Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

2017-0031Thanksgiving hasn’t yet arrived but it’s time to begin thinking about how your church will welcome its guests this Christmas season…

In most churches, Christmas Eve is the largest attended worship service. It has more unchurched or dechurched persons who attend that service than any other service of the year including Easter. Christmas Eve provides us with a huge opportunity to connect with these persons.

Think of yourself as a person who has been away from the church or has not been a part of a church for whatever reason. However, as Christmas Eve approaches, you feel a nudge to attend one of the Christmas Eve worship services somewhere. What are your concerns? Hesitancies? Expectations?

It is not easy for those outside the church to decide to attend a Christmas Eve service. They are concerned because they are not sure what to expect. What will the worship service be like? Will they even like it? They may be hesitant and wonder if they will feel welcomed and accepted. What will it be like to walk into a church where you may not be known by anyone? They do come with expectations. Will something happen in that service that will lift their spirits? Will something happen that will give them a nudge in a new direction?

Will your church be ready for these guests when they come Christmas Eve? Below is a checklist for you to review with your hospitality team to make sure you are ready for guests taking a risk to come to your Christmas Eve Service:

  • Will there be people in the parking lot and/or the door to warmly greet the guests? The temptation for greeters is to engage with the people they know the best and say “Hello” to the ones they do not know. Encourage your greeters to reverse that trend. Ask them to engage the people they do not know and say “hello” to others knowing they can engage the people they know later.
  • When they enter the church, will anyone beyond the greeters greet them? This is a good time to have what are often called “Connectors.” These are people who have some hospitality gifts whose task is to watch for people they do not know and engage them in conversation that begins, “Hello, my name is ___________. Have we met before? Find out something about these guests without making them feel uncomfortable. If they have children, take the family to the nursery and introduce them to the nursery worker(s). Show them the way to the sanctuary and introduce them to one of the ushers.
  • Is the responsibility of the ushers just to pass out the programs and take the offering? If so, remind them of the importance of their hospitality. They need to welcome the guests with a smile, a handshake, and welcoming words.
  • Is there an attractive “gift bag” that can be handed to them that has basic information about the church and its ministries? In the gift bag should be some information about the worship services in the new year that would entice the guest to return.
  • Has the congregation been taught to engage with people they do not know who sit within a few rows of them? It really makes a positive impression when a guest has someone setting near them who introduces themselves and welcomes them.
  • Will there be an opportunity for the guests as well as all those attending to record their attendance and provide some basic information? If we do not get some basic information, we cannot follow up after the service to invite them to return.
  • What follow-up will happen with those for whom we have received some contact information? A letter from the pastor acknowledging their attendance is always appreciated. Add them to your communication list so they can receive further information about the church and its ministries. Keep track to see if they return in the next six months.
  • Begin to pray now for those attending to have open hearts and minds. Pray for all those leading in some way in the worship service to do the best they can do in their respective areas.

With good hospitality, you have the potential to connect with guests who are not sure about the church but are willing to take the risk to attend your Christmas Eve worship service. You have the potential to connect these persons not only with you and the church but with Christ. This is the work of the church. Don’t miss this opportunity!

— Jack Hartman, Associate Director of Church Development

Note:  There is an online course from UM Communications on how to help your church become more welcoming.  Click here for details.

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image1The following article shares how a older congregation has intentionally reached out to and is discipling new persons through an interactive worship experience…

For $3,000, Ft. Wayne Calvary UMC, prayed and started a modern Sunday 2nd worship service so that persons who didn’t have a close relationship with Jesus could get to know Him better.

In July 2017, retired Deacon, Heather Olson-Bunnell, was appointed as the church’s senior pastor. That summer she asked part-time staff, small groups and a new prayer group to pray for God’s future vision. All of the groups reached the same vision:  start a new casual worship/learning experience that would reach weekday T-ball, Girl and Boy Scouts, V.B.S., Zumba, Al-Anon, etc. families that didn’t connect with the traditional service. Chris, the part time youth director, heard God’s call. He kept praying on how to re-design a small youth service, that met at the same time as the traditional service, to meet the needs of families in their changing neighborhood.
image2.jpegMore prayer and a gifted young guitar player, David, joined a small leadership team as music director. Chris and Pastor Heather went to Single Council with a $3,000 request for God’s dream to be implemented that fall. With support of District Superintendent Dave Neckers and Church Development Associate Director Ed Fenstermacher, who helped with early planning, and continued prayers, grants were written to Indiana Conference Church Development and the North East District Church Builders. Both offered matching funds of $3,000 to Calvary’s original $3,000 investment for making new disciples. Several other donations totally $1,000 were also given.

