Fruitful Congregation Journey Consultation Report Chesterton United Methodist Church June 8, 2014

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1 Fruitful Congregation Journey Consultation Report Chesterton United Methodist Church June 8, 2014 We, the consultation team, would like to thank Rev. Scott Tyring, Rev. Cathy Allison, staff, lay leadership and the congregation of Chesterton United Methodist Church for the invitation to consult with your church as part of the Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ). The observations and prescriptions in this report are the result of the consultation team studying the following information: a) Chesterton UMC s self-study document provided by its leaders, b) a MissionInsite demographic report of the area population, c) input from the Mystery Guest Worshiper Report, d) results from the FCJ congregational survey completed by the congregation, e) interviews with the pastors, staff, and lay leadership, f) a focus group with members of the congregation, g) a focus group session with the Church Council, and h) input from Saturday s leadership workshop. It was a great joy to work with the congregation. The consultation team s prayer is that God will use this assessment experience and consultation report so that Chesterton UMC will more effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of its community and the world. STRENGTHS Chesterton UMC s five greatest strengths are as follows: 1. LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER It is obvious that Chesterton UMC lives with deep appreciation and love for each other. When asked, What is the best thing about this church, most often the answers were the love that members have for one another. We heard phrases like this all weekend: We know how to love here, We are a very loving group, We care for each other, and We help each other. This love is expressed in hospital visits, times of crisis, praying for each other, providing meals, creating friendships, and helping in tangible ways. This demonstration of God s love is at the heart of this community of faith. 2. RESPONSIVE TO HUMAN NEEDS THROUGH COMMUNITY SERVICE Another expression of God s love at Chesterton UMC is a demonstrated concern for the needs of the community. Support for Jacob s Table, Spaghetti Dinners for various missions, Practice Faith Sunday, preschool, Scouting, Boys and Girls Club, Mom s Morning Out, Frontline Foundations, Duneland Resale Shop, Habitat for Humanity, the Love Cares Fund, food baskets, meals for homeless shelters, and NeighborLink workdays are just some of the ways this is lived out. In addition, there appear to be countless other individual expressions of concern throughout Chesterton. 3. FINANCIAL SUPPORT Chesterton UMC is supported by faithful stewardship and sound financial management. There is often a sense in churches with declining membership that finances are a driving and limiting force that blocks good things from happening. This does not appear to be the case at Chesterton UMC. One limiting factor is the higher than normal percentage of church resources that are spent on aging facilities. However, while the church has struggled to grow in recent years, the financial support is actually much higher per attender than most United Methodist churches. It will be important to continue this stewardship as the congregation considers a new season of servant ministry and disciple-making to God s glory. 4. FRIENDLINESS TO NEWCOMERS During the fall of 2013, Chesterton UMC was visited in by 12 mystery guest worshipers. These guests attended all of the three services equally. In addition to expressing an appreciation for the preaching and music at Chesterton UMC, the genuine friendliness of the congregation seemed to make a lasting impact on these newcomers. We heard comments like, This is the area where the church most excelled. I was very pleasantly surprised when I walked through the door to be greeted with a warm good morning. 1

