Image-1When Chandler United Methodist Church began IMPACT, a revitalization process for smaller churches, we were very excited about the process and ready for the challenge.  Chandler is a small town in southern Indiana with a population of around 3,000 people.  We were hoping to find a way to connect with the community and IMPACT equipped and enabled us to do just that!  Our church has a large back yard that was not being used for anything; it was just mowed.  The IMPACT team saw this as an opportunity to not only connect with people, we saw it as an opportunity to serve as well.

31100521_1817414268321144_2986926782087165169_nWe asked for volunteers to help prepare the ground for a “comity garden” and then publicized the availability.  The response was overwhelming!  We were able to fill the space quickly and along the way we have made new connections with some who now attend the church.  The garden this year has grown by three rows and we did not have to publicize it.

part0IMPACT was a very real help in this process.  Our participation helped us to think outside the church and develop a vision to connect with new people in order to be more effective at making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

Thank you IMPACT!

Christina G Poehlein, Pastor, Chandler UMC

 

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IMG_0819Although the church is small in numbers, Faith United Methodist Church in Kendallville, Indiana, is taking big strides in building relationships with its weekday preschool students.  Through its new simple but powerful “Faith Sprouts” outreach effort, a dozen of its preschool children called “sprouts” have been matched with Faith Church members, who are called “gardeners.”

A gardener promises to make a two-year commitment doing the following:

  • Pray regularly for their sprout (student) and family
  • Bi-weekly contact their sprout’s family (in-person, writing, phone or social media)
  • Extend an invitation to church events
  • Sit with family whenever they are in the church building for a preschool or church event
  • Send notes and cards at special times (birthdays, anniversaries, school breaks, etc.)
  • Offer prayer asking, “How can I pray for you?”
  • Share in worship (30-60 seconds) about their child when s/he is “preschooler of the week” (3-4 times a year)

The church, led by Rev. Steve Bahrt, extended an invitation to its primarily older constituents to attend a Faith Sprouts training.  More potential gardeners showed up than were needed!  So twelve of them were assigned to each of the twelve preschoolers who will be returning next fall and all happen to be unchurched.

The church and gardeners then invited all of the preschoolers and their families to attend the church’s Palm Sunday worship service.  The normal attendance of around 50 people in worship tripled that Sunday!  Gardeners sat with their assigned sprouts and their families.  Since then, at least one family has returned.  In fact, the mother served as a greeter last Sunday!

The church’s ultimate objective is to introduce each family to Jesus Christ and His incredible love.  Although Faith Sprouts is only eight weeks old, it’s already changing the lives not only of the sprouts but the gardeners too!  Praise God!

So, does your church have some older members who can love on children?  If so, Faith Sprouts approach may work in your church too.  Give it a grow.  Whoops! I mean go!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Fresh-Expressions-LogoDoes your church have four people who would be willing to intentionally engage together in their community for four hours a week and give $40 a month to cover their ministry costs?  If so, you’ve got the potential to start a Fresh Expressions ministry, according to Barry Sloan.  It’s that simple!  You don’t need a lot of training, a pastor leading it, programming or curriculum.  What you do need is a willingness to leave the comfort of your church to love on those out in your community.

Lagrange First United Methodist Church has done just that.  Two laywomen years ago started going to a rural mobile home community called Pioneer Estates and began sharing Christ’s love in tangible ways.  These women started by using clowning and magic tricks as a way to engage with the community’s children.  Eventually the church began serving the children weekly by providing a home-cooked meal, sharing Bible stories, singing and doing crafts.  The church’s United Methodist Women provide the milk and birthday cakes.

imagesA year ago the parents of the children asked if the church would help them put on an Easter egg hunt at Pioneer Estates, and they invited the church’s children to come out and join their kids.  Sure enough the church said, “yes,” and kids from the church joined in.  The result of all of this is a Fresh Expression of the church where both children and their parents are experiencing the love of Christ even though they live in a very transient, rough, rural community.

