What if… What if our 1,100 United Methodist Churches in Indiana were each reaching outside their walls, sharing Christ’s love on a regular basis with persons uninterested in attending church?  That’s exactly what the Fresh Expressions model helps a church do.  Church Development  has set a goal of helping our conference churches establish 150 Fresh Expressions around the state by 2025.

Take your next step and explore this possibility by registering for one of the following training opportunities…

May 18th, Vision Day, sponsored by the SE District, held at Bloomington St. Paul UMC, 9:30am-3:30pm (Eastern). EARLY-BIRD PRICE DEADLINE IS MAY 11TH  Registration link.

June 1st, Dinner Church.  One of the most popular forms of Fresh Expressions (FX); sponsored by our Conference Church Development (CD) and the Indiana Assembly of God, held at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, 9am-4pm (Eastern).  Registration link.

June 29th, FX Roundtables.  Vision Day follow-up training, especially for churches that already know the basics; sponsored by CD, held at Fort Wayne Covenant UMC, 8:30-11:30am (Eastern), and Fishers UMC, 2:00-5:00pm (Eastern).

August 10Messy Church.  Another popular form of FX; sponsored by Michigan City First UMC and Messy Church USA, held at Michigan City First, 9am-3:30pm (Central).  Registration link.

August 17, Vision Day, sponsored by the NW District, held at Wabash First, 9:30am-3:30pm (Eastern).  Registration link.

Also, consider attending on May 17th “Re-Missioning the Church from the Outside In,” a live-stream webinar led by UMC pastors Jorge Acevedo and Michael Beck, author of Deep Roots, Wild Branches.  Registration link.

God is doing a new thing in Indiana.  Don’t miss out!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

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AIMLogo-Impact-color-600x267Two United Methodist Conferences recently met with the Indiana Conference Church Development team to learn how to bring IMPACT to churches in the areas they serve.  Since 2016 Indiana has been using IMPACT to help revitalize and bring hope to small-membership churches, and other Conferences are noticing. Randy Anderson, Associate Director of Church Development, stated, “Small churches make up 70% of the church nationwide. Focus tends to be given to programs for medium and large churches, and the smaller churches are either overlooked or given a watered-down version of what worked at the large churches. When other Conferences hear that Indiana has created a process which entirely focuses on the revitalization of the small church, it is something they want to use.”

Since IMPACT is contextualized for small churches, it can be used in other regions and geographical areas. As other regions experience IMPACT, we pray there will be more stories of local congregations experiencing renewed hope for the mission and their vision.

To learn more about IMPACT within our Indiana Conference, visit IMPACT or visit the Church Development booth at Annual Conference for further conversation.

— Jennifer Hudson & Randy Anderson, Associate Directors of Church Development

IMG_1208This week I have been reminded that many in The United Methodist Church are pushing the envelope.   Many pastors, churches, Boards of Ordained Ministry, Bishops, and entire conferences are reacting strongly to the decisions made at the recent General Conference session in St. Louis.  There are many who are trying to push the envelope regarding the church’s position on homosexuality and the church.  At the same time, there are people pushing the envelope in other ways.  For example, I learned of laity who are publicly administering the sacrament of communion.

Years ago I was asked to fill the pulpit when my pastor was gone one Sunday, so I did.  Before the worship service I saw the communion elements on the altar and so I asked who was administering the sacraments.  The lay people in charge of worship matter-of-factly said, “You are.”  I said, “Well, who is going to bless the sacraments?”  They again replied, “You are.”  That was a problem because I’m not ordained, I’m not a licensed local pastor, I am a lay person.

So what did I do?  I blessed the elements and served communion and no one said a thing.    Ever since, I’ve scratched my head and wondered about that day I broke our church’s protocol.  You see I’m normally a rule-follower.  But in this situation I broke our United Methodist rules, and no harm seemed to come of it.

Recently I was talking with some pastors.  They were saying that if we truly want a multiplication movement to break out in our churches of Indiana, we’ll have to loosen the rules, take risks.  I asked what that would look like.  Both answered by telling stories of laity associated with their churches that served communion in public.

One of the pastors has a layman who is an employee at a Walmart.  Every week he serves communion to twenty of his fellow employees in the back room.  The other pastor has a homeless man who started a bible study in a local McDonalds.  Each week he takes a McDonald’s hamburger and breaks it saying, “Take and eat this, Christ’s body broken for you.”  What do you say to such sincere acts, both done with groups of people who would unlikely darken the doors of a church?

