Pastor Carly Kunz of Lakeshore UMC in Manitowoc, WI has been actively working to build community in her congregation since it merged with Emanuel UMC, in Two Rivers, in 2016. Manitowoc and Two Rivers are small cities, but have a diverse population. Pastor Kunz said, “As we build community, we have the opportunity to share our faith in our actions, our attitudes, and eventually our words. Lakeshore wants to be present in our communities as a way to share our faith and invite others into the conversation. If we build relationships, we can more easily invite others to events at the church. Relationships lead to participation, and eventually belief.”

She has taken actions to reach out to the public, and bring in younger parishioners. A few examples include Vacation Bible School in a local park, rather than the church; a 3-on-3 basketball tournament sponsored by the church; inviting people to meet her for coffee once a week; and insisting on a church picnic held on the front lawn so passersby can see the food, fellowship, and giant inflatables for kids to play on. This summer the picnic included an auction to raise funds for missions, and Pastor Carly auctioned off a day on her Segway, and a day with her Mazda Miata. Pastor Carly also reaches people online. She posts her sermons on her Facebook, which are also shared on the church’s Facebook page. According to Rev. Kunz, “It’s a great way to reach people outside their community.”

Joni Shavlik, a member of the Lakeshore UMC, is excited about what Pastor Carly is doing to revitalize the church and how she is focused on growing the congregation with younger parishioners. Joni said, “We had an older congregation, and catering to them is important, but it doesn’t help us to grow, so she gets the old and the new to work together.” Joni also appreciates how Pastor Carly is open to new event ideas. When Joni was looking for a place to hold Christian Yoga classes, Pastor Carly allowed her to use the church. The event was opened up to parishioners, but most people doing yoga were from outside the church, and Joni enjoyed seeing new faces at the parish.