imageHave you heard of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica?  It was recently in the news, reported on by USA Today as well as many other media outlets.  The Thwaites Glacier—has lost an estimated 14 billion tons of ice the past three years, leaving a cavity nearly the size of Manhattan Island.  Scientists knew it was melting but they under estimated the enormity of the change.

Recently I was speaking with Rev. Ross Stackhouse, who is starting a new United Methodist faith community south of Indianapolis.  He expressed similar shock and alarm at the growing secularization of residents in his target area.  His efforts are focused on reaching the “nones” and the “dones,” those uninterested in church.  Since arriving to his mission field this past summer, he has connected with hundreds of people outside the church.  Though appreciative of his interest in them, few have shown any interest in attending his outreach events.

Just as the scientists underestimated the enormity of the loss of ice in the Thwaites Glacier, those of us in the church are underestimating the degree to which society is disengaging with organized religion.  On the surface, yes, we’re aware that the trends are in a negative direction, but we are not seeing the whole picture.  It’s much more widespread and accelerating at a faster rate than it appears.

So what do we do with this sobering news?  How about we take another look at the model Jesus gave us in Luke 10, when he sent out the 70.  This model was reclaimed by the Methodist Church in England fifteen years ago.  It’s called Fresh Expressions.  Now 20% of their churches have Fresh Expressions efforts.  Collectively they’re reaching 500,000 people each week and 75% of those reached were the “nones” and “dones”!

Just as Jesus’ model in Luke 10 didn’t require lots of money and resources neither do most Fresh Expressions efforts.  And just as the Luke 10 model simply requires two people to go out in pairs, Fresh Expressions doesn’t require more than a couple people who feel called and are willing to go out.  And finally Fresh Expressions are fun!  Jesus loved to attend parties and dinners as he related to people, and many Fresh Expressions efforts also are based on parties and dinners and living life along side those God places in your path.  They are very organic and relational.

41z0gTAFNjL._AC_US436_QL65_So let’s join Ross and begin to figure out how to reach the growing slice of the population pie that’s written off the church.  Fresh Expressions may be one model that we need to explore.  Below are ways you can do just that.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Book:   Bishop Kenneth Carter and Audrey Warren’s book entitled, Fresh Expressions:  A New Kind of Methodist Church for People Not in the Church.  It’s designed as a Bible study so form a group and read through it together.

Training Opportunities offered by the Indiana Conference this spring…

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day,” March 16, 2019, at Columbia City UMC (near Fort Wayne).  For more information and registration click here.

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day,” May 18, 2019, at St. Paul UMC in Bloomington, IN.  For more information and registration click here.

Dinner Church (a popular form of Fresh Expressions), June 1, 2019, at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis.  More information and registration will be forthcoming.

Fresh Expressions Grants offered by Church Development.  Click here for details.



isThe Indiana Conference has a goal that by 2020 100% of our churches and pastors will be engaged in life-giving changes for Jesus Christ in their mission fields.  This is referred to as the Conference’s “wildly important goal” or WIG.

Of course The United Methodist Church’s mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  Our WIG would have us do just that, focusing our efforts, however, especially on those outside our church walls.  Did you know that, according to MissionInsite, six out of every ten Hoosiers are unchurched?  That’s nearly 4 million people!  And as you’re probably aware, a growing percentage of these people have no interest in attending church.  In order to reach them, we’ll have to take the church to them!

Fresh-Expressions-LogoSo how do we do that?  The Methodist and Anglican churches in England give us a model called “Fresh Expressions,” which has been found to be highly effective in reaching and discipling such people.  In fact, the Methodist Church in England is reaching 500,000 persons every week through Fresh Expressions of the church, and 75% of those reached are non-church going folk!  If Fresh Expressions has proven so effective in such a secular culture, just think of the potential here in Indiana.

So the Conference’s Church Development Team has entered to a partnership with Fresh Expressions U.S. and they will be working with our districts in launching Fresh Expressions training opportunities to help churches figure out how they might use this missional outreach model as they pursue the WIG. Here are upcoming training dates. Put them on your calendar and bring a team from your church with you!

Together with God, we’re going to do something incredible in Indiana. Don’t miss out.  It’s going to be awesome!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Assoc. Director of Church Development

FX Training Events in 2019

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day”–March 16, 2019, Columbia City UMC, Northeast District  (See below for registration and details.)

