Posts Tagged ‘church revitalization’

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



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

Time for spring cleaning?

Posted: February 29, 2016 by efenster in Ideas
Tags: ,

DSC_CrocusCall it spring cleaning.  I just threw out nearly two file drawers of Church Development files.  Why did it take me ten years to do this?  Unlike my wife, I’m a thrower.  So, why would a “thrower” cling to over ten years of paper files in an electronic age?  Perhaps I’m sentimental.  To read meeting minutes, consultation studies, and workshop notes dealing with ministries that I was personally involved in makes it hard to toss them into the recycling bin.

The Redevelopment Venture Process, a forerunner of the Fruitful Congregation Journey church revitalization process, and Sending of the Saints, which preceded the more recent One Hundred Points of Light outreach effort, involved significant effort and countless hours, involving friends and colleagues in ministry.  The files were the last reminders of those days.  And now they’re gone.

Is your church a saver or a thrower?  Is it time for you and your church to do some spring cleaning too?  What is it that you’re clinging to that has served its purpose and is no longer relevant, but because it’s familiar and there’s emotional attachment, you’re still holding on to it?  Jesus said that we need to put new wine into new wineskins.  For the sake of Jesus’ call and the church’s mission, may we have the courage and gumption to let go of our old wineskins and embrace the new.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of 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.


  • The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can legally marry in all fifty states
  • The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care)
  • The Confederate flag came under withering attack, after the tragic Charleston shootings
  • The U.S. Census Bureau announced that there are now more Millennials than Baby Boomers
  • President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuban governments were re-establishing embassies

Moments like this happen every decade or so, don’t they?  The falling of the Berlin wall.  The 9/11 terrorist attack. Who would have thought the above would happen, let alone in such a short period of time.  I told my children that they will probably remember the news from the last ten days the rest of their lives.

Unknown-1Not only did these events create a sensation of the surreal for me and my family, a four-day power outage due to a huge rainstorm also contributed.  And in the midst of all of this, representatives of the U.S.’s youngest generation, stood on opposite corners of an intersection in our neighborhood.  Without TV, videos, and other electrical entertainment, one group of children gathered on one corner, another group on the opposite corner, and they held a yelling contest right there in the middle of a summer day.  Back to the most basic entertainment that kids over the centuries have enjoyed.

It got me to thinking about our churches.  How do we respond to the swirling changes that are so often in the news each day?  The rise of the “nones,” the “dones,” and in an article I read just today, the “gones.”  The decline of the mainline Protestant churches.  The United Methodist Church.  Our increasingly secularized culture.  Maybe we need to take a cue from my neighborhood’s children and return to the basics of what it means to be the church.  Maybe we need to let go of our desire to sustain our institution, give up our rummage sales, bazaars, and fish fries, take our eyes off ourselves and what we want, and give ourselves away–loving God and others as passionately as the church of the first century did…and the children in my neighborhood as they were screaming.  Think about it…

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development


Hirsch Event 1Question: What could entice a large group of Methodists to trade a Saturday during the busiest part of the Christmas shopping season for an all day workshop? Answer: The opportunity to recapture the “movemental” spirit of their congregations and Conference. Over two hundred and thirty people from across the Indiana Conference gathered at St. Lukes United Methodist Church on December 6, 2014, to hear noted missiologist Alan Hirsch speak about “Putting the Movement back into Methodism in Indiana.” This event was part of a plan by the Indiana Conference Church Development team’s desire to launch new initiatives to recapture the missional essence of the local church. The audience was an assembly of laity and clergy from dozens of congregations, each hoping to discover new paradigms that offer keys to spiritual vitality and faithful witness in the 21st century.

Alan Hirsch describes himself as a “future traveler.” Hirsch explains, “I have worked as missionary and denominational executive in Australia, experienced the collapse of Christendom first hand and I have a clear picture of what your future looks like.” According to Hirsch, the systems built to support Christendom have already imploded in Europe and most of the West. He states, “I believe we have approximately forty years before we hit the wall in America.”

Hirsch spent much of the afternoon mapping out processes that he believes can help the church recapture its true nature as an organism that is “movemental” a term he himself coined. At the center of these maps is a need to refocus on Jesus as the heart of the Christian faith. “’Jesus is Lord’ has been the slogan and rallying cry for all successful Christian movements in the past and we need to build around that as the essential truth of the Gospel.”

The speaker also spoke of five additional elements that are the essentials in a rebirth of Christianity as movement. Those elements are: a focus on discipleship, a missional-incarnational impulse, organic organization, communitas over community and recapturing the five-fold leadership gifts of the church found in Ephesians, chapter four, described as APEST. Hirsch chided the audience for devaluing the gifts of apostle, prophet and evangelist from Ephesians four, stating that “your systems tend to remove the APE from the equation, leaving shepherd/teachers to guide the church, but all five of these gifts are necessary for the church to reach maturity.

One of the strongest refrains of the day was the need for corporate repentance. Hirsch spoke very candidly about statistical evidence that shows that the Methodist movement reached its apex in the 1850’s and has been in decline ever since. “Decisions have been made in the past that have pulled the focus away from discipleship and disempowered the ministry of the laity,” Hirsch exclaimed. “You don’t have to continue to follow those decisions, you can repent. In fact, those in the future could very well look back to this day as a time when decisions were made that reshaped the destiny of things to come.”

This event will be followed by another of a similar nature on February 21st, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (Eastern Time), at St. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne.   Leaders from St. Joseph will share some concrete steps that reflect Hirsch’s ideas, including the following:

  • Using “prayer walking” as a way to discover the most fertile ground for evangelism and a way to build relationships
  • Using “positive loitering” events (spontaneous parties thrown within specific target neighborhoods) to connect with neighbors and build relationships
  • Partnering with other community organizations instead of competing with them (e.g. the public schools, Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club, food banks, etc.)
  • Developing small disciplining groups organically
You’ll hear how this United Methodist church–that mainly does attractional programs, ministries and worship–has been able to become more missional, doing relational evangelism.

The intention is that this event will be followed with another learning opportunity.  Church Development hopes, as a result, to develop a network of Indiana United Methodist churches that are focused on missional outreach to their communities that result in disciples that make disciples.  The hope is to help create a movement.  Plan to be a part of it and let’s change the world!

For more information, please contact the church development staff person assigned to your respective district.

— Steve Clouse, Senior Associate Director of Church Development