This is the second 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.
RADICAL HOSPITALITY INCLUDES HOSTING OTHER CONGREGATIONS
Several of our UM congregations in Indiana offer radical hospitality by hosting other congregations, especially immigrant and ethnic congregations. Such expressions of radical hospitality may grow into a full partnership and sometimes even into having that guest congregation become a United Methodist congregation. Here is one story of such hosting:
"Center UMC on the south side of Indianapolis is a host facility for two ethnic congregations each Sunday afternoon. Currently a congregation of approximately 200 Chin (persecuted Christians who have moved here from Myanmar - Burma) worship at Center UMC at 1 p.m. The pastor used to teach Bible College in Burma, his name is Robert Biakchung. They worship under a non-denominational banner. This congregation is two years old. At 4 p.m. on Sundays a newly formed congregation of Africans - mainly Liberians, worship at Center UMC under the leadership of Rev. James Tumay, Sr. He is a pastor from the AME Zion movement and former DS from Liberia. James is an "associate" member of CUMC. His congregation was formed in December of 2010 and is worshiping approximately 60. They too are independent at this time." From Pastor Daniel Rasmussen
MORE CLUSTER STORIES
It seems like many of our 175 Ministry Clusters in the Indiana Conference are finding unique ways to experience their connection with one another by engaging in activities together that they could not easily do alone. Here is one from the Fulton/Caston Cluster of smaller churches:
“On Good Friday, the Fulton/Caston Cluster of the Northwest District UMC, had a Cross Carry. We carried a cross from Kewanna UMC to Twelve Mile UMC, a total of 21.5 miles, in the rain, wind and cold of the day. We started at 7:30 a.m. on our journey after Pastor Mike Roeder of Fulton UMC shared the first of a series of "The Stations of Jesus" and prayer. We took our first break at Grass Creek UMC at 9:15 a.m. We left at 9:30 after more of the stations and we were still dry at this point. About half-way to Fulton UMC our Lord decided to cleanse us with rain showers and continued this until late in the day. We made it to Fulton UMC at 12:15 p.m. and had lunch and a time to warm ourselves somewhat. During the walk to this point we had many who came and went and took their turns to carrying the cross and walking in support. We left Fulton UMC at 1 p.m. and made it to the Old Mill on St Rd 16 by 3:15. We went in to warm ourselves and wait for others to arrive to carry the cross, as we were ahead of schedule. The owners of the Old Mill served hot chocolate and coffee to all of us at no charge. It was greatly appreciated. We left at 4 and made it to Twelve Mile UMC at 4:55. We had police escorts from Fulton and Hamilton Counties to insure the safety of all the walkers.
"We had close to 100 individuals from Kewanna UMC, Grass Creek UMC, Lucerne UMC, Fletchers Lake UMC, Fulton UMC, Bethlehem UMC and Twelve Mile UMC as well as from four other churches in the area. We then finished the evening with a "Funeral for Jesus" at 7 p.m. at Twelve Mile UMC with a full house. It may have been cold, windy, and rainy on the outside, but the hearts and souls were boiling over with the love of Christ. It was a great day. You can see captions and descriptions of the pictures on my Facebook page as David Sommers. It was a strong, unified voice of the United Methodist Churches in the area."
PASTORS PREACH ON "CALLED BY GOD" DURING LENT/EASTER
Many pastors have reported that they tried my invitation for them to preach on “Called by God” during the Lent and Easter season as a way of developing a “culture of call” in our Conference. Here is one such report from Pastor Sherry Drake in Parker City:
"I just wanted to thank you for the invitation to think about preaching on 'Called By God' during Lent and Easter this year. Our Parker City UMC choir learned a new song ("We Are Called" from The Faith We Sing), the children seemed to look forward to decorating the sanctuary cross with a new symbol each week representing the weekly theme, and I found it fun and challenging as a pastor to prepare the sermons.
"I'm praying that the folk in the congregation are re-examining their callings and the way God is touching their lives now. I know it helped me revisit my call as a pastor in midlife."
