Posts Tagged ‘worship’

 

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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GidenKeithC_20130301Who is God calling your church to reach?  If you’re like a lot of people, you’ll say it’s for all people.  However, the reality is that it usually is for people like those already attending.  Monson Community United Methodist Church, in South Bend, IN, is an exception to this rule.  The church, led by its pastor Tim Aydelotte, had a vision for becoming a church for all people.  What they really meant by that is to become a church that reaches those who have been forgotten, who live on the margins, who are living on life’s edge (my words, not theirs).

So earlier this year, with the help of a Conference Church Development grant and the blessings of the district superintendent, the church began renting a storefront on South Bend’s west side.  It named the space the Keith Giden Community Outreach Center, after a man who went from what he called the “wrong side of the tracks” to the “right side of the tracks.”  He recently passed away as a result of a battle with cancer and it was his dream to create a ministry center that helped those who grew up the way he did.  And now the center offers free meals, dances for “all abilities,” free movie nights, a “Get Out of the House” fellowship time for all ages, as well as Bible and Brew, Joshua’s Men, and a weekly prayer group.

After visiting a similar ministry in Columbus, OH, named the Church for All People (a United Methodist ministry), Pastor Tim and the Monson Community leaders launched their own Sunday morning congregation called, The Church for All People, South Bend.  It meets weekly on Sunday mornings at the Keith Giden Community Outreach Center.  Last Sunday’s service had 70 people of all ages, economic status, and colors–blacks, whites, and Hispanics–ages (one-third were children), first-time guests and regular attenders, all seated around tables.

Worship music was led by i-Worship videos.  People requested prayers for new jobs, sobriety, a party for a 15-year-old friend that was disrupted by “gang bangers,” and for people with health concerns.  There was a “working” sermon time where everyone changed tables and worked together on an assignment related to the stewardship message.  There was also a single Hispanic woman and two of her children who joined the church.

The bottom line is that it felt like a big family gathering that included middle-aged black men hugging an 80-year-old white church matriarch, a young white man who had come off the street, and folks living from budget to budget.  It embodied Keith Giden’s vision.

Although it isn’t a church for everyone, not everyone will want such a church experience, it is a church whose posture is a warm heart with open arms to anyone who is looking for the Good news of Jesus Christ and a loving family.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Jirehs_Picture_035Kevin had anger issues, the pastor said.  Kevin is part of a group of disabled adults that come together the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6pm to worship together at New Hope United Methodist Church in Elkhart, IN.  The service, called Jireh (Hebrew for “God provides”), attracts anywhere from 30 to 50 people each month, most disabled.  Rev. Andy Martin, the church’s pastor, says the service is a powerful, lively experience, that engages every person.  It includes dancing, singing, prayer, and a message.  And it transforms lives, lives like Kevin’s.  He’s now known as the “gentle giant.”  His group home has been so amazed at his transformation that it is now trying to get all its residents to attend!

Our mission, as United Methodist churches, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and that’s just what is happening each month through the Jireh worship service, as well as many other ministries, at New Hope UMC in Elkhart.  How’s it happening at your church?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

worshipMichael Coyner, Bishop of the United Methodist churches in Indiana, has a dream of churches launching 100 new opportunities for worship this coming year.  Why?  Because new worship services are more likely to reach new people than existing ones.  He envisions these new opportunities as being started both inside church buildings but also in community venues as well.  He sees them being started not only by a church’s pastor but by its laity.  He envisions them taking on a variety of forms, tailored to their target populations.

Too often I have witnessed eager, well intentioned churches doing just that, launching a new worship service, only to see them fail.  First, if we aren’t willing to risk failure and to learn from the experience, then we shouldn’t attempt new ministry efforts.  Second, if you’re going to launch a new service, wouldn’t you want to do all you can for it to succeed?  To that end, wouldn’t it be great if you could learn from other churches’ attempts, both their successes and failures?  Well, here you go.  What follows will provide you and your church such a guide.  Follow its advice, and you’re likely to see your new worship service succeed–transforming lives, bringing new people into Christ’s presence.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Launching a New Worship Service

In order to effectively launch a new service, I suggest you consider these following steps:

A. PRAYER. I can’t overstate how important it is to have the church intentionally praying for this effort. If you don’t already have groups and/or individuals praying specifically for this effort, I encourage you to do that right away.

B. IDENTIFY TARGET GROUP. Before you make any decisions (e.g. when and where the service is to be held, its style and format, even its name), it is important to know who you sense God is wanting you to especially reach. Of course, the service will be open to anyone; however, the reality is that it will be especially inviting and inspiring for a certain type of person. The more you clearly you can describe that person, the easier it will be to design a service for them, and as a result, you’ll be more likely to reach them.

