Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

headshots+2-0055I’m a product of the church growth movement, but the church growth movement isn’t going to take the church where it needs to go in the future.  We need to move from addition to multiplication–from adding to our numbers through attraction, to sending out our people to start new faith communities that in turn raise up new leaders that are sent out to start new faith communities.  Moving from addition to multiplication is a necessary step if we are to experience the kind of movement The United Methodist Church experienced in the early 1800’s in Indiana.

Upward arrowUp till now, a prime metric that we’ve been taught to watch is the average number of people in our weekly worship services.  Therefore, we’ve focused on marketing our churches and protecting and conserving our numbers.  The last thing we’d want to do is send people out because our worship attendance metric would take a hit.

The Church Development team is convinced that we need to change our prime metric and begin measuring the number of people that we’re sending out to help start new faith communities.  The reality is that fewer and fewer people in the U.S. are interested in coming to our churches.  What if we embrace Jesus’ command to go?  What if we take the church to them?

IMG_6662Last month, over 100 church pastors and leaders from the Indiana Conference gathered with Bishop Trimble and the Church Development team to consider this very idea.  What would it take for us and our churches to move from an addition mindset to one of multiplication.  We’re convinced that God is moving right now in our leaders and churches, placing on many of their hearts and minds the desire to multiply! If you’re such a person, or you attend such a church, know that the Church Development team is ready to partner with you.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Leaders praying at the Bishop’s Multiplication Summit held September 7, 2017IMG_6665

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Recently I attended a meeting with pastors of United Methodist churches that were all launching innovative ministries in the heart of Lafayette.  These leaders easily could have felt as though they were “competing” with one another.  “Why is your church doing ministry in our church’s neighborhood?”  Yet, the outcome of this meeting was one of awe and wonder.  Awe at the unique visions that God had placed in each congregation and wonder at the possibility that God might be doing something bigger than any single church could imagine.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized more and more the power of imagination and creativity.  Both, no doubt, are attributes of God who is the ultimate creator.  When church’s develop hearts that truly care for their communities and when they are instilled with imagination and creativity, amazing things begin to happen–like what’s happening in Lafayette.

trinity-logo_origRev. Tracey Leslie and the members of Trinity UMC are working to create a new faith community from among those living especially in the church’s Centennial Neighborhood.  With the help of a Community Engagement Coach, they will be using photography, storytelling, and dialogue to begin identifying the community’s assets, barriers and challenges.  The church also has plans for a community garden, offering meals, and a family-to-family initiative.  All this ultimately is to help those in the emerging faith community connect their personal stories to the salvation story–identifying and celebrating God’s movement in community members’ lives.

ABetterLifeRev. Lore Gibson and the members of Grace UMC have established a chapter of Brianna’s Hope, a ministry for those seeking to overcome substance abuse addictions.  The ministry, whose first chapter was started by Pastor Randy Davis in Redkey, Indiana, in 2014, now has seventeen chapters around the state, including this one in Lafayette.  Already, Grace’s chapter has stories of changed lives.

17859169_10208689563901264_329296036_oRev. Scott Mann, associate pastor Stephanie Hanslow, and the members of Christ UMC have been reaching the marginalized and homeless of Lafayette’s urban core through a worship gathering called the Church for Everyone that meets the last Saturday of the month at Brown Street UMC.  The ministry typically gathers over 100 persons to worship, break bread, and celebrate Holy Communion.  “There were homeless people, teenagers, older adults, persons of all ethnic and socio economic backgrounds….It was a picture of God’s Kingdom of love and mercy.”  And now the church is getting ready to move toward weekly worship.