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day”–May 18, 2019, St. Paul UMC, Bloomington, Southeast District

Dinner Church(A popular model of Fresh Expressions)–June 1, 2019, Lakeview Church, Indianapolis

Details on the March 16th Fresh Expressions “Vision Day”

Date:  March 16, 2019

Time:  9:30am-3:30pm (Eastern Time)

Location:  Columbia City UMC, 605 Forest Parkway, Columbia City, IN  46725-1255 (Near Fort Wayne)

Description:  Fresh Expressions is a model of outreach especially for churches that are seeking to be more missional.  It is one of the most effective ways for a church to reach and disciple persons who have no interest in attending a church.  It is a model that can be initiated by as few as a single person and it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money.  It is a model that all sizes of churches can do, and in all ministry contexts.  All it requires is a bit of understanding and a heart for those outside the church that Jesus referred to as the lost.

At the Vision Day participants will discover…

  • How fresh expressions of church are renewing the church around the world
  • What it means for your church to be Mission-Shaped
  • How to intentionally engage with the community beyond your church walls
  • Tools for starting fresh expressions of church in your area

To Register:  Click Here

Sponsor:  the Northeast District and Church Development of the Indiana Conference UMC.   Workshop Leadership:  Provided by Fresh Expressions U.S.

Cost:  (includes lunch) Prior to March 11th $25 for Indiana United Methodist laity & clergy, $40 general public.  After March 10th $30 for Indiana United Methodist laity & clergy, $45 general public.



7ac08c17c433587de029f51f7ec9f56cThe following is an interview with Rev. Jack Hartman and the Korean Disciples UM Church in West Lafayette, Indiana…

  1. Tell us how and when you began as a UM congregation

Korean Disciples Church (KDC) began in July, 2013, as a non-denominational church to serve Koreans residing in the West Lafayette/Lafayette area, particularly Korean students attending Purdue University. The first service was held with 16 attendees, including the founding pastor Rev. Jong Hyun Jung, who was a graduate student at Purdue University at that time. Shortly later, KDC moved in the First UMC at West Lafayette, and First UMC generously offered KDC to share its facility. Due to the graduation of Rev. Jung, KDC initiated a nation-wide search and found a new pastor Rev. Kook Jin Yun. As Rev. Yun was a UMC pastor, KDC became affiliated with UMC as a plant church on his joining of KDC in July, 2016. Upon the unexpected dissociation of Rev. Yun from KDC in March, 2017, Rev. Steve Clouse, Director of Church Development at the time, started to provide the pastoral service to KDC. For the following seven months, Rev. Clouse not only led Sunday services but also reformed the decision-making process of KDC. Thanks to his dedication and exceptional efforts, KDC revived and re-strengthen trust among church members and between KDC and UMC. In June, 2017, KDC reaffirmed its affiliation with UMC through an overwhelming ‘yes’ votes in a congregational meeting.

  1. What is your vision?

KDC has five vision items. First, KDC spreads the Gospel to the world by worshiping together. Second, KDC makes disciples of Jesus by bolstering the spiritual growth of the members. Third, KDC provides a loving community by strengthening the fellowship between the members. Fourth, KDC nurtures young generations by awakening them spiritually. Fifth, KDC makes the world better by serving and helping the community outside the church.

  1. Describe your discipleship process.

KDC emphasizes small group activities in various forms. KDC has been building and supporting a vibrant college group named ELIM, which has grown to a significant body of more than 30 members in the past several years. The group convenes every Friday for worship services and conducts small group Bible studies. ELIM strives to create an atmosphere where people can experience the presence of God.

The Sunday school is one of the most important components of KDC’s discipleship process. Approximately, 20 children and youth attend the Sunday school weekly, and 6 to 7 volunteers devote themselves to assist the students with their spiritual growth. As many of the church members are young parents, the congregation always shows strong support to our Sunday school. Moreover, the Sunday school at First UMC provides KDC with generous support by sharing their facility and teaching resources.

KDC has also formed five small groups for families. Approximately, 25 adults regularly attend the bi-weekly small group meetings, where they reflect on Bible verses together and share their experiences and learning as Christians in everyday life. KDC also offers two Bible study sessions for adults. The Bible study groups meet weekly and study Bible with the guidance of Rev. Lee or his wife, Eunsun.

