Ministry in a “New Normal”
All of us are learning to lead in a new normal. Maybe you, like me, feel a little overwhelmed by the challenge. I was reminded of this encouraging truth last week: “When God was choosing who should pastor and lead the church through the crisis of this pandemic, He chose you.” We may find ourselves in uncharted territory but God is still on the throne, we are still in His hands, and His Kingdom is still advancing!
Sunday, March 29, it was clear that more and more of our churches are learning to navigate this digital frontier. Pastor David Dignal and the team at Edgerton Wesleyan Church stepped up to the challenge and are learning quickly. Pastor John Freed and the team at Waterline Church extended congregational engagement beyond the sermon by offering a large-group Zoom meeting following their streaming service. They had about 30 adults and 20 kids jump in on that call. They’re also offering a call-in number for adults or students who want pastoral counseling through the week.
At Harvest Church (McCordsville), Pastor Brad and Heidi LeRoy are hosting a Tuesday evening open session to answer frequently asked questions.
It is exciting to see so many of you that are figuring out how to offer on-line Bible studies, family devotionals, and discipleship groups on Zoom. For example, Pastor Emily Hines at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church is coaching 24 discipleship groups that are now meeting through the week via Zoom.
One of my favorite stories is of Maelle, daughter of Pastor Mike and Kim Hewitt at Rising Hope Church. This past week, she led her first Zoom Bible study for her friends. You can find an inspiring video on their Facebook page. In the picture below, she’s the one wearing the Colts jersey. Did I mention that she’s just 9 years old?
WCJC, the local country radio station for Eastview Wesleyan Church (Gas City), has agreed to offer a one-hour time slot on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday for Eastview to broadcast their services. Has your team reached out to your TV/radio stations?
With the new April 30 mandate, it’s clear that all of us will be imagining new ways to celebrate Easter with our congregations. I heard of one church where the children’s ministry leaders are conspiring with parents and will be out getting their exercise by hiding Easter eggs (with candy and Scripture verses inside) on the lawns of each home of the children from the church. Tony Morgan’s UnStuck team provided helpful insights in this webinar entitled, “Re-Imagine Easter Gathering” – Click HERE to watch this with your leaders.
One practical way we can help each other in this new digital reality is to subscribe to each others’ YouTube channel. When a church reaches 100 subscribers, they can personalize their URL making it easier for people to find them. The next time you find yourself stuck at home with nothing urgent to do, jump on YouTube and help each other get over the top. (tip from @Karl Vaters)
Measuring engagement can be challenging in the digital realm. Pastor Kaleb Wakeman at The River Church recommends that, if you’re using Facebook for streaming your services, you may want to track 1) one-minute views, 2) shares, and 3) clicks on video. Average watch time is also a helpful stat to understand engagement.
I’ve also appreciated how most people have kept their sense of humor. Here’s one of my favorite examples:
Last Monday evening, I was scheduled to meet with the LBA at Lancaster Wesleyan Church as they continue in their pastoral search. We ended up cancelling the meeting with the updated “social distancing” directives but I dropped off resumes at the church and they are beginning to process through candidates. Tuesday morning, I taught online for IWU and then led our district staff meeting via Zoom. Tuesday afternoon, Pastor Don Bayne (New Carlisle Wesleyan) and I connected online for our annual coaching conversation. Wednesday’s online coaching conversations included Pastor Alan Downing (Frankfort Connecting Point) and Pastor Eliorgy Guerrero (Elkhart Cielos Abiertos). Thursday, Pastor Mike Cloud (Rochester The Cross) and Pastor Marc Ulrich (Merrillville ReThink Church) took time out to join me via Zoom for our annual coaching connection. My final coaching conversation for the week was on Friday afternoon with Pastor Ollie Dongell (Plymouth Wesleyan Church).
The Crossroads District partners with the Bangladesh Wesleyan Church led by Rev. Joshe Bose, National Superintendent. I reached out on Monday to wish him a “Happy Birthday” from our district team. He shared an amazing praise report of baptizing 57 new believers last week at their national church gathering. Recently, municipal authorities have requested their 5 Jesus film teams to bring the ministry to their communities.
