Upward arrowHas your church worked hard on developing a vision only to have it forgotten?  According to George Bullard, a key sign of a declining or plateaued church is that it has no clear vision.  On the other hand, growing churches nearly always have a clearly defined vision that drives its ministries.

So what happened when your church developed a vision, yet didn’t experience growth?  Here are four possible reasons:

1. Your vision was a brief, memorable statement, which could really apply to any church.  In other words, the more defined your vision is the more likely it will guide and direct your church in a positive way.  The vision must reflect how your church will carry out its mission in its unique context.  What’s its unique niche?  Who is God calling it specifically to reach?  The clearer the answers, the more likely your vision will bring growth.

2. You failed to take the vision to the next step, which is setting specific, measurable goals that will help your church fulfill its vision.  For one church it is targeting a specific apartment complex, another is partnering with its elementary school and providing after school ministry, a third is striving to get 80% of its constituents into small groups.  What specific steps does your church need to take?

3. Your church didn’t align its calendar, budget, staff, and ministries with the vision.  Vision alignment accelerates the fulfillment of the vision, brings unity within the body, and maximizes the stewardship of the church’s limited resources.  The Church Development staff has a number of tools available to help a church analyze its existing ministries and set fruitful ministry goals aligned with the vision.

4. The vision wasn’t kept before the people.  As Andy Stanley says, “vision leaks!”  A church’s pastor must remind the congregation at least monthly of God’s direction for the church, its vision.  The pastor must also make sure all those in charge of ministry areas are clear about the vision and are aligning their work accordingly.  And finally the pastor must make sure the leaders are sharing the stories of how the vision is being accomplished.  Michael Coyner, bishop of the Indiana Area, refers to these as glory sightings.  How is your church sharing its glory sightings?

Correcting these four problems will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your vision.  It will begin driving your church’s ministries, attracting needed resources, and creating increased excitement over what God is doing!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

New wineskins needed!

Posted: February 6, 2015 by efenster in Ideas
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Vital SignsThe sign of a healthy, vital church is reflected in its ability to adapt to its changing context.  I recently was with a church that had older members bemoaning the fact that their church has been slowly  declining the past thirty years because their children no longer stay in the community after graduation.  Of course, churches throughout the U.S. have been experiencing this for at least the past forty years!  Most  have recognized that they can’t rely on simply maintaining their churches through biological growth but that they have to focus on inviting and welcoming those new to their communities, those who are unchurched, those who are looking for a church.

Well, things have changed again and churches can no longer simply be a welcoming church.  They must be a “going” church.  Effective churches realize that they must adapt once again and take the church to the streets.  Rather than worship being the primary doorway into the life of the church, members developing relationships with the unchurched through everyday life experiences will be a key entry point.  Discipling will more likely happen in our homes, neighborhoods, and favorite haunts before it happens in our churches, especially for those who presently have no interest in our churches.  How are our churches equipping its members to do this?

I’m writing this for myself as much as you.  I’m co-chair of my church’s Mission & Outreach Team and we’re wrestling with how we can help our church do this.  And I’m wrestling with how I personally am doing this as a Christian in the 21st Century.  Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you!

Jesus talks about how we need to put new wine into new wineskins.  Although the Gospel message is unchanging, the way we convey it to the next generation must change.    Thankfully, if we’re open, God will show us those new wineskins.  May we be open to them even if they’re radically different from what we’re used to.  And may we be willing to adapt and change as needed!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development


coynerMike Coyner, bishop of the Indiana Area (Conference), recently shared in the Hoosier United Methodist Together newspaper (Jan./Feb. 2015) that his tenure will be ending as of the end of August 2016.  In The United Methodist Church, bishops have four-year assignments and Bishop Coyner’s will be ending at that time.  He will be retiring, so a different bishop will be assigned to lead the Indiana Conference beginning September 2016.

Please keep him in your prayers as he completes his ministry leading the Indiana United Methodist churches.  He certainly doesn’t plan to coast to retirement but has specific goals he’s focused on reaching.  (See the article.)  Also keep the Indiana Area Committee on Episcopacy, and a new transition team that’s been formed, in your prayers as they begin preparing for this transition in leadership.

Because at least three of the nine active bishops serving in the Midwest (North Central Jurisdiction) will be retiring and because of the common practice of having bishops serve two consecutive 4-year terms in the same Area, it is very possible Indiana will be receiving a newly-elected bishop, something that hasn’t happened before.  So please keep those “running” for bishop and those electing the new bishops in your prayers.  Those electing will be the delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, held in Peoria, IL, July 13-16.  This delegation will include 16 laity and 16 clergy from Indiana who will be chosen at this May’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis.

