Archive for October, 2014

Being poor stinks!

Posted: October 29, 2014 by efenster in Ideas, Stories
Tags: , , , ,

Wire Shopping Cart 180L 45 degree_medium“Being poor stinks!” said the woman to me at the check-out lane.  I asked her how she was and she took me seriously.  In fact, she went on for the next ten minutes.  (Thank goodness no one else was in line!)  A broken marriage, a mother who had died and left her with a feeling of abandonment, unsupportive siblings to help her deal with settling her mother’s estate, a pregnant daughter out of state whom she is desperate to be with at the time of delivery, financial problems.  Yes, being poor stinks!

North Judson United Methodist Church, pastored by Rev. David Mullens, is serving its community’s poor in a variety of ways–clothing ministry, food bank, etc.  However, what it’s doing that’s unique is that everything is home delivered.  Lay people take the clothes to the family, allow them to try the clothes on to make sure they fit, hear their stories, and pray with them.  The same with the food.  Rather than having people stand in a line, lay members bring bags of food to each family, spend time listening to their stories and pray with them.

You see it isn’t just about the clothes or the food, it’s about being present about offering prayers and hope.  Something that we Christians can do anywhere–even at the check-out line.  You see poverty stinks.  People feel alone.  Many are as desperate for a listening ear and prayer, as they are for the goods we have to offer them.

How about your church?  How is it serving the poor?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Unknown-1I recently had a pastor ask me for tips on how to deal with church conflict.  Here are five things that came to mind…

  1. Where there are two or more present, there will be conflict; it’s normal.  How we deal with it is the key.
  2. Acknowledging and dealing with conflict is an act of love.  If we didn’t love those involved, we wouldn’t care and would just shrug it off.
  3. Dealing with people face-to-face, rather than behind their backs, is essential (Matthew 18:15-17).  In order to get a congregation to communicate in such a way, some churches are using church covenants that include things like—we take our concerns to the person, rather than going to someone else (triangulating); we don’t deal with anonymous comments or complaints; we can disagree when discussing issues in committees, but once our group makes its decision we publicly support it 100%.
  4. In order to deal with conflict in a healthy way, we must trust those involved (See The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni); so how can we build trust?  By spending time together, listening to each other’s stories, creating a safe place.
  5. Dan Moseley, pastor, writer, and professor at Christian Theological Seminary, says that helping people learn to grieve is a fundamental element in helping people deal with conflict.  They need to be asked, “What is it that you’re afraid to lose?”  This helps them articulate what’s behind their grief and it helps them discover that they’re not alone, that others are losing something too, even those who hold an opposing view.  Part of the role of the pastor is to create a safe place where this conversation can happen, and to be vulnerable by honestly sharing themselves; otherwise, others won’t open up and be vulnerable.

What would you add?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

What does a church making peanut brittle have to do with making disciples and transforming the world?  Maybe absolutely nothing  but maybe there is a connection.  The key is that every activity your church does–from its annual rummage sale to its vacation Bible school–must be able to complete the “so that” test.

Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin, in their book entitled Bearing Fruit, says that everything a church does must be linked to its mission by the words so that.  A church must be able to answer the question, “How does this activity help us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?”

In the case of peanut brittle, a church could say, “We are making the peanut brittle so that we can rub shoulders with newcomers to our church, so that they can develop friends and get connected with a small spiritual growth group with those friends, so that ultimately these newcomers will grow in their relationship with Christ.”

If you can’t come up with an answer to “so that,” then stop doing it!

Below is a group from Chesterton United Methodist Church that applied the “so that” test to their Companions in Christ group.  The group isn’t new but its members hadn’t, until now, articulated how their group helps carry out the mission.

So, how might your church use the “so that” test too?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

20141003_102617 20141003_102559