Things are happening in churches elsewhere too.  God is moving in new ways, touching more and more lives through new models of ministry.  And rather than feeling threatened, these churches are celebrating the fact that they each play a unique part and by working together they’re collective ministry is stronger!  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Association Director of Church Development

 

NEW-TO-FIVE-ebook-cover-6-HR-400x630The book, New to Five, by Ralph Moore and Jeff Christopherson, is all about moving our thinking as church leaders from addition to multiplication.  I grew up during the Church Growth movement.  I helped an inner-city church in Fort Wayne make 18,000 phone calls inviting people to our services.  We launched billboards, held “bring-a-friend” events and started new worship services.  And guess what, even though we were in the “wrong” part of our city, we were able to attract people and grow.

The authors of New to Five, however, question the biblical underpinnings of such an approach.  Even more they point out that addition isn’t cutting it, that a growing percentage of people aren’t interested in attending our churches, that U.S. worship attendance continues to decline, and after all, isn’t it about making disciples rather than building our kingdoms?

So what’s their alternative?  Multiplication!  The New Testament church is all about equipping and sending.  A healthier metric moves us from “seating capacity to sending capacity.”  Ralph writes:  “I think that the Great Commission will require us to start and multiply numerous smaller congregations that can reach into every nook and cranny of society…. Addition-focused churches have started to look alike, and ‘alike’ tends to be middle class–leaving lots of people outside the family.”

He goes on to say, “Many common church-planting methodologies seem to start with an eye toward multiplication until they gain momentum and multiplicative behaviors are shut down for the much sexier addition….If you don’t now it already, feeding a Level 3 [addition-focused] church takes a lot of money, talent, leadership and dedicated volunteers.  Start releasing and sending them out, and your church might implode.  At least that’s the prevailing fear…”

So the underlying question is, “Will you build a kingdom, or are you intent on building the Kingdom?”  Churches focused on building the Kingdom, referred to as Level 5 churches, look for effectiveness rather than excellence.  After all, look at who Jesus chose to lead His church?  Jeff writes:  “Instead of hand-selecting the obviously impressive, He chose the noticeably common.  Never has a less-impressive team received a more important assignment. ”

As Ralph says, “If you fully commit to pursuing Level 5 multiplication, the recognition that Level 3 pastors receive for leading large, growing and innovative churches won’t be  part of your story.  Simply put, fame and fortune are not coming your way, so get used to it.”  And just because a church may be small in size doesn’t limit it from focusing on multiplication rather than addition.

The reality is that growth shouldn’t be thrown out the window, but the writers point out that growth comes as disciples are released and sent out, churches give birth to new faith communities, that in turn give birth.  It’s exponential growth not growth through addition.  Adding new programs, improving worship services, and marketing creates a consumer-based church, where making disciples is more of an add on and doesn’t get much traction.  In a church based on a multiplication mindset, disciple making comes first, its at the core.  The church, its worship services, and programs grow out of the disciples being reached.

So in hindsight, I wish that the inner-city church I served years ago would have focused on sending its people out to build relationships with those in need of the Good News and a relationship with Christ, rather than on growing through attraction.  Had we done that maybe it would still exist…

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

P.S.  New to Five is available electronically at no cost.  I encourage you to read it!

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 1.38.10 PMThe Indiana Conference’s Church Development team is tracking 25 new-faith communities that have been launched the past few years.  Together  they average 2,500 people in weekly worship attendance.  Praise God!

Each person reached has the potential of a changed life–like Amber Bean who a year ago wasn’t a Christian.  But now, thanks to Kristo’s Hands & Feet and the work of the Holy Spirit, Amber is passionate about her relationship with Christ and serving Him.  You can view her amazing testimony by clicking this link.

There are many, many others like Amber in your neighborhood.  So who is God counting on you and your church to bring the hope and joy of new life in Jesus Christ this Lenten Season?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

unknownDoes your church struggle with reaching the younger generation?  Has it given up on them?  It seems an ever-increasing number of reports indicate that this generation isn’t interested in our churches, so the idea of giving up has no doubt crossed the minds of some in the church.   But wait, not so fast, there’s hope!  With God there’s always hope!

