Senior Pastor Report

2023 Senior Pastor Report
Rev. John Oda, Senior Pastor
Greetings in the Name of Christ!  This report covers the period from January 1, 2023 to November 15, 2023.

Continuing to Navigate a Post-Pandemic Church World
Wesley UMC opened back up to in-person worship in March of 2022.  We are continuing to offer hybrid (online and in-person) worship services every Sunday. Our in-person attendance at our weekly worship service since re-opening has averaged 120 people and on average 250 people who watch our worship services every week online.  The Wesley Reopening Committee met in March 2023 and reassessed the Safety Protocols for the church and voted to discontinue the masking requirement during worship.

Continuing to Improve Wesley’s Online Presence  
Communication from Wesley to the community has pivoted to target new persons, in addition to our current Wesley members.  We are doing this because Wesley sits in the middle of Japantown, which has exploded with new high-rise developments, including a 518 unit apartment community one block away, which opened in 2023.  The communication focuses on being more invitational, as well as informational. In 2023, we completed a complete redesign of the website which started in 2022.  We paid special attention to our landing page.  Statistics show that new website visitors spend less than two seconds on a landing page, after which they decide to investigate further or leave the site.  To keep people engaged with our website, we are uploading more engaging videos for the website landing page.
In 2023, we created and launched a Wesley app.  This app has been extremely useful on many levels: giving, sign-ups, small group communication, worship bulletins, just to name a few.  We will continue to improve the app in 2024. We want to increase the number of people who have downloaded the app, which is currently at 180 downloads.

We will work to increase our Social Media presence on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Tik Tok. We are also working to increase our Search Engine Optimization by including key words in our social media content.  We are working to continue to craft engaging, high quality content every week, on average 3-4 times a week.  In 2023, we experimented with using digital ads on Facebook to promote Wesley’s Bless the Pets event.  We will continue to do this in 2024.

Lastly, in 2023, we held a a church-wide Town Hall Meeting focused on Rebranding.  This was led by two of the Cal Nevada Annual Conference Communications Staff.  Over 75 people attended this town hall meeting, which showed that people were interested in this topic. Our rebranded messaging will allow Wesley to clearly communicate our values, beliefs, and mission in a way that resonates with new people and hopefully will encourage them to step into the church and participate in one of our many wonderful ministries.  Additionally, in our society, there are many negative stereotypes and preconceived beliefs about organized religion.  According to a Pew Research survey, many younger people see organized religion as homophobic, hypocritical, and misogynistic.  Wesley’s rebranded messaging and online presence will reassure people that our church is open-minded, progressive, and accepting of diverse perspectives.  Studies show that people spend six months on average “checking out” a church online (online worship, website, app, and social media) before they ever step foot into a church. In February 2024, we will hold an All-Church Retreat to continue this conversation.  It will be led by the same Cal Nevada Annual Conference Communications Team again.

Wesley Staff Reorganizing
Three full-time staff transitioned out of Wesley UMC on June 30, 2022.  Since that time, we are now back up to three full-time staff.  In October 2023, our Director of Administration, Ms. Kelli Martines was increased to full-time, with oversight of Human Resources, accounts receivable, and our Children & Youth programs, God’s Garden (Sunday School), CAF (middle school), and MYF (high school).  She has additional responsibilities with special projects, such as grant writing, organizing events, supporting ministries, and being the liaison with various Japantown community groups like the Nikkei Matsuri Foundation.
In 2023, we created a new position called Coordinator of Technology and Social Media.  Ms. Hikaru Bakoshi transitioned from our Administrative Assistant into this position.  She was the main person to create Wesley’s new app.  She continues to also create new videos and maintains the website as well as oversees the Social Media campaigns.
We hope that in 2024, we will have a part-time Japanese Language Pastor.  A grant that we submitted in August 2022 looks promising. Currently one of the Administrative Assistants is working five hours per week providing administrative help to the Japanese Language Ministry.
In 2023, we recruited Rev. Bobbie Corson to be our Pastoral Associate for Visitation.  This is a volunteer position.  She also led a three-week course called “Holding Space for Grief”.  It was well-attended and she touched many people deeply.

Small Group Ministries
In 2023, we launched new small groups for Wesley based more on geography rather than interest.  Mark Teagle has done an excellent job creating these groups and overseeing all of them.

Compassion Ministries
Another area of responsibility for Mark Teagle is our Compassion Ministries.  Compassion Ministries continues to be a bright spot in the church.  There are several components to our Compassion Ministry: Unhoused Ministry, Food Distribution, and Grant Elementary School Tutoring and Support. Our Tuesday Food Distribution started a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara Valley, which has enabled us to increase not only the volume of food that we give away but the quality.

Empowering and strengthening the laity.  
Wesley is extremely blessed to have many strong leaders at Wesley UMC.  We must continue to expand, empower, and equip our lay leaders in the years ahead if we are to meet the challenges that face us in the church and the world in the future. 
In 2023, we held a Gift Discernment Class to help laity figure out their God-given gifts and missions in life.  We used the Enneagram as the focus of the class.  It was led by a retired United Methodist Minister.

Fellowship and Community Building
The fellowship within our church family has been a source of strength and support. Our gatherings, events, and fellowship activities have created bonds of friendship and mutual care. We have celebrated milestones, shared in times of joy, and comforted one another in times of sorrow. In 2023, we launched monthly Wesley Fellowship Lunches.  Our hope was that we could attract more young families who could bring their families to church and feed them at the same time.  These have been extremely popular.  Our attendance on these Sundays is always greater than on typical weeks.
Celebrating Financial Strength
In 2023, the church has been very financially strong.  We currently have a surplus of approximately $600,000 in undesignated funding.
In 2012, Wesley purchased property for about $3.6 million.  In early September 2022, Wesley sent a final check to the United Methodist Development Fund to pay off the loan.  As of the end of 2022, Wesley no has external debt.

As we look forward to the coming year, let us continue to seek God's guidance for our church. Let us remain steadfast in our commitment to worship, outreach, discipleship, fellowship, and stewardship. Together, we will discern new opportunities for ministry and growth, trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us into the future with faith and courage.

In conclusion, I want to express my gratitude for the privilege of serving as your Senior Pastor. It is a blessing to journey alongside this congregation, and I am excited about the possibilities that God has in store for our church. May we continue to walk in faith, hope, and love, trusting that God's grace will sustain us in all that lies ahead.