Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

IMG_9162“We want to be a real church,” the laity explained to Rev. Randy Anderson, Associate Superintendent of the Southwest District, when he met with them earlier this year. “We” are members of a new Haitian United Methodist faith community in Washington, Indiana, that’s averaging around 40 in worship.

As a result of their request, the Southwest District Superintendent, Rev. Steve Beutler, working with Bishop Julius Trimble and Church Development, has assigned David Draeger, a UM layman fluent in Creole, to lead the congregation. thumb_IMG_1237_1024
The congregation has adopted the name First Haitian United Methodist Church, and Rev. Rex Thomas and the members of Wesley UMC have invited them to share their building.

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On March 19, 2017, Bishop Trimble came to the church to welcome these new members of the Indiana Conference into the United Methodist Church family.
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Few in the congregation have access to transportation and so one layman was making four trips to the church each Sunday to transport members to worship.  In order to help, the Southwest District has presented this new unchartered congregation with a van.

IMG_9236Please pray for this fledgling congregation and may the joy of its members inspire all of us to praise God and reach out to others!

 

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

by Chassity Neckers 

worship+shotThere is a uniquely sacred excitement that happens when a church begins to exist beyond its walls. Where the people inside make a commitment to be about the people outside first and the building second. There is nowhere that this is displayed more than at Huntertown UMC. Ten years ago, members of the congregation began to dream about meeting outside of the church walls in a location that better reached their community. The location that houses Huntertown UMC was landlocked which left little, logistically, for growth to happen. They began praying and searching, only to purchase land about a mile and a half away from the original church property.

The community that Huntertown UMC serves is ripe with harvest – a booming area with life, new homes, new schools; growth in every direction. A traffic study led them to discover that 3,000 cars drive past the location where they purchased land 10 years ago. Three-thousand lives that could be impacted if they chose to leave the safe zone of their 4 walls and venture into creating a second campus that God would use to reach their city.

Ten years later, after 8 jam-packed months of planning, their second campus came to life on March 5, 2017. The lay leadership that helped launch the campus would say that the Spirit’s presence in that place that morning was outstanding! Expecting things to go wrong, as we all do when trying something new, they witnessed a smoothly-run morning that was full of praise and worship as they stood as witnesses to the testament of God’s faithfulness.

“You could sense the energy the morning [of the launch] of the new service as soon as you approached the LifeHouse Campus. Cars streaming into the parking lot, greeters welcoming guests as they entered the building, 300 people worshiping together and praising God, 80 additional kids in a children’s ministry,” said Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development.

He continued, “Lots of energy, excitement, and a sense of God’s presence! I’m so glad Church Development could be a part of helping Huntertown UMC prepare for that day. Our prayers are with them.”

While not every new faith community goes off without a hitch, here are some of the things Huntertown UMC did as they prayed and prepared to launch a second campus:

  1. Began to create a cultural shift in perspective – They had to decide, would they be about the church building and church as they knew it on Sunday mornings or would they be about the people inside. A second campus meant two services in two locations, not always seeing the same people every Sunday as you did with one service.
  2. Determined their core values as a church – Through a sermon series, they began to outline the core values of why they exist and what they would be about as a church. They decided to be faithful to the people God has called them to reach, nothing more and nothing less and as a result, God has used them immensely and honored their faithfulness.
  3. Communicated openly with the congregation – They held multiple evening meetings to answer questions and concerns as they prepared to launch the LifeHouse campus. It became a church movement, not just the idea of a few pressed upon many.
  4. Relied on the leadership of the laity – Pastor Tony Johnson will admit, that coming into a new appointment, there was no way they could have launched this second campus without their lay leadership. Their laity owned their mission, core values, and lived outside their walls – inviting neighbors and others in their community to the launch and telling them about the campus almost daily, a challenging yet exciting task for those involved.

Starting a second campus can seem both awesome and overwhelming. Does starting a second campus mean we are to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” of our first? No. In fact, both of Huntertown UMC’s campuses are fulfilling their mission to reach their community right where they are. The second campus helped expand what God was already doing, not replace it. Allowing God to take their community of faith to the next step so they could best reach their community, they are now one church with two locations.

“We are about people,” said Tony Johnson, Pastor of Huntertown UMC. “[The second campus is] about the kingdom over the church. Growth of the kingdom is first, growth of the church is secondary.”

“Being missional in 21st century Indiana means reaching those who are like sheep without a shepherd in new and creative ways. This endeavor is one way to be missional to reach those who need to know our Savior, Jesus Christ,” commented Dave Neckers, Conference Superintendent serving the Northeast District.

The launch of Huntertown UMCs LifeHouse campus beckons each of us to answer the question – what are we about? Are we about a worship service, a building, our community? Will we choose to be about those living outside our walls over those existing within? Church development is for all of us, for healthy faith movements all throughout Indiana. Learn more about the ways Church Development can come alongside your congregation here.


– See more at: http://www.inumc.org/newsdetail/huntertown-umc-launches-lifehouse-campus-7804006#sthash.BJ6u2owL.dpuf

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

ymca-logoA YMCA under construction in Fort Wayne has jasoninvited St. Joseph United Methodist Church to launch a worshiping community in its new facility, which opens later this year.  The church, under the leadership of Rev. Russ Abel, has tapped its associate pastor, Jason Morris, to lead the project.  The Cabinet appointed Pastor Morris to the church last summer with the specific purpose of planting the new congregation.

