A Three Point Ministry Team, an Interesting Relationship

The Heart of a Small Church: Part 3

The Three Point Team vision stemmed from Judy Claycomb, former Firelands District Superintendent, during her last full year on the district. Claycomb had noted the need to provide gifted pastoral leadership for several of her smaller congregations throughout her district. She envisioned a partnership of churches (in this case three churches including Fitchville) who could benefit from the experience and gifts of an ordained Elder who had a passion to be in ministry with small congregations and their communities, one who could support the ministry of part-time local pastors or lay servant ministries. Each congregation could have someone to lead worship and provide other ministry with the churches to their respective communities. Rev. Doug Lewis, current Firelands District Superintendent, has continued to support this vision. The result – Rev. Tim McCollum (ordained Elder) was appointed as lead pastor of a Three Point Ministry Team -three churches, one team.

An Interesting Relationship

By Rev. Timothy McCollum*

Fitchville UMC
Fitchville UMC

Fitchville UMC is located out in the midst of farm country. While there are a few dozen houses close to the church itself, it is only a short distance in any direction to the rolling fields with both crops and livestock in abundance. The farmer mentality shapes our community and our church. In many ways, people are self-sufficient. And, at the same time, people know how important it is to watch over others. Some aspects of the community have changed, like the local school closing. But we are working to use technology and community connections to better reach out with wider arms into our community. Doing what we can to provide for the needs of others is still part of who we are. Learning to do so in ways that bring people into Christ’s loving arms is part of who we are becoming.

I lead a three point ministry team, with each church having its own pastor.

Fitchville UMC is also connected to the New Haven and North Fairfield UMCs. This has been an interesting relationship. It encourages us to find new ways to do church together. At the same time, our three churches are in three different and distinct communities. The normal commonalities that connect us in mission settings aren’t there. But, the connection in shared ministry keeps us bouncing ideas around in hopes of encouraging our churches to Kingdom ministry beyond our local congregations. We have done shared worship services as well as sharing a website at 1820ministry.org. It has taken us a few years to understand what this different type of ministry together looks like, but it is about to start putting some ideas into action and that is exciting.

The 18:20 Collaborative

We believe that the work of God’s Kingdom is bigger than any single church. We also believe that working together we can accomplish far more than working alone. Matthew 18:20 reminds us that where two or three are gather, Christ is there.

New Haven UMC
New Haven UMC (Photo by Kevin Casto)

New Haven UMC

The New Haven UMC has had a challenging summer walking through some of Wesley’s historic sermons in their Sunday school class with Pastor Bob James. They have pushed people out of the comfort zones and it will be interesting to see where it leads next. As the church works to reshape itself in the image of Christ, things like the prayer garden which was built last year are a very public expression of the church’s commitment to God and the community.

Pastor Bob James comments:

“We celebrated 200 years as a church last year with the opening of the prayer garden that Tim mentioned.  The parsonage is used as an art gallery open to the community.  The Art Junction is a community-based art education program designed to bring gallery space, local art exhibitions, lessons and creative opportunities to the area for adults, teens, seniors, and children to learn to create together a better community. Kevin Casto, the church lay leader, director of The Art Junction, is also the elementary art teacher and has many community programs.  The church is very dedicated to our community and is active in many of our local community outreach programs.

Tim also mentioned the Wesley Sunday school study.  I think it is important to understand our “roots” as Methodists in order to make decisions about our future.  The study was well attended and was a huge success and the attendees have a better understanding of what it means to be a Methodist beyond coming here to church because my parents did.  Overall this is a caring congregation that is very active in the life of the people around us.”

North Fairfield UMC
North Fairfield UMC

North Fairfield UMC

At North Fairfield UMC, Pastor Sara Englet has been working with the church as they develop key relationships with their community and especially their local school. Within the past year, they have focused on providing “Fifth Quarter” events that give young people someplace to hang out and something to do after football games. In addition, even as the church “ages” they are hearing the sounds of young people in worship and it is uplifting the shared heart of the church.

