growth, but help each of us involved in the process to grow in our own faith, and in our ability to share it in our home churches.
What if the church became a beacon of spiritual wholeness, filled with the Holy Spirit, and steeped in the Word of God, that many would come to see what a deep devotion to God can mean in our lives? What indeed? I think this could be our purpose in being chosen for this important work.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What the Numbers Mean - Part 1

Last week I promised to follow up on how the demographic statistics actually portray the Lott community. From the numbers we know that its a small town in a rural county. We also learned that it is economically depressed but that is hardly surprising as Falls County per capita income is 22.6% below the poverty line. We also know that with lower-than-average taxes, housing, and living cost Lott is a very affordable place to live. But what else does the town have to offer?

For one thing, there is a proliferation of churches of almost every persuasion inside the city limits with a population of just less than 700, so in theory there is plenty of church capacity if a resident is inclined toward corporate worship on Sunday morning. By Rev. Joe Forts observation approximately 75 folks were in the Baptist Church across the street from Lott U.M.C. at 10:30 this is representative over 10% of the towns population. I walked a block over from Lott U.M.C. and discovered St. Marys Catholic Church with about the same attendance levels. So, between these 2 churches were garnered pretty much the average church attendance for any given community - 20% of the population. Does that mean that there are no leftovers available for Lott U.M.C?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Minutes of First Revitalization Meeting For Lott U.M.C.

The meeting began at 11:45 following a wonderful meal prepared by the ladies of Lott U.M.C. Rev. Joe Fort, D.S. presided at the meeting. In attendance:

Rev. Joe Fort, District Superintendent, West District
Rev. Larry Roberson, Pastor, Lott U.M.C.
Rev. Calvin Beckendorf (ret.), Brenham U.MC.
Rev. Calvin Woods (ret.), Wheelock U.M.C.
Judy Draper, Deacon, Christ U.M.C.
Gary Draper, Christ U.M.C.
Liz Williams, Marlin U.M.C.
Ann Holland Marlin U.M.C.
Olga Schlemmer, Lott U.M.C.
Betty Willi, Lott U.M.C.
James Bell, Lott U.M.C.
Irene Duncan, Lott U.M.C.
James Bryan, Lorena Baptist Church
Ron Perry, CLM candidate, Somerville U.M.C.
Eric Dehmer, CLM candidate, Chappell Hill U.M.C.

Rev. Larry Roberson extended greetings and offered the opening prayer at the request of Rev. Fort who then began the meeting with opening remarks. After introductions were made around the room Rev. Fort shared his vision of setting up a steering team for developing outreach efforts and revitalizing the Lott church. Key points made in the presentation included utilizing the steering team to:

- Develop an action plan for "building up the Body" of Lott U.M.C.
- Develop a strategy for evangelizing to area families with children
- Develop a renovation strategy for the church building using district resources
- Guide the efforts of a separate Support Team which will staff physical
projects, outreach efforts, and short-term ministries at Lott Church

Rev. Fort asked for a team of 6-7 interested volunteers to serve in this endeavor consisting of representatives of the Lott and Marlin churches and the CLMs. In the event that an adequate number of volunteers of these three groups are not forthcoming within two weeks Rev. Fort advised that they would be "called" into service. He also charged the CLMs who were present to communicate the content of this meeting with their peers in order to provide them with the opportunity to volunteer in this effort. With that he opened the floor for discussion.

By consensus it was agreed during open discussion to begin a community canvassing campaign in August as well as weekly Sunday services. Many creative suggestions were offered which will be reviewed by the Steering Team in a future meeting. Judy Draper closed the meeting with prayer at 12:30.

Respectfully Submitted,
E. Dehmer

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lott U.M.C.

Lunch at Lott

Past and Present


Rev. Larry Roberson, Pastor Lott UMC
2009 and Rev. Calvin Beckendorf, Pastor Lott MC 1959

Past and Present Pastors with Rev. Joe Fort, District Superintendent, West District

Bible Study

Return To First Appointment

Rev. Calvin O. Beckendorf stands in front of the church which which he began serving on this particular Sunday 50 years ago as his very first appointment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Condensed Demographic Summary For Lott, TX

Here are the numbers from data collected in 2007:

Land area: 1.04 sq. miles, the zip code is 76656, and the area code is (254).
The population density is relatively low with only 645 people per sq. mile.

2007 population for Lott, Texas was 668. As noted elsewhere in the blog this number reflects a decline of 6.4% from the year 2000. Male residents represent 47% of the population compared with 53% females. The median age is 37 years, 12% higher than the state average.

The median household income in Lott was $31,910 which is 33% lower than the state average. The median value for a single-family dwelling was $54,728 – 55% below median figures for Texas. After a 10+ year period of no new recorded home construction 22 permits have been issued beginning in 2005 for building single-family dwellings costing an average of $55,000. The 2008 cost of living index in Lott is very low coming in at 71.1 in comparison with the national average of 100. When you combine this with the fact that median property taxes in Lott are a full 73% lower than the state average the community appears to be very affordable to live in.

