Archive for May, 2013

“A little child will lead them…”

Posted: May 30, 2013 by efenster in Ideas, Stories
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BibleSo often it seems that our children set better examples of what it means to be a follower of Christ than we seasoned Christians.

Case in point:  This month Covenant United Methodist Church (my church) gave Bibles to its third graders.  Through this spring, the children learned about the Bible and were encouraged to read it.  Guess what?  They are!

In fact one girl’s mother wrote the following about her daughter Lauren…

“So come to find out Lauren has been taking her bible to school.  I asked her when she reads it because I didn’t want it going outside at recess and getting ruined.  She said, ‘Mom I read it at silent reading time.  And now other kids are bringing their bibles to school.’

Apparently her teacher is ok with it because she showed him her bible and she said he was proud of her; well so am I!  I’ve always told her to be proud of her faith and to never hide it.”

And a little child will lead them…

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

LOGO-FCJA new group of Indiana United Methodist churches is registering to begin the Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ) church revitalization process this fall.  Now that 185 churches have been involved, is FCJ really making a significant difference?

Because only twenty churches have completed the nearly three-year process, it’s still difficult to determine the impact FCJ is making; however there is a lot of positive anecdotal evidence.  Churches are reporting that they have more hope, they have direction, laity are feeling empowered, key changes are being made, a greater focus is being made on prayer and discipling those beyond the walls of the church.

Additionally, there are these positive signs:

1) Nearly 100% of churches that entered Step 1 last fall have chosen to go on to Step 2.

2) Only 4 out of 60 churches that have completed Step 2 haven’t gone on to Step 3.

3) 90% of those finishing Step 3 were experiencing a decline in their worship attendance prior to beginning FCJ.  Yet over half of these churches grew over their three years in FCJ.  In comparison, over this same period only 29% of Indiana UMCs grew.

The bottom line is that the Conference through its Church Development area wouldn’t continue to invest significant amounts of time, money, and effort into FCJ unless it truly was making a difference.

So if your church has been invited to participate in the new group of churches beginning the process in September, make sure to register right away.  If your church hasn’t been invited yet you’re interested in participating, contact your district superintendent or your Church Development staff person.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

(Note:  If you’re in a church averaging fewer than 50 in worship,  FCJ, in its present form, will not be very effective.  We’re considering options for churches like yours.)

Breaking out of our silos

Posted: May 17, 2013 by efenster in Ideas

SilosDoes your church tend to operate in silos?  You know, do the trustees do their thing, missions another, and the youth area still another?  Even though they’re all a part of the same church with the same mission, does each area function independently?

Well, I was at First United Methodist Church of Valparaiso, Indiana, last Saturday and the church was observing the global “Change the World” movement by preparing meals for the hungry through the organization Kids Against Hunger.  Over two hundred people, working in two shifts, prepared over 40,000 meals at the church that day!

What’s this have to do with breaking down silos?  The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Jacob Williams, Jr., explained to me that the ingredients and shipping expenses for the meals were being covered through a grant from a special benevolent fund the church had established.  The hitch, however, was that in order for a ministry area in the church to apply for this grant, it had to find at least two other non-related ministry areas to join them in their cause.  As a result, silos were being breached, the church’s ministries were working together, and amazing things were happening.

How might your church break out of its tendency to do ministry in silos?  Figure that out and it may just help your church change the world, just as First UMC was last Saturday.

— Ed Fenstermacher


An effective vision paints a picture

Posted: May 10, 2013 by efenster in Ideas

“First Church will reach and disciple children and their families.”  Or “Children will drag their parents to First Church where Christ becomes their best friend.”  Two vision statements.  Which one paints a better picture in your mind’s eye?  An effective vision does just that, it paints a picture of a future reality God is drawing it toward.

This week I have experienced two Indiana United Methodist churches that have effectively done just that.  One is Bremen UMC that distilled its wordy vision down to the image to the left.  Bremen-BridgeLogoIn the matter of an image and a few words, this vision simply, but powerfully, conveys the church’s dream to connect with those in its community by going to them by building bridges linking them and Christ.

Another church’s vision is actually vividly expressed through its newly remodeled gym.  Aldersgate UMC, in Fort Wayne, is putting the finishing touches on a space that recreates London’s Aldersgate Street.

The church’s Director of Children’s Ministry, Joan Schell, says its more than simply a place for children’s ministry.  It’s a multi-generational space that is being used by the entire congregation.  Throughout the room are hidden tiny hearts–a reminder of John Wesley’s heart-warming experience which occurred at a prayer meeting off Aldersgate Street–which serve as a subtle reminder of God’s love for us and our response of love back to God and others.

FW Aldersgate 1305-1 FW Aldersgate-1305-2 FW Aldersgate-1305-3

So is your vision painting pictures at your church?  If not, what can you do to make it more visual?  Why is this so important?  Because truly a picture can paint a thousand words.  In fact, words can even move mountains–especially when they come in the form of a vision from God.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Making the Kingdom tangible!

Posted: May 1, 2013 by efenster in Ideas

Tangible KingdomThe book Tangible Kingdom:  Creating Incarnational Communityby Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, one of the authors shares about his encounter with a woman on an airplane.  Being a Christian and a pastor, he was ready to share his faith with the woman but first asked her to share a little about her life.  She explained that she was a biologist who had been working on a cure for AIDS for 14 years. She began her work because many of her friends had died from the disease.

She went on to talk about the community she was a part of.  “Everyone I work with is like family.  Almost all of us share a real passion for our purpose together, join hands and pray to our benevolent God for his help in finding a cure.  They’re both my co-laborers and my spiritual family.  If all I had was them, that’s all I will ever need.”

The author said for the first time in his life he didn’t have any thing to offer the woman.  Then she asked him what he did for a living.  When he told her he was a pastor, he writes:  “She gently reached down, grabbed both my hands, looked me right in the eyes, and said, ‘Oh, I’m sure that must be hard to do.  I’ve never found anything attractive about any church or Christians I’ve ever met.  I will pray for you.’  And then she recited some Celtic blessing over me that sounded like it came straight from the very mouth of Saint Patrick.”

The book points out that one out of every three adults in America, according to recent Barna research, is like this woman–unchurched.  Furthermore, “roughly half of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth last year.”  In fact, in America “it takes the combined effort of eight-five Christians working over an entire year to produce one convert.”

The attractional model of church, that is so familiar to so many of us, is not going to reach these persons, rather it will take a more incarnational approach–one described in the book.

So to all of you whose heart aches for the growing numbers of people who have no interest in the institutional church, I encourage you to read this book and consider how you might apply it in your life.  Happy reading!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development