  1. A church will typically attract is people like themselves. You may want to describe the type of people First UMC naturally attracts. If you sense God is calling you to reach a different group of people, you will probably have to take extra care in designing the service (when, where, its style, how the invitations are shared, etc.).
  2. The target group could be determined by matching those God already is bringing to your church (e.g. Sunday morning newcomers, those you reach through the week, during VBS, etc.).
  3. The target group also could be identified using the community’s demographics. Keep in mind that you do not need to target the largest demographic lifestyle groups in your community.
  4. Whichever way you determine your target group, I encourage you to write down a description of that group (e.g. where they’re at on their spiritual journey, their mindset, their unique needs, their music preferences, etc.).

C. BUILD YOUR LAUNCH TEAM. The launch team will help answer the questions regarding when and where the service will meet, determine when it will be launched, the design of the service, how to get invitations out, setting a budget, dealing with logistical issues such as child care, parking, set-up, technology needs, etc. Set a goal to have at least half your launch team reflect your target group.

D. DEFINE WHAT A “WIN” LOOKS LIKE. In order for everyone to have a clear understanding of what the church hopes to establish, the launch team needs to describe how the church will know if its new service is successful. What are the metrics that will determine whether or not the service should be continued or not? This needs to be clearly defined before the service is ever launched, that way the expectation is clear to everyone and it will be easier to determine the service’s viability.

E. DETERMINE YOUR LAUNCH STRATEGY. There are two basic approaches you can use to launch the service. One is to focus on developing relationships with your target group (e.g. one-to-one conversations, listening sessions, small groups, etc.) before you start the service. This can take as much as six months to two years to do. The second is to rely primarily on word-of-mouth and marketing to launch the service and then to develop relationships once they attend.

The advantage of the first approach is that it provides a more solid congregation when you launch. The downside is that it takes more time (six month to two years). Your launch team needs to decide which approach it will take.

F. ESTABLISH TASK FORCE TEAMS. The next step is for the launch team to identify all the tasks that will need to be done. They might fall into the following areas: a) prayer support, b) worship design, c) logistics (parking, technology, set-up), d) child care, e) publicity/invitations, f) hospitality/discipleship of newcomers, and h) finances. Identify who will head up each of these areas and have them establish an implementation timeline. (See below for an example of a timeline for an effort to launch an off-site worship service.)  To track your progress in recruitment, create a leadership matrix organized by task area.  Write in each name as individuals are recruited.  Your goal should be to fill 90% of your leader/helper slots for each task area by the public launch of the new service.

G. SUNDAY MORNING SCHEDULE. If the launch team (or church’s worship team) determines that the new service should be held at the church on a Sunday morning, make sure adequate parking is available. If you need to adjust the present worship times to fit the new service into the schedule, it is advised not to move the present times more than 30 minutes either direction.  Make sure those having to accommodate the new schedule clearly understand why the change is important and provide them with ongoing updates as to the positive results due to the change (e.g. short videos of the new service being shown at the original service/s).

H. CRITICAL MASS. As I said, it is extremely important to have your worship meeting space always at 50% or more of the room’s capacity. Otherwise, it will feel as though there is a lack of energy and the service won’t be as attractive to newcomers. This means that you won’t want to launch the service until you know you’ll be able to consistently fill half (or more) of the seats.

I. LAUNCHING YOUR SERVICE.  It is recommended that you do a soft launch of your service to work out the bugs before doing your public “official” launch.  During this time, which could be as many as three months, you can begin your marketing effort for your public launch.  Word of mouth is by far the best way to reach people.  Encourage core attenders to the soft launch services to identify three people they know who would like the new service, have them pray for them, then set a date each month that they are encouraged to intentionally invite them to attend with them.  Have attenders to the soft launch provide feedback on the various components of the service and make ongoing adjustments to improve the experience.

J. FOLLOWING YOUR LAUNCH.  Make sure to implement your system to welcome and involve new attenders.  Invite the newcomers to fill the remaining 10% of the leader/helper slots in your matrix.  Continue to engage newcomers by inviting them into missional and discipleship opportunities as well.  At some predetermined point/s (e.g. 6 months, 12 months), evaluate the new service, referring back to your description of what a “win” would look like (D above).  Make adjustments as needed.

Sample Launch Timeline

Month 1

1. Clarify your vision for the new service.  Who is God calling you to reach?

2. Establish a pray team (at least 3 persons) to pray.

Month 2

1. Put together a design team (5-12 people), at least half of whom represent the target group.

2. Identify all the potential prospects that are in the target group (e.g. preschool families, VBS participants, scout families, etc.).  Invite them to a focus group.

Month 3

1. Hold focus groups with your prospects testing your vision for the new service.  Help them determine when and where the service should be held and its style, whether it should be designed to include children and food.  Ask the focus group for others who might be interested in the service and hold a focus group with them.  Add all of them to your prospect list.

2. Refine your vision accordingly.  Define what a “win” will look like.

Month 4

1.  Further refine your worship design and establish needed task teams using a leadership matrix.  Begin recruiting the needed leaders from your prospect list.

