Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

 

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

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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!
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(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.”

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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

18010760_1380122238677676_4717157016528137471_nHave you ever looked at a problem and upon looking at it from a different perspective, and being open to God, something beautiful results?  That’s what happened at a small United Methodist church in Scipio, Indiana, a tiny community between Columbus and North Vernon.  Pastor Dereck Fields’s wife, Angela, was looking out her kitchen window at the church’s garage.  A large tree had fallen on it and it was beyond repair.

At that moment she had a thought, what if rather than replacing the structure, the church built a larger structure designed for ministry.  What if rather than a structure used for storage, the church built one used for connecting and growing people in relationship with Jesus Christ.

And that is exactly what the church has decided to do.  This spring the church has been constructing a shelter house on its property near busy Highway 7.  And on June first, after much prayer and planning, the church is launching a new Thursday night worship service designed to reach those who aren’t connected with a church.  The hope is that using a shelter-house setting, rather than a traditional sanctuary, and using food, bands, and speakers on various practical life issues, the church will be able to provide people in its area with a Christ-centered community and connect them to Christ.

The church recently was awarded a $25,000 Church Development grant to help launch this project, the cost of which is estimated at over $85,000 for the next four years.  In its grant application, Rev. Dereck Fields wrote:  “In 1 Corinthians 9:19 the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people.’  In the spirit of these words, we have decided to put together a worship service designed to better meet the needs of our community.”

The Indiana Conference’s Church Development Committee jumped at the opportunity to partner with this congregation because it already had a track record of intentional outreach to its community.  Its annual Easter Egg Hunt attracts 150-200 each 17990579_1377429712280262_6606864339592548734_oyear, its annual Halloween Trick-or-Treating 200-300 people, its annual Vacation Bible School 75-120, its weekly Mommy & Me Class 15-30 people, its monthly Thursday meal for the community 150-200 people, and the list goes on!  The town of Scipio, incidentally only has 124 people!

These outreach efforts are viewed by the church as ways to begin developing relationships with people in need of God’s love and good news.  As a result, lives have been changed, and the church’s worship attendance has doubled in size to around 60.

So, what problem are you facing?  Could it be that God has a plan to take the brokenness resulting from the problem and do something incredibly beautiful through it?  God, through Scipio UMC, has demonstrated just that!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

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