Our prayers and sympathy are extended to Pastor Scott McDermid (Sheridan Six Points Church) on the passing of his grandmother last week. The private family service will be held this coming Thursday. We’re also praying for David Henry, husband of Assistant Pastor Michele Henry (Brookhaven Wesleyan), who was hospitalized last weekend. The family has shared updates on Facebook requesting prayer for his serious condition.
Just a reminder for our pastors that we’re hosting an all-district connection event via Zoom on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00. We want to share the latest information of how churches can participate in the “payroll protection” provisions in the $2 trillion package CARES legislation signed last Friday. Kevin Batman, General Treasurer of The Wesleyan Church, and Rev. Jerry Alexander, regional representative for U.S. Senator Mike Braun, are encouraging our churches to make the most of this opportunity. Join us Tuesday at 2.
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts for eternity!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent
P.S. Special thanks to General Treasurer Kevin Batman and his team who mobilized an online giving platform for Wesleyan churches. If your church doesn’t yet provide that option, here’s the link for more information:
Leading in Changing Times
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”
- Psalm 91:1-3 (NIV)
Sunday, March 22, was the second weekend that our Crossroads District churches made the decision not to gather in physical spaces and to cooperate with the public health efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Thank you to every pastor, team leader, and volunteer who worked countless hours to serve your congregation in these unusual days.
Sherry and I viewed several services online yesterday morning but also made it over to Lakeview Wesleyan Church in Marion to participate in their drive-through prayer ministry. In spite of the colder weather, Interim Pastor Lenny Luchetti and the Lakeview team took the opportunity to open their parking lot for a brief greeting (at the appropriate social distance) and offered pastoral prayers for specific needs.
We are all learning, and unlearning, to meet the challenge of change. Some of the changes that have been forced upon us may have been overdue and will undoubtedly serve us well going into the future.
For example, most churches could get better at meeting needs in their congregation between Sundays. I’m seeing pastors sharing daily devotional thoughts on their personal Facebook page in the morning. Pastor Ben Parker at Back Creek Wesleyan Church has been doing this for months now and it has been received well by his church family.
Most churches could step up to another level of effectiveness in their online ministry for not just replaying services but engaging people for next steps. Small churches are learning what can be done with even an old iPhone on Facebook Live. We are also learning that many meetings can be handled online through platforms like Zoom.
Last week, in addition to teaching an IWU class via Zoom, I participated in a General Board Executive Committee meeting, a General Board meeting, a District Board of Administration meeting, and with several meetings with smaller groups of district pastors hosted by our Assistant District Superintendents. While the technology is not perfect, there are new ways to connect to which we can adapt.
Most churches, if they didn’t already provide a way for people to give digitally, had at least considered the possibility. Special thanks to General Treasurer Kevin Batman and his team who mobilized an online giving platform for Wesleyan churches. Pastor Joe Jackson at United Wesleyan Church in Anderson was our first church to take advantage of this convenient platform which has $0 start-up costs. If your church doesn’t yet provide that option, here’s the link for more information:
Last week, our Crossroads District Board of Administration met via Zoom and approved an initial response to the challenges our churches are facing. We approved a refund of district portion (40%) of the March and April USF payments for every church that paid 100% last conference year, or up through February of this year. Also included in this package were funds to assist churches in meeting utility bills or insurance payments on their property, a grant for pastoral families, and a Great Commission grant of $1000 for every church to be creative in reaching out to their community with the love of Christ. (Pastor, if you did not receive the video and response form, please let us know ASAP.)
You will also want to be aware that The Wesleyan Church General HQ has provided a 1/12 reduction in this current year’s USF so that you will not need to send in the 60% of the April USF payment that goes to our EIF (Educational Institution Fund) and to the GSF (General Stewardship Fund).
An important announcement for all church leaders is that this year’s General Conference is being postponed by one full year. The General Board (as authorized by Discipline 1530) felt this was the most prudent course of action given the uncertainties of the national emergency in which we find ourselves. The collective prayer gathering scheduled for May 31, Pentecost Sunday, will still be offered online and we would love for you to share that invitation with your congregation.