2. Begin internal communication in the church about the service and the leadership and volunteer needs.

Month 5

1. Finalize the budget and develop the marketing/outreach plan.

2. Continue to fill the leadership/volunteer matrix.

Month 6

1. Hold a pre-launch worship service and evaluate.

2. Begin to implement the marketing/outreach plan.  Get children’s ministry and hospitality plans finalized.  Develop a newcomer follow-up/assimilation plan that includes getting them involved in discipling opportunities.

Month 7

1.  Hold another pre-launch worship service and evaluate.  Include the hospitality and children’s ministry components.

2.  Lead the church in a special prayer effort for the new service.  Collect prospects’ contact information and share with the marketing/outreach team.

Month 8

1. Hold a final pre-launch worship service with all components in place and evaluate.

2. Continue to implement the marketing/outreach plan and finalize the follow-up/ assimilation process for newcomers.

3.  The leadership matrix should be 90% filled.

Month 9

1.  Publically launch the worship service.  Evaluate and celebrate.

2.  Implement the follow-up/implementation process for newcomers.

Month 10

1.  Begin inviting newcomers to fill vacancies on the leadership matrix and to serve.

2.  Continue evaluating all components of the service, continue the marketing/ outreach.

3. Begin inviting participants into discipleship opportunities.

At a predetermined date (e.g. 6 months or 12 months after launch)

Evaluate the service against the definition set in month 3 of a “win.”  Decide whether to continue the service.

Posted: February 13, 2014 by efenster in Stories
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image_7336“It’s true, isn’t it?” the 30-year-old woman said to Rev. Loucks.  “Jesus is real!”  This was a part of a conversation that happened after a special Wednesday night worship service designed to reach the unchurched, especially those living in a low-income mobile home community.

Lamb’s Chapel United Methodist Church, located in LaPorte County near the Michigan state line, already has three Sunday morning worship services–two contemporary and a traditional service.  Yet, Rev. Jay Loucks and the church’s leaders realized that there was a significant, unreached group of people living in a nearby mobile home court, so they decided to start a Wednesday evening service to reach them.  And, as the above comment demonstrates, lives are being changed!

Most of the 50 or so people attending are Hispanic, many undocumented, so building trust has been critically important.  One way trust has been growing is through Rev. Loucks substitute teaching in the local elementary school where many of the families’ children attend.  The church also has a member who is translating the service into Spanish in real time using translation equipment.

The church also uses food as a way to connect with those attending.  In fact, the Wednesday worship–which features a praise band, teaching, and community–is called the “Bread of Life” service.  The church provides groceries to every family who attends, and each month they give one family a freezer full of food donated by Lamb’s Chapel members!  All so that people might realize that Jesus is real!

Praise God!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Over the top worship outreach

Posted: February 13, 2014 by efenster in Stories
Tags: , , , ,

image_7336“It’s true, isn’t it?” the 30-year-old woman said to Rev. Loucks.  “Jesus is real!”  This was a part of a conversation that happened after a special Wednesday night worship service designed to reach the unchurched, especially those living in a low-income mobile home community.

Lamb’s Chapel United Methodist Church, located in LaPorte County near the Michigan state line, already has three Sunday morning worship services–two contemporary and a traditional service.  Yet, Rev. Jay Loucks and the church’s leaders realized that there was a significant, unreached group of people living in a nearby mobile home court, so they decided to start a Wednesday evening service to reach them.  And, as the above comment demonstrates, lives are being changed!

Most of the 50 or so people attending are Hispanic, many undocumented, so building trust has been critically important.  One way trust has been growing is through Rev. Loucks substitute teaching in the local elementary school where many of the families’ children attend.  The church also has a member who is translating the service into Spanish in real time using translation equipment.

The church also uses food as a way to connect with those attending.  In fact, the Wednesday worship–which features a praise band, teaching, and community–is called the “Bread of Life” service.  The church provides groceries to every family who attends and each month they give one family a freezer full of food donated by Lamb’s Chapel members!  All so that people might realize that Jesus is real!

Praise God!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Radical hospitality…or not!

Posted: June 21, 2013 by efenster in Ideas, Uncategorized
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Peerless Cleaner's billboardA new billboard went up in town this week.  The business’s message says, “If we’re not near you…  Move!”   Hmmm.  I read it again.  Yes, it did say what it said!  Basically, “We’re here.  We won’t attempt to make it more convenient for you.  You (customer) have to come to us on our terms, or too bad!”

I began thinking about the messages our churches send out to the public.  I have heard numerous times churches making comments like, “Our worship times are posted on the sign outside our church and our doors are open, so if people want to come, they can come.”  Not exactly radical hospitality!

On the other hand, I was just at a United Methodist church this week, Robinson Chapel, that had a big sign out in front saying, “Soccer Families Welcome!”  The church lets the city parks department use its large grassy yard five nights a week for soccer, football and other sports for young children.  The church, led by its pastor, Rev. Jill Wright, goes one step further.  It provides free popcorn and bottled water for the hundreds who pass through each week.

Now that is radical hospitality!  What about your church?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development