headshots+2-0055I’m a product of the church growth movement, but the church growth movement isn’t going to take the church where it needs to go in the future.  We need to move from addition to multiplication–from adding to our numbers through attraction, to sending out our people to start new faith communities that in turn raise up new leaders that are sent out to start new faith communities.  Moving from addition to multiplication is a necessary step if we are to experience the kind of movement The United Methodist Church experienced in the early 1800’s in Indiana.

Upward arrowUp till now, a prime metric that we’ve been taught to watch is the average number of people in our weekly worship services.  Therefore, we’ve focused on marketing our churches and protecting and conserving our numbers.  The last thing we’d want to do is send people out because our worship attendance metric would take a hit.

The Church Development team is convinced that we need to change our prime metric and begin measuring the number of people that we’re sending out to help start new faith communities.  The reality is that fewer and fewer people in the U.S. are interested in coming to our churches.  What if we embrace Jesus’ command to go?  What if we take the church to them?

IMG_6662Last month, over 100 church pastors and leaders from the Indiana Conference gathered with Bishop Trimble and the Church Development team to consider this very idea.  What would it take for us and our churches to move from an addition mindset to one of multiplication.  We’re convinced that God is moving right now in our leaders and churches, placing on many of their hearts and minds the desire to multiply! If you’re such a person, or you attend such a church, know that the Church Development team is ready to partner with you.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Leaders praying at the Bishop’s Multiplication Summit held September 7, 2017IMG_6665

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We celebrate two new faith communities that launched this month.  Pfrimmer’s Chapel UMC in Corydon, Indiana, launched its fifth Mercy Street congregation September 8th at the New Albany High School.  Pastor Tim Johnson reports that 50 people attended the initial gathering, which targets persons recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.  The church is planning to launch its sixth Mercy Street next month targeting youth grades 6th-8th grade.

IMG_0578On September 10th, St. Joseph UMC in Fort Wayne launched its Aspire congregation that is led by Pastor Jason Morris and meets in a new YMCA facility adjacent to the church’s Praise Park property.  Seventy attended the opening service.  Morris says that a number of unchurched people returned with their friends the following week, bumping attendance to nearly 90 people.  (Church Development is pleased to be providing a grant to help fund this effort.)

Praise God!  And let’s keep these efforts in our prayers.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

ABetterLifeThe following article comes from Rev. Lore Blinn Gibson, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Lafayette…

Last year, Jamie came to our A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope (ABLBH) chapter shortly after coming to town, homeless and with all his possessions in two garbage bags.  He stayed in a local halfway house, relapsed, and went to a different halfway house.  All the while, he came to ABLBH.  This weekend, he voluntarily stood up in Sunday worship to testify to how God brought him through his struggle, to his renewal of baptism, to the fact that he has a job, an apartment, and visitation with his son.  He thanked the congregation for their love and support and for offering ABLBH.   He has stepped onto our Team Hope (leadership team) at ABLBH.

But that’s not the best part.  Today, he visited another person in recovery in the hospital following surgery because ‘it’s what we do.’

Glory to God, from whom all blessings flow!
Lore
(Read the prior post for more about how God is working in Grace and other UMCs in Lafayette.)

Recently I attended a meeting with pastors of United Methodist churches that were all launching innovative ministries in the heart of Lafayette.  These leaders easily could have felt as though they were “competing” with one another.  “Why is your church doing ministry in our church’s neighborhood?”  Yet, the outcome of this meeting was one of awe and wonder.  Awe at the unique visions that God had placed in each congregation and wonder at the possibility that God might be doing something bigger than any single church could imagine.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized more and more the power of imagination and creativity.  Both, no doubt, are attributes of God who is the ultimate creator.  When church’s develop hearts that truly care for their communities and when they are instilled with imagination and creativity, amazing things begin to happen–like what’s happening in Lafayette.

trinity-logo_origRev. Tracey Leslie and the members of Trinity UMC are working to create a new faith community from among those living especially in the church’s Centennial Neighborhood.  With the help of a Community Engagement Coach, they will be using photography, storytelling, and dialogue to begin identifying the community’s assets, barriers and challenges.  The church also has plans for a community garden, offering meals, and a family-to-family initiative.  All this ultimately is to help those in the emerging faith community connect their personal stories to the salvation story–identifying and celebrating God’s movement in community members’ lives.

