This is the first of a series of monthly messages in which I will be sharing with the clergy of the Indiana Conference the best ministry stories I have heard in the past month.
I invite any clergy of the Indiana Conference to send me your best ministry stories, so that I may share those stories with the rest of us. We all need to be encouraged by the stories of how ministry is working and being effective. So send me your stories, and I will pass them along. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org and mark them “Ministry Story.” Thanks.
STARTING A NEW WORSHIP SERVICE TO REACH NEW PEOPLE
Many of our churches have been starting new worship services to reach new people. That is always a great strategy, and yet too often we think that is only something a large, urban church can do. Here is a story from the Windfall UMC: “My Windfall congregation received a New Worship Service grant of $2,000 from Church Development towards the end of 2009. These funds helped us buy the equipment we needed for our contemporary worship service ‘Passionately Engaging God’ in January of 2010. God has used our new service. Here is our attendance over the last few years:
2007 – average worship 45
2008 – average worship 46
2009 – average worship 52
2010 – Traditional 53 plus Contemporary 21 = average worship 74
From our new service we have taken in 6 new adult members, 4 of which were not currently connected with any church. Out of these new members, God has recently given us a praise and worship leader who is now using her beautiful voice for Christ. Previously we worshiped only with a soundtrack and screen. This advancement will help our service tremendously. Also, God has blessed the first service with more people. I believe this is a direct result of our taking this step of faith, a step which the Church Development team helped us take. Thank you!
Pastor Chris Ellis
STARTING A NEW MINISTRY AS A CLUSTER TO FEED PEOPLE
The Pine Creek Cluster shares this story of their efforts to feed people:
“First, and most exciting, is that the Foods Resource Bank project that we started in 2010 has been a real success story. In addition to the $1000 each that we were able to donate to the local food pantries in Covington, Pine Village and Williamsport, we were able to send a check $8500 to the national Foods Resource Bank office to target rural counties projects in Liberia through UMCOR in order to address world hunger. Not bad for some little country churches and our first attempt at a project like this. We can all be proud of our efforts and accomplishments and special thanks to the many donors, workers, planners and everyone else that make it possible.
“God must have a lot of confidence in us, because He has made it possible not only to continue the Foods Resource Bank project in 2011, but even expand on it! To date, through a partnership between the Pine Creek Cluster and Christ United Methodist Church in Lafayette, we now have 30 acres of land dedicated to food plots in 2011. This means that we will be able to not only make a substantially bigger donation to address world hunger in 2011, but also assure our local food pantries of continued support this year through the project. In addition to making land available through some of their church members, Christ United UMC will also be donating a substantial amount of funding to assist with the project. That, along with grant money through the national FRB office and an individual donation of $1000, will make it a lot easier for our cluster churches to make the 2011 project financially feasible. In fact, if we can average only $300 dollars/church it is a done deal and we will have all of the financing in place.”
CHURCHES WORKING TOGETHER
David Byrum, Superintendent of the East District, shares a wonderful story of churches working together: Wiley UMC in New Castle, a small predominately African-American congregation was struggling and considering closing. Barnes UMC in Indianapolis is providing a lay speaker to lead their worship, and New Castle 1st UMC is also providing financial assistance. More than just money, New Castle 1st and New Castle Wiley UMC are joining together for Study Circles – a program where persons of different ethnic backgrounds meet, pray, and share openly about racism. The motivation? Not just helping a neighboring church survive, but working together to transform the community into a more tolerant, accepting place for black and white persons to live in harmony.
A NEW STYLE OF PRAYER FOR JOYS AND CONCERNS
Dave Michel, DS in the NE District, shares about attending worship on Easter Sunday at Fort Wayne Good Shepherd and participating in a new style of praying for the people’s joys and concerns:
”Rather than spending a long time going through verbal requests (something difficult to do in a larger church) they had somehow had people turn in requests, and they were immediately added to a slide presentation. So at the prayer time there was an invitation to prayer, directions were given as to different stations to pray, the lights went down, people could go to a candle lighting station, people could go to kneeling rails, I think there was a place for anointing (my memory is fuzzy there) and the prayer requests were on a screen presentation so people could lift up the names in prayer there was no vocalized prayer there was soft music, coming out of it a person sang the prayer hymn that was being played. There was quite a bit of participation and moving around - a bit more dynamic than "every head bowed."
Kudos to Lead Pastor Craig Duke and Phil Emerson.
AND FINALLY, I KNOW MANY CHURCHES HAD WONDERFUL MINISTRY STORIES ON EASTER SUNDAY, BUT HERE IS ONE THAT MADE THE NEWS
In Evansville, two churches came together to merge and form a new “resurrected congregation.” Here is the story from the local newspaper:
“St. John’s United Methodist Church, which is predominantly black, had fellowshipped with the mostly white Asbury United Methodist Church before, but not like the meeting Sunday. The two struggling churches recently merged, and St. John’s pastor, the Rev. William ‘Billy D.’ Garrett, acknowledged their differences early in his Easter sermon. ‘I look out and I see all kinds of people,’ Garrett said. ‘That’s how heaven’s going to look. It ain’t going to be black and white or red and yellow. It’s just going to be church.’ About 70 church members and guests came Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the same day the two distressed churches got a breath of new life as a merged congregation. ‘This is one of the most tremendous services I’ve ever attended,’ said District Superintendent the Rev. George Purnell, who oversees 127 United Methodist churches in the area. He added that he enjoyed the selections the six-member choir, keyboardist and drummer performed. The two churches merged in an effort to solve their respective problems. St. John’s had some issues with its building and didn’t have the member base needed to fund a new building. The two struggling churches recently merged, and St. John’s pastor, the Rev. William ‘Billy D.’ Garrett, acknowledged their differences early in his Easter sermon. ‘Renovating would have cost more than building anew,' Garrett said, 'but we didn’t have the money for that either.’ Asbury doesn’t have any major problems with its 41-year-old building that sits on the corner of Fulton Avenue and Uhlhorn Street; but the church did have a problem filling its seats. One member said about six people attended service there last Sunday. ‘One church needed a building, and the other church needed people,’ Purnell said. Word spread quickly, as it often does in the interconnected United Methodist Church community, and both churches agreed to become one under the name of St. John’s. ‘Asbury has been so gracious as to let us merge with them,’ Garrett said.”
I thank God for churches which overlook the usual racial divisions of our culture and find ways to be born anew. May all of our Indiana Conference congregations continue to celebrate this blessed Easter Season and find new ways of sharing our ministry stories with one another.