isIn walked a family of seven Congolese refugees.  Why did they show up to one of our Indiana United Methodist churches?  Because of the cross and flame symbol on the church’s sign.

According to Sergio Reyes, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, a family fleeing violence in their home country in Africa recently were resettled near Reyes’ church on the south side of Fort Wayne.  The parents and their five children, ages 6-18 years old, happened to be traveling down the street when a son cried out, “There’s our church!”  The family are members of The United Methodist Church in Congo and so they were very familiar with the UM symbol of the cross and flame.  A family feeling disoriented suddenly felt a little more at home knowing that their church family was with them even though they were thousands of miles from their home country.

The family, that speaks primarily French and Swahili, not only attended Getsemani’s English-language worship service last Sunday, they decided to try its Spanish-language service too!  After the service the pastor and parishioner, who knew a bit of French, took them out to Pizza Hut for lunch.  And the next day they took the entire family out to get new shoes, which were desperately needed.  A couple days later, the family joined the church for its annual Fourth of July baptism service and day of fun at Chain-O-Lakes State Park.

What a beautiful reminder that we United Methodists are a part of global family, as well as God’s family.  Way to go, Sergio and Getsemani Church!  May each of our churches respond to the immigrants and refugees around us with open arms as well!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

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Walnut Grove United Methodist Church is a rural congregation located in the countryside of Pike County near the White River in southern Indiana.  While its considered numerically to be a small congregation with an average Sunday worship attendance of 35-40, its members do big ministry! 

UnknownOne of their many successes is once again just around the corner.  Each year the congregation gathers the supply lists from the surrounding schools from each teacher of each grade level.  When the lists are obtained the fun begins!  The members, who have been purchasing and gathering school supplies all year begin the process of laying out the supplies in their fellowship hall.  When the big day arrives, children and their parents come to Walnut Grove UMC for a free lunch and the opportunity to fill their brand new backpacks, which the church provides, with the school supplies their new teachers suggest.  The congregation also has a “gift room” where students can pick out a gift (not school supplies) to take home.

Brenda Wick, a retired art instructor from Vincennes University, is the pastor at Walnut Grove UMC and smiles from ear to ear when speaking of this event!  Last year the church gave over 500 backpacks to students in Pike County.  Wick says the ministry has grown every year and expects the same to happen this year.  The 2018 back pack event is scheduled for Tuesday July 31st.

So what is your church planning to do for its community’s students this year?

— Rev. Randy Anderson, Associate Director of Church Development 

 

 

CCI LogoChurch Development, of the Indiana Conference of the UMC, is celebrating the appointment of three church planters to three new projects in Indiana.

— Connor Guerzini has been appointed to Huntertown Unknown-1Lifehouse UM Church (senior pastor Tony Johnson).  Part of his ministry will be to help launch a new faith community at Huntertown’s Forest Park Lifehouse Campus in Fort Wayne.

— Ross Stackhouse has been appointed (beginning July 1) to Unknownplant a conference-sponsored new church on the growing southern edge of Indianapolis.

— Kara Bussabarger has been appointed (beginning July 1) to Fort Wayne Covenant UM Church (senior pastor Karen Koelsch); half of her time will be spent helping Covenant disciple the 20,000 members of its nearby YMCA.images

Their projects join around forty other new-faith communities that have been launched over the past five years in the Indiana Conference.  Four of them have become constituted (chartered) United Methodist churches.  So far only two have closed.  Collectively they’re reaching about 2,500 people in worship each week.  Praise God!

Please keep Connor, Ross, and Kara in your prayers.  Starting new faith communities is not an easy task.  Pray for their families as planting will demand much of their time.  Pray that God transforms many lives through their efforts.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

P.S. Church Development is always looking for churches that are interested in establishing new faith communities, because studies show that it’s the most effective way of reaching the unchurched.  If you attend such a church, let us know!

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

 

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