Archive for March, 2015

6a00d8341bf73153ef0105359fa532970c-800wiThe last blog article described South Whitley United Methodist Church‘s bold goal of 100 first-time commitments to Christ during 2015.  This church, led by Rev. Chris Stahlman, also has set a goal of dramatically increasing the number of tithing members by giving them this bold offer:  “Try tithing for six months.  If you’re not satisfied, we’ll refund your money.”

The church has struggled to meet its annual budget.  It has tried using a “step-up” stewardship campaign, challenging members to increase their giving a percent of their income each year until they reach a tithe.  This year, however, leaders of stewardship decided to take a very different approach.

After researching how other churches raised the level of their members’ financial stewardship, the leadership decided to encourage South Whitley members to practice a 10-10-10-70 spending plan.  Save 10%, spend 10% on debt reduction, give 10% to God (tithe), and live on the remaining 70%.  To that end, the church challenged its members to practice tithing for the first six months of 2015.  If not satisfied with the results, the church will refund their money in full.

The result:  thirty families took up the challenge, joining twenty other families who were already tithing.  Initial results are astounding.  The level of generosity at the Church has more than doubled this past month, despite having lower attendance due to the winter conditions!  How have they done this?  In part by following up with those who have taking the challenge.  The Stewardship Team follows up with the families participating in the 10-10-10-70 challenge with encouragement, tools for success, accountability, and words of thanks.

These leaders not only have stepped out in faith by offering this unique challenge, but they also shared with the congregation how the anticipated surplus money will be spent.  They stepped out in faith and, as a result, thirty other families stepped out in faith too–and are being blessed!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

imagesOne hundred people finding salvation!  That’s the goal of the South Whitley United Methodist Church, located in a town of 1,700 people in northeast Indiana.  This church, which averages fewer than 200 in worship, takes its vision “to passionately pursue those seeking God” seriously, so seriously that it set this lofty goal.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Chris Stahlman, says that the church arrived at the goal after some laity researched the matter.  They found that the average vital church in America averages 12 first-time commitments to Christ for every 100 in worship.  Rather that set a goal of 24, however, church leaders set a goal of 100 for 2015.  (I guess they see themselves as above average, which, of course, they are!)

The past few years, the church has been participating in the Fruitful Congregation Journey, a three-year revitalization process offered through the Indiana Conference.  As a part of the process, the church developed an intentional system for making disciples, including helping people respond to the invitation to follow Christ.

They track first-time commitments on the “connection card” used in worship.  Each preaching series provides an invitation to make a commitment to follow Christ.  Every small group, including Sunday school classes and Bible studies, are encouraged to provide a similar invitation at least once every three months.  Invitations are also being incorporated into special events, like Vacation Bible School and summer church camps.

Once a person indicates on his/her connection card that they’ve made a commitment to Christ, the church follows up with contact from the pastor, focusing on the person’s commitment to God.  They give them a book one month later that is a 60-day study about their commitment to Christ, and then three months later the pastor meets with them about making a commitment to the Kingdom and the church.  Of course, during this time the person will hopefully be worshiping, attending a small group, and be welcomed into the church family.

So, how has the church done so far toward its goal in the first two months of the year?  Pastor Chris acknowledges that it’s had fewer than ten people so far, but that the church will be really gearing up later this year.  Yet, think about it, had the church not set the goal perhaps they wouldn’t have extended any invitations to Christ and, as a result, they wouldn’t have had anyone who had made a first-time commitment to Christ.  What about your church?  What’s its expectations?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development