Finally, pray for the NCJ Committee on Episcopacy, which is the group that will recommend to the Jurisdictional delegates as to which Area each of the nine bishops will serve, including who will lead the Indiana Area (Conference).  Each Annual Conference has one clergy and one lay person serving on this committee.  For Indiana its Rev. Frank Beard and myself, Ed Fenstermacher.  Know that we covet your prayers.

We have been blessed these past 12 years with Bishop Coyner’s leadership.  May we be equally blessed by the leadership of our next episcopal leader.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

copy-logo“Living Into It and Through It – Missional Church”

What:       Learn from a church that is living out the missional-church concepts introduced at the “Putting the Movement Back into Indiana Methodism” event featuring Alan Hirsch.  Those churches especially interested in reaching the growing slice of our population that isn’t interested in the institutional church are especially encouraged to participate.  Become a part of a network of missional churches!

When:  February 21, 10am-3pm (Eastern Time)

Where:  Saint Joseph United Methodist Church, 6004 Reed Rd., Fort Wayne, IN 46835-2215

Registration Deadline:  Walk-in’s are welcome.  For lunch, you must register by Feb. 16th.

To Register click here.  

Cost:  $10 for lunch.  None refundable.

Invitation from Rev. Russ Abel…  Join us at Saint Joseph UMC, Fort Wayne, February 21st, 10:00am-3:00pm (Eastern Time),  as we share how we have worked to become a missional church.  Over the past five years we have intentionally worked to develop and claim a missional identity among ourselves; and a missional presence beyond ourselves.  Our team is excited to share what God has been up to.  Here are a few of the things we will share:

  • Visioning: How we began at the Church council level to develop a different understanding of church.
  • Hits and Misses: We will hare some of the things that have worked for us and some of the things that did not.
  • Kristos Hands and Feet: Pastor Steve Mekaru and his team will share about our “New Faith Community” which is fully relational and making new disciples.
  • We will also share how we still believe God is calling us to push forward, challenge boundaries and take risks for the sake of the Gospel.

We are encouraging everyone to come in teams, if possible.  We look forward to seeing you and sharing a little about what God is doing here at Saint Joseph.

For more information contact:  Ed Fenstermacher at ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org or contact Saint Joseph UMC at (260) 485-9681.

Co-sponsored with Saint Joseph UMC by the Indiana Conference Church Development Team.

10869435_843136035744611_6827256694248204505_oAs we begin 2015, the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church is proud to announce that it once again has a church worshiping in the city of East Chicago after a twenty year hiatus.  East Chicago is a city of 30,000 residents, half of whom are Hispanic, located in northwest Indiana.

The new church is Torre Fuerta (Strong Tower), led by Esequiel and Suri Becerra.  It was started by the Becerra’s six years ago and has been meeting in the Hammond First UMC’s building much of this time.  The church, which has around 100 people in the congregation, began renovating a former Boys and Girls Club facility located in East Chicago over a year ago.  After much hard work in remodeling a portion of this large facility, Torre Fuerta received its occupancy permit and was able to celebrate Christmas worship in East Chicago.

In the mid 1980’s, the former North Indiana Conference attempted to start a new congregation in the city targeting Hispanics.  Additionally, First United Methodist Church of East Chicago, after years of decline, closed in 1994 and its building was sold.  Since then, there has been no United Methodist presence in the city, that is until now.

Over the past few years, the Indiana Conference has been encouraging the development of Torre Fuerta, providing it with Church Development grants totaling $180,000.  Nearby First United Methodist Church also graciously provided the use of its facility for the congregation, and its pastor, Rev. Shannon Stringer, has been providing leadership for Torre Fuerta’s steering committee.

We celebrate with the Becerra’s and the Torre Fuerta congregation as they serve and disciple the people living in the East Chicago-Hammond area!  May God richly continue to bless their efforts!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Association Director of Church Development

You’re in the game, you’re a missionary!

Posted: December 18, 2014 by efenster in Uncategorized

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI grew up in a Methodist missionary family.  Instead of a “PK” (preacher’s kid), I was an “MK” (missionaries’ kid).  My parents were sent by the Methodist Church to the Belgian Congo in Africa where my dad served as a medical doctor.  My mom actually had already been there serving as a teacher before she married dad.  The war for independence broke out while they were there, so mom and us kids evacuated to my grandparents’ home in Indianapolis, while dad stayed behind until things got so bad he had to join us.  The Methodist mission board then sent us to Nome, Alaska, where I spent my early growing up years.  My dad was in charge of the most northerly hospital in the Western Hemisphere at that time, which was owned and operated by the Methodist Women’s Society.  He served not only as the hospital’s administrator, and many times as its only medical doctor, but he also sometimes served as the town’s eye doctor, dentist, and community health administrator.  He also made house calls in far-flung places via bush plane.

