Archive for April, 2016

03EC0C2383AA49DFBD2F9B635F887655_120913-facebookIt isn’t every Sunday that a new church is officially welcomed into our Indiana Conference, so last Sunday at The Branches, in Plainfield, was very special.  The United Methodist church, which was started by Rev. Alex Hershey in 2013, celebrated it’s new status at a chartering service.  This milestone will also be celebrated at Annual Conference in June.

Some in the conference may have the impression that this is the only church plant going on.  This is far from the truth.  The conference actually has twenty or so new faith communities meeting right now that have been launched in the past few years.  It also has another group of them being launched in the coming months.  These projects include Korean, Native American, Burmese, and a number of Hispanic congregations besides Anglo and multi-ethnic congregations.  Some are stand alone congregation, but many are being sponsored by existing United Methodist churches.

In many ways, the Indiana Conference is experiencing the beginnings of a church planting movement.  Perhaps the greatest sign of this is that the conference’s Church Development team is not directly involved in a number of these projects.

Stay tuned for future announcements of some new amazing church plants that are in the works.  God is moving!  And, please consider joining the action by contacting your Church Development staff person.  We’re looking for more sponsoring churches, prospective church planters, planting opportunities, and people to pray.  Why not join in the fun and be apart of what God is doing!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Upward arrow“We’re concerned about quality not quantity.”  “We don’t play the numbers game.”  “We need to focus on growing our people before we focus on reaching those outside our church.”  We have all heard such comments, haven’t we?  Perhaps we’ve made them ourselves at times.

Whether we’re looking at our Sunday school attendance, worship attendance, or, in my case, conference statistics, when the numbers are declining it’s easy to for us to rationalize and dismiss such trends.  Yet, Lovett H. Weems, Jr., in his recent article, “Changing Congregational Trends,” points out that there is a direct correlation between churches that are growing and their level of spiritual vitality.  In other words, if our trends are declining, that may well point to the fact we have a spiritual problem.

Most of our Indiana United Methodist congregations have been experiencing a decline in worship attendance.  Only 26% grew by at least an average of one worshiper from 2013 to 2014!  No doubt this decline reflects our society’s changing behaviors, such as people attending worship less frequently than in the past.  Yet, at the core, in many cases, it reflects the lack of spiritual vitality.  Many of our churches are like the church in Ephesus, described in the Book of Revelation as having forsaken its “first love.”

In working with over two hundred of our congregations through the Fruitful Congregation Journey process, the Church Development team has discovered that most of our churches lack a clear vision and disciple-making process.  But even more significant, they lack members with hearts that are totally in love with Jesus and are fully committed to serving him above all else.

So should we be concerned about our church’s growth trend?  The study cited by Weems suggests yes, we should because it’s a reflection of our spiritual vitality, our heart.  So, what about your church’s trend?  Does it reflect hearts fully in love with Christ, or is there spiritual work that needs to be done?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development