Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

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

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Fresh-Expressions-LogoDoes your church have four people who would be willing to intentionally engage together in their community for four hours a week and give $40 a month to cover their ministry costs?  If so, you’ve got the potential to start a Fresh Expressions ministry, according to Barry Sloan.  It’s that simple!  You don’t need a lot of training, a pastor leading it, programming or curriculum.  What you do need is a willingness to leave the comfort of your church to love on those out in your community.

Lagrange First United Methodist Church has done just that.  Two laywomen years ago started going to a rural mobile home community called Pioneer Estates and began sharing Christ’s love in tangible ways.  These women started by using clowning and magic tricks as a way to engage with the community’s children.  Eventually the church began serving the children weekly by providing a home-cooked meal, sharing Bible stories, singing and doing crafts.  The church’s United Methodist Women provide the milk and birthday cakes.

imagesA year ago the parents of the children asked if the church would help them put on an Easter egg hunt at Pioneer Estates, and they invited the church’s children to come out and join their kids.  Sure enough the church said, “yes,” and kids from the church joined in.  The result of all of this is a Fresh Expression of the church where both children and their parents are experiencing the love of Christ even though they live in a very transient, rough, rural community.

Unknown-2Earlier this month Barry Sloan, a Methodist pastor from Northern Ireland who is serving as a missionary to The United Methodist Church in Germany, shared with a hundred laity and clergy from the Indiana Conference his first-hand experience leading a Fresh Expressions ministry in former East Germany, where 90% are atheists.  Obviously his Fresh Expressions ministry looks different than Lagrange First’s.  Yet there are some commonalities…

Missional–Incarnational.  It’s important to live in your mission field, to be with those you’re in ministry with, to be their neighbor.

Contextual–Listen.  Barry and his team of a half-dozen folks spent their first 18 months simply listening to the needs of the people.  They spoke with community leaders, prayer walked, and looked for potential partners.  They realized they needed to adapt ministry to fit their mission field’s context.

Formational–Non Churchy.  (I made up that word not Barry!) Although making disciples is a priority, you don’t lead with traditional church programming–such as Bible studies, and worship.  You do discipling or theology, as Barry calls it, one-to-one, around tables, around a meal.  You lead with common interests, such as the arts, or community service efforts, such as clean-up projects.

Barry’s Fresh Expressions effort, called Inspire, offers meals and homework help for children, holds secular music concerts and stand-up comedy nights, offers German classes for Moslem refugees, has pitch-in dinners, and even whisky tasting events.  As a result, they’re reaching persons who would never enter a church.

Ecclesial–Unique.  The church emerges from the community that develops.  It’s all about building relationships and creating Christian community without calling it church.  It is highly likely that it will look quite different than what we think of as church, and yet the Gospel and God’s love is at the heart of it.

IMG_0786Some Hoosiers who attended Barry’s presentation felt as though he was saying that traditional church is wrong.  Not at all!  It’s a “both-and.”  We need our churches that do Bible studies and offer worship and to invite the unchurched to join us, but we also need to take the church to those outside our walls shedding our church structures and language and even programs if we’re to reach the hard core who have no interest in attending our churches and likely never will.

The reality is that that group is the growing slice of the population pie, even in Indiana.  We’ve got to figure out how to reach them and Fresh Expressions offers us a model to do just that.  It’s not the only model but it has proven effective in England where the model originated.  Even though the Methodist Church of England has the same number of members as the Indiana Conference, about 189,000, and both are declining, one in five Methodist churches in England have a Fresh Expressions and collectively they’re reaching 500,000 people each week!  Just think what would happen if we were to do that too!

So, does your church have four people willing to devote four hours a week and give $40 a month in order to share Christ’s love through a Fresh Expression of the church out in the community?  If so, encourage them, pray for them, and consider joining them!  Church Development is offering grants for up to $1,000 to help support such efforts.  Just contact those of us on the Church Development team or visit Indiana Conference’s website.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Developmentheadshots+2-0055

 

Multiplication is a mindset

Posted: October 30, 2017 by efenster in Ideas
Tags: , , , , ,

IMAG0045After my blog article about churches moving from addition to multiplication (See October 5, 2017, article.), a pastor asked, “If your church isn’t growing, don’t you need to move to addition before moving on to multiplication?”  Great question!  The surprising answer is “No.”  You see we’re not talking about numbers so much as a mindset.

An addition mindset is one that is focused on filling pews.  In that case the focus is on attracting more people through marketing our ministries and making tactical changes, like adjusting our worship times and service style to best meet the needs of those looking for a church, i.e. consumers.   A multiplication mindset is all about a church empowering, equipping, and sending its people into the community–being in relationship with those in need of God’s love and Good News.  A church can be shrinking or plateaued and still change its focus to that of empowering, equipping and sending its people.  Often in the Gospels Jesus is quoted as saying one gains one’s life by losing it.  This holds true for churches too.  It is through a generous giving heart that churches will begin to gain renewed joy, energy, and purpose.

The Indiana Conference has a dream of every one of its churches becoming a missional community, that is a church that sends, whose people go.  Every church can be a missional church, but it will require a mindset shift from addition to multiplication.

Sometimes a church can send people out and still be stuck in an addition mindset.  For example in the book, Shaped by God’s Heart, Milfred Minatrea, writes:  “Releasing members to start new churches is addition.  Releasing members to start church-planting churches results in movements.”  You see it all comes down to one’s mindset.  Is it focused on addition or multiplication?  For the sake of the Kingdom, may it be multiplication!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for 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

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headshots+2-0055I’m a product of the church growth movement, but the church growth movement isn’t going to take the church where it needs to go in the future.  We need to move from addition to multiplication–from adding to our numbers through attraction, to sending out our people to start new faith communities that in turn raise up new leaders that are sent out to start new faith communities.  Moving from addition to multiplication is a necessary step if we are to experience the kind of movement The United Methodist Church experienced in the early 1800’s in Indiana.

Upward arrowUp till now, a prime metric that we’ve been taught to watch is the average number of people in our weekly worship services.  Therefore, we’ve focused on marketing our churches and protecting and conserving our numbers.  The last thing we’d want to do is send people out because our worship attendance metric would take a hit.

The Church Development team is convinced that we need to change our prime metric and begin measuring the number of people that we’re sending out to help start new faith communities.  The reality is that fewer and fewer people in the U.S. are interested in coming to our churches.  What if we embrace Jesus’ command to go?  What if we take the church to them?

IMG_6662Last month, over 100 church pastors and leaders from the Indiana Conference gathered with Bishop Trimble and the Church Development team to consider this very idea.  What would it take for us and our churches to move from an addition mindset to one of multiplication.  We’re convinced that God is moving right now in our leaders and churches, placing on many of their hearts and minds the desire to multiply! If you’re such a person, or you attend such a church, know that the Church Development team is ready to partner with you.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Leaders praying at the Bishop’s Multiplication Summit held September 7, 2017IMG_6665

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.)