ABetterLifeRev. Lore Gibson and the members of Grace UMC have established a chapter of Brianna’s Hope, a ministry for those seeking to overcome substance abuse addictions.  The ministry, whose first chapter was started by Pastor Randy Davis in Redkey, Indiana, in 2014, now has seventeen chapters around the state, including this one in Lafayette.  Already, Grace’s chapter has stories of changed lives.

17859169_10208689563901264_329296036_oRev. Scott Mann, associate pastor Stephanie Hanslow, and the members of Christ UMC have been reaching the marginalized and homeless of Lafayette’s urban core through a worship gathering called the Church for Everyone that meets the last Saturday of the month at Brown Street UMC.  The ministry typically gathers over 100 persons to worship, break bread, and celebrate Holy Communion.  “There were homeless people, teenagers, older adults, persons of all ethnic and socio economic backgrounds….It was a picture of God’s Kingdom of love and mercy.”  And now the church is getting ready to move toward weekly worship.

Things are happening in churches elsewhere too.  God is moving in new ways, touching more and more lives through new models of ministry.  And rather than feeling threatened, these churches are celebrating the fact that they each play a unique part and by working together they’re collective ministry is stronger!  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Association Director of Church Development

 

IMG_57911United Methodists across Indiana celebrate their newest United Methodist Church.  The Garden Community Church, led by the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Scanlan-Holmes, was officially constituted (chartered) on Sunday, June 4, 2017.   At the recent Annual Session of the Indiana Conference in Indianapolis, Bishop Julius Trimble, Central District Superintendent Jim Bushfield, and the Director of Church Development Steve Clouse officially presented The Garden representatives its charter.   Emily Reece, Associate Director of Church Development, also participated.  She along with many others–former Central District Superintendent Bert Kite, and retired and present St. Luke UMC pastors Kent Millard and Rob Fuquay respectively–all played an instrumental part in this exciting milestone.

UnknownThe Garden was founded years ago by St. Lukes United Methodist under the leadership of Linda McCoy, an associate pastor of St. Lukes.  Dr. McCoy had the vision of a unique worshiping congregation that would be attractive especially to those uninterested in traditional churches.  So, since its beginning in September of 1995, the congregation has been meeting at the Beef & Board Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis, worshiping in the round, seated at tables.

Twenty years later, Linda McCoy retired, St. Lukes decided to spin The Garden off as a separate congregation, and Carolyn Scanlan-Holmes–a former staff person of St. Lukes–was tapped to lead the new congregation.

Dr. Scanlan-Holmes, writes to the nearly 500 people who are a part of The Garden on its website:  “It was a joy to be witness to the planting of The Garden some 20 years ago and to see how it has grown. I give thanks for Linda, for her passion and vision in this groundbreaking ministry.  I am honored to be appointed to serve the legacy that has been cultivated.  I believe God has and will continue to transform the world through The Garden ministry.  We are reminded that to everything there is a season and this is a time in our culture when new ways of planting Gods love and grace are needed.  I am so looking forward to working alongside you as together we plant and tend new seeds of hope and love for the future.”

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May God continue to bless this congregation as it enters its new chapter of ministry.  May it continue to bear much fruit!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

NEW-TO-FIVE-ebook-cover-6-HR-400x630The book, New to Five, by Ralph Moore and Jeff Christopherson, is all about moving our thinking as church leaders from addition to multiplication.  I grew up during the Church Growth movement.  I helped an inner-city church in Fort Wayne make 18,000 phone calls inviting people to our services.  We launched billboards, held “bring-a-friend” events and started new worship services.  And guess what, even though we were in the “wrong” part of our city, we were able to attract people and grow.

The authors of New to Five, however, question the biblical underpinnings of such an approach.  Even more they point out that addition isn’t cutting it, that a growing percentage of people aren’t interested in attending our churches, that U.S. worship attendance continues to decline, and after all, isn’t it about making disciples rather than building our kingdoms?

So what’s their alternative?  Multiplication!  The New Testament church is all about equipping and sending.  A healthier metric moves us from “seating capacity to sending capacity.”  Ralph writes:  “I think that the Great Commission will require us to start and multiply numerous smaller congregations that can reach into every nook and cranny of society…. Addition-focused churches have started to look alike, and ‘alike’ tends to be middle class–leaving lots of people outside the family.”

