Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

cropped-cropped-Branches_Logo_Darker

Gateway_Projector-kindergarten-1024x640Church Development celebrated, at the recent Indiana Annual Conference session of The United Methodist Church, the constituting (or chartering) of two new United Methodist churches in Indiana.  The Branches Community Church, which meets at an aquatic center in Plainfield, and Gateway Community Church, which is located on the northeast side of Indianapolis both are now official UMCs.

The Branches, founded by Rev. Alex Hershey, launched public worship December 2013.  It now averages 185 people.  Gateway was planted years ago as Sonrise at Geist UMC and later became a second campus of Castleton UMC.  Rev. Matt Lipan was appointed in June of 2015 and later the church was spun off as a stand-alone congregation.  It includes approximately 200 children and adults on any given Sunday.

These projects are part of a new wave of church planting in the Indiana Conference.  Church Development set a goal of launching 30 new faith communities by the year 2020.  Besides these two, there are 18 other active new faith communities.  Pfrimmer’s Chapel, a rural church outside Corydon pastored by Rev. Tim Johnson, has launched several new Mercy Street recovery-ministry based congregations as well as two new churches in Columbia, South America.  (They all represent just one of the 18 on our list.)  Fort Wayne Getsemani in Fort Wayne, led by Revs. Sergio & Janie Reyes, has just launched its third campus in Hicksville, OH, launching a bible study that’s now reaching 50 people each week!  Other projects are popping up as well.

Why is this so important?  Because many of our congregations, planted in the 1800’s when Indiana’s population primarily lived in the country, are nearing the end of their ministries.  We have other congregations that are in populated areas but are plateaued or declining in numbers, and starting new faith communities is one of the most effective ways of reaching the growing number of unchurched persons in Indiana, nearly 60% of the state’s population!

So we celebrate with these two new churches and look forward to many more to come.  Perhaps God is nudging you and your church to join the action too.  If so, don’t hesitate to contact us at Church Development.  We’d love to talk with you about it!

— 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.

image1

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

Halloween-CandyWaynedale United Methodist Church held its Trunk or Treat this fall and attracted 200 people from the community.  Not only did the church give away candy, but it also offered people the opportunity to submit prayer requests.  Twenty individuals took advantage of this opportunity and two asked for a follow-up contact from the pastor.  All were persons from outside the Waynedale Church.

Why did the church decide to incorporate prayer into this annual fall event?  According to its pastor, Rev. Ted Jansen, it was the result of asking the simple question, “Why are we doing this?”  Or in this case, “Why are we doing the Trunk or Treat?”  Asking such a question leads to important reflection.  It can help a church more intentionally “connect the dots” between an activity and the church’s ultimate purpose of making disciples of Christ and changing lives.

This Advent Season how are you making sure all your church’s activities relate to the church’s mission?  And what are the “bridge” events that you are offering that can help you develop deeper relationships with those God is calling you to reach?  Some churches follow up their Trunk or Treat with a Thanksgiving community meal, or Christmas with Santa, or a special one-day Vacation Bible School during Christmas break.  Offering such bridge events, provides a church the means to develop deeper relationships with those reached, relationships that ultimately can lead to a deepening relationship with with Jesus Christ.

—  Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

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

 

Kristo's-131020aSt. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been spearheading a non-attractional church plant on the Fort Wayne’s south side the past few years called Kristo’s Hands and Feet.  Steve Mekura, the effort’s leader, recently reviewed an updated discipling plan with leaders from St. Joseph.  What the leaders discovered was that Kristo’s wasn’t a project that simply flowed from the mature Christians of St. Joseph to the non-believers and new believers in the south part of town.  God turned it around and now the Kristo’s project is actually challenging and shaping how St. Joseph members view disciple making where they live too.  Typically God, huh?

Here are comments from one St. Joseph member…

“The conversation completely changed for me when Steve started describing his formalized discipleship plan.  My heart was not open to the idea.  I thought our mission field is filled with people that often aren’t home, miss events, etc… there is no way we’re going to be able to convince them to stick to such a plan. I was skeptical that the idea of laying it out in such an intentional way, to people who have only begun to walk with or understand Christ, was way too much to ask.

“Then I started thinking about myself, “How would I react if someone from our church leadership asked the same of me?” What if there was something to hold me accountable for areas my personal spiritual growth is struggling and how I could be discipling others – which would both elevate my growth and impact others.  The thought was still terrifying and seemed like a huge undertaking – but the possibility of the growth it could bring began to be exciting.

“Then the conversation turned to responsibility … if I’m spiritually responsible for discipling those around me through the church activities I participate in, how does that change the way I act? What if everyone had that change in mentality, so that we are all discipling each other?  Putting aside the community for a moment, how would that change the culture of Saint Joseph?  What would it look like if instead of saying, “I get to hang out at camp with 27 senior high youth,” the conversation changed to the challenge of discipling them?  What if when we returned from camp, someone held me accountable for each person and asked what conversations I had with them … how I helped them grow for Jesus.  It would change the dynamic completely.  It could change the dynamic of Saint Joseph completely.  If it spread across Fort Wayne, it would change Fort Wayne completely.

“I commented that following Christ was never supposed to be easy, but we tend to make it very easy.  Maybe it’s time to make it more of a challenge.  Steve’s comment about ministry doesn’t end when he crosses Coliseum stuck with me too.  We need to be engaged in ministry at all times.

“The way God is leading us is consistent with what I felt at camp this year as well.  God loved us first, which the speaker turned into a verb: firstlove.  My takeaway from that week was, “Firstlove. Love first.” If we combine a genuine love for everyone with an intentional missionality focused on making true disciples, the possibilities are pretty exciting.

“Now, we do have to be careful not to make ministry a corporate chore. It still needs to flow out of a joy and not a duty … but if God is giving us joy by serving him, it may be important to formally recognize that comes with duty and responsibility as well. – Ryan”

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Unknown-1Did you know that the word church appears only three times in the Gospels, yet the Kingdom of Heaven appears thirty-one times?  How is it then that we spend so much energy as Christians in the U.S. focusing on the church rather than the Kingdom?  That’s at the heart of a fascinating and challenging book I’m just finishing by Reggie McNeal.  It’s entitled, Kingdom Come:  Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church–and What We Should Do Instead.  

McNeal rightly says that “the purpose of the church is to further God’s Kingdom.”  We United Methodist’s are about making disciples for the transformation of the world.  That’s our marching order. It’s not filling pews, growing budgets, and maintaining buildings.  So how is it we’ve gotten so mis-focused?  After reading the book, I’m thinking my title probably should be Associate Director of Kingdom Development, rather than Church Development!

One of the projects I’m working on right now, on behalf of Church Development and with Connectional Ministry staff, is developing a network of churches whose hearts are on building the Kingdom, on each member incarnating the church 24/7 wherever God places them, on partnering with other community groups (even secular ones) in order to help bring God’s Kingdom into fullness, thus transforming our communities and world.  You’ll be hearing more about this effort.  But in the meantime, I encourage you to read McNeal’s book and be challenged too!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church (Kingdom) Development