I mention all of this simply to say that I grew up with an awareness of missionaries, and the life of a missionary.  Years later, I returned to Congo, then called Zaire, as an adult to spend some time with the Enright’s, United Methodist missionaries.  During my three-week visit, I was asking myself the question, “Is God calling me to be a missionary, like my parents?”  I remember returning home to Fort Wayne with a real sense that God was calling me to be a missionary, but rather than overseas, right here in Fort Wayne, right here in my neighborhood.

Alan Hirsch, missional church writer and speaker, recently met with a number of Indiana United Methodists, and he said that we’re all called to be missionaries.  We’re all MK’s!  We all get to play.  We’re all in the game!  Sometimes our church has created, especially for lay people like me, the impression that it’s only the clergy or official missionaries that get to do the real ministry.  Yet, the Bible makes it clear that we are all called to bring God’s love and Good News to those around us.  Just as God came in the flesh as Christ, God comes to the world in the flesh through you and me every day.  Each time you look in the mirror, remember you and I are MK’s too, called to serve right here in Fort Wayne, in our neighborhoods.  So, start thinking and acting like the missionary that you are and God will use you in a powerful way!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Hirsch Event 1Question: What could entice a large group of Methodists to trade a Saturday during the busiest part of the Christmas shopping season for an all day workshop? Answer: The opportunity to recapture the “movemental” spirit of their congregations and Conference. Over two hundred and thirty people from across the Indiana Conference gathered at St. Lukes United Methodist Church on December 6, 2014, to hear noted missiologist Alan Hirsch speak about “Putting the Movement back into Methodism in Indiana.” This event was part of a plan by the Indiana Conference Church Development team’s desire to launch new initiatives to recapture the missional essence of the local church. The audience was an assembly of laity and clergy from dozens of congregations, each hoping to discover new paradigms that offer keys to spiritual vitality and faithful witness in the 21st century.

Alan Hirsch describes himself as a “future traveler.” Hirsch explains, “I have worked as missionary and denominational executive in Australia, experienced the collapse of Christendom first hand and I have a clear picture of what your future looks like.” According to Hirsch, the systems built to support Christendom have already imploded in Europe and most of the West. He states, “I believe we have approximately forty years before we hit the wall in America.”

Hirsch spent much of the afternoon mapping out processes that he believes can help the church recapture its true nature as an organism that is “movemental” a term he himself coined. At the center of these maps is a need to refocus on Jesus as the heart of the Christian faith. “’Jesus is Lord’ has been the slogan and rallying cry for all successful Christian movements in the past and we need to build around that as the essential truth of the Gospel.”

The speaker also spoke of five additional elements that are the essentials in a rebirth of Christianity as movement. Those elements are: a focus on discipleship, a missional-incarnational impulse, organic organization, communitas over community and recapturing the five-fold leadership gifts of the church found in Ephesians, chapter four, described as APEST. Hirsch chided the audience for devaluing the gifts of apostle, prophet and evangelist from Ephesians four, stating that “your systems tend to remove the APE from the equation, leaving shepherd/teachers to guide the church, but all five of these gifts are necessary for the church to reach maturity.

One of the strongest refrains of the day was the need for corporate repentance. Hirsch spoke very candidly about statistical evidence that shows that the Methodist movement reached its apex in the 1850’s and has been in decline ever since. “Decisions have been made in the past that have pulled the focus away from discipleship and disempowered the ministry of the laity,” Hirsch exclaimed. “You don’t have to continue to follow those decisions, you can repent. In fact, those in the future could very well look back to this day as a time when decisions were made that reshaped the destiny of things to come.”

This event will be followed by another of a similar nature on February 21st, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (Eastern Time), at St. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.   Leaders from St. Joseph will share some concrete steps that reflect Hirsch’s ideas, including the following:

  • Using “prayer walking” as a way to discover the most fertile ground for evangelism and a way to build relationships
  • Using “positive loitering” events (spontaneous parties thrown within specific target neighborhoods) to connect with neighbors and build relationships
  • Partnering with other community organizations instead of competing with them (e.g. the public schools, Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club, food banks, etc.)
  • Developing small disciplining groups organically
You’ll hear how this United Methodist church–that mainly does attractional programs, ministries and worship–has been able to become more missional, doing relational evangelism.

The intention is that this event will be followed with another learning opportunity.  Church Development hopes, as a result, to develop a network of Indiana United Methodist churches that are focused on missional outreach to their communities that result in disciples that make disciples.  The hope is to help create a movement.  Plan to be a part of it and let’s change the world!

For more information, please contact the church development staff person assigned to your respective district.

— Steve Clouse, Senior Associate Director of Church Development