MINISTERING TO CHILDREN – ALL THE CHILDREN, NOT JUST THOSE IN OUR CHURCH
Several churches have told me stories about finding new life by ministering to the children of their community. Isn’t it Biblical to discover that accepting little children and caring for them in the name of Christ can become an experience of spiritual renewal? Here is one from Sue Becket at Brook UMC:
“Our ‘Pente’ cluster (Brook UMC, Kentland Trinity UMC, Raub UMC, Morocco First UMC and Mt. Zion UMC) has been working on sending ‘Buddy Bags’ of food home each Friday from our South Newton Elementary school. We are sending home 50-55 bags each week. This project has been supported by other area churches as well. It began after VBS at Brook UMC almost three years ago. At the end of VBS a child asked me if we were going to provide lunch the rest of the summer. That question worked on us so to speak and ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ began. We have an ecumenical Coffee Fellowship Group weekday mornings, everyone gives a dollar and we soon had $1,000 in the coffee fund. This money started our Thursday free lunches, ‘Thirsty Thursdays’. At the end of the summer, we still had $1,000 in the fund. We began asking ourselves how to best use this money and we got connected to Food Finders in Lafayette and started the Buddy Bags. Our cluster came on board to help when they began meeting. We sent out one fund-raising letter to 20 churches that first Fall. We still continue to find $1,000 in the fund! Teachers, church members, dinners, our Coffee Fellowship, and generous people who have heard of the project continue to give. Each Friday a crew of volunteers from our cluster fills the bags. We pause to pray together before we leave. We have received so much positive feedback from school administrators and parents. It has been a very powerful experience that began in such a simple way. We are grateful that God is leading us. This summer we will offer 'Thirsty Thursdays' again with tutoring, maybe some movies, and whatever else God provides. I am reminded of Elijah and the widow who fed him in the famine; our oil and meal have never run out!’
STARTING NEW WORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES REACHES NEW PEOPLE
I hear this kind of story over and over again, until I am beginning to realize it is not “rocket science” how to reach new people. You do it best by starting new ministries, and especially new worship services. The following is an example of a new service started with the help of our Church Development Team in the Indiana Conference:
“Last Saturday evening, we launched our new off-site nontraditional worship service which we are calling PF Hope (PF standing for 'Portage First'). The service is held in an elementary school gym (Myers School) on the west side of Portage. For our launch service, there were 99 in attendance, with 29 of those being new faces. It was a very exciting evening. Below are some of their stories, as shared by our service coordinator, Wade Boise. Much thanks to the Annual Conference and to the North District Leadership Table, both of which granted us funds towards the purchase of equipment for this outreach endeavor. We could not do it without you!
"We had one family come to the service because they saw us moving stuff in and the little girl came and asked what was up! She went and got her brother and dad to come!
"A grandmother brought her grandson because he goes to Myers. He was so excited and amazed that a girl could play the drums! But what is even more amazing, he saw some of his friends on the way home and they asked where he was. He told them at church at the school and he asked them to come along next week. The grandmother said they would have to ask the parents. The same lady said she brought the letter to God (each person attending was asked to write a letter to God about what kind of life they most want for themselves) sheet home and her daughter went into her room and filled it out. Her daughter wanted to know if she was supposed to bring it back and share it with the church! This lady is excited about PF Hope and wants her whole family to come.
"One last story, my friend from school, who was my guest, texted me today and said that the people in our congregation made her feel welcomed. She is battling MS. She also told me that she finished her letter last night and she asked for the songs we sang.
"Our church's vision is simple: Love God, Love Others, Offer Jesus. I am thankful for the opportunity to do that at PF Hope, and I'm simply blessed to be a part of God's plan for Portage First." Pastor Dennis Ticen
KEEP THEM COMING
Please keep sending me stories of what God is doing in and through your ministry. It is OK to “brag about God” in this way, because it encourages all of us.