  1. Share about Pastor Lee.

Rev. Lee has an extensive array of experiences in young adult ministries. Rev. Lee obtained his B.Th. and M.Th. degrees from the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, Korea. After having served as a pastor at Broom-Tree Korean Methodist Church, a plant church in Seoul for three years, he was ordained as a full membership pastor in 2012 by the bishop of the Seoul Conference in the Korean Methodist Church. After his ordination, he moved to California and obtained his M.Div. degree in 2016. While pursuing his D.Min. degree, Rev. Lee accepted the leading pastor position at KDC. Before his move to Indiana, Rev. Lee had served as an associate pastor at several churches in the Bay area, including Bethel Korean UMC in San Jose, CA, with an emphasis on young adult ministry. His rich experiences in young adult ministry and his interest in campus ministry have acted as a driving force that leads KDC to move forward.

  1. What does KDC mean to its participants?

KDC is indeed a group of people who love God with reverence and awe. We had our challenging time, but by overcoming the challenges, we have learned who is truly the leader of this church and what the church members as the body parts of the Christ should do. Our Lord unified us, guided us, and taught us through the challenging time. I am so excited and also delighted by expecting what amazing things God will do with KDC on Purdue campus. – Minhye Hwang

I’m exceptionally fortunate to be a member of Korean Disciple Church and serve other followers of Jesus at church. As the name of the church explicitly states, we desire to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to spread the gospel of Jesus and God’s love to anyone. This church has offered me with a variety of opportunities to build a stronger spiritual life. I learned to spend time with God every day, early in the morning. Developing the habit of praying to God daily with other followers contributed to my spiritual growth and made me feel that God is with me all the time. If you are seeking fellowship with other followers of Jesus in such a home-like, supportive environment, this church would be the ideal place for you! – Taejung Ma

  1. What ministries are you involved in?

About 15 church members of KDC have been visiting dementia patients at Rosewalk Nursing Home in Lafayette every month for the past four years. They sing gospels along with the patients, have a conversation with them, and also share the Good News.

KDC is very proactive in supporting oversee missionaries. Since its inception, KDC has been supporting five missionaries in Africa and South America. Moreover, KDC has been supporting ten underprivileged children in developing countries through Compassion.

KDC recently started a new outreach ministry to support Korean students on Purdue campus. This October KDC women’s bible study group made 200 lunches and distribute them to Korean students and non-believers in town. KDC plans to continue this effort especially at the final weeks at Purdue University.

  1. What’s attendance like?

Because a big portion of our members are college students, the attendance fluctuates according to Purdue’s academic calendar. While the University is in session during a semester, the average attendance of KDC is 90, of which about 30 are Purdue students, and 20 are Sunday School children.

  1. What else would like to share?

Volunteerism is one of the key words at KDC. The majority of church members are willing to serve the congregation according to their ability and capacity. For example, we have meal together every week after our Sunday service. Members voluntarily bring whatever they can prepare or afford and share the meal with everyone. The meal is always full of joy and love whether the meal is sufficient or not. This spirit works in every part of the church activities in KDC and contributes to unifying the church.




Don’t underestimate simple acts of love

Posted: December 21, 2018 by efenster in Stories
Tags: , ,

headshots+2-0055I just got a call from a stranger.  “My grandmother, Miriam, died and she asked you to participate in her funeral.”  My wife and I had just received a Christmas card from Miriam yesterday, the day she died at the age of 103!  We had just told each other that we should visit her over Christmas week.

Miriam had been a part of Simpson UM Church, where Marlene and I had worked until 1995 when I went to work for the Conference.  I can count on one hand the number of times I saw Miriam since then, but every Christmas we exchanged notes.  Why was my name on the first page of her funeral planning notes?  I guess I didn’t realize what I meant to her.

You, I’m sure, have had similar experiences, especially if you’ve lived sixty or more years like me.  People touched by your love along the way.  It might seem fleeting or inconsequential to us, yet it stayed with that person over the arc of their lives.  What a wonder…

IMG_0649Similarly, do you think the shepherds, who were among Jesus’ first visitors on that first Christmas, were aware that their one-time visit would still be talked about 2000 years later?  What a wonder…

May we keep shining the light of Christ in 2019!  And may we not underestimate the power of even the smallest act of love.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

2017-0031Thanksgiving hasn’t yet arrived but it’s time to begin thinking about how your church will welcome its guests this Christmas season…

In most churches, Christmas Eve is the largest attended worship service. It has more unchurched or dechurched persons who attend that service than any other service of the year including Easter. Christmas Eve provides us with a huge opportunity to connect with these persons.