The Crossroads District Board of Administration has followed in that decision (Discipline 1112), determining that most of our agenda for the upcoming session was to focus on the results of the General Conference. We will be working with the General Superintendent to set the exact date of conference but anticipate that it will be June 25-26, 2021. The District Board is authorized (in the interim of our conferences to 1233:38) to approve the recommendation of the DBMD for ordination candidates. We anticipate holding an ordination service on a Sunday evening as close as possible to the original date.
Here are the implications for your local church. No annual local church conference needs to be scheduled until such time as you are able to gather in person. Pastors will complete their annual service reports and statistical reports online at the normal time with special directions coming to them from Wesleyan HQ. Any of your officers or board members who were planning to transition at the end of this conference year may still do so. The LBA is empowered to appoint successors to fill those vacancies (Discipline 815:2) in the interim and to make all necessary budget adjustments during this emergency. Again, no annual local church conference needs to be scheduled until such time as we receive official notice that we are cleared to convene in person.
We do have churches that are in the middle of searching for their next pastor and I know they would be grateful for your prayers. Pastor Eric George has resigned at New Castle Memorial Wesleyan Church and I met with their LBA on Wednesday night to prepare for this transition. I met with the LBA of Wabash New Journey Community Church on Thursday evening and they will be conducting interviews over the next few weeks. Tonight, I’ll be meeting with the LBA at Lancaster Wesleyan Church to assist them in their search process.
We believe that God is able to work in any circumstance to advance His Kingdom. I received a report that Facebook, YouTube, Boxcast, Zoom and others had service failures during the peak morning window yesterday. Churches almost broke the internet! In spite of the down time, the church online platform (offered free by lifechurch.tv) recorded over 28,000 people who clicked the Salvation Moment as a response to the invitation.
We are praying as you and your team continue to adjust and respond positively to these new realities. Please call, text or email if there are questions you have or ways that our district office staff can assist your church. I can’t wait to hear the creative ways in which you’re preparing for an amazing Easter outreach!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent
P.S. Here’s what Bethany Wesleyan Church in Pennsylvania did this past Sunday:
Weekly Update - Monday, March 16, 2020
Last week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, 350 people - pastoral families and church leaders - came together at The Ramsey Hotel & Conference Center for The Heartland Gathering. This event was a partnership between the Crossroads, Greater Ohio, Indiana South, and Kentucky-Tennessee Districts of The Wesleyan Church. The retreat was designed to create space for our pastoral families to have fun, develop new friendships, and flourish.
The conference kicked off on Tuesday evening with a dessert reception, followed by the first session with Harris III. Through entertaining illusions and powerful storytelling, Harris III reminded us that real magic happens when we bring our God-given uniqueness as individuals together with the broader team to see God’s purposes fulfilled in our churches and in our region.
A unique feature of this conference is that it was designed for pastors, spouses, and their kids. The conference planning team invited Matt Hogg and ReMix Education to host a kids’ track where kids would be able to have fun, connect with each other, and be encouraged and challenged to grow in their faith. The kid’s track launched on Wednesday morning with Matt and “Jiggy” providing high energy sessions with games, stories, lessons, and small group interactions for the kids. Students from Southern Wesleyan University gave up their spring break to serve at the conference, and many of them provided ministry investment in the kid’s track.
Dr. Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, started the day off for the adults on Wednesday morning by opening up his prayer journal and revealing some of the ways he structures his personal and missional praying. His challenge to guard ourselves against using God-given discernment as fuel for criticism and instead to use discernment for more focused intercession was a powerful moment for everyone in attendance. He also encouraged us with stories of movement that are happening across The Wesleyan Church and called us to seek God’s favor and anointing in intercession.
Following the morning session on Wednesday, pastors and their families were given free time to enjoy Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains. To assist with this, on their way out of the session each adult was given $20 cash and each child was given $10 cash to spend during the free time. Families went hiking in the mountains, rode the skylift, braved the sky bridge, and rode mountain coasters.
The Wednesday evening session included a powerful time of worship led by Jordan Rife and her team. The worship continued as Heather Semple from 12Stone Church talked to the conference about the seasons of the soul. She helped us understand that seasons are part of the natural way of things, and the only way to grow through each season is to yield to whatever season God has you in at the moment.