The community's ethnic breakdown is:
68.8% White
21% Black
9.3% Hispanic
0.9% Other
*Only 23 residents were foreign born
which represents a mere 25% of the state average.

Educational attainment for residents 25 years and over:
68.0% High school or higher
10.7% Bachelor's degree or higher
2.7% Graduate or professional degree

At 10.9% Lott has a higher than average unemployment rate and those who are employed have a higher than average mean travel time of 28.1 minutes to work. Most common occupations for both men and women in Lott are predominately blue-collar.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rethinking The Church For the 21st Century

Yesterday, while dining with a couple of my favorite pastors one of them suggested a blogsite featuring the observations of consultant Dan R. Dick regarding what's ailing the U.M.C. as well as direction for the acheiving wholeness for the future. As result I checked it out and would like to recommend it to all of you as well. The site is called United Methodeviations and if you're interested you can click on the link below:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Little Bit About Lott

Lott, Texas was founded by developers in 1890 when the railroad came through the area. Named for the president of the railroad, Lot had three churches, two cotton gins, a gristmill, a weekly newspaper and 350 residents by 1892. Population swelled to 1200 by the turn of the century. The town was given an additional boost in the 1920s when the highway (U.S. 77) was built through town. Unfortunately, 10 years later the bank closed during the great depression, never to reopen and many families had to accept government relief. The towns population declined as many residents left to follow WPA projects in the 1930s.

During a brief flurry of agricultural activity around the time WWII stimulated a rise in the population to 1,021 but then it began to decline within a decade of the conflicts end. The town was dealt a blow that it would not recover from when the railroad discontinued service in 1967. The number of businesses have steadily declined and a population of 668 was reported in 2007. This figure is down 6.4% from the figure reported in 2000.

Coming soon:
- Condensed demographic summary for Lott, TX. (10 page report available on request)
- Church affiliation analysis for Lott, TX (Postal Code 76656)
- Church revitalization action plan proposal

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Shared View From The Pulpit 2:21 PM Reply

Hi, Eric,
Thanks for allowing me to look at your blog. I wanted to give you a little more history. I, too, believe the idea of closing the Lott church is tough to take. Yes, if the members are not financially supporting the church, it would be considered. But they are. They love their church. The thing that almost killed the church, at least their membership in the Methodist denomination, was being told that they would have two services a month, on Sunday afternoons, no less! Whatever we offer now is a gigantic improvement from that. I would not have resigned from the church if I had suspected that such an arrangement was even possible, and I have told the members this. I am committed to those people for as long as they will have me. They have been terrific role models for my children, and a loving influence for my wife and I, particularly as both of our mothers have died and the ladies are quite maternalistic to us! I look forward to your participation on June 14th, and I feel a kindred spirit with you already. I will not support the closing of that church unless it is obvious that it's time - that is, no one is coming anymore. As long as two gather in my name.... Take care!

Larry Roberman

PS The church was hosting a pancake breakfast almost quarterly until Irene fell ill. They would average 25-40 families showing up on a Saturday morning. I think that shows that there is an idea in the community that this church exists, and that there are people already a little invested in its sustained presence. Things are not as bleak as you might think, but it is a disadvantaged community.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Hope In Lott, Texas

Yesterdays meeting at the West District offices was a little tense as our District Superintendant described his vision for revitalizing Lott U.M.C. This was largely due to the huge challenges facing the proposed undertaking as it appears that it will be anything but an easy task. Given it's remote location in the far corner of the district presents major logistical problems for most CLMs to participate. Combined with the fact that most CLMs are serving more or less as associates for their pastors in their own church it makes it doubly difficult to find an available Sunday to contribute at Lott. So how plausible is this proposal?

Speaking only for myself, it's going to be really tough. I have the greatest distance to cover to get to Lott of all our CLMs and I'm already working with multiple congregations. Combined with the fact that I'm gone for 13 hours a day to a Southern county making a living doesn't help matters any, either. But you know what? None of these issues are any more than a hollow excuse if it's God's will that I contribute as a part of this effort. This is the main component, that I seek His direction for my involvement.

For me, this is personal. As a 25-year veteran community leader and activist in Houston engaged in ecumenical social-justice ministries, this is right up my alley. This opportunity ignites all those burning passions in my heart to mount a crusade for (re)building the Kingdom in Lott, Texas. You may also notice from other postings at this site that I harbor strong objections to closing churches. So, the dilemma for me is not whether or not I should be involved, but rather, allowing Him to impose limitations as to what degree.

As each of you examine your own hearts and hopefully take your petitions to the Lord on this matter, know that you are not alone. We are all in this together and as result this should be viewed as a team effort. Please know also that I intend to contribute all that can to this enterprise and invite each of you to call on me as a resource in your endeavors to that end. Additionally, I plan to be in church at Lott U.M.C. for services at 9:30 on the 14th.

- Peace, Blessings & Godspeed -