Unknown-2Earlier this month Barry Sloan, a Methodist pastor from Northern Ireland who is serving as a missionary to The United Methodist Church in Germany, shared with a hundred laity and clergy from the Indiana Conference his first-hand experience leading a Fresh Expressions ministry in former East Germany, where 90% are atheists.  Obviously his Fresh Expressions ministry looks different than Lagrange First’s.  Yet there are some commonalities…

Missional–Incarnational.  It’s important to live in your mission field, to be with those you’re in ministry with, to be their neighbor.

Contextual–Listen.  Barry and his team of a half-dozen folks spent their first 18 months simply listening to the needs of the people.  They spoke with community leaders, prayer walked, and looked for potential partners.  They realized they needed to adapt ministry to fit their mission field’s context.

Formational–Non Churchy.  (I made up that word not Barry!) Although making disciples is a priority, you don’t lead with traditional church programming–such as Bible studies, and worship.  You do discipling or theology, as Barry calls it, one-to-one, around tables, around a meal.  You lead with common interests, such as the arts, or community service efforts, such as clean-up projects.

Barry’s Fresh Expressions effort, called Inspire, offers meals and homework help for children, holds secular music concerts and stand-up comedy nights, offers German classes for Moslem refugees, has pitch-in dinners, and even whisky tasting events.  As a result, they’re reaching persons who would never enter a church.

Ecclesial–Unique.  The church emerges from the community that develops.  It’s all about building relationships and creating Christian community without calling it church.  It is highly likely that it will look quite different than what we think of as church, and yet the Gospel and God’s love is at the heart of it.

IMG_0786Some Hoosiers who attended Barry’s presentation felt as though he was saying that traditional church is wrong.  Not at all!  It’s a “both-and.”  We need our churches that do Bible studies and offer worship and to invite the unchurched to join us, but we also need to take the church to those outside our walls shedding our church structures and language and even programs if we’re to reach the hard core who have no interest in attending our churches and likely never will.

The reality is that that group is the growing slice of the population pie, even in Indiana.  We’ve got to figure out how to reach them and Fresh Expressions offers us a model to do just that.  It’s not the only model but it has proven effective in England where the model originated.  Even though the Methodist Church of England has the same number of members as the Indiana Conference, about 189,000, and both are declining, one in five Methodist churches in England have a Fresh Expressions and collectively they’re reaching 500,000 people each week!  Just think what would happen if we were to do that too!

So, does your church have four people willing to devote four hours a week and give $40 a month in order to share Christ’s love through a Fresh Expression of the church out in the community?  If so, encourage them, pray for them, and consider joining them!  Church Development is offering grants for up to $1,000 to help support such efforts.  Just contact those of us on the Church Development team or visit Indiana Conference’s website.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Developmentheadshots+2-0055

 

The power of multiplication!

Posted: March 6, 2018 by efenster in Uncategorized

CCI LogoWe’ve been tracking three dozen new faith community projects happening around Indiana since Church Development set a goal of launching 30 new faith communities by 2020.  We’ve exceeded our goal two years early!  Yet, as exciting as this is, it was put in perspective last week when I heard a man speak who has helped start 95,000 churches.  Yes, that is 95 followed by three zeros.  These churches have had 140,000 baptisms in the past 18 months alone!

So where is this happening and who is this man?  It’s happening in India through an organization called the India Gospel League.  The man I heard speak at the annual Exponential Conference last week is Samuel Stephens who took over the leadership of IGL from his father.  At that time they had established 60 churches.  How do you go from 60 to 95,000 churches in a matter of twenty or so years?  Multiplication.  Multiplication that begins with each new believer.  You see before a believer is even baptized they must be discipling someone else, and that fledgling disciple is a witness at the believer’s baptism.  Multiplication is built in to the very essence of each church at the most basic level.

headshots+2-0055So what’s your church’s expectations?  If you’re like me, the whole idea seems radical, yet isn’t that what we see going on in the Book of Acts?  Multiplication was also at the heart of the Methodist movement in America where the number of Methodists grew from thousands to reaching 38% of the nation’s population by the mid 19th century.  It’s not pie-in-the-sky thinking to think it could happen again today.  It’s happening in India.  It could happen in Indiana.  It just requires us to return to multiplication thinking.  So let’s go!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Fresh-Expressions-LogoNearly four million people in the State of Indiana have no affiliation with any organized religion according to MissionInsite.org.  Think about it.  That’s more than every other household!  They are our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students and teammates, the people in the checkout lanes and doctors’ offices.  When Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest (John 4:35),” he was talking about Indiana in 2018!  So how do we reach them?  It will likely require “fresh expressions” of the church.

