Archive for March, 2013

Circuit RiderA UM seminary student, and friend of mine, Debbie Smith, shared the following quote with me this week:

“The history of Methodism, therefore, is a cycle of successful mission movements followed by institutionalization, followed by rebellions against institutionalization in the name of renewing the mission.”  (Oxford Handbook Chapter 25 by Dana L. Robert and Douglas D. Tzan pg. 436)

Then she asked me if I thought we are currently in the “renewing the mission” phase of the cycle?

How would you answer her?

I would hope that we’re moving to a period of renewing the  mission.  A lot of the work Church Development is doing (Fruitful Congregation Journey and church planting) is trying to help that to happen, but I think it’s too soon to say if a new period of renewal is emerging.
For that to happen we will need to place our mission–to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world–as our sole focus.  We’ll need to let go of our personal preferences and passionately pursue all we need to do in order to fulfill our mission even though it will mean change!
We as a conference will need to not simply tolerate but even defer to apostolic leaders–those focused on reaching persons uninterested in our institutional churches–to lead the way.  This won’t be easy because most of us aren’t comfortable with apostolic leaders.  They think differently; their bias is never maintenance; their priorities aren’t sustaining the status quo.
We may even need to bend the rules at times (new wineskins?)  Is this possible in the UMC?For example, the leader of our only chartered Hispanic church recently pointed out that in his culture it is necessary that anyone planting a church must carry the title “pastor” no matter whether or not they are officially credentialed.  Without that title, people won’t take him/her seriously.  What do we do with that reality?  We have Hispanic projects popping up all over the state, yet we don’t have enough apostolic Hispanic pastors in our conference. So do we wait until we get persons credentialed and miss the opportunities that God seems to be calling us to?  Or do we permit lay persons under the supervision of elders to carry the title “pastor” in their ministry context.  What do we do?
How we respond in to such situations will likely determine whether we truly are entering the “renewing of the mission” phase in the cycle Debbie cited.  This Easter season I pray that we’ll be sold out to Christ and His mission.  Let’s do whatever God requires and do it with the same boldness as John Wesley, Francis Asbury and our circuit-riding  predecessors!
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Is your church budget shrinking?

Posted: March 22, 2013 by efenster in Information, Resources

Upward arrowThe church is one of the last organizations that relies on primarily one income stream–congregational offerings.  Lovett Weems in his book, Focus:   The Real Challenges that Face the United Methodist Church (2011), points out that giving for the UM denomination increased until 2008 and then began declining.  Unless churches begin to move beyond relying solely on the offering plate, they will be dealing with dwindling funds.

What are some additional funding streams?  Some say that younger people are used to user fees and that church’s should begin charging members for some of its services, such as Vacation Bible Schools, weddings, and Sunday school curriculum.  Some churches have begun relying on ministries using their facility to generate income–for example, daycares that pay the church for custodial services, help with utilities, and building maintenance.  Some collect rent from outside organizations using their facilities, such a another church using their facility or groups renting their hall for receptions.

David Bell, Senior Design Partner with Design Group International, says that a healthy church’s finances should rely on three key areas.  Think of them as legs on a stool.

1. Annual gifts.  This includes the following:  annual stewardship campaign, offerings and tithes, special Sunday offerings, designated asking, and special events.

2. Major gifts.  This includes:  capital campaigns, endowment funds, special projects.

3. Life gifts.  This includes bequests, wills and estate gifts, and irrevocable gifts.

If a church gives attention to all three legs, it is likely to be able to fund its ministries much more effectively.  Some church finance committees fear considering numbers 2 and 3 above because they are afraid they will divert money needed for the church’s operating budget to other special projects, such as a building campaign.  Bell points out, however, that people give out of different pockets.  Numbers 2 and 3 are asking people to give from their accumulated assets, not their incomes.  If the church doesn’t ask persons to give, these people will likely give anyway to other organizations that make requests.  Churches are encouraged to contact Manet Shettle at the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana for assistance in developing 2 and 3.

What are some additional ways to strengthen a church’s income?  Bell says that churches that offer electronic fund transfer giving (withdrawals from interested members’ bank accounts each month), experience a 20% increase in giving annually.  Early adopters typically are adults under 45 years of age, who no longer write checks, and snowbirds who are already using EFT at the churches they attend during the winter.

Church’s also use annual stewardship campaigns, such as Consecration Sunday.  And they teach stewardship through courses like Financial Peace University  and Good $ense.

Finally, it really isn’t about raising money.  It’s about stewardship, which is managing all the gifts God has blessed us with.  Churches can grow in this area with the help of Dr. Kent Millard, Director of Generosity and Gratitude for the Indiana Conference, and training offered through Rejuvenate, directed by Rev. Mary Ann Moman.  Rejuvenate is presently offering a stewardship workshop for church leaders in Indiana, called “Encouraging the Joy of Generous Giving,” which is led by David Bell.

Churches would be wise to take advantage of any of the above resources if they wish to move from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance.  So, what’s your church’s next step?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Taylor Chapel-ChildrenDo you enjoy how you’re presently serving God and your church?  What happens when God calls you to do something new?  Hear these words from Pam Pierson about her inner struggle as God called her to leave her church’s praise team to lead its Sunday morning children’s ministry called KIDS Worship!
“Had I responded immediately to the prompting of the Spirit, this ministry [KIDS Worship!] could have been launched last fall.  What slowed down the process was me!  Transitioning into this new ministry meant stepping away from something dear to me (Praise Team).  What “dear” things will many of us at TC need to trade in for the “new” thing that God wants for us?  It might seem very…glamourous…and cool to be leading something new…but what is unseen may often be the process…battle?… that precedes the birth of something new.  What do we cling to selfishly because it’s comfortable, enjoyable, even meaningful….when God wants to move us to new territory?  I couldn’t imagine not singing from the platform every Sunday….and, if I am honest, I miss singing in that setting…so I didn’t necessarily want to move to KIDS Worship! until it became so crystal clear that it was where I needed to be…..but it’s good to be in a new place when one knows it’s the place where God is leading.”
Pam is a member of Taylor Chapel United Methodist Church, in Fort Wayne, led by Rev. Steve Conner.
(Thanks Pam for sharing this with us!)