Pastor Sara Englet comments:

“One of the biggest challenges of being a bi-vocational pastor with a family and a full-time job is getting connected with the congregation and the community in meaningful ways, even when time is limited. This is one of the reasons that our Fifth Quarter events are so meaningful. These events provide a dedicated time when members of our church family can connect with one another and with the young people in our community.  I think that it is important to make the most of our ministry time and not just “do church” for the sake of doing church. Each opportunity that the congregation has to be in touch with our community makes a difference in someone’s life. We are learning through this ministry that our presence makes a difference!”

The Laity Shine

One of the things we are thankful for as a church is the lay persons who are stepping in to serve. While our church is like many churches, sometimes it seems like a handful of people do most of the work, helping other people find a place to join in has been a focus and a challenge for us this year. None of the things we do can be done without the lay people in our churches, even in simple ways. Allow me to share an example.

A few years ago, we started doing quarterly meals as community outreach. Well, we didn’t define outreach well or what it means to do outreach together. And at the first meal, only a handful of outsiders showed up who needed something to eat. Since then, we regularly remind folks that doing outreach well isn’t about providing for needs, providing for needs is about building relationships. Now, when we do outreach events, many of our church members show up just to share tables with others in our community. And when people from the community come, they often sit down with people from our church they already know. Building these relationships takes time, but it’s something everyone can do.

Our ministry collaborative shares in different communities and leadership but with the same goal – to change hearts, minds, and communities for Christ.

*Rev. Timothy McCollum is pastor of Fitchville UMC.

Read previous article, Part 2, to learn more about Fitchville UMC.


Note:

Whether in a quaint, rural setting or in a bustling, ever-changing urban area, every church has a unique story to tell. Each works with its own story-line and parameters with its blessings and challenges.

East Ohio Conference is seeking to find more defining stories among our churches. We’re looking to continue this popular series on small churches. What is your defining story? Contact us @ sue@eocumc.com.

Stay tuned for The Heart of a Small Church Part 4: Two Denomination Churches Become One – Chatham Community, a Federated Church

Fitchville UMC – A Holy Spirit Summer

The Heart of a Small Church – Part 2

By Rev. Timothy McCollum

Fitchville UMC (Firelands District) is a small church on Rt. 250 about halfway between Ashland and Norwalk. Many folks have driven by it, few have stopped. This is farm county, so it can feel spread out and sparse, besides one other church and a gas station. Our entire township has a population of just over 500. Our church has just about 50 attendees on most Sundays and I’m blessed to serve this church that is often trusting and often willing to see where God is leading. It didn’t start out this way, but God has been working on us together. And after a few years down the road, the church has been experiencing God in some interesting ways. But, that doesn’t really tell the story of our summer…

By early spring this year, I was looking forward with both anticipation and anxiety about where our little church would be heading.

It has been a really different year for us.

In the spring, we rolled out our spiritual formation pathway with a preaching series that took us through the entire Easter season. It took us almost 18 months to put that together, and now it’s real.

Then, summer hit.

And, that’s where things became interesting.

We spent the entire first part of the year working through Richard Foster’s book “Prayer” in our Sunday small group. It has been changing the way we pray. Moving from prayer to the Holy Spirit using “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan is further opening our hearts to chase where God is leading.

This summer, we preached through a sermon series based around the 12 Steps that are used in programs like AA. We had three couples that started attending during that series, each with their own stories, and each have been moved by what’s been taking place. I can actually remember one Sunday seeing a young man looking uncomfortable in the pews, only to find out later that God was speaking to him directly that day.

This year our church became the primary sponsor for the New London High School Cross Country camp.

One day, while talking with Keith Landis, the coach of the high school cross country team, we found out that there used to be a yearly cross country camp. Coach Landis mentioned how he missed the camp, that it was a real blessing to the team. He said that school insurances and coverage issues simply made it too difficult to continue the camp. The church jumped in and said, “What if the church was the sponsor? We have insurance, and we could use it as an outreach to interact with the team. We could even help provide meals!”

Next thing you know, we were sponsoring a local Cross Country camp with 30 kids and eight adults. Eight church members helped open the camp with the first meal of the week along with leading devotions. They made a point of sitting with teens they didn’t know during the meal – all of a sudden, one of the teens who was not regularly part of our youth was heading to Alive with our youth group.

Did I mention it was our first year going to Alive?

