Ads Push to Change Immigrants' Negative View of United Methodism

United Methodists have often sought seekers through advertising mediums, and major groups they are targeting this year are the immigrant populations, including Koreans.

Korean-language ads launched by the United Methodist Church's Igniting Ministry have run since 2003. This year, however, Korean American congregations are stepping up to reach almost 1 million people in 2007.

This year's ad campaign involves 97 Korean American churches and matching grants of more than $94,000.

"It is presenting a new image of the denomination and local churches in my area," said the Rev. Paul H. Chang, executive director of the United Methodist Council on Korean American Ministries, according to the United Methodist News Service. "The Igniting Ministry campaign is helping local churches connect to each other and to invite more people."

Local ads featuring photos of Korean Americans and such messages as "You Against the World” and "United As One" are expected to run throughout Hawaii; Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; New York and New Jersey. Each ad ends with the United Methodist saying: "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, The People of The United Methodist Church."

The push to reach more immigrant populations comes as the mainline denomination is viewed negatively for declining membership.

"The United Methodist Church did not have a positive image in the immigrant community because it was viewed as a declining mainline denomination," said the Rev. Harkbum Chang, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in New York, according to the denomination's news service.

For the last 10 years, UMC members churchwide have seen a drop by 5.48 percent with membership declining each year since 1968 when the denomination was formed. Today, the denomination reports an 8.75 million membership.

UMC churches anticipate the ads would help draw in more people and change the way immigrant groups see United Methodism.

The evangelism effort comes amid a $1.7 million national television campaign that was launched last year. That was only one of several costly ad campaigns - which include radio, billboard and print - that the denomination has run to bring more people into the church.

Just last month, United Methodists opened more doors to its churches with the launch of a revolutionary new website, UMC.org. Meeting the demands of a postmodern culture, UMC.org was developed to connect congregants to the church and build a relational community. It was also a thrust to draw more youth, typically labeled as a tech-savvy generation.

Three weeks after its official launch, the website gained more than 1,000 users who signed up to use the site's various features, including a social network.