The old fellowship hall was updated with new sound, lighting and more comfortable chairs.  These, along with round tables, helped create a coffee-house style worship space, which the church calls the “Lighthouse Center.” The lay-led leadership team, resourced by the pastor, began meeting weekly to pray and design a casual family friendly gathering space and worship themes based on video clips with shared questions around the tables as the learning format (no sermon). When the decision was made to have a weekly lunch as part of the worship experience, the UMW stepped up to offer their support and fall meal preparation. Extra food is sent home with families who have food insecurity.

The “soft opening” in early fall 2017 attracted several single-parent families as well as older adults. When parents were asked what they wanted their children to learn, the response was “basic Bible Stories and Baptism and Communion helps.” A lay person named Ginger received her Certified Lay Minister credential this year and worked with Elaine, the church’s part-time children and youth coordinator to develop a children’s ministry plan that would help children say “yes” to Jesus (and their parents to have resources to teach them).

The core base has grown through word-of-mouth.  They describe the growth as “intentionally organic.” The relaxed format makes guests feel comfortable in sharing at the tables as children and youth fully participate in prayer time and the collection of offering and attendance cards. Discussion usually continues during the meal time where persons share their lives together.

God has truly been on the move in the hearts of both the leadership team and this new Lighthouse worship/learning experience. One-half of the average 40 persons in weekly attendance are children and youth. (Previously Traditional worship only had 1-2 children and youth). This multi-generational, multi-cultural congregation has grown in faith together. The result has been 11 baptisms (7 children, 2 youth and 2 adults) in the past 6 months. Also 3 persons have joined Calvary UMC from this service and more will be joining this fall. New families are helping and providing for the Sunday meal as well as serving on Calvary’s Mission Education, UMW and Lighthouse Ministry Teams. There have also been one baptism and 4 persons join the church from the Traditional service.

An 88-year-old longtime member who died this past year left a financial gift to what he called “The New Calvary.” Four ceiling fans and a keyboard for the praise band were purchased this summer. As the Lighthouse moves into its second year, Chris, the facilitator, is now in the candidacy process for local pastor and mentoring David, the music director, to lead worship when he is on vacation. Rob was hired as lead tech to improve communication for both worship services and create a new website and church e-mail. He trains sound techs for both services.

Prayer continues to be the priority in next step planning as the Lighthouse lives into Calvary’s 3 Cs Vision Statement:

Connecting to the Community

Creating disciples of Jesus Christ

Celebrating with Worship, Prayer and Praise

The above has been shared by Rev. Heather Olson-Bunnell, senior pastor of Calvary UMC, Fort Wayne.

IMG_0819Although the church is small in numbers, Faith United Methodist Church in Kendallville, Indiana, is taking big strides in building relationships with its weekday preschool students.  Through its new simple but powerful “Faith Sprouts” outreach effort, a dozen of its preschool children called “sprouts” have been matched with Faith Church members, who are called “gardeners.”

A gardener promises to make a two-year commitment doing the following:

  • Pray regularly for their sprout (student) and family
  • Bi-weekly contact their sprout’s family (in-person, writing, phone or social media)
  • Extend an invitation to church events
  • Sit with family whenever they are in the church building for a preschool or church event
  • Send notes and cards at special times (birthdays, anniversaries, school breaks, etc.)
  • Offer prayer asking, “How can I pray for you?”
  • Share in worship (30-60 seconds) about their child when s/he is “preschooler of the week” (3-4 times a year)

The church, led by Rev. Steve Bahrt, extended an invitation to its primarily older constituents to attend a Faith Sprouts training.  More potential gardeners showed up than were needed!  So twelve of them were assigned to each of the twelve preschoolers who will be returning next fall and all happen to be unchurched.

The church and gardeners then invited all of the preschoolers and their families to attend the church’s Palm Sunday worship service.  The normal attendance of around 50 people in worship tripled that Sunday!  Gardeners sat with their assigned sprouts and their families.  Since then, at least one family has returned.  In fact, the mother served as a greeter last Sunday!

The church’s ultimate objective is to introduce each family to Jesus Christ and His incredible love.  Although Faith Sprouts is only eight weeks old, it’s already changing the lives not only of the sprouts but the gardeners too!  Praise God!

So, does your church have some older members who can love on children?  If so, Faith Sprouts approach may work in your church too.  Give it a grow.  Whoops! I mean go!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Fresh-Expressions-LogoDoes your church have four people who would be willing to intentionally engage together in their community for four hours a week and give $40 a month to cover their ministry costs?  If so, you’ve got the potential to start a Fresh Expressions ministry, according to Barry Sloan.  It’s that simple!  You don’t need a lot of training, a pastor leading it, programming or curriculum.  What you do need is a willingness to leave the comfort of your church to love on those out in your community.