41z0gTAFNjL._AC_US436_QL65_A model of missional outreach called Fresh Expressions was developed in the mid 1990’s by the Church of England and the Methodist Church of England.  And this model has developed into a movement that now is in America.  In the book Fresh Expressions, United Methodist authors, Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., and Audrey Warren, define the Fresh Expressions movement as “a bold attempt to plant the gospel organically in the networks inhabited by the unchurched and dechurched, the ‘nones,’ and the ‘dones,’ and the ‘spiritual but not religious.'”

The model is based on Christians using their natural circles of influence, which the book refers to as “networks,” and places where people naturally hang out, called “third places,” and to intentionally develop relationships using these that ultimately lead to disciple making opportunities through community.

The Indiana Conference’s Church Development team recently co-sponsored a Fresh Expressions workshop with the North District.  At that event, which attracted over 50 people, participants heard two examples of Fresh Expressions-like outreach efforts.  One was a layman who developed a running group that eventually helped start Wakarusa UMC’s contemporary service.  The other was of how two laywomen used their love of clowning and magic to connect with children.  That ministry has blossomed into a weekly, year round ministry of Lagrange UMC that offers children and their parents the love of Christ in a rural mobile home community.

Unknown-2On Sunday, March 11, from 4pm-7pm (Eastern Time), at Mt. Comfort UMC (just east of Indianapolis), Church Development will be offering a special Fresh Expressions workshop featuring Rev. Barry Sloan.  Barry is a Methodist pastor from Northern Ireland who is serving as Director of Evangelism for the German United Methodist Church.  He and his wife, Gillian, have helped launch a fresh expression of the church called “Inspire” in Chemnitz, Germany.  The evening will include a dinner and workshop on how you can start a Fresh Expressions ministry in your church’s community.  To register go to Fresh Expressions:  A Model for Missional Outreach.  March 4th is the registration deadline.

Finally, Church Development is offering a new grant to Indiana UMCs for up to $1,000 to help them start a Fresh Expressions effort.  These grants are limited in number and only those churches who have had persons attend a Fresh Expressions workshop are eligible to apply.  For more information about the workshops or grants, just contact one of the Church Development’s multiplication team–Emily Reece, Sergio Reyes, or myself.

It is highly unlikely that we will reach the growing slice of the population pie that is not interested in the institutional church by simply doing what we’ve done in the past.  It will  most likely require us to launch Fresh Expressions of the church.  Jesus said that we need to put new wine in new wineskins.  Fresh Expressions may be the new wineskins we need to use in order to accomplish our mission in today’s world.  So let’s go for it!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

headshots+2-0052So many mis-conceptions surround the validity and value of the smaller membership churches.  Many feel that because they are small, there must be some problem or problems  that exists.  When this mentality becomes the plum line, finger pointing always seems to follow.

      “If only we had the right pastor”

      “If the big church down the street would quit attracting our members”

      “If only we had more money”

Well, you get the point!   The truth is the value and validity of any church regardless of it’s size is not based on any of the above.   Validity and value are based on the health of a congregation.

Just like our bodies, once in a while it is wise for congregations to get a check up.   I hear your next question clearly, “How in the world does a congregation get a check up”?   “How can we take the temperature of a congregation”?

Let me try to answer those questions briefly but clearly.  Congregational health is based on alignment.  Alignment of its vision with its over-arching mission.  We as United Methodists share a clearly stated and focused mission: THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WILL MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD.

This mission statement becomes the basis and focal point of our existence as a congregation, and our task is for all that we do to be aligned with our mission.