Youth involved in a card challenge.
Youth participate in a fun card challenge.

It’s been a year in which one of our youth gave their life to Christ and another, who had avoided youth activities, committed to participate in our youth group more often.

Pastor and adult get wet and dirty
It just isn’t VBS, unless the pastor (left) gets dirty!

And then, just like every other summer, Vacation Bible School happened. We were concerned about low attendance, as many churches have been struggling. But, we were praying. The Sunday before our week started, we became aware that three other local community churches would be hosting their VBS the same week. By the end of the week, we realized that were actually five VBS programs in the area that week. But we had been praying. We had committed to trust God on the matter. And we were overwhelmed. By the second day, we were trying to find extra adults to help. Our VBS that had averaged 35 in 2017 had grown to 50 in 2018.

What’s next?

Before the summer is over, we are hosting a Prayer Walk through our local school building on Sunday, August 26, two days before classes officially begin. We have posted it as an event on Facebook. The stats came in, and our Facebook reach had grown by 46,000% by Facebook’s calculation. It just makes me chuckle to read that. We went from one person reached to 460.

Yet, none of this has been us. We’ve had a part, but God has been the greater part. The Holy Spirit is running amok at Fitchville UMC and we have had so many people be a part of it. We are amazed at what God is doing. We will soon be headed into our fall season, which we know will slow down to more comfortable routines. But we continue to pray that the Spirit of God will continue his transforming work in us and in our community.

We didn’t start out this way together, but this is where we are now. And we are eager to see what’s next.

*Rev. Timothy McCollum is pastor of Fitchville UMC.


Note:

Whether in a quaint, rural setting or in a bustling, ever-changing urban area, every church has a unique story to tell. Each works with its own story-line and parameters with its blessings and challenges.

East Ohio Conference is seeking to find more defining stories among our churches. What is yours? Contact us @ sue@eocumc.com.

Stay tuned for The Heart of a Small Church Part 3: A Three Point Ministry Team, An Interesting Relationship 

Church Offers Help and Hope in Fight Against Opiate Addiction

By Rick Wolcott*

The Addiction Policy Forum reports that 144 people died in the United States every day in 2016 from a drug overdose.

“This is an epidemic unlike any other,” said Elaine Georgas, executive director of the Alcohol and Drug Addictions Services (ADAS) Board of Lorain County.  “If more than 52,000 Americans died last year from any other illness or disease, communities would be outraged.  We have to change the conversation and understand what addiction is and how it impacts individuals, families, and communities.”

Elaine Georgas moderated the town hall meeting
Elaine Georgas moderated the town hall meeting

Georgas moderated a town hall meeting at Lorain Faith UMC (Firelands District) to address the opiate and heroin epidemic that has gripped Lorain County. The evening, co-sponsored by the ADAS Board, included four panelists and a resource fair that featured nine agencies.

Pastor Karen Hollingsworth welcomed community members to Lorain Faith UMC
Pastor Karen Hollingsworth welcomed community members to Lorain Faith UMC

“As a church in Lorain, we care very deeply about this city and we feel we can no longer be silent while families are being torn apart by heroin,” said Pastor Karen Hollingsworth.  “We believe that every life has value.  We believe that every life is worth saving and we are speaking up to let people know that they are not alone, that there is help and there is hope.”

“I came here tonight because of the hurt that is in our city because of drug addiction,” said Kyriece Brooks.  “I was very excited to see that this town hall meeting was taking place because you don’t normally see too many churches opening their doors to host a platform such as this.”

Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans told the 82 people in attendance that the introduction of heroin caused opioid deaths in the county to jump from 20, in both 2010 and 2011, to 60 in 2012.

Lorain County Coroner Dr. Steven Evans
Lorain County Coroner Dr. Steven Evans

“For the first time, deaths were across the entire spectrum of inner city, suburban, farm country, and they were 50-50 between male and female.  Prior to that time people dying from drug overdoses were predominantly male,” he said.  “The youngest overdose death I’ve had was a 2 year-old who got ahold of a family member’s drugs.  The oldest was a 75 year-old man who was sharing a hit of heroin with his grandson.”