So what do we do with that?  To what degree do we push the envelope of our United Methodist polity?  To what degree do we unleash the laity as we send them into the fields that are ripe for harvest?  Not only are people pushing the envelope in the area of the church’s acceptance of gays and lesbians, people are also pushing the envelope in regards to our church’s polity regarding the sacraments.  Where else may the envelope be pushed as we strive to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Fresh-Expressions-LogoJesus reminds us how important each person is when he tells the story of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one lost sheep.  So how important is that one lost sheep to you and your church?  If your answer is “really important,” then you’ll want to attend the Fresh Expressions “Vision Day” coming Saturday, March 16th, at Columbia City United Methodist Church near Fort Wayne.  For more information and to register click here.  Act now because the early-bird rate ends March 10th!

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.

Emily Reece, Director of Church Development, and I had the privilege of visiting Wildwood United Methodist Church in Wildwood, Florida.  Even though only 110 people attended the church’s worship services, the church has over a dozen Fresh Expression groups meeting every week.  We visited the church’s Higher Power Hour (yoga) and Bibles and Burritos, which meets at a Moe’s Southwest Grill.  They also have Fresh Expressions in a tattoo parlor, hair salon, and dog park.  They have groups that are for people who like to run, and people who like art.  The church has a culture of going out into the community to build relationships and disciple their friends and neighbors, and Fresh Expressions is how they mainly do it!

The church’s pastor, Michael Beck, will be one of the two people leading the Vision Day training on March 16th, so don’t miss out!   Sign up today.  That little lost sheep is counting on you and your church!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Saturday, February 23, 2019 (St. Louis)

headshots+2-0055Good morning Lord. Well, it’s finally here, the special 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.  Hard to believe.  We knew it was coming shortly after the 2016 General Conference, and it’s been looming out there in our future ever since.  Now that future has come.  We are here, and the conference begins in only two hours.

Lord, the people I’m talking with have come with a sense of solemnity.  I think we all feel the gravity of the moment, the profound impact our decisions here will have for our church.  There isn’t the excitement that I’ve experienced at the other General Conference sessions.  There’s not the joyful coming together.  As someone said, it feels as though we’re coming to a friend’s funeral.  Lord, we all understand the seriousness of this moment. We all are desperately looking to you for guidance and direction—a way forward.  We recognized things are broken.  Our covenant together is fractured and we can’t continue on this path. Help us to find the right path. Open our eyes to the steps that we must take to be faithful and obedient to you and to help our church to be the church you’re calling it to be.  Lord, we are a broken people in need of a guide, a shepherd.  We need you.  Please come and show us the way.

Lord, today we enter into a time of prayer and fasting, an entire day.  We dedicate this day to you.  We pray for openness of our hearts and minds, that our spirits might be attuned to you.  Help us to be quiet and to listen.  Take away the fears that we’ve brought with us to St. Louis—fears of what if’s, fears of the unknown, fears of failure and potential separation.  May you pour your love out upon us in generous amounts. May your love flow deeply into us, filling every part of our beings.  May your love fill our tables, our meeting space, the city of St. Louis to the full. May it spill out to the world beyond St. Louis that is watching and listening and waiting.  May your love cast out all fears and open us to the wonderful future you’re offering us.

Lord, if we must be accept that we have irreconcilable differences regarding our views on human sexuality in the church and must separate, may we do so in love.  May we continue to be friends, brothers and sisters in you.  May we continue to work along side one another though we may be in different church families.   And, Lord, I pray especially for the people in our churches spread across this country and around the world.  I pray that you’ll rid them of any anger, help them work through their grief, and to bring them peace with the decisions that come out of this conference.  Lord, may they focus on you and the mission to which you call your church.  Reassure them that things are going to be alright, that they couldn’t be in better hands, your hands.  And I also pray, Lord, for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters who find themselves at the center of ongoing debate that our church has been wrestling with for decades.  Lord, may they feel loved by their church.  May we not do harm to them, whatever the outcome.

Lord, again, we’re at a loss as to how to move forward.  We’ve been given some plans, some ideas.  Each one has shortcomings.  Each one will not be easy for everyone to embrace.  Lord, if there’s another plan, one which we’ve not discovered, please bring it to light during this conference.  Surprise us, Lord!  No doubt you can make a way where there seems to be no way.  May we be open to whatever that might be, and give us the courage to pursue it even though no doubt it will not be easy.  May we United Methodists be a faithful people, all for your glory!

Your servant, Ed Fenstermacher

Indiana Conference lay delegate to the 2019 General Conference of The UMC

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.