Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

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

Advertisements

UnknownJohn Enright, one of my heroes, died in a tragic car accident December 26th.  He and his wife, Kendra, who was injured, have been missionaries in Africa pretty much all their lives.  I think John and I connected with each other in part because both of our parents had been missionaries in the former Belgian Congo when we were children (mine briefly).

Our lives didn’t intersect a lot, but I think of three specific times…

The first was May 20, 1986.  I remember that date because it happened be my birthday.  I was at John and Kendra’s home in Luana, Congo (then called Zaire), with my pastor, Rev. Bob Glass and a small team of people from Simpson United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.  Simpson had a special connection to John because it provided him with a home while he attended high school, the same high school my three sons attended.  The church had a short wave radio club and communicated regularly with John and his parents, Ken and Lorraine Enright.

John introduced me to church planting during that 1986 visit.  He was so passionate about church planting.  He had helped his Bishop and the North Katanga Conference plant dozens and dozens of churches.  I remember visiting a worship service at one of those churches.  It was so full that many people had to stand outside.  It was on John’s watch that The United Methodist Church in Congo experienced its explosive growth.

On that trip John also shared how we must not only share Christ, but also help people earn a decent living.  So many natives were experiencing subsistence living.  He proudly showed us his banana plantation and palm tree grove in Luana.  It was a grand experiment to discover whether these could potentially provide Congolese with a decent income.

The next time our paths crossed was in the year 2000 when he and his family came to the states.  I was visiting Hanfield UMC, which is pastored by Rev. Tim Helm.  I kept hearing about Hanfield, located in an old rural church building, because of its amazing growth.  So on May 7, 2000, I went to see for myself what was going on.  That Sunday the church was so full I had to sit outside the sanctuary door.  Guess who happened to be preaching–John Enright.  Hanfield has been a long-time supporter of the Enrights and he and his family were visiting.  One of the things John shared that day was that our TV sets here in the U.S. are pumping sewage into our homes, polluting our minds.  The content is unwholesome and unhealthy, that God calls us not to expose ourselves to such filth.  Not a bad word for us today!

Most recently, November 20, 2016, I had returned to Hanfield, except this time it was to visit the church’s inner-city campus on the north side of Marion.  Who should happen to be preaching–John Enright!  So I got to eat lunch with him afterwards to learn the latest news.  At that time John and his family had resettled in neighboring Zambia.  A lot of what he had been doing in Congo he started again in Zambia–a medical flight ministry, a training school for pastors, and banana plantations.  He also had started a furniture making business, staffed by natives, aqua fisheries, and more.

But when I met him that November morning, he shared how he had started the biggest honey production business in the world!  His business sold hives to natives who in turn had his business buy, process, and sell their honey.  The natives saw their monthly incomes jumped from $5.00 to $50, and his business earned enough profit to generate nearly $1 million to support mission work.  It was a win-win for everyone!  And as he said, “The bees always showed up to work.”

As you can see, John was not only a disciple maker but also a world changer!  Thousands have come into relationship with Christ through his life’s ministry, and entire communities have been transformed through not only their knowledge of Jesus and his love, but through economic prosperity.  John Enright will be truly missed, but the fruit of his work will continue.  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Assoc. Director of Church Development

 

 

How did a United Methodist church in a community of only 900 people develop a weekly mid-week worship service that has grown from only a dozen elementary students three years ago to over 40?  The answer:  worship, food, and intentional outreach!

LaFontaine UMC, pastored by Crystal Jacobson, took its Wednesday after-school ministry and added a 30-minute worship service opened to their parents and other adults, followed by a meal that they help prepare.  As a result, people who have never been involved in the church’s Sunday morning service have become regular participants on Wednesdays.

As a way to grow the service’s attendance, Pastor Crystal launched a bring-a-friend competition and began keeping track of the number of people each child invited during the previous week.  As a result, this past year the children have invited nearly 550!  And, so far, 62 have attended.

Inviting friends is now normative.  Pastor Crystal shared that one of the best inviters was confused as to why the pastor was so impressed at her number of invitations.  “She didn’t know that [inviting friends] is not normal in most congregations.”  Crystal went on to report, “Our winner was a 7 year-old boy who would do a blitz of invitations on Tuesday evenings through texting and messenger, along with inviting friends at school. He won with 55 invitations.”