Thursday morning closed out the conference with Albert Tate speaking to us from Luke 7 about Jesus’ ministry at the funeral of the widow’s son. In particular, he reminded us that God sees each of us in the ministry context where we serve, he knows what we are facing, and he is able to bring life into situations where death currently reigns. The conference concluded with a call for us to believe again in a resurrecting God who is “waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, and light in the darkness” always working to expand his kingdom and change the world.
We are thankful for the worship band, conference speakers, sponsors, volunteers, district superintendents, and planning team who made this event possible. More importantly, we are praising God for revealing himself to us during this retreat. His presence was palpable and pastors and their families were encouraged and strengthened faithful and fruitful service in the context where he has placed them.
We find ourselves in a time filled with uncertainty and fear due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) challenge. We are tracking the news surrounding this ever-changing situation. We are taking the challenges presented by this virus seriously.
That said, we want to remind you of the words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…”
This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate his peace and compassion to our world that is currently filled with anxiety and fear. We are praying for God to use this situation and your church to draw people back to himself.
You may be wondering…
1. How do we stay informed on this issue?
2. Should we meet face-to-face on Sunday?
3. How can our people still gather if we don’t meet face-to-face?
4. How do people keep giving?
5. What other resources are available to help me lead my church during this time?
Finally, please know that our district team stands ready to assist you during this time. If you have questions, need help processing the next steps, or require assistance to access resources, please contact one of us directly.
Praying for you!
Your District Team
Sunday morning, March 8, I had the joy of worshiping with Pastor Johnnie and Pastor Amanda Blair at Trinity Wesleyan Church in Tipton. Trinity also has a campus in Kokomo led by Pastor Marc Watkins. It has been exciting to watch the changes at Tipton Trinity over the past 5 years since my first visit. While some of those changes are more surface (i.e. signage, branding, guest parking), the most exciting change has been the increased passion for reaching lost people for Christ.
The church is in a new life cycle and reaching younger families. The LBA is working with an architect to develop a master plan for significant changes to accommodate future growth. Pray that God will continue to bless and protect this team as they labor in the Harvest.
Sunday evening, Pastor Mark Atkinson invited to me to sit in with his leadership mentoring group at Eastview Wesleyan Church. Mark and a team of his key leaders are meeting each week to work through “Lead Like Wesley.” It was fun to share the story behind the book and to answer questions. That was the exact target audience for whom the book was written so it was encouraging to hear that they were finding it helpful.
I am always excited to share news of baptisms from across our district. The first report that came in this week was from Pastor Mike Hewitt and the team at Rising Hope Church in Muncie. Praise the Lord for another life made new! If you’ve had a baptism service recently that we’ve not yet shared in the team update, please send photos to our office e-mail with the subject line: #madenew
Last week, more than 40 leaders from Crossroads District participated in the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida and I traveled down on Monday. Each year for the past several years, The Wesleyan Church has hosted a pre-conference event. This year’s event welcomed the 500+ Wesleyan leaders who registered for this year’s conference.
Dr. Ed Love and his team put together a gathering which included a challenge from Dr. Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent, on Tuesday morning and a networking supper on Tuesday evening. The full conference ran from Tuesday afternoon through lunchtime on Thursday with more than 5000 registered from across America and around the globe.
Keynote speakers for Exponential included Kadi Cole, Jossy Chacko, Pete Scazzero, Ephrem Smith, Danielle Strickland, Andy Stanley and Albert Tate. More than 150 breakout workshops were offered on topics ranging from disciple-making to fund-raising. In addition to these learning opportunities, the Exponential Conference also featured powerful times of worship, including one service with Ron Kenoly (from PromiseKeepers) as a guest. If you’ve never attended Exponential in Orlando, consider putting this learning event on your calendar for next year, March 1-4.
I traveled back home on Friday and was able to join Assistant DS Mike Colaw and the pastors of Region 2 for their breakfast on Saturday morning. Pastor Mike and Barbara Nichter, his dedicated assistant, always do a wonderful job of welcoming and pouring into our pastors. The topic of the day was the power of friendships. Thank you to each Region 2 pastor who was able to make it a priority to join us for this gathering.