Lagrange First United Methodist Church has done just that.  Two laywomen years ago started going to a rural mobile home community called Pioneer Estates and began sharing Christ’s love in tangible ways.  These women started by using clowning and magic tricks as a way to engage with the community’s children.  Eventually the church began serving the children weekly by providing a home-cooked meal, sharing Bible stories, singing and doing crafts.  The church’s United Methodist Women provide the milk and birthday cakes.

imagesA year ago the parents of the children asked if the church would help them put on an Easter egg hunt at Pioneer Estates, and they invited the church’s children to come out and join their kids.  Sure enough the church said, “yes,” and kids from the church joined in.  The result of all of this is a Fresh Expression of the church where both children and their parents are experiencing the love of Christ even though they live in a very transient, rough, rural community.

Unknown-2Earlier this month Barry Sloan, a Methodist pastor from Northern Ireland who is serving as a missionary to The United Methodist Church in Germany, shared with a hundred laity and clergy from the Indiana Conference his first-hand experience leading a Fresh Expressions ministry in former East Germany, where 90% are atheists.  Obviously his Fresh Expressions ministry looks different than Lagrange First’s.  Yet there are some commonalities…

Missional–Incarnational.  It’s important to live in your mission field, to be with those you’re in ministry with, to be their neighbor.

Contextual–Listen.  Barry and his team of a half-dozen folks spent their first 18 months simply listening to the needs of the people.  They spoke with community leaders, prayer walked, and looked for potential partners.  They realized they needed to adapt ministry to fit their mission field’s context.

Formational–Non Churchy.  (I made up that word not Barry!) Although making disciples is a priority, you don’t lead with traditional church programming–such as Bible studies, and worship.  You do discipling or theology, as Barry calls it, one-to-one, around tables, around a meal.  You lead with common interests, such as the arts, or community service efforts, such as clean-up projects.

Barry’s Fresh Expressions effort, called Inspire, offers meals and homework help for children, holds secular music concerts and stand-up comedy nights, offers German classes for Moslem refugees, has pitch-in dinners, and even whisky tasting events.  As a result, they’re reaching persons who would never enter a church.

Ecclesial–Unique.  The church emerges from the community that develops.  It’s all about building relationships and creating Christian community without calling it church.  It is highly likely that it will look quite different than what we think of as church, and yet the Gospel and God’s love is at the heart of it.

IMG_0786Some Hoosiers who attended Barry’s presentation felt as though he was saying that traditional church is wrong.  Not at all!  It’s a “both-and.”  We need our churches that do Bible studies and offer worship and to invite the unchurched to join us, but we also need to take the church to those outside our walls shedding our church structures and language and even programs if we’re to reach the hard core who have no interest in attending our churches and likely never will.

The reality is that that group is the growing slice of the population pie, even in Indiana.  We’ve got to figure out how to reach them and Fresh Expressions offers us a model to do just that.  It’s not the only model but it has proven effective in England where the model originated.  Even though the Methodist Church of England has the same number of members as the Indiana Conference, about 189,000, and both are declining, one in five Methodist churches in England have a Fresh Expressions and collectively they’re reaching 500,000 people each week!  Just think what would happen if we were to do that too!

So, does your church have four people willing to devote four hours a week and give $40 a month in order to share Christ’s love through a Fresh Expression of the church out in the community?  If so, encourage them, pray for them, and consider joining them!  Church Development is offering grants for up to $1,000 to help support such efforts.  Just contact those of us on the Church Development team or visit Indiana Conference’s website.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Developmentheadshots+2-0055

 

Fresh-Expressions-LogoNearly four million people in the State of Indiana have no affiliation with any organized religion according to MissionInsite.org.  Think about it.  That’s more than every other household!  They are our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students and teammates, the people in the checkout lanes and doctors’ offices.  When Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest (John 4:35),” he was talking about Indiana in 2018!  So how do we reach them?  It will likely require “fresh expressions” of the church.

41z0gTAFNjL._AC_US436_QL65_A model of missional outreach called Fresh Expressions was developed in the mid 1990’s by the Church of England and the Methodist Church of England.  And this model has developed into a movement that now is in America.  In the book Fresh Expressions, United Methodist authors, Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., and Audrey Warren, define the Fresh Expressions movement as “a bold attempt to plant the gospel organically in the networks inhabited by the unchurched and dechurched, the ‘nones,’ and the ‘dones,’ and the ‘spiritual but not religious.'”

The model is based on Christians using their natural circles of influence, which the book refers to as “networks,” and places where people naturally hang out, called “third places,” and to intentionally develop relationships using these that ultimately lead to disciple making opportunities through community.

