Archive for February, 2013

Firing volunteers–not easy in the church!

Posted: February 28, 2013 by efenster in Ideas

Christ's bodyYesterday, I was with some pastors.  As we shared prayer concerns, one of them said that he had to “fire” a volunteer.  Another shared how he had removed a toxic parishioner from all ministries of the church and how he’s still working through that.  Their comments brought back unpleasant memories of when I had to ask a volunteer to no longer serve because their passive-aggressive behavior was harming themselves as well as others–including me!

Likely you too have dealt with such a situation.  Unfortunately we in the church tend to be nice and avoid conflict.  As a result, we tolerate unhealthy behavior that hurts people, the church, and ultimately its mission.  Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, says that an organization needs to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.

I’ve found in the church that it’s fairly easy to get people on the bus, harder to get them to change seats, and really difficult to get people off.  Yet, as a leader, I know that’s what I need to do to help our organization carry out its mission.  The Apostle Paul talks about how we are like parts of a body.  Our job as leaders is to make sure the parts are healthy and that they’re in the right places.  Lord, help us to care enough for both the each part and the body, as a whole, to do just that–even when it’s unpleasant and not easy.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Is church planting going to be sufficient?

Posted: February 21, 2013 by efenster in Uncategorized

Ed 09Today I heard good news on the church planting front of The United Methodist Church.  One news release from the General Board of Global Ministries announced that the UMC has planted 574 new worshiping communities outside the U.S. the past four years.  In fact, in Vietnam alone there are 14,000 more people who are part of the UMC.  Bishop Bruce Ough, who has been involved in the development of UM pastors there writes,

“It is remarkable to witness what God is doing through The United Methodist Church throughout the region,” said Ough. “The Holy Spirit is breaking through.  Lives and entire villages are being transformed.  Disciples of Jesus are being formed and equipped for ministry.  Leaders are being trained.  The distinct United Methodist witness of soul care (cultivating love of God) and social care (loving our neighbors) is taking deep root.”

Another news release, this time from Path 1, which is a church-planting effort of the General Board of Discipleship, announced that 684 new UMCs were planted in the U.S. over the past four years.  This is up considerably from the 278 new churches planted the four years before that.  The additional good news is that the closure rate during those same periods dropped from 26% to only 8% among these new-church plants.   Currently the UMC is planting 11.4 new churches each month in the United States.

The Indiana Conference is a part of this effort.   Although a Johnson County new-church plant has discontinued, two new efforts have begun–one near Avon, led by Rev. Alex Hershey, and a second one in Jeffersonville, led by Rev. Daniel Payton.  (Please pray for both of them and these efforts!)  We also have a number of Hispanic planting efforts going on, especially in Indianapolis, Marion, Hammond, Hobart, and East Chicago.  The largest of these averages 90, others average a couple dozen people or more.  Rev. Sergio Reyes and Ezekiel and Suri Becerra are leading these efforts.  (Please pray for them too!)  Additionally there are churches that are working on establishing new congregations, such as St. Joseph UMC in Fort Wayne.

My dream has been that someday the UMC in Indiana experiences a church-planting movement.  We’re not there yet, but there are some positive signs.  But is church renewal–through the Fruitful Congregation Journey–and church planting going to be sufficient to reach and disciples those in Indiana?   I read a third article via the internet today that indicates that the answer is probably “no” if our goal is to get them to attend our churches.

Tim Stevens, on staff at our own Granger Community UMC, wrote an article pointing out that 60% of the American population is not turning to organized religion to meet their spiritual needs.  He writes:  “These are people who might believe in God (whatever that means for them), have a respect for Jesus and are on a spiritual journey, but they don’t consider the church (as we know it) as a resource to help them take steps. And it is likely they never will. They pursue their spirituality through culture, friendships, music, TV personalities, their own study of the Bible, self-help books and more.”  Thus, the attractional model that we’ve been investing in for so many years isn’t going to get the job done.  We’re going to have to take the church to the streets–into our homes, neighborhoods, conversations, and activities.

How might the institutional church help us do this?  What one thing might your church do?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Where are the men?

Posted: February 8, 2013 by efenster in Uncategorized

Change the World 2012Is your church missing men?  According to the book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, by David Murrow (2011), the typical U.S. worship service draws an adult crowd that is 61% women.  He goes on to say that churches are designed for persons who are highly verbal, musical, sensitive, and relational; in other words, they’re designed more for the typical woman than the typical man.

He says that this is unique to Christianity, that all the other major religions don’t have such a gender imbalance.  He also says that this imbalance is not just a U.S. issue, but it can be found wherever Christianity is practiced.  In fact, he argues that men have been becoming less involved in Christianity over the past 700 years.  (Yes, that’s a seven with two zeros!)

So, what about your church?  Are the people–up front, in leadership, in the pews, in the Sunday school classrooms–more likely to be girls and women rather than boys and men?  Is so, you’ll want to read this book, especially the last part which talks about how we can more intentionally design our churches especially for men.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development


To whom has your church been sent?

Posted: February 1, 2013 by efenster in Ideas

UM Faith SharingWho is God calling your church to intentionally reach?  Or to ask it the way I recently heard Michael Frost ask it, “To whom have you been sent?”  Frost says that if you can’t answer this question, then you aren’t in the game.

That is, unless a church is clear about who God is specifically calling it to reach, serve, and disciple, it simply isn’t going to make a consequential difference for the Kingdom.  Your community may not notice much difference if your church were to cease existing…

Most churches I work with when asked who they’re trying to reach quickly answer, “Everyone!”  They bristle at the thought of limiting their focus.  The reality, however, is that they aren’t reaching everyone, that they are limiting who they are reaching by the decisions they are making.

  • Are their worship services only on Sunday mornings?  Then they have decided not to reach those unavailable on Sunday mornings.
  • Is there a clean, updated nursery with consistent, well-trained care providers?  If not, they’ve decided not to reach families with young children.
  • Are their worship services only available to English speakers?  Then they have decided to not reach those who aren’t fluent in English.
  • Are their worship services signed?  If not, they’ve decided not to reach those who depend on communicating via sign language.
  • Do they use a particular style of music?  If so, there are many for whom such music won’t appeal.
  • Does the worship service have more than 50 people?  Then it likely won’t be attractive to those seeking a small, family-feel service.
  • Does the worship service have fewer than 50 people?  Then it will be difficult to attract outsiders who feel uncomfortable joining a group of people that already know each other.

The bottom line is that no church can reach everyone.   And if a church isn’t clear as to who it is God is calling it to reach, it is likely to reach no one, except the folks already there.

So, to whom has your church been sent?  Don’t be left out of the game!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development