Think of yourself as a person who has been away from the church or has not been a part of a church for whatever reason. However, as Christmas Eve approaches, you feel a nudge to attend one of the Christmas Eve worship services somewhere. What are your concerns? Hesitancies? Expectations?

It is not easy for those outside the church to decide to attend a Christmas Eve service. They are concerned because they are not sure what to expect. What will the worship service be like? Will they even like it? They may be hesitant and wonder if they will feel welcomed and accepted. What will it be like to walk into a church where you may not be known by anyone? They do come with expectations. Will something happen in that service that will lift their spirits? Will something happen that will give them a nudge in a new direction?

Will your church be ready for these guests when they come Christmas Eve? Below is a checklist for you to review with your hospitality team to make sure you are ready for guests taking a risk to come to your Christmas Eve Service:

  • Will there be people in the parking lot and/or the door to warmly greet the guests? The temptation for greeters is to engage with the people they know the best and say “Hello” to the ones they do not know. Encourage your greeters to reverse that trend. Ask them to engage the people they do not know and say “hello” to others knowing they can engage the people they know later.
  • When they enter the church, will anyone beyond the greeters greet them? This is a good time to have what are often called “Connectors.” These are people who have some hospitality gifts whose task is to watch for people they do not know and engage them in conversation that begins, “Hello, my name is ___________. Have we met before? Find out something about these guests without making them feel uncomfortable. If they have children, take the family to the nursery and introduce them to the nursery worker(s). Show them the way to the sanctuary and introduce them to one of the ushers.
  • Is the responsibility of the ushers just to pass out the programs and take the offering? If so, remind them of the importance of their hospitality. They need to welcome the guests with a smile, a handshake, and welcoming words.
  • Is there an attractive “gift bag” that can be handed to them that has basic information about the church and its ministries? In the gift bag should be some information about the worship services in the new year that would entice the guest to return.
  • Has the congregation been taught to engage with people they do not know who sit within a few rows of them? It really makes a positive impression when a guest has someone setting near them who introduces themselves and welcomes them.
  • Will there be an opportunity for the guests as well as all those attending to record their attendance and provide some basic information? If we do not get some basic information, we cannot follow up after the service to invite them to return.
  • What follow-up will happen with those for whom we have received some contact information? A letter from the pastor acknowledging their attendance is always appreciated. Add them to your communication list so they can receive further information about the church and its ministries. Keep track to see if they return in the next six months.
  • Begin to pray now for those attending to have open hearts and minds. Pray for all those leading in some way in the worship service to do the best they can do in their respective areas.

With good hospitality, you have the potential to connect with guests who are not sure about the church but are willing to take the risk to attend your Christmas Eve worship service. You have the potential to connect these persons not only with you and the church but with Christ. This is the work of the church. Don’t miss this opportunity!

— Jack Hartman, Associate Director of Church Development

Note:  There is an online course from UM Communications on how to help your church become more welcoming.  Click here for details.

image1The following article shares how a older congregation has intentionally reached out to and is discipling new persons through an interactive worship experience…

For $3,000, Ft. Wayne Calvary UMC, prayed and started a modern Sunday 2nd worship service so that persons who didn’t have a close relationship with Jesus could get to know Him better.

In July 2017, retired Deacon, Heather Olson-Bunnell, was appointed as the church’s senior pastor. That summer she asked part-time staff, small groups and a new prayer group to pray for God’s future vision. All of the groups reached the same vision:  start a new casual worship/learning experience that would reach weekday T-ball, Girl and Boy Scouts, V.B.S., Zumba, Al-Anon, etc. families that didn’t connect with the traditional service. Chris, the part time youth director, heard God’s call. He kept praying on how to re-design a small youth service, that met at the same time as the traditional service, to meet the needs of families in their changing neighborhood.
image2.jpegMore prayer and a gifted young guitar player, David, joined a small leadership team as music director. Chris and Pastor Heather went to Single Council with a $3,000 request for God’s dream to be implemented that fall. With support of District Superintendent Dave Neckers and Church Development Associate Director Ed Fenstermacher, who helped with early planning, and continued prayers, grants were written to Indiana Conference Church Development and the North East District Church Builders. Both offered matching funds of $3,000 to Calvary’s original $3,000 investment for making new disciples. Several other donations totally $1,000 were also given.