Lorain Police Narcotics Detective Chris Colon
Lorain Police Narcotics Detective Chris Colon

“This drug epidemic does not discriminate, it impacts everyone,” said Narcotic Units Detective Chris Colon of the Lorain police department.

“For every person who dies there are 130 people who are addicted and there are more than 800 people using drugs inappropriately,” said Evans.  “In Lorain County, 1 out of 6 people is using drugs inappropriately.”

Evans told the crowd that opiate addiction is not a new problem.  “Three thousand years before Christ people were using opium,” he said.

What is new is how people are getting the drug.

“Eighty percent of our children start their drug habits from old prescription drugs that are in the home medicine cabinet.  That makes us as parents our child’s first drug supplier,” he said.  “This is not a criminal problem.  This is a medical problem.”

He encouraged those in the crowd to clean out their medicine cabinets and take old and unused pills to any police or fire department, which will accept them with no questions asked.

All of the panelists highlighted the partnerships that exist in Lorain County with police departments, fire departments, EMS and politicians working together to end the opiate epidemic that has placed the county in the national spotlight.

In 2014 Senator Gayle Manning (R) of Ohio Senate District 13 helped pass legislation that made Lorain County a case study for the Deaths Avoided With Narcan (DAWN) program, which enabled emergency personnel to administer the FDA-approved nasal spray Narcan to those suffering from a drug overdose.

Evans reported that police officers in the county have saved more than 300 people by administering Narcan.  Because of the program’s success, the State of Ohio made it possible for all police officers to carry the life-saving drug, and departments from across the country and around the world have asked that Lorain’s policies and procedures for the program be shared with them.

Thirteen people were trained on the administration of Narcan during the resource fair at Lorain Faith UMC.

“The DAWN program stabilized the death rate in Lorain County from drug overdose deaths, keeping deaths in the 60s in 2014 and 2015,” Evans said.  “It started a paradigm shift.  Police realized the benefit of saving lives and people were less hesitant to call in drug activity because they knew that police may be able to revive someone who was overdosing.”

But the introduction of fentanyl into the county caused drug overdose deaths to double in 2016 and Evans says that, “2017 is on pace to have more overdose deaths than last year.”

He explained that fentanyl is 50- to 100-times more powerful than morphine and heroin, and because it is a synthetic opium it that can be manufactured in a home lab without needing the opium plant.

“Users don’t know that dealers are mixing fentanyl into the heroin that they buy,” Evans said.  “So they take the same dose of heroin that they took before but because of the fentanyl that is in it the effect is much greater and the body can’t take it.”

Kim Mason addresses the crowd
Kim Mason addresses the crowd

Kim Mason has been with Lifecare Ambulance Services since 2005.  “When I started we hardly ever received calls for an overdose but in the past three years we have been overwhelmed by them.”

“We’ve lost the war on drugs,” Evans said.  “We need to change our approach and start funding prevention and treatment programs because that is the only way we are going to get out of this.”

One such agency in Lorain County is The LCADA Way, which cares for individuals and families struggling with drug and alcohol addiction by focusing on Leadership, Compassion, Awareness, Dedication, and Advocacy.

CEO Thomas Stuber said, “Drugs are more powerful and more addictive than any I can remember in my 37 years of trying to work myself out of a job in this field.  In my first year as CEO here in 1999 we had four people seek help for opiate addiction. Now it’s four people per day.”

Charlene Dellipoala is part of the team at the Lorain County Community College CARE (Caring Advocates for Recovery Education) Center, a recovery/addiction center that works with students, faculty, and staff who have addiction issues.

“When I started out I was working with students who had issues with alcohol or marijuana but now I see so many who are addicted to harder drugs,” she said.  “It breaks your heart when you think of young people who are just starting out on college careers having something like that impact them.”

“Addiction is a scary problem because it doesn’t matter what race you are, what class you are, or what gender you are,” Mason said. “It impacts not only the addict but also that person’s family, friends, and co-workers.”

“After the meeting I spoke to a man in fellowship hall who said, ‘When you help me, you help the community.’” Hollingsworth said.  “His words have stayed on my heart.  We often think that if we only help one person we are not making much of a difference.  His statement sheds a whole new light on the difference helping one person can make and how it ripples into the community.”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.