Archive for February, 2014

imagesHow does a church deal with those toxic, poisonous people who block a healthy church from moving forward?  A Sunday school teacher who refuses to attend worship because she doesn’t like the pastor.  A parishioner who threatens to take the equipment he donated to his church because he doesn’t like that it’s being used to reach people outside the church.  The anonymous person who sends a string of threatening notes.

Years ago, church growth expert, Carl George, referred to these persons as E.G.R.’s, “Extra Grace Required” people.  Mike Slaughter, author and pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, refers to them as “demons that need to be exorcized” not placated.  Too often, church members tiptoe around these folks and cede them control in order to keep the peace.  But the peace is only superficial because everyone knows that they’re there, proverbial “elephants in the room.”

So what happens to that Sunday school teacher who doesn’t attend worship?  One pastor had all leaders, including Sunday school teachers, sign a covenant that included regular weekly worship attendance.  The teacher ended up quitting rather than sign the covenant.  The covenant culled out the unhealthy leader.

How about the person that wanted to take back the items he had purchased for the church?  His pastor actually announced in a worship service that the church would have a “Take back from God” meeting.  Anyone who didn’t want items they had purchased for the church to be used for ministry were to attend the meeting, claim their items, and they would be returned to them.  Well, it ended up that the pastor, his church’s lay leader, and trustee chair were the only ones who showed up.  After that, no one has raised the issue of how their items are used for ministry!

And what about the anonymous notes?  When this happened to me, my pastor talked about it openly with the congregation making it very clear that it was unethical and that we would be talking with the U.S. postal service if we found out who was behind them.  He also made a point that any unsigned messages would not be read but thrown away, and that the Staff-Parish Relations Committee didn’t deal with secondhand complaints.  People needed to talk face-to-face with persons they had gripes with and not triangulate by sending their messages through a third party.  Thankfully, the notes stopped.

What if, after efforts like the above have been made, the toxic person still is harming the church’s ministry and its leadership?  In that case, it’s time for intervention where the leaders of the church, in consultation with their district superintendent, remove that person from ministry.  Obviously this is a last resort, but it took such action in at least one church I know.

The above such practices, though difficult at the time, promote healthy communication and behavior, and ultimately result in a healthy church–free of  pachyderms!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Posted: February 13, 2014 by efenster in Stories
Tags: , , , ,

image_7336“It’s true, isn’t it?” the 30-year-old woman said to Rev. Loucks.  “Jesus is real!”  This was a part of a conversation that happened after a special Wednesday night worship service designed to reach the unchurched, especially those living in a low-income mobile home community.

Lamb’s Chapel United Methodist Church, located in LaPorte County near the Michigan state line, already has three Sunday morning worship services–two contemporary and a traditional service.  Yet, Rev. Jay Loucks and the church’s leaders realized that there was a significant, unreached group of people living in a nearby mobile home court, so they decided to start a Wednesday evening service to reach them.  And, as the above comment demonstrates, lives are being changed!

Most of the 50 or so people attending are Hispanic, many undocumented, so building trust has been critically important.  One way trust has been growing is through Rev. Loucks substitute teaching in the local elementary school where many of the families’ children attend.  The church also has a member who is translating the service into Spanish in real time using translation equipment.

The church also uses food as a way to connect with those attending.  In fact, the Wednesday worship–which features a praise band, teaching, and community–is called the “Bread of Life” service.  The church provides groceries to every family who attends, and each month they give one family a freezer full of food donated by Lamb’s Chapel members!  All so that people might realize that Jesus is real!

Praise God!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Over the top worship outreach

Posted: February 13, 2014 by efenster in Stories
Tags: , , , ,

image_7336“It’s true, isn’t it?” the 30-year-old woman said to Rev. Loucks.  “Jesus is real!”  This was a part of a conversation that happened after a special Wednesday night worship service designed to reach the unchurched, especially those living in a low-income mobile home community.

Lamb’s Chapel United Methodist Church, located in LaPorte County near the Michigan state line, already has three Sunday morning worship services–two contemporary and a traditional service.  Yet, Rev. Jay Loucks and the church’s leaders realized that there was a significant, unreached group of people living in a nearby mobile home court, so they decided to start a Wednesday evening service to reach them.  And, as the above comment demonstrates, lives are being changed!

Most of the 50 or so people attending are Hispanic, many undocumented, so building trust has been critically important.  One way trust has been growing is through Rev. Loucks substitute teaching in the local elementary school where many of the families’ children attend.  The church also has a member who is translating the service into Spanish in real time using translation equipment.

The church also uses food as a way to connect with those attending.  In fact, the Wednesday worship–which features a praise band, teaching, and community–is called the “Bread of Life” service.  The church provides groceries to every family who attends and each month they give one family a freezer full of food donated by Lamb’s Chapel members!  All so that people might realize that Jesus is real!

Praise God!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

EthnicYou’ve heard the phrase that Sunday worship in America is the most segregated hour of all.  In a recent article on the subject by Lovett Weems, director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Weems makes an interesting observation.  Research indicates that the more options a society has for a particular function–in this case worship–the more likely each entity will attract people like themselves.

This is played out in my neighborhood this way.  There is one public high school serving the area and it is extremely diverse, especially racially and culturally.  However, there are numerous churches and they tend to be very monoracial, monocultural.  Youth growing up in the diverse high school, though, question why their churches are so segregated.  Many young people are expecting such diversity where they worship–including my sons.

Weems, in his article, points out that there is a hopeful sign in The United Methodist Church in that regard.  Since 2000, the percentage of UM churches in the U.S. reporting more than one ethnic group in their congregations has increased from 59% to 70% (in 2011).  He also points out, however, that congregations that are multiracial–defined as a church in which no racial group makes up more than 80% of the congregation–has only increased from 1% to 2% over the same period.  So there’s much work yet to be done.

The United Methodist churches of Indiana appear to reflect this reality.  We have  a growing number of churches, though still very few, intentionally striving to reach the racial minorities living around their churches.  Yet, we still have only a handful of multiracial churches.  Very likely this will have to change if we are to reach the younger generations.  What does your church need to do?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development