Speaking of gatherings, the Heartland Gathering is this week (Tuesday-Thursday) in Pigeon Forge, TN. I’m grateful for all those who have worked diligently to make this an incredible renewal opportunity for our pastors and their families. More than 300 are registered from the 4 districts that make up our Heartland Region. Special thanks to Rev. Chris Williams and Rev. Seth Bye who have served on the steering committee. Please join us in prayer and ask God to meet with us in a powerful way.
Thank you for all you do to advance the Kingdom!
Your servant in Christ,
Sunday morning, March 1, Sherry and I had the privilege of worshiping with Pastor Theo and Randy Griffin and the congregation of Brown’s Chapel Wesleyan Church in Greenfield. There was a positive spirit in the service and they are looking forward to interviewing an assistant pastor next weekend. The LBA and I met briefly after the service and then Sherry and I hosted Pastor Theo and Randy for lunch. It was a joy to get better acquainted with these newest members of our Crossroads District pastoral family.
Monday, I met with my Heartland Region DS colleagues via Zoom. We’re looking forward to a great time together with more than 300 pastors and their spouses in Pigeon Forge, March 10-12. Monday evening, I was back in Lancaster to meet with their LBA as they move forward in their pastoral search process.
Tuesday morning, our district office staff met for planning and prayer. Pastor Steve Arnett (New Castle Mount Zion) and I met for our annual coaching conversation over lunch. These are exciting days at Mount Zion with major updates to their facility and stories of lives being changed. I was back in Marion later that afternoon to meet with a prospective church planter who is exploring next steps in leading a bi-vocational micro-church network. Tuesday evening, I met with the LBA at Nelson Street Wesleyan Church as they begin their pastoral search process.
Pastor Tony Bye (Brookhaven Wesleyan) and I met for our annual coaching conversation on Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, Pastor Ben Capshaw (Elwood Central Wesleyan) and I connected for our coaching conversation. I love hearing the stories of community outreach and life change in our congregations.
Thursday morning, I drove over to meet with Pastor Daniel Clark (Monon Wesleyan Church) for our annual coaching conversation. This is Pastor Dan’s first year at Monon and he’s looking forward to graduating from Anderson Seminary this year so he can give even more focus to the revitalization ministry in Monon. On the way back from Monon, I dropped in on Pastor Zach Szmara and the team at The Bridge in Logansport. Their Immigrant Connection staff was having a great time hosting staff from the Mexican consulate in Chicago this week. God continues to open incredible doors for Zach and his team as they are reaching out to meet this growing need in our communities.
Friday morning, Assistant DS Chris Williams and I met for planning before I headed over to Muncie to meet with Pastor Lee Miller for our annual coaching conversation. Pastor Lee is recovering well after a recent surgery and is encouraged by recent worship attendance increases at Memorial Drive Wesleyan Church.
Friday evening, Pastor Eric & Diane George (New Castle Memorial) and I joined Pastor Bernie Haddad to connect with our newest Kingdom community that meets in the L Building at the prison in New Castle. Pastor Bernie and her team have been consistently ministering here with discipleship groups meeting on Wednesdays night and a worship service on Friday evenings. It was a blessing to worship with these men and to present a Wesley Study Bible from our Crossroads District team to Danny, their lay leader. Please pray for these brothers in Christ as they stand for God behind prison bars.
Heaven rejoices with us in the celebration of lives made new by the grace of God. I’ve already received word of baptisms this past week from Pastor Scott McDermid at Sheridan Six Points Wesleyan Church, Pastor Danielle Freed at Waterline’s Pendleton Campus, and Pastor Marc Watkins at the Kokomo campus of Tipton Trinity. There’s still time to schedule a baptism service at your church before the end of this conference year. Remember that we’re praying, believing, and working to see 1000 new believers baptized this conference year.
Several of our team members and I will be in Orlando this week for the annual Exponential Conference. Dr. Wayne Schmidt and the HQ team host a Wesleyan pre-conference event on Tuesday. Last year, there were approximately 400 Wesleyan leaders who gathered for this event focused on multiplying disciples and churches.
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts for eternity!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent