By Kent E. Fillinger
Consistency and longevity are apt descriptors for 150-year-old Corinth Christian Church in Loganville, Georgia. Adam Turner, who is in his seventh year at Corinth, is still the new kid on the block (literally and figuratively).
Turner, 32, has been senior minister at Corinth since 2009, after serving as the church’s youth minister for four years. In most churches, a minister with seven years of tenure would be a veteran, but not at Corinth.
By comparison, Don Hardison served as Corinth’s senior minister for 42 years, until he transitioned to the part-time role of shepherding minister in 2009. Associate minister Lester Waters is in his 35th year on staff leading the children’s ministry. Given this reality, it would have been a real challenge for the congregation to have welcomed a new senior minister from outside the church, which is a reason Turner’s in-house promotion has been smooth and positive for everyone.
Turner said the elders and staff have been great throughout the transition, and that Hardison has been a huge supporter who has offered excellent counsel and advice.
Only 2 percent of the 232 senior ministers surveyed this year identified themselves as “very introverted,” and Turner was one of them. Being an introvert isn’t necessarily bad. It really is just an issue of how a person interacts with others. In general, extroverts are energized by being with people, while introverts are drained by it. This does not mean introverts do not enjoy spending time with people; it just means the experience can wear them down.
When asked about the personal impact of being introverted, Turner said he has found the warmth and hospitality of people in the South to be a natural elixir that has opened him up. He enjoys talking with people now more than ever, and is disappointed when he isn’t able to connect with all of the new people who are coming on Sundays. Turner says being around large crowds drains him, and that Mondays are his low-energy days. But he continues to force himself to be more engaged with people than he would otherwise, and the overall experience has been positive. Still, he closely guards his Sabbath day and “can feel it in his bones” if he misses it for some reason.
After declining in attendance for a few years, Corinth grew 17 percent last year, making it the fastest-growing medium church in our survey. The church averaged 433 in attendance in 2011, and the growth is continuing this year. Turner said last year the church stepped up its focus on visitors. Corinth hosted a quarterly new member’s lunch that improved its retention of newcomers. The church also hosted a few community outreach events, including a sports-themed VBS that was effective in reaching more children and families.
The addition of a part-time early childhood director also supplied a lift, as the church added a new nursery wing and has improved its ministry to children from birth to age 5. Corinth intends to continue building on its strengths, which include the children and students’ ministry. With three full-time and four part-time staff members, Turner and his team are forced to wear several different hats until they can afford to hire more people.
Turner is planning for more growth. Corinth is working on more outreach events because one of Turner’s goals is to see the church more involved in the heart of its community. The church is planning a great day of service event this year that will include a “home makeover” project; it is also working to develop a youth recreation league to capitalize on the community’s love for sports.
Kent E. Fillinger is president of 3:STRANDS Consulting, Indianapolis, Indiana, and associate director of projects and partnerships with CMF International.