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 

30-Hour Famine Raises Awareness of Child Hunger

TR youth standing for a photo

By Chasity Opphile*

Nearly 50 youth from the Three Rivers District, and their leaders, got together March 16-17 for a district-wide 30-Hour Famine. They kicked off the weekend at the Kids America Sports Complex and Fitness Center in Coshocton for a few hours of fun, and then headed to Coshocton Grace UMC to lock-in for the remainder of the famine.

Youth playing crab soccer

While fasting for 30 hours to raise money for, and awareness of, hungry children through World Vision, the students participated in small group Bible studies, worshipped, learned what life is like for hungry children around the world, participated in hands on prayer experiences, did random acts of kindness, played games, and had a blast.  They did all of this while making a difference in the world in the name of Jesus!

The 30-Hour Famine was a great opportunity for students from different youth groups to get to know one another while working together for a common goal.  The students learned that age is not a factor when it comes to making a difference in the world and that they each have something to offer.

Youth holding up a sign

“The Famine gives you time to grow closer to God and really realize how blessed you are and how great His love is for all of us,” said one student participant.  “You feel so good once it’s over knowing you’ve impacted someone else’s life in a positive way. It’s so worth it!”

In addition to fasting, the youth raised around $300 to feed hungry kids.

*Chasity Opphile is Youth coordinator for the Three Rivers District, and the Outreach and Education coordinator at Newcomerstown Christ UMC.

Solid Rock Retreat Filled with Solid Faith

By Jonathan Naylor *

Solid Rock ConcertI would like to thank the Ohio Valley District Youth for supporting Solid Rock Retreat. For those of you that do not know, Solid Rock Retreat is a weekend retreat held at the FFA (Future Farmers of America) Camp Muskingum for junior high and high school students which was held the weekend of March 2nd. For the weekend, we had a band from Malone University, and our speaker was Joe Burkhardt who spoke about the meaning of placing our identity in Christ. In addition, the youth got to choose between three classes that met twice during the weekend; the first class time was geared towards education, and the second was geared towards experience. The three classes offered were spiritual healing, spiritual gifts, and spiritual disciplines; all three focused on helping the youth grow in their relationship with Christ. The retreat was extremely powerful for the 55 youth that were present.

I would like to share what I saw and what stood out to me during the weekend. Foremost, the youth took ownership of their faith both personally and as a community of believers, encouraging and supporting one another in powerful ways. I have been working in youth ministry for eleven years and full time youth ministry for seven, so needless to say I have spent countless weekends at retreats and camps over the years. But what I noticed about this particular weekend was that they prayed over each other with authority and power like I have never seen before.

It is not uncommon for youth to come up to me or other leaders and want prayer during weekends like this, but that is not what I saw over the weekend. I witnessed youth going to other youth and requesting prayer, and more importantly, youth feeling confident enough to pray with power and authority over their brother or sister. It was amazing for me because for years I have taught my youth that I am nothing special – I do not have a special connection with God because I am a youth pastor. I do not have magic words when I pray, and God does not listen more to me than He does to them. But during this weekend I witnessed youth that actually believed this. Youth prayed over their fellow students with the faith and authority that is rarely seen in Christians three times their age. I had the great honor of standing back and watching youth, that I have taught over the years, speak into the lives of their fellow students by praying God’s identity into them. I watched as these students spoke hope and love into each other because they were open to the Holy Spirit’s voice. I cannot communicate the excitement, empowerment, hope, joy, and love I felt as I watched youth follow the lead of the Spirit and speak the word of God into each other; it was beyond words.

For all of this, I would like to thank the district for helping support this weekend for it would not been possible without your support.

If you are interested in bringing youth or supporting the retreat for next year, it will be the first weekend in March (March 1-3, 2019). I highly recommend bringing youth as it is an amazing weekend of worship and learning.

*Jonathan Naylor serves at Mt. Pleasant UMC in the Ohio Valley District and was planner of the event.