I recently attended Church of the Resurrection‘s Leadership Institute in Leawood, Kansas, and had the opportunity to hear Haydn Shaw, who is a leading expert on generations and has written the book entitled, Generational I.Q.:  Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future Is Bright.  Shaw said that much of the dire statistics related to the younger generation are overstating and misconstruing what is really happening in our culture.  Church participation and the religious beliefs of the younger generation haven’t changed all that much over the years.  However, the god they believe in looks less and less like that of orthodox Christianity.  And that is a problem.

He said that the best way to reach those of the younger generation is through the Boomers.  They have the opportunity to connect well with that generation.  Studies show that seven out of ten young people will drop out of church.  However, if an adult sends a young adult that they know in their church a text twice a month, there’s a 60% likelihood that they’ll never leave!  Wow!  So let’s start texting today!

He also said that a study done by researcher Christian Smith (Oxford University Press) indicates that the best way to strengthen the institutional church is babies!  Young people having babies makes them more likely to regularly participate in church.  So there you go!  Text your young people and encourage them to have babies!

P.S. Not for the sake of saving our churches, but rather saving and growing our young people as Christ’s disciples!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

ncj20161-300x176It’s the second Monday of the month.  That means it’s a special day of prayer and fasting for those of us on the North Central Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee.  The committee goes into action this week as delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria, IL, elect four new bishops.  Following the last election, the Episcopacy Committee will assign all nine NCJ bishops–including the four newly elected ones–to the nine Episcopal Areas in the NCJ (Midwest).  As Bishop Mike Coyner is retiring, the Indiana Conference will be receiving a new bishop, something that has happened only once in the last 24 years!

So, I invite you, on my day of prayer and fasting, to join me this week in praying for the Jurisdictional Conference, not only ours in the Midwest, but the other four in the U.S., which will be meeting at the same time.  Together we’ll be electing a number of new United Methodist bishops.  Pray for the candidates.  Pray for us delegates who will be discerning which candidates to elect.  Pray for the twenty-two of us on the Episcopacy Committee who will be determining where to assign the nine NCJ bishops.  Pray, above all, that the Holy Spirit guides the entire process and that God’s will is done.

Prayer makes such a huge difference!  I had a greater sense of prayer support at the recent General Conference in Portland than any of the previous General Conferences I’ve attended.  I sensed God’s spirit on the floor of the conference.  And I believe we experienced a Kairos moment when we adopted the bishop’s proposal to create a commission to bring a plan dealing with human sexuality issues.  Never before had General Conference delegates asked the bishops to lead in this way.  I believe God’s movement in Portland among those of us there was a result of the prayers of many, many people and churches around the world.  If you were one of them, thank you so much!

With the election and assignment of bishops, the Jurisdictional Conference, I believe, will likely impact your church and mine, and our conference, more than any action taken at General Conference.  So don’t stop praying.  This week let’s lift our church and this special process to God and may the results be a real blessing to our churches, conference, and the world!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Ed 09I encourage you to read an article in the Washington Post by  Rev. Tom Berlin, pastor of Floris UMC.  It pretty accurately describes where the UMC is on the whole human sexuality debate as a result of our General Conference action this week.  It’s been a tough, sometimes painful week, but I think most of us delegates believe that God’s spirit broke through in an unexpected way and that we have found a way forward even though the future of the UMC isn’t clear.
I believe this is due to the prayers many of you, along with thousands around the world, as we gathered in Portland.  This is the fifth General Conference I have attended and I don’t recall such a sense of the spirit and good will among delegates, even though we may strongly disagree on the issues of sexuality.  Don’t get me wrong, it certainly was not all bliss.  There were some very low moments where delegates were down right hurtful.  But for the most part I sense there was a more positive spirit.  Again, I attribute this to the spirit of Christ and the prayers of many, many people and churches.  I am deeply grateful to those of you who prayed and thank you for being with us delegates on the journey!
— Ed  Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development