2 And, I felt very welcome at this church. The greetings felt very sincere and always accompanied with a smile. Eight out of 12 of these guests said they would consider returning for another visit. 5. HIGH PARTICIPATION IN SMALL GROUPS The congregation of Chesterton UMC is to be commended for their engagement in discipleship through small groups and service teams. Having 65% of the congregation involved in small groups and service teams is well above the average for United Methodist churches. Chesterton UMC s commitment to learning and growth is evidenced by the number and variety of discipleship offerings. These offerings include retreats (e.g. Emmaus), classes in the foundations of faith (e.g. ALPHA), long-term Bible studies (e.g. DISCIPLE and Companions in Christ), United Methodist Women circles and Men s breakfast, as well as consistently updated new short-term studies (e.g. History of Christianity). CONCERNS Chesterton UMC s five areas of greatest concern are as follows: 1. LACK OF UNITY Although the church expresses a commitment to fulfilling The United Methodist Church s mission, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, it does not have a clear vision as to how God is calling the church to live out this mission given its unique context. This lack of vision is keeping the church from having the unified witness that we are called to have (John 17:20-22). Furthermore, it hinders the practice of goal setting, proper alignment of resources (e.g. finances, staff, ministries, etc.), establishment of clear job responsibilities, and intentional accountability of pastor, staff, lay leadership, and members. One person commented: In order to go forward, we need to get on the same page and understand our mission and direction. 2. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT HINDRANCES Chesterton UMC is a church blessed with excellent leaders. Yet, the consultation team heard numerous concerns regarding leadership including: a) the church structure was described as a bit loose, and there s a need for greater empowerment of leaders, b) better communication among staff and leaders, c) the need for clearer expectations of pastors and staff, d) the recruitment and training of new leaders, and the desire for younger leaders. 3. MISSING GENERATIONS IMPACTED BY RESISTANCE TO CHANGE The consultation team heard numerous times during the FCJ weekend of a longing for the church to more effectively reach and disciple youth and young adults. One person said, There is a big gap in our ministry from youth to young adults. Yet, many appear content with the status quo, fearful of evangelism, and resistant to change, which limit the church s ability to reach these younger generations. 4. INCONSISTENT WELCOMING MINISTRY While mystery guest worshipers clearly experienced an authentic friendliness at Chesterton UMC, they also pointed out some inconsistencies in the welcome they received, primarily at the 9:30am service. Some were welcomed warmly and appropriately; others had less than satisfying experiences. One 9:30am guest said, I felt overlooked and did not necessarily feel welcome. I felt lost. It made me think twice about attending here again. Another said, I really think they need to do something with more signs pointing to go downstairs if that s where they will be. 5. LACK OF AN INTENTIONAL DISCIPLE-MAKING PATHWAY In interviews, focus groups, surveys, and the Saturday workshop, members of Chesterton UMC consistently expressed a need for a clearly defined discipleship pathway that would result in people being engaged in making other disciples. One person said, We need an awakening in our own spiritual journeys. Another said, We need compassion for a world falling apart. All people need to know is Jesus and what He means to you. Another idea shared was, We need to know the steps to take and seize the opportunities we already have to share our faith. 2

3 MINISTRY ACTION PLAN In order to address the above concerns, Chesterton UMC must implement the following: 1. BUILDING CONGREGATIONAL UNITY a. MISSION. The congregation will continue to embrace the mission statement, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. b. SEASON OF REFLECTION. In order to prepare their hearts to be unified behind this mission, the congregation will enter into a season of prayerful reflection. The senior pastor, in consultation with the coach, will establish a team to plan this forty-day process that may include: a moratorium on all other activities in the church, hold prayer walks and/or vigils, have special emphasis in worship and cottage groups, etc. The season of reflection will culminate in a special worship service done on Sunday morning during the regular services with an emphasis on prayer and forgiveness, to reaffirm God s mandate for making disciples and transforming the world. This service will be coordinated by the FCJ prayer coordinator Catherine Turcotte, in consultation with the pastors, by November 1, c. VISION. The coach will conduct a visioning workshop for the congregation. The purpose of this workshop is to begin to dream how God wants to work through the congregation in the future, both individually and collectively, to reach the surrounding community. Following the workshop, the senior pastor and the leadership of the church will begin the process of developing a vision, which will be presented to the Church Council for its adoption and shared with the congregation by March 1, The identification and development of the congregation s spiritual core values may be incorporated into this activity. d. MINISTRY ALIGNMENT. Upon adopting this vision, the Church Council will conduct a ministry audit to align the church s ministries with the vision. This audit will be completed by May 1, Ministries will be evaluated by their faithfulness to the mission and vision. The church s resources (e.g. finances, staff, facilities, etc.) will be prioritized toward those ministries, which are aligned with the mission and vision. All future ministries must be aligned to the vision and all ministries reviewed annually. 2. STRENGTHENED LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT a. STRUCTURE & EMPOWERMENT. The coach will lead the Accountable Leadership workshop for the Church Council, pastors and staff, and other key leaders that senior pastor and Church Council chair invite, to help the leaders understand what a healthy church structure looks like. The workshop will be held by December 1, An outcome will be for the Church Council to consider changes to strengthen the church s structure that empowers people to lead. b. COMMUNICATION. The coach will lead the pastors and staff in a Culture of Teamwork workshop to help foster ministry by teams. The workshop will be held by January 1, 2015 (TBD). Following, the staff will lead the workshop for their ministry team members. The senior pastor, in consultation with the coach, will develop a one-day retreat for the staff and Church Council on healthy communication, which may be led by an outside expert. This workshop will be held by February 1, 2015 (TBD). An outcome of these two workshops may be the development and use of a leadership covenant. c. CLEAR EXPECTATIONS. The Staff-Parish Relations Committee, working with senior pastor and staff in consultation with the coach, will clarify the expectations and role of the senior pastor, associate, and staff by June 1, These should be aligned with the new vision. d. RECRUITMENT & TRAINING. The senior pastor and Lay Leadership Development Committee, in consultation with the coach, will develop an intentional plan to recruit and train 3

