St. Peter UMC Reaches New Heights

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After St. Andrew UMC and St. John UMC of Columbus, Georgia merged in 2004 to become St. Peter UMC, they realized they not only needed a new name and location, they also needed a new sanctuary to unify the church and accommodate an increase in membership. Unfortunately, the sanctuary was finished just as the economy tanked in 2008.

“Many of our members lost their jobs. We basically ended up with a huge debt, and we were struggling to pay it,” said the Rev. Larry Rollins, former pastor of St. Peter UMC. Whether it was adding staff, planning youth trips or replacing carpet, there was never enough money. This debt, which at times seemed insurmountable, became a stumbling block to ministry.

When it was time for St. Peter UMC to convert their construction loan to a conventional loan, the banks were in a hesitant lending mode, especially to churches. Larry was aware that the Georgia United Methodist Foundation Loan Fund was positioned to help churches find financing for projects.

“There was a sense that surely we can do better than what we were doing. That’s where the Foundation became a blessing to us. We were able to refinance our loan at a much better rate and reduce our costs by almost $24,000 per year,” Larry said. “Our church has strong committed Christians who have done marvelous work. One of the blessings of this refinance is that it takes the weight off so we can fly.”

And fly they did! When St. Peter UMC held its annual stewardship campaign this past fall, it had the best response ever in the church’s history. Larry provided other concrete examples of growth and change. “In 2010, we ended the year $30,000 behind budget and didn’t pay apportionments,” he said. “Last year, we ended $20,000 ahead of budget and paid a large chunk on apportionments. This year, we’re hoping we’ll be back to paying 100 percent on apportionments.”

For the first time in years, this vibrant, mission-minded community of faith is experiencing a financial freedom that allows them to reach new heights in ministry.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2012 edition of Faith & Money.