MADISON, Ind. – Lay leaders of Trinity United Methodist Church in Madison recently met to discuss the progress of their Faithful Congregation Journey project after 15 months and a busy summer. They discussed words to describe the church today, how leaders are responding, the prescriptions, current results and future expectations.

The words used to describe the current church, compared to the first day of the project, included – warm, friendly, excited, positive, enthusiastic, “full of energy,” relieved, “a can-do attitude” and “more smiles.” These descriptors were universally endorsed by the group and there was a noticeable feeling of accomplishment.

The group identified several ways that leaders have changed as a result of the process. They said the role of leaders has expanded with individual leaders being more accountable for projects and other activities getting accomplished on time. Leaders tend to “own” their positions and take pride in their roles. Because of these changes, there is a feeling of empowerment and a sense of encouragement to take risks to achieve a better outcome.

Trinity Church is traditionally a congregation that responds more positively to personal pleas for assistance, rather than calls from the pulpit. The Fruitful Congregation Journey process has helped leaders become more comfortable with this approach when requesting help.

The specific prescriptions developed from the consult were not universally well understood at the time and there were and still are a few people that think every church has the same directions. This idea is going away as Pastor Dennis Ingle has worked with the leaders to understand how each prescription was driven by the needs of the church and have the benefits will address their issues.

Ingle keeps everyone moving forward by keeping the congregation focused on how each prescription will positively impact the future. The due dates were challenging and originally thought to be unrealistic. The leaders still believe the dates push them to accomplish, but now see the timing to be necessary to “keep the ball rolling” and to get everything done.

Trinity is pleased with the progress that has been achieved and is really looking forward to the launch of a contemporary second service beginning December 1. This project has included many members of the congregation and the process has so far been effective in keeping everyone focused on the due date. Two other achievements of note are their “Welcome Home Sunday,” where they invited former members to return for a visit and a new annual Fish Fry.

The reunion was a numerical success and one of the returning former members is not only a new regular on Sunday morning, but also a member of the Trustees. The annual fish fry was a financial success, a point of pride for all of the members of the congregation that worked the dinner and has become an important community event.

Talking to the leaders of Trinity can lead one to have great expectations for the future. The congregation is “hopeful, not hopeless” and committed. They have an outreach vision and are no longer just focused on themselves. They see discipleship growth as their responsibility and their efforts have paid off with increased attendance and involvement.

In 2014 and beyond, leaders look for a new beginning with younger families, a children’s ministry, adding Sunday school classes and young adult small groups, and increasing the number of volunteers utilizing their spiritual gifts. They also want to be sure that the second service is a success and a natural and interconnected expansion of the church, not a second congregation.

There has been monumental progress at Trinity this year and a tremendous positive change in the attitude of the leaders. This project is a shining example of what the Fruitful Congregation Journey can do to revitalize a church in decline. Ingle is leading a committed group of Christian disciples at Trinity to achieve more than they probably expected, while truly experiencing the Holy Spirit at work. This project will officially end in a few months when the prescriptions are accomplished, but the future of Madison’s Trinity United Methodist Church is just beginning.

For more information about Trinity UMC in Madison, visit

For more information about the FCJ process, visit

Gary Eberhart serves as pastor of Boxley United Methodist Church in Sheridan, Ind. and also serves as a coach for several churches in the Fruitful Congregation Journey program.

Because of these changes, there is a feeling of empowerment and a sense of encouragement to take risks to achieve a better outcome.

Photos courtesy Trinity UMC

Trinity UMC’s Trunk or Treat outreach event to the community in October featured the giving of candy, games for children, worship with the church’s praise band, food and a costume contest.