The Indiana Conference’s Church Development team recently co-sponsored a Fresh Expressions workshop with the North District.  At that event, which attracted over 50 people, participants heard two examples of Fresh Expressions-like outreach efforts.  One was a layman who developed a running group that eventually helped start Wakarusa UMC’s contemporary service.  The other was of how two laywomen used their love of clowning and magic to connect with children.  That ministry has blossomed into a weekly, year round ministry of Lagrange UMC that offers children and their parents the love of Christ in a rural mobile home community.

Unknown-2On Sunday, March 11, from 4pm-7pm (Eastern Time), at Mt. Comfort UMC (just east of Indianapolis), Church Development will be offering a special Fresh Expressions workshop featuring Rev. Barry Sloan.  Barry is a Methodist pastor from Northern Ireland who is serving as Director of Evangelism for the German United Methodist Church.  He and his wife, Gillian, have helped launch a fresh expression of the church called “Inspire” in Chemnitz, Germany.  The evening will include a dinner and workshop on how you can start a Fresh Expressions ministry in your church’s community.  To register go to Fresh Expressions:  A Model for Missional Outreach.  March 4th is the registration deadline.

Finally, Church Development is offering a new grant to Indiana UMCs for up to $1,000 to help them start a Fresh Expressions effort.  These grants are limited in number and only those churches who have had persons attend a Fresh Expressions workshop are eligible to apply.  For more information about the workshops or grants, just contact one of the Church Development’s multiplication team–Emily Reece, Sergio Reyes, or myself.

It is highly unlikely that we will reach the growing slice of the population pie that is not interested in the institutional church by simply doing what we’ve done in the past.  It will  most likely require us to launch Fresh Expressions of the church.  Jesus said that we need to put new wine in new wineskins.  Fresh Expressions may be the new wineskins we need to use in order to accomplish our mission in today’s world.  So let’s go for it!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

headshots+2-0052So many mis-conceptions surround the validity and value of the smaller membership churches.  Many feel that because they are small, there must be some problem or problems  that exists.  When this mentality becomes the plum line, finger pointing always seems to follow.

      “If only we had the right pastor”

      “If the big church down the street would quit attracting our members”

      “If only we had more money”

Well, you get the point!   The truth is the value and validity of any church regardless of it’s size is not based on any of the above.   Validity and value are based on the health of a congregation.

Just like our bodies, once in a while it is wise for congregations to get a check up.   I hear your next question clearly, “How in the world does a congregation get a check up”?   “How can we take the temperature of a congregation”?

Let me try to answer those questions briefly but clearly.  Congregational health is based on alignment.  Alignment of its vision with its over-arching mission.  We as United Methodists share a clearly stated and focused mission: THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WILL MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD.

This mission statement becomes the basis and focal point of our existence as a congregation, and our task is for all that we do to be aligned with our mission.

My mentor and interim Director of Church Development for the Indiana Conference, Doug Anderson states it this way, ” Communication plus collaboration brings alignment.”

Thus, because healthiness comes from alignment, communication and collaboration must become a part of our daily regimen.  When communication breaks down collaboration seldom happens.  The church looses sight of its vision because it isn’t being communicated clearly.  Collaboration between ministry areas and the congregation begins to suffer and eventually grinds to a standstill.  Ultimately the mission not only becomes out of reach but usually is forgotten or ignored.

Your Church Development team at the Indiana Conference wants to help.  We can come alongside a church with tools and procedures to help it move toward and ultimately achieve better health.

No matter what size congregation you call home, it is valuable and holds validity.  Please consider giving us the opportunity to serve with you as we together “MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD.”

Because he lives…

— Randy L Anderson, Associate Director of Church Development

Ed 09Are you the type of person who tends to get so focused on your to-do lists that you don’t give much attention to the people involved?  Well, I’m guilty of that.  Many times I get so caught up in developing and implementing plans that I miss really interacting with the persons behind the plans.

One of the new insights I’ve received as I’ve gone through coaching certification training this year is not only to focus on the what in a coaching conversation–such as what the client wants to accomplish–but also to focus on the who, the person who’s being coached–their feelings, their stuck points, and underlying issues. Many times the real agenda turns out not to be at the what level but at the who.

IMG_0649To-do lists can consume us this time of year can’t they?  We’ve got a to-do list for the Christmas stuff at our churches that have to get done, our gift-giving lists, home decorating lists, and of course lists for all our special Christmas parties and activities.  This year, among all the what’s of Christmas, I’m going to try to remember all the who’s that are involved.

A favorite Christmas story read at our house each Christmas Eve is How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  A lot of what defined Christmas for the Grinch are many of the things on my to-do lists, the what’s.  But remember, it was the who’s that really understood the real meaning of Christmas.  May we too focus on the who’s and what the who’s focused on!  And, of course, may we focus on the greatest who--the great “I Am”– whose coming we celebrate this season!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development