The old fellowship hall was updated with new sound, lighting and more comfortable chairs.  These, along with round tables, helped create a coffee-house style worship space, which the church calls the “Lighthouse Center.” The lay-led leadership team, resourced by the pastor, began meeting weekly to pray and design a casual family friendly gathering space and worship themes based on video clips with shared questions around the tables as the learning format (no sermon). When the decision was made to have a weekly lunch as part of the worship experience, the UMW stepped up to offer their support and fall meal preparation. Extra food is sent home with families who have food insecurity.

The “soft opening” in early fall 2017 attracted several single-parent families as well as older adults. When parents were asked what they wanted their children to learn, the response was “basic Bible Stories and Baptism and Communion helps.” A lay person named Ginger received her Certified Lay Minister credential this year and worked with Elaine, the church’s part-time children and youth coordinator to develop a children’s ministry plan that would help children say “yes” to Jesus (and their parents to have resources to teach them).

The core base has grown through word-of-mouth.  They describe the growth as “intentionally organic.” The relaxed format makes guests feel comfortable in sharing at the tables as children and youth fully participate in prayer time and the collection of offering and attendance cards. Discussion usually continues during the meal time where persons share their lives together.

God has truly been on the move in the hearts of both the leadership team and this new Lighthouse worship/learning experience. One-half of the average 40 persons in weekly attendance are children and youth. (Previously Traditional worship only had 1-2 children and youth). This multi-generational, multi-cultural congregation has grown in faith together. The result has been 11 baptisms (7 children, 2 youth and 2 adults) in the past 6 months. Also 3 persons have joined Calvary UMC from this service and more will be joining this fall. New families are helping and providing for the Sunday meal as well as serving on Calvary’s Mission Education, UMW and Lighthouse Ministry Teams. There have also been one baptism and 4 persons join the church from the Traditional service.

An 88-year-old longtime member who died this past year left a financial gift to what he called “The New Calvary.” Four ceiling fans and a keyboard for the praise band were purchased this summer. As the Lighthouse moves into its second year, Chris, the facilitator, is now in the candidacy process for local pastor and mentoring David, the music director, to lead worship when he is on vacation. Rob was hired as lead tech to improve communication for both worship services and create a new website and church e-mail. He trains sound techs for both services.

Prayer continues to be the priority in next step planning as the Lighthouse lives into Calvary’s 3 Cs Vision Statement:

Connecting to the Community

Creating disciples of Jesus Christ

Celebrating with Worship, Prayer and Praise

The above has been shared by Rev. Heather Olson-Bunnell, senior pastor of Calvary UMC, Fort Wayne.

41z0gTAFNjL._AC_US436_QL65_How are we to reach the growing percentage of our population that has no interest in attending our churches?  In Indiana nearly 4,000,000 residents aren’t affiliated with any church, synagogue, or mosque according to MissionInsite.  That works out to be more than every-other household!  That’s your neighbors, co-workers, the people you rub shoulders with everyday.

What has worked in the past doesn’t seem to be working today.   Jesus said, “New wine must be poured into new wineskins.” (Luke 5:38)  It’s clear we’re in a “new-wineskin” moment!  We need a new way to connect with and disciple folk.

What better place to look for such a model than England, a post-modern culture in which the church is viewed by many as irrelevant.  The Methodist and Anglican churches in England have discovered such a model that they call Fresh Expressions.  One in five Methodist churches have at least one Fresh Expression and on average they are reaching a half-million people each week!  More importantly 75% of those reached are not involved in traditional church.

Fresh Expressions is a model of outreach especially for churches that are seeking to be more missional. It is one of the most effective ways for a church to reach and disciple persons who have no interest in attending a church.  It is a model that can be initiated by as few as a single person and it doesn’t necessarily require money.  It is a model that all sizes of churches can do, and in all ministry contexts.  All it requires is a bit of understanding and a heart for those outside the church that Jesus referred to as the lost.

The Indiana Conference is holding a special training day for Fresh-Expressions-Logoindividuals and teams from churches that are interested in learning more.  It will be held on October 20th and there’s a special discounted registration fee for United Methodists from Indiana.  The event will be held at Fishers UMC near Indianapolis and be led by Fresh Expressions U.S.  You can register right now by clicking here.  Those churches with people attending will be eligible for up to a $1,000 Fresh Expressions grant from Church Development.  (There’s a limited number of these.)

Wouldn’t it be awesome if every Indiana UMC launched at least one Fresh Expression effort to reach Indiana’s unchurched?  So, don’t miss out.  Attend the October 20th and learn how you can launch a fresh expression of church in your community.

For more information, feel free to contact me at

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development