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41z0gTAFNjL._AC_US436_QL65_How are we to reach the growing percentage of our population that has no interest in attending our churches?  In Indiana nearly 4,000,000 residents aren’t affiliated with any church, synagogue, or mosque according to MissionInsite.  That works out to be more than every-other household!  That’s your neighbors, co-workers, the people you rub shoulders with everyday.

What has worked in the past doesn’t seem to be working today.   Jesus said, “New wine must be poured into new wineskins.” (Luke 5:38)  It’s clear we’re in a “new-wineskin” moment!  We need a new way to connect with and disciple folk.

What better place to look for such a model than England, a post-modern culture in which the church is viewed by many as irrelevant.  The Methodist and Anglican churches in England have discovered such a model that they call Fresh Expressions.  One in five Methodist churches have at least one Fresh Expression and on average they are reaching a half-million people each week!  More importantly 75% of those reached are not involved in traditional church.

Fresh Expressions is a model of outreach especially for churches that are seeking to be more missional. It is one of the most effective ways for a church to reach and disciple persons who have no interest in attending a church.  It is a model that can be initiated by as few as a single person and it doesn’t necessarily require money.  It is a model that all sizes of churches can do, and in all ministry contexts.  All it requires is a bit of understanding and a heart for those outside the church that Jesus referred to as the lost.

The Indiana Conference is holding a special training day for Fresh-Expressions-Logoindividuals and teams from churches that are interested in learning more.  It will be held on October 20th and there’s a special discounted registration fee for United Methodists from Indiana.  The event will be held at Fishers UMC near Indianapolis and be led by Fresh Expressions U.S.  You can register right now by clicking here.  Those churches with people attending will be eligible for up to a $1,000 Fresh Expressions grant from Church Development.  (There’s a limited number of these.)

Wouldn’t it be awesome if every Indiana UMC launched at least one Fresh Expression effort to reach Indiana’s unchurched?  So, don’t miss out.  Attend the October 20th and learn how you can launch a fresh expression of church in your community.

For more information, feel free to contact me at ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

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Image-1When Chandler United Methodist Church began IMPACT, a revitalization process for smaller churches, we were very excited about the process and ready for the challenge.  Chandler is a small town in southern Indiana with a population of around 3,000 people.  We were hoping to find a way to connect with the community and IMPACT equipped and enabled us to do just that!  Our church has a large back yard that was not being used for anything; it was just mowed.  The IMPACT team saw this as an opportunity to not only connect with people, we saw it as an opportunity to serve as well.

31100521_1817414268321144_2986926782087165169_nWe asked for volunteers to help prepare the ground for a “comity garden” and then publicized the availability.  The response was overwhelming!  We were able to fill the space quickly and along the way we have made new connections with some who now attend the church.  The garden this year has grown by three rows and we did not have to publicize it.

part0IMPACT was a very real help in this process.  Our participation helped us to think outside the church and develop a vision to connect with new people in order to be more effective at making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

Thank you IMPACT!

Christina G Poehlein, Pastor, Chandler UMC

 

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

Close to 300 large churches in the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church have participated in the Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ) revitalization process.  Are you aware of a new FCJ process designed especially for small churches?

FCJ-Impact, designed for churches averaging 70 or fewer in weekly worship attendance, guides a church on how to thrive in its “tomorrows” instead of hoping to just survive them.

Eight UM churches in the Kokomo area are just completing a pilot run of FCJ-Impact.  Participant Evan Strong, pastor of Bunker Hill UMC, writes of his experience:

“This journey has blessed me. To be honest, in the beginning I was dreading giving up my Saturdays, but once we got started, I knew it was going to be worth every second. I would take this Fruitful Congregation Journey again!

“FCJ-Impact has taught me new ways to spread God’s love to people who may otherwise have never experienced it. I’ve learned to change (modify) and add to what we do and would like to do within our church without disrupting the entire congregation. I will miss our meetings, but know our church will continue to apply everything we have learned.

“As a clergy member, I see FCJ-Impact empowering for the laity. It has given my laity confidence that they can be effective ministers too.”

Although done over an 18-month period, FCJ-Impact involves nine Saturday learning sessions where teams from participating churches come together with an FCJ facilitator-coach.  Each local church is required to bring a significant number of lay people to each session– 20% of its congregation’s average worship attendance.  With such a large number of leaders from the congregation participating, the church is much more likely to apply the concepts and use the tools back home.

