Bryan and Wendy Collier planted The Orchard, a United Methodist Congregation, with their friends in mind. In 1998 when they moved to Tupelo, Miss., statistics showed that 20,000 people in the Tupelo region didn’t have a relationship with Jesus or a connection to faith.
“We had lots of church-going friends, but we also had lots of disinterested friends in the area, and we wanted desperately to connect them to Jesus and a vibrant, disciple-making church,” Bryan said.
The Orchard began with 24 people who met in a furniture warehouse to discuss plans for a church plant. Their goal was to reach people that no one else was reaching. To do that, they resolved to preach the Gospel in non-traditional ways.
During the summer, the church hosts a summer reading program for children, kindergarten to third grade, who are behind in their reading level. In a camp-like atmosphere, volunteers help them improve their reading skills, as well as teach biblical values.
The Orchard doesn’t stop being part of the community when school starts. Every fall, the church throws a fall party for the entire Tupelo community, complete with music, games, food and candy.
However, they are committed to starting new ministries only where none exist. Instead, they fill existing ministries, such as the local food bank or the afternoon tutoring program, with volunteers.
“Our passion for church planting comes from our passion for lost people,” Bryan said.
In the six-month preparation period before the plant, the group of 24 expanded to 100. On launch day, that number more than doubled when 256 people attended the first service. Seventeen years later, The Orchard’s fruit has multiplied exponentially with seven sites in three communities and averages 2400 in weekly worship.