There are other communities, such as Dayton, Ohio, in which similar relationships have developed between YMCAs and United Methodist churches, but we believe this is the first in Indiana.

The idea began years ago, when St. Joseph UMC voted to purchase 29 acres of land just a quarter of a mile east of the church’s landlocked property.  Rather than relocate the entire church to this larger site, which they named Praise Park, the church caught a vision of becoming a church with multiple locations, including Praise Park.

A few years ago, the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne decided to purchase land for a new location and the land chosen just happened to be adjacent to Praise Park.  After ongoing conversations, the Y and St. Joseph agreed to enter into a partnership.  The Y invited the church to launch a new weekly worship service in its new facility.  The church, on the other hand, invited the Y to use its acres of recreational fields at Praise Park.  And now Pastor Morris and St. Joseph have the opportunity to serve not only the estimated 8,000-10,000 new Y members who will be frequenting the Y’s new location, but also to serve the yet-to-be-reached population living nearby who would never be attracted to St. Joseph’s original facility.

God clearly had something beautiful in mind years ago for that part of Fort Wayne.  What future does God have in mind for your church and community?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

IMG_0054Rev. Sergio Reyes, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, was apologetic.  His Fort Wayne United Methodist Church has started a new faith community in another state–Ohio.  He was apologizing to the West Ohio Conference’s superintendent of the Northwest Plains District, the director of new church development, and the pastors of the two United Methodist churches in Hicksville, Ohio, explaining that he hadn’t meant to start a new congregation, it just sort of happened.

A couple from Sergio’s Fort Wayne church lives in Hicksville, Ohio, about a forty-minute drive.  They drive to Fort Wayne because Getsemani offers worship in Spanish, which they prefer.  They asked if Pastor Sergio would lead a bible study in their home this spring on a Saturday night after the workers at the local egg farms were done with work.  “Could we invite some friends and co-workers to the bible study?” they asked.  And the study grew quickly to 12 people, then 30 people, and now around 50 people, including some children!

Sergio explained to the West Ohio United Methodist leaders that the bible study group has run out of space in the house and can’t grow any more unless they find a bigger place in which to meet.  The group of leaders quickly acknowledged that God was truly moving and that one of the two Hicksville UMC buildings surely could be made available.

So pray as this ministry moves from a house to a church.  Pray that the host congregation will welcome the newcomers, nearly all of whom are brand new Christians, with Christ’s love.  Pray that God’s spirit will continue to touch not only the lives of the fledgling Hispanic congregation, but also the host congregation’s members and all the residents of the Hicksville area.

Sergio says that the people are hungry for the word of God, and already attenders to the bible study are asking him to start new bible studies in other parts of northwest Ohio.  Of course, his hands are already more than full with all the church planting going on in Indiana as well as co-pastoring his Fort Wayne church with his wife Rev. Janie Reyes.  But someday, who knows, God may raise up leaders from the Hicksville bible study who will help expand the movement throughout our sister state.  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Jesus spoke of the power of giving a person a cup of cold water, a seemly insignificant act of kindness.  With the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the gift of clean water is anything but insignificant.  Although the government and other agencies are providing water for residents, an I.D. is required in most cases.  This requirement, in particular, has meant that many residents without I.D.s haven’t been able to get help.

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Thanks to Christians who take Jesus’ words about giving the gift of water literally, truckloads of bottled water are being distributed by churches to anyone in Flint; no I.D. is required.  Recently  one of the Indiana Conference’s new church plants, Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower), led by Esequiel and Suri Becerra, joined forces with a nearby Chicago-area church and delivered a truckload of donated bottled water.

James says, “Faith without deeds is dead.”  Clearly the Torre Fuerte congregation and many others take this seriously.  What about your congregation?  How is it putting its faith in action?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

imagesI was talking with Rev. Tim Helm, pastor of Hanfield United Methodist Church, about his church’s second ministry site that’s located in an inner city setting.  How is it that his church, located in a rural setting, would have members investing in a low-income part of nearby Marion, Indiana?  He said, in part, it had to do with them having a change of heart, of them falling in love with a neighborhood that God seemed to be inviting them to be neighbors to.

So, how does a church help its members’ hearts to change?  Pastor Tim said it happened as members engaged with their new neighbors face-to-face on their turf.  He went on to give this example…  The church was going to hold a carnival in the inner-city neighborhood and so members were going door-to-door, offering free tickets for the children.  When asking one man how many tickets he needed, the members were struck by the fact that he had to think about it, the number varied from week to week.  Eight.  He needed eight tickets because he would have eight children–his own kids plus nieces and nephews–in the house the week of the carnival.  The members began to realize just how hard it must be not only having eight children in one house, but to know that the kids come and go depending upon life circumstances.  And their commitment to and love for reaching this neighborhood grew exponentially!

How is God changing your heart?  Who are the neighbors you have a growing concern for sharing God’s love with?  Is your church being called to leave its comfortable neighborhood to enter a new one for the sake of the Gospel?  What’s your next step?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development