FCJ helping Indiana churches become more fruitful and effective!

Posted: September 7, 2011 by efenster in Resources

The Indiana Conference is helping churches become Vital Congregations through the Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ), a process offered by the conference’s Church Development Team, with the support of the Bishop and District Superintendents. 

What is FCJ?  It is a three-step process that initially involves a church’s pastor and up to eight laity in a Shared Learning Experience that is focused on developing themselves as leaders. These pastor-lay teams meet with other churches in the process over the course of eight monthly sessions for sharing, learning, and networking.

 Step 2 then assesses the church using a variety of tools, including visits from a series of unchurched mystery worshippers, a self-study, and a demographic study.  It culminates in an on-site assessment by a team of outside consultants.  All of this results in a report that gives the church a list of its greatest strengths, areas of concerns, and prescriptions to address those concerns. 

If the church decides to pursue all its prescriptions, it enters Step 3.  In this step the church implements the prescriptions with the help of a coach.  So far, approximately fifty Indiana UMC’s have completed Step 1.  Two dozen of them have signed up to continue with Step 2, the church assessment phase.  Beginning this fall, those churches that decide to implement their prescriptions will begin Step 3.  Additionally, nearly fifty new churches are beginning Step 1 this fall.

What is FCJ’s objective?  Its primary objective is to help United Methodist churches in Indiana more effectively carry out their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Because most churches have become very inward focused over time, FCJ particularly focuses on how to help churches re-engage with their communities for the sake of Christ. 

What are the results?  Now in 22 different annual conferences, FCJ is resulting in more fruitful churches.  For example, the Missouri Conference, which has been using this process for over five years, has experienced the following results:

  • 50% of its participating churches experienced a 5% or more worship attendance increase after 12 months (compared to only 10% of all churches in the U.S.)
  • 30% are growing in baptism, professions of faith and generosity
  • 10% haven’t made a statistical difference yet.

Where did it come from?  The FCJ process is based on work done years ago in the American Baptist denomination by Paul Borden.  Borden describes the process in detail in his book entitled, Assaulting the Gates:  Aiming All God’s People at the Mission Field. 

Why does it seem to work?  Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development for the Indiana Conference, believes the process works for the following reasons:

1. It’s just that, a process.  Unlike one-time workshops, seminars, or consultations, which rarely result in lasting change, FCJ is able to because it’s carried out over a period of about two and a half years.

2. It focuses on developing leaders.  Leaders are the key to any church revitalization effort.  A church can try everything, but without strong leaders–pastor and laity–such efforts will be in vain.

3. It provides a church with direction.  Most churches just don’t know what they should do next, where they should devote their limited time and energy.  Step 2 of the process helps churches determine which areas to focus, areas that will make the greatest difference.

4. It helps churches set specific measurable goals.  Without clear, measurable goals a church will rarely achieve the results it’s looking for.

5. It provides a coach to walk alongside the church.  The coach provides assistance, encouragement, and accountability.  Without accountability, goals seldom are implemented.

It is these five powerful elements, working together, that provide FCJ with its transformative effect. 

How’s it relate to the Vital Congregation effort?  FCJ provides churches with help in developing and implementing the goals that are a part of the Bishop and General Church’s Vital Congregation initiative.  Both build on the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

Where can churches find more information?  An overview of FCJ and its three steps can be found at the Indiana Conference’s website.  Churches are also encourage to contact the Church Development staff person that serves their district.  They can be reached by calling the Conference Center at 877 781-6706 or via their email addresses.  These staff include the following:

Doug Anderson (doug.anderson@inumc.org) – staffing the 15 largest UMCs, and working with FCJ at the national level

Steve Clouse (steve.clouse@inumc.org) – staffing the Northwest and East districts, and coordinating FCJ Step 2

Ed Fenstermacher (ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org) – staffing the North and Northeast districts, and coordinating FCJ Step 1

Mark Gough (mark.gough@inumc.org) – staffing the North Central, Central, and Southeast districts, and directing the whole FCJ process

Dave Neckers (david.neckers@inumc.org) – staffing the East District, and coordinating the FCJ coaching

Sharon Washington (sharon.washington@inumc.org) – staffing the South and Southwest districts, and coordinating the small-church FCJ process

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