Churches have traditionally tried to focus primarily on getting members and worshipers into the door.
But as attendance at major denomination churches dwindles nationwide, many places of worship are finding that meeting people outside the walls is an increasingly important area, especially among young adults. is starting.
This also applies to the Bearden United Methodist. While the total number of Sunday services today is still healthy, the parking lot is also starting two of his ministries related to food and solving hunger needs. The church and Reverend Brad Hyde also plan to start a monthly dialogue with the community at the brewery on Sutherland Avenue.
“It’s developing relationships,” Hyde said of the additional effort. “It’s changing the community’s perception of who we are.”
The church’s work came to greater prominence last month through a National Public Radio report by John Barnett, which focused on Knoxville’s church in its out-of-the-box ministry. In addition to an interview with Hyde about the Church’s monthly produce ministry, the national broadcast also highlighted Bishop’s Bishop’s Church and Battlefield Farms and Gardens.
Hyde jokingly admitted that he was a little nervous at first when the professional crew representing NPR showed up. “I’ve heard about it from many friends and acquaintances after the show aired,” he said.
Just arrived as a pastor last summer after serving at Powell United Methodist, some of the outreach ideas and mission thinking originated under former pastors Shelly Boles and Mike Sruder. said.
But with the pandemic easing and many activities resuming, the church is ready to start anew, he said. There, some vendors will allow unsold produce to be taken back to the church parking lot for distribution.
“Communities know they have free access to fresh, locally grown produce,” he said.
The church also has a “blessing box” by the parking lot where canned, non-perishable, and sometimes fresh items are donated and brought in by local residents. This is a project he hopes the larger community will be able to participate in.
“We are partnering with local restaurants and businesses that are looking to adopt blessing boxes,” he said, adding that FirstBank and others have already started helping.
Hyde is looking to help the church provide not just good food, but good conversation. said it plans to launch monthly regional dialogues on social issues that have been identified.
“It will be an open dialogue with public debate, so we don’t have to purr at each other like much of the country,” he said.
The church is also trying to engage in other non-traditional activities. Like the men’s ministry reopening at Top Golf, attendees felt more comfortable inviting friends over Sunday’s mass, he said.
“The days of people walking to and from church just because we’re sitting here are long gone,” he said, noting that the Bearden UMC will bypass the Kingston Pike to pass rush hour traffic. He added that this gave him even more visibility.
This is a trying time for the entire Methodist Church of America, with several churches across the country breaking out amid debates over allowing LGBTQ clergy and enforcing same-sex marriage. I believe that I will continue to be part of UMC and continue my ministry.
The Bearden United Methodist was formed in 1950 and began meeting on the first floor until the Barbour and McMurry-designed sanctuary was completed in 1955, according to the church plaque.
By the time Hyde was born in the early 1970s, he learned that UT football coach Bill Battle was in attendance, occasionally inviting team members to worship.
After Hyde’s father, Don, served in the military and later took a job at a community college in Chattanooga, Brad attended Baylor School before graduating in 1991. .
After attending Emory and Henry College and Princeton Theological Seminary, he began his career as a pastor at the United Methodist Church.
He said that last year when he and his wife Nicole drove to see the Bearden Church building, he experienced a warm feeling after learning that he would be appointed to serve there.
“We were told that this strangely felt like home,” he recalls.
He also hopes others will be similarly warmed by the ministries highlighted in the NPR.
“I still hope this spotlight sheds a different kind of light on what local churches can do,” he said.