In August the church celebrated 10 baptisms–7 adults, and 3 children. All but one regularly attend the Wednesday service.  And the Wednesday night attenders have been joining the Sunday morning congregation in joint events such as vacation Bible school, a fall hayride, summer feeding program and more!  And the bottom line is more formerly unreached folk in the community are being discipled and are regularly worshiping God!  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

1-year-wednesda_25356358_b6e9d8e430bc63d9713d8868e364bb5ce8009411

We celebrate two new faith communities that launched this month.  Pfrimmer’s Chapel UMC in Corydon, Indiana, launched its fifth Mercy Street congregation September 8th at the New Albany High School.  Pastor Tim Johnson reports that 50 people attended the initial gathering, which targets persons recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.  The church is planning to launch its sixth Mercy Street next month targeting youth grades 6th-8th grade.

IMG_0578On September 10th, St. Joseph UMC in Fort Wayne launched its Aspire congregation that is led by Pastor Jason Morris and meets in a new YMCA facility adjacent to the church’s Praise Park property.  Seventy attended the opening service.  Morris says that a number of unchurched people returned with their friends the following week, bumping attendance to nearly 90 people.  (Church Development is pleased to be providing a grant to help fund this effort.)

Praise God!  And let’s keep these efforts in our prayers.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

ABetterLifeThe following article comes from Rev. Lore Blinn Gibson, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Lafayette…

Last year, Jamie came to our A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope (ABLBH) chapter shortly after coming to town, homeless and with all his possessions in two garbage bags.  He stayed in a local halfway house, relapsed, and went to a different halfway house.  All the while, he came to ABLBH.  This weekend, he voluntarily stood up in Sunday worship to testify to how God brought him through his struggle, to his renewal of baptism, to the fact that he has a job, an apartment, and visitation with his son.  He thanked the congregation for their love and support and for offering ABLBH.   He has stepped onto our Team Hope (leadership team) at ABLBH.

But that’s not the best part.  Today, he visited another person in recovery in the hospital following surgery because ‘it’s what we do.’

Glory to God, from whom all blessings flow!
Lore
(Read the prior post for more about how God is working in Grace and other UMCs in Lafayette.)

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

 

IMG_57911United Methodists across Indiana celebrate their newest United Methodist Church.  The Garden Community Church, led by the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Scanlan-Holmes, was officially constituted (chartered) on Sunday, June 4, 2017.   At the recent Annual Session of the Indiana Conference in Indianapolis, Bishop Julius Trimble, Central District Superintendent Jim Bushfield, and the Director of Church Development Steve Clouse officially presented The Garden representatives its charter.   Emily Reece, Associate Director of Church Development, also participated.  She along with many others–former Central District Superintendent Bert Kite, and retired and present St. Luke UMC pastors Kent Millard and Rob Fuquay respectively–all played an instrumental part in this exciting milestone.

UnknownThe Garden was founded years ago by St. Lukes United Methodist under the leadership of Linda McCoy, an associate pastor of St. Lukes.  Dr. McCoy had the vision of a unique worshiping congregation that would be attractive especially to those uninterested in traditional churches.  So, since its beginning in September of 1995, the congregation has been meeting at the Beef & Board Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis, worshiping in the round, seated at tables.

Twenty years later, Linda McCoy retired, St. Lukes decided to spin The Garden off as a separate congregation, and Carolyn Scanlan-Holmes–a former staff person of St. Lukes–was tapped to lead the new congregation.

Dr. Scanlan-Holmes, writes to the nearly 500 people who are a part of The Garden on its website:  “It was a joy to be witness to the planting of The Garden some 20 years ago and to see how it has grown. I give thanks for Linda, for her passion and vision in this groundbreaking ministry.  I am honored to be appointed to serve the legacy that has been cultivated.  I believe God has and will continue to transform the world through The Garden ministry.  We are reminded that to everything there is a season and this is a time in our culture when new ways of planting Gods love and grace are needed.  I am so looking forward to working alongside you as together we plant and tend new seeds of hope and love for the future.”

DSC_0201

May God continue to bless this congregation as it enters its new chapter of ministry.  May it continue to bear much fruit!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development