FCJ-Impact is beginning to expand.  Rev. Randy Anderson, Associate DS for the Southwest District, says that over 60 participants from five of his district’s churches gathered earlier this month at St. Peter’s UMC in Posey County to begin their FCJ-Impact journey.  He is anticipating another group to begin in another part of the district.

img_0519The group began their journey focusing on the alignment of vision and mission.  Participants shared their ideas and experiences, and then prepared a ministry action plan to work on in their local settings over the next two months.

Rev. Jeff Newton of Kokomo reflecting on his experience participating in the pilot group of churches said:  “This experience has transformed the five churches I lead. We have new direction, vision, and most of all HOPE!”  Praise God!

For more information about FCJ-Impact visit Church Development’s website.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

FCJ Logo-600dpiDoes your church seem stuck?  Has it been declining or plateaued the past few years?  Does it seem like it’s simply treading water?  If so, maybe it’s time to ask the question, “What’s our church’s next step?

George Bullard, president of the Columbia Partnership, wrote in a recent article that the “transformation of a congregation is most likely to occur among congregations who are in movement rather than at rest.”  He refers to an earlier comment by Kennon Callahan, who wrote:  “You can correct everything wrong with a congregation and bring it right up to neutral.”  The challenge then is how to help your congregation move beyond neutral, to get some forward movement so that revitalization is more likely to be possible.

Among Indiana United Methodists, over 260 congregations have turned to a multi-year process called the Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ).  It is designed to help churches move out of neutral and to begin to get some forward momentum.  FCJ is not a magic fix that can guarantee that a church will move off its plateau or reverse its decline.  It does, however, give a church hope and direction and a strategic plan for moving forward.  Many times those three things–hope, direction, and a strategic plan–can be just what the church needs to get unstuck.

The Indiana Conference is in the process of extending invitations to churches averaging over 70 in weekly worship attendance to participate in Step 1 of the three-step process, which will begin this fall.  This will be the final year that the “classic” FCJ process is offered.  In the future, FCJ Next, a modified enhanced version, will be offered.  So for churches that have been considering participating in the past, this is the year to say “Yes!”  Let your district superintendent or Church Development staff person know if you’d like your church to receive an invitation and take a step to get your church going forward for the sake of Christ and His mission.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

P.S. Churches averaging under 70 will have the opportunity to participate in FCJ Impact, especially designed for smaller churches.  A pilot group is going through it in the Kokomo area and new groups will be launched in other areas this fall.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 4.31.57 PM“Take my grandchildren to Sunday school.”  These were the final words I was to hear from my neighbor who died of brain cancer in 2014.  How could I do that?  They lived in Japan at the time.  Their parents, as far as I knew, weren’t into church either.  This didn’t let me off the hook because a year ago the family moved from Japan into my neighbor’s home, and now her grandchildren are right across our driveway.  I see them nearly every day.  And I’ve discovered that Sunday school can happen more than just on Sundays and more than just at my church.  Right now it’s highly unlikely they would go to my church, but guess what, God brought the church to them through me and my wife.

Even though I’m committed to our United Methodist Church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I don’t always do a good job.  I many times get so involved inside my church, doing church stuff with church folk, that disciple making outside rarely happens in an intentional way.  I don’t know about you, but I need help.

That’s why I’m excited about the launch of regional Missional Peer Learning Groups.  These are designed to help persons like me, and church leaders and teams, with ideas, encouragement, accountability and prayer as we make all make disciples where God places us.  I encourage you to consider trying out one of these groups.  Just contact the person below and they’ll help you get connected.  Or feel free to contact me.

  • Dyer (near Chicago) – Jim Clark  (james.clark@inumc.org)
  • Fort Wayne – Steve Mekaru  (kristoshandsandfeet@gmail.com)
  • Centerville (near Richmond) – Jason  Morris (jason.morris@inumc.org)
  • Brazil – Rick Koch (rick.koch@inumc.org)
  • Indianapolis – Mike Mather (mike.mather@inumc.org)
  • Pfrimmer’s Chapel (near Corydon) – Tim Johnson  (tim.johnson@inumc.org)

Together we’re stronger!  God is doing a new thing.  Let’s not miss out!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development