4 new leaders with emphasis on young adults and present this plan to the Church Council for implementation by November 1, LEADING CHANGE TO REACH YOUNGER GENERATIONS The congregation s resistance to change in order to reach younger generations will be addressed, in part, by committing and implementing this Ministry Action Plan. In order to reach a younger generation, the congregation will do the following: The senior pastor, in consultation with the coach, will establish a task force, whose make up will include at least 50% young adults, by September 1, This team will develop a strategy to connect with and cultivate young people that are already being reached through the church s ministries, such as the preschool, Mom s Day Out, Jacob s Table, Scouting, etc. This strategy should include the following: a. a system to identify those unchurched individuals and families and gather contact information b. a system to identify and train persons from Chesterton UMC to build relationships with them and pray for these persons c. create next-step bridge events that may lead these people toward authentic relationships and onto an intentional discipleship pathway d. visits to at least three congregations as large or larger than Chesterton UMC which have a thriving, growing young adult and youth ministry; they will experience their worship services, young adult and youth ministries, and learn from their leadership e. study of research relating to young adults to understand that population group, and the Mystery Guest Worshiper Report to glean new information regarding the church s ministry to young adults f. explore ways to create new, or make current Chesterton UMC ministries, more relevant to young people desiring to follow Jesus Christ This strategy will be presented to the Church Council for implementation by January 1, CONSISTENT HOSPITALITY To develop a consistent and effective welcoming ministry at Chesterton UMC, the senior pastor, in consultation with the coach and the hospitality team, will begin evaluating all current hospitality ministries by June 1, This evaluation will include: a. the current church website design, and other social media, for consistency and clarity of information and messaging b. internal and external signage c. all print material available for newcomers including the welcome packet, worship bulletin, inserts, and other communications to insure they are guest friendly d. marketing to the community to create awareness of Chesterton UMC s presence and ministry opportunities e. hospitality teams parking lot attendants, greeter teams, ushers, welcome table, refreshment ministry, servant ministers to insure the quality of hospitality ministry and attention to newcomers is consistent at all worship services and other ministries at Chesterton UMC, including developing job descriptions and goals for each hospitality team member f. opportunities for newcomers to meet the pastors and/or staff on Sunday mornings and at all other gatherings or ministries where newcomers are present g. collecting contact information of all ministry participants h. the follow-up program for first-time guests i. adding names and contact information to the data base for further invitations j. a process for connecting newcomers to specific ministries k. follow-up process for those who do not return 4

5 5. DISCIPLESHIP PATHWAY The pastor and associate pastor, in consultation with the coach, will put together a team of three persons on or before June 1, 2015, to create an intentional discipleship pathway for moving people from where they are on their spiritual journey to becoming fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. The discipleship pathway will be designed for everyone, whether a non-believer or one who is maturing in their faith. This discipleship pathway will represent a lifelong process. The team will discern a faith development plan within a Wesleyan model that encourages all persons to: a. connect and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ b. help them be transformed by studying the beliefs and principles of the Christian faith, and understand that holistic stewardship is a spiritual matter c. provide connection opportunities with other believers for support and accountability through small groups d. discover and connect with God s purpose for their lives e. connect with opportunities for risk-taking service and mission and build authentic relationships in which people can be introduced to Jesus f. invite others into a relationship with Jesus and His church, and help them to grow along their own discipleship pathway This plan will be adopted by the Church Council and be implemented in the life of Chesterton UMC at all ministry levels by September 1, CONCLUSION We, the consultation team, want to thank you for the opportunity to serve your congregation in this manner. Our prayers and hope for your congregation is that God will use this process to help implement your mission effectively, create a compelling vision and make an eternal difference in Chesterton for the Glory of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Steve Clouse, Lead Consultant Herb Buwalda, Consultant Ed Fenstermacher, Coach Sheila Wilimitis, Consultant Town Hall Dates: Sunday, June 22, at 2:00pm Thursday, June 26, 7pm Monday, July 7, 7pm Church Conference: Monday, July 21, 7pm 5

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