INDIANAPOLIS – Barnes United Methodist Church, a predominately African-American church in Indianapolis, is considering whether to participate in step three in the Indiana Conference’s Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ)process for church growth.
“God will do a new thing… do not remember the things of the past and the things of old (Isaiah 43:16-21),” guest preacher the Rev. Candace Lewis told the Barnes congregation during a Sunday morning worship service Dec. 12. Lewis, a consultant from the General Board of Discipleship based in Nashville, Tenn., explained that memory has a shadowy side, which gives us the tendency to turn memory into an idol.
“God says I will give you a new thing – new signs of life,” Lewis preached.
She gave as an example the fact that when our smart phone runs out of memory, we have to delete the old in order to get something new, otherwise the phone can’t function as it was intended to function.
“We need to remove the obstacles in order to progress forward. God is still speaking to us in the midst of the obstacles,” she said.
She then outlined how the congregation could grow and be more fruitful than currently. She said, “Have faith – God can work in the future… Receive support through the Indiana Conference FCJ process and be open to new ideas... Trust God to make a new way for us to follow and be open to perceive the new way God is inviting Barnes Church to go.”
Following the service, the Rev. Sharon Washington, an associate director of Church Development for the Indiana Conference, who is based in Jeffersonville, outlined a process and list of prescriptions for Barnes Church to implement during the next year to increase the church’s vitality. She also outlined both the strengths and weakness of the congregation determined by a seven-member consultation team* that met with Pastor Charles Harrison and church leaders all day Saturday, Dec. 11. Barnes UMC has been participating in a year-long FCJ process leading up to this consultation.
Barnes strengths included its location and facilities next to I-65 with a recently built Family Life Center, strong, scripturally-based preaching known community presence and outreach, a vital music ministry and an openness to growth.
The consultation team outlined concerns, including the church’s lack of a clear vision, being financially over-extended, having a need for better communication, church leadership development and developing clearly defined goals. They also suggested an ongoing stewardship plan and an intentional discipleship process.
Washington encouraged members to begin an outlined process with a “season of prayer and preparation” through February. The consultation team also asked the congregation to assess and discern the church’s core values as a guide in the midst of transition. Consultants wrote: “A ministry’s key values or beliefs are the shaping force of the entire institution.” They advised a new values statement to be written by the end of March.
Consultants also wrote a five-part prescription for church growth and vitality for the church to engage in during the rest of this year. It included the need for a clear vision, the strengthening of the church’s overall ministry, strengthening the leadership, management and communication, building financial strength and designing an intentional discipleship pathway. Each item has a deadline for action.
Barnes church leaders have scheduled three town hall meetings to discuss and consider the consultants’ six-page FCJ consultation report and plan to take a congregational vote on Sunday, Jan. 19 to determine whether to enter this third step of the FCJ process.
*Consultation team members meeting with Barnes leaders included: Candance Lewis (lead consultant) of Nashville, Tenn., Olu Brown of Atlanta, Ga., Brad Kalajainen of Caledonia, Mich., Sharon Washington of Jeffersonville, Ind., Ed Fenstermacher of Fort Wayne, Ind., Gloria Fowler and Liliana Rangel both of Dallas, Texas.
For more information about the FCJ process, visit www.inumc.org, then click on Church Development. Once on the Church Development page, click on Fruitful Congregations Journey for information about the process, including an eight-minute video.