So far as Carroll's United Methodist ministers are concerned, the church's recent 16th World Methodist Conference was preaching to the choir.

During the July conference in Singapore ministers were exhorted to gather new members and to reach out to those in need in the community -- to avoid becoming a "maintenance" church, concerned only with the welfare of those within its walls.

But Methodist ministers here say they, their congregations and their churches already are reaching out to help others and to gather new members.

"We are always reaching beyond our own church," said the Rev. Henry Schwarzmann of Deer Park United Methodist Church. "That's what the United Methodist Church is all about."

He said Deer Park is required to give more than 20 percent of its income to the governing body of the United Methodist Church. That money goes to numerousprojects around the world, such as "providing a well in India or helping to build a church in Central America."

Like other denominations, Schwarzmann said, his church relies on the giving of members to help others in the community and around the world.

Annual Methodistconferences, attended by an equal representation of clergy and lay people, set projects and goals for the church and elect delegates to the general conference, such as the one in Singapore, which takes place every four years.

"At the general conference, we are representedby United Methodists from all over the world," said the Rev. Robert Zimmerli of Westminster United Methodist Church.

"During this conference the general missionary budget is passed and the Board of Global Ministries (mission arm of the United Methodist Church) sets the priorities as to where the money will go worldwide."

Typically, eachMethodist church is obligated to support the mission program throughapportionments.

"These apportionments that we pay into are for more global outreach," said the Rev. Clifford Webner, who pastors both Salem United Methodist Church in Winfield and Taylorsville United Methodist Church.

"It's a covenant made between the local church and the conference," he said. "One of the big ministries right now is thefunding of a United Methodist Church that is being built in Africa."

County ministers say the global outreach is important, but say they have long recognized the church's task to take care of needs on the home front.

"The most important thing is to find out the needs of the community and try to meet them," Webner said. "That will further growth and keep the church from becoming a maintenance church.

"It's when the church starts turning inward, just paying the bills andtaking care of those behind the doors that you begin to suffocate; your ministry begins to suffer," he said.

Methodist churches here have actively sought to help others and to attract new members.

Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church in Eldersburg, for example, takesin 50 to 100 members a year, said the Rev. Perry Miller.

He attributes that growth to a wide offering of programs.

"We have programs for all ages," he said. "The Early Years Learning Center provides preschool activities for approximately 16 children ages 3 to 4. We offer programs for teen-agers, parents of young children, people ages 50to 60 and the elderly."

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