Archive for November, 2010

New demographic tools now available!

Posted: November 23, 2010 by efenster in Information, Resources

   A United Methodist church in South Bend recently told me that they had used MissionInsite–our conference’s free (to Indiana UM churches) web-based demographic tool–to study their church’s neighborhood.  To their surprise, there were people that fit a unique lifestyle group that didn’t match their church members.  By studying the demographics, they’ve discovered a whole new people group that they should be reaching. 

MissionInsite is a powerful tool.  And it has recently added two new powerful reports.  One is called “Impressions” and it’s available as one of the four default reports that the site offers.  The other is called “Mission Impact” and can be found in the document section under the “Help” tab.  I’ll share more about this in the next blog post.  But first, what is Mission Impact?

 The Impressions report is designed to give an ‘impression’ of a study area’s character. It has two parts, the first of which presents the study area’s likely overall mood and values. The second part presents a study area’s inclinations across a set of 10 polarities.

Here’s an example of parts of  a report for the neighborhood that I live in…


Pretty amazing!  Check it out!  — Ed Fenstermacher  

P.S.  If you aren’t registered with MissionInsite (, then first go to our conference website ( to the “Church Development” section and follow the steps under “MissionInsite” to register.  It’s easy!

Fruit sometimes slow in coming…

Posted: November 12, 2010 by efenster in Stories

  When  a church launches a new worship service, there’s a lot of excitement in anticipation of the new people it hopes to reach.  Once its launched, however, that excitement can wane when the reality sets in that reaching the community’s unreached is not an easy task, and sometimes the fruit takes time in coming.  Sometimes mistakes are made, mistakes that can teach us important lessons.  In the following article, Rev. Bob Coleman shares his church’s experience… 

So – you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, and things don’t happen the way you prayed they would.  What’s next?  In the fall of 2009, Tracy UMC south of La Porte initiated a new “alternative” worship service.  After laying the groundwork for nearly two years, we secured a New Worship Service Grant from the conference, remodeled our Fellowship Hall to create a cozy, intimate atmosphere, installed a new sound and projection system, developed a remarkably talented praise team for a little country church – and even the pastor, ancient as he is, learned to preach in a completely different way (sitting on a stool, engaging with and interacting with those who attend – even inviting questions and challenges).

We’ve had good support from the existing congregation (we average around 65-70 now in our “traditional” service – although it has become something of a “blended” service.)  There’s even a few who show up to attend worship a second time.  And so far, we haven’t had the “you’re trying to split the church” push-back.    

Fifteen months later, it would be fair to say that we don’t have this thing figured out yet.  The neighborhood isn’t beating down our doors in order to be a part of what has become, for those that attend, a powerful worship experience.  Our kids love it – getting to sit in “mushroom” chairs, eat snacks even as you sing, and actually be a part of worship – means that it’s become their preferred worship time.  So, sometimes we have 15 folks, and once in a while we have 30 – but we’re still trying to figure this thing out. 

Maybe that’s a good thing.  In my secular life (I’m a builder/developer), I’ve generally learned more from my “failures” than I have from my “successes. “  I think it’s fair to say that we haven’t “failed” in what we’re trying to do, but we are having a pretty significant “learning opportunity.”  Years ago, when I was in the Navy, we had a saying that “you just keep throwing stuff on the wall until something sticks” (we used a different S-word back then).  So that’s where we find ourselves. 

One thing I know we’ve learned – we haven’t done enough to “earn” the right to share the gospel with those we seek to reach.  Finding ways to be in “face-to-face” ministries is essential.  If you want to touch lives, then you have to touch people (duh).  It’s the old “you can’t just talk the talk – you’ve got to walk the walk” thing.

Churches aren’t reaching 60% of population

Posted: November 9, 2010 by efenster in Ideas

Alan Hirsch says that nearly all churches in America are missing the growing slice of the population pie which is made up of people that have no real interested in church events, programs, and buildings.   The churches are competing for the remaining 40%, as he estimates it, while ignoring the majority who have little interest in organized religion.   

At Ginghamsburg UMC’s “Change the World” conference last month, he said that he believes the American church can innovate and create new models that reach the increasingly secular culture.  What those new models look like is yet to be discovered.  What models is your church trying?

Go to to read more about Hirsch’s ideas, which he recently shared at Granger Community UM Church’s “Genius of the And” conference.   

— Ed Fenstermacher

Are you measuring what matters?

Posted: November 4, 2010 by efenster in Ideas

  Some say what you measure is what matters.  What does your church measure?  Worship attendance?  It’s budget figures?  It’s number of professions of faith?  

Gil Rendle, an independent church consultant, challenged pastors at an April 2010 Large Church Initiative in San Antonio, TX, to learn from Edwards Deming’s simple system theory regarding how they measure their churches’ effectiveness.  The theory says that in a system the “inputs” (resources) plus “through puts” (actions) result in the “outputs” (desired outcomes).

Rendle points out that when an organization isn’t clear about its desired outcomes–in the United Methodist church’s case “transformed disciples and communities”–it measures its inputs rather than its outputs.  For example, its number of people, its finances (including amount of tithe paid), its number of small groups, etc.  These, however, are really the inputs (resources), not the desired outcomes–changed lives and communities. 

He goes on to point out that when an organization (i.e. our churches) isn’t clear about its outcomes, not only do they measure their inputs but they measure them from a scarcity mindset–what they lack.  “We don’t have enough members!  We don’t have enough money!” 

Tired of such comments?  Then begin focusing your church on measuring the real objective of our mission–changed lives and communities.  How you specifically do this will vary from church to church because each has its own context.  So how would you measure it in your setting?  — Ed Fenstermacher

To hear all of Gil Rendle’s presentation on this topic go to