He goes on to say, “Many common church-planting methodologies seem to start with an eye toward multiplication until they gain momentum and multiplicative behaviors are shut down for the much sexier addition….If you don’t now it already, feeding a Level 3 [addition-focused] church takes a lot of money, talent, leadership and dedicated volunteers.  Start releasing and sending them out, and your church might implode.  At least that’s the prevailing fear…”

So the underlying question is, “Will you build a kingdom, or are you intent on building the Kingdom?”  Churches focused on building the Kingdom, referred to as Level 5 churches, look for effectiveness rather than excellence.  After all, look at who Jesus chose to lead His church?  Jeff writes:  “Instead of hand-selecting the obviously impressive, He chose the noticeably common.  Never has a less-impressive team received a more important assignment. ”

As Ralph says, “If you fully commit to pursuing Level 5 multiplication, the recognition that Level 3 pastors receive for leading large, growing and innovative churches won’t be  part of your story.  Simply put, fame and fortune are not coming your way, so get used to it.”  And just because a church may be small in size doesn’t limit it from focusing on multiplication rather than addition.

The reality is that growth shouldn’t be thrown out the window, but the writers point out that growth comes as disciples are released and sent out, churches give birth to new faith communities, that in turn give birth.  It’s exponential growth not growth through addition.  Adding new programs, improving worship services, and marketing creates a consumer-based church, where making disciples is more of an add on and doesn’t get much traction.  In a church based on a multiplication mindset, disciple making comes first, its at the core.  The church, its worship services, and programs grow out of the disciples being reached.

So in hindsight, I wish that the inner-city church I served years ago would have focused on sending its people out to build relationships with those in need of the Good News and a relationship with Christ, rather than on growing through attraction.  Had we done that maybe it would still exist…

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

P.S.  New to Five is available electronically at no cost.  I encourage you to read it!

18010760_1380122238677676_4717157016528137471_nHave you ever looked at a problem and upon looking at it from a different perspective, and being open to God, something beautiful results?  That’s what happened at a small United Methodist church in Scipio, Indiana, a tiny community between Columbus and North Vernon.  Pastor Dereck Fields’s wife, Angela, was looking out her kitchen window at the church’s garage.  A large tree had fallen on it and it was beyond repair.

At that moment she had a thought, what if rather than replacing the structure, the church built a larger structure designed for ministry.  What if rather than a structure used for storage, the church built one used for connecting and growing people in relationship with Jesus Christ.

And that is exactly what the church has decided to do.  This spring the church has been constructing a shelter house on its property near busy Highway 7.  And on June first, after much prayer and planning, the church is launching a new Thursday night worship service designed to reach those who aren’t connected with a church.  The hope is that using a shelter-house setting, rather than a traditional sanctuary, and using food, bands, and speakers on various practical life issues, the church will be able to provide people in its area with a Christ-centered community and connect them to Christ.

The church recently was awarded a $25,000 Church Development grant to help launch this project, the cost of which is estimated at over $85,000 for the next four years.  In its grant application, Rev. Dereck Fields wrote:  “In 1 Corinthians 9:19 the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people.’  In the spirit of these words, we have decided to put together a worship service designed to better meet the needs of our community.”

The Indiana Conference’s Church Development Committee jumped at the opportunity to partner with this congregation because it already had a track record of intentional outreach to its community.  Its annual Easter Egg Hunt attracts 150-200 each 17990579_1377429712280262_6606864339592548734_oyear, its annual Halloween Trick-or-Treating 200-300 people, its annual Vacation Bible School 75-120, its weekly Mommy & Me Class 15-30 people, its monthly Thursday meal for the community 150-200 people, and the list goes on!  The town of Scipio, incidentally only has 124 people!

These outreach efforts are viewed by the church as ways to begin developing relationships with people in need of God’s love and good news.  As a result, lives have been changed, and the church’s worship attendance has doubled in size to around 60.

So, what problem are you facing?  Could it be that God has a plan to take the brokenness resulting from the problem and do something incredibly beautiful through it?  God, through Scipio UMC, has demonstrated just that!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development