My mentor and interim Director of Church Development for the Indiana Conference, Doug Anderson states it this way, ” Communication plus collaboration brings alignment.”

Thus, because healthiness comes from alignment, communication and collaboration must become a part of our daily regimen.  When communication breaks down collaboration seldom happens.  The church looses sight of its vision because it isn’t being communicated clearly.  Collaboration between ministry areas and the congregation begins to suffer and eventually grinds to a standstill.  Ultimately the mission not only becomes out of reach but usually is forgotten or ignored.

Your Church Development team at the Indiana Conference wants to help.  We can come alongside a church with tools and procedures to help it move toward and ultimately achieve better health.

No matter what size congregation you call home, it is valuable and holds validity.  Please consider giving us the opportunity to serve with you as we together “MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD.”

Because he lives…

— Randy L Anderson, Associate Director of Church Development

UnknownJohn Enright, one of my heroes, died in a tragic car accident December 26th.  He and his wife, Kendra, who was injured, have been missionaries in Africa pretty much all their lives.  I think John and I connected with each other in part because both of our parents had been missionaries in the former Belgian Congo when we were children (mine briefly).

Our lives didn’t intersect a lot, but I think of three specific times…

The first was May 20, 1986.  I remember that date because it happened be my birthday.  I was at John and Kendra’s home in Luana, Congo (then called Zaire), with my pastor, Rev. Bob Glass and a small team of people from Simpson United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.  Simpson had a special connection to John because it provided him with a home while he attended high school, the same high school my three sons attended.  The church had a short wave radio club and communicated regularly with John and his parents, Ken and Lorraine Enright.

John introduced me to church planting during that 1986 visit.  He was so passionate about church planting.  He had helped his Bishop and the North Katanga Conference plant dozens and dozens of churches.  I remember visiting a worship service at one of those churches.  It was so full that many people had to stand outside.  It was on John’s watch that The United Methodist Church in Congo experienced its explosive growth.

On that trip John also shared how we must not only share Christ, but also help people earn a decent living.  So many natives were experiencing subsistence living.  He proudly showed us his banana plantation and palm tree grove in Luana.  It was a grand experiment to discover whether these could potentially provide Congolese with a decent income.

The next time our paths crossed was in the year 2000 when he and his family came to the states.  I was visiting Hanfield UMC, which is pastored by Rev. Tim Helm.  I kept hearing about Hanfield, located in an old rural church building, because of its amazing growth.  So on May 7, 2000, I went to see for myself what was going on.  That Sunday the church was so full I had to sit outside the sanctuary door.  Guess who happened to be preaching–John Enright.  Hanfield has been a long-time supporter of the Enrights and he and his family were visiting.  One of the things John shared that day was that our TV sets here in the U.S. are pumping sewage into our homes, polluting our minds.  The content is unwholesome and unhealthy, that God calls us not to expose ourselves to such filth.  Not a bad word for us today!

Most recently, November 20, 2016, I had returned to Hanfield, except this time it was to visit the church’s inner-city campus on the north side of Marion.  Who should happen to be preaching–John Enright!  So I got to eat lunch with him afterwards to learn the latest news.  At that time John and his family had resettled in neighboring Zambia.  A lot of what he had been doing in Congo he started again in Zambia–a medical flight ministry, a training school for pastors, and banana plantations.  He also had started a furniture making business, staffed by natives, aqua fisheries, and more.

But when I met him that November morning, he shared how he had started the biggest honey production business in the world!  His business sold hives to natives who in turn had his business buy, process, and sell their honey.  The natives saw their monthly incomes jumped from $5.00 to $50, and his business earned enough profit to generate nearly $1 million to support mission work.  It was a win-win for everyone!  And as he said, “The bees always showed up to work.”

As you can see, John was not only a disciple maker but also a world changer!  Thousands have come into relationship with Christ through his life’s ministry, and entire communities have been transformed through not only their knowledge of Jesus and his love, but through economic prosperity.  John Enright will be truly missed, but the fruit of his work will continue.  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Assoc. Director of Church Development