This past weekend we began round two of the District Transformation Project. Rev. Dick Osborne and I comprised the consultation team. The church going through the consultation process was the Forest Dale Wesleyan Church, Brandon, VT, pastored by Rev. John McDonald.
Following are the strengths, concerns and prescriptions for helping them become a more healthy church...
Forest Dale Wesleyan Church Consultation Report
March 16 - 18, 2012
1. Loving and Caring Congregation
This congregation welcomes and accepts new people with love and grace. Repeatedly, we heard that the number one strength of this congregation was the honesty and genuineness in relationships, while welcoming others without judgment or prejudice.
2. Pastor and Spouse
The people of the congregation value highly the ministry of Pastor John and Cheryl McDonald. They speak well of Pastor John's preaching and his care and concern for the congregation. This couple demonstrates team work in both marriage and in congregational ministry.
3. VBS Outreach
Numerous individuals mentioned that VBS was one of the highlights of the year, with 50-60 children involved. The VBS was, by far, the most-mentioned ministry when those interviewed were asked to share about ministry involvement.
4. Generous Congregation that Continues to Give During Troubled Economic Times
Those who give to the work of the congregation do it generously. While there is still room for improvement, for a church this size, giving is above normal.
5. Strong Desire Throughout Congregation to See God's House Full of People Coming to Christ
Repeatedly we heard, "We want to see this house of worship full, and we want to reach the lost for Christ."
1. No Vision and a Failure to Intentionally Reach Out to Make Disciples
There is no clear vision statement and as a result there is a lack of clarity about the mission and vision. This has led to outreach/disciple making being talked about but rarely being practiced.
2. Inadequate Facility and Lack of Parking
A building over 130 years old and an odd-shaped property chopped up by numerous buildings does not lend itself to the ministry of making disciples.
3. Lack of Follow-Up and Assimilation
The lack of follow-up and assimilation of those who visit the church for events, like VBS, short-circuits the outreach process and demoralizes those who work hard to put on special events.
4. Worship Service that Reaches All Ages
The format, staging and technology used to worship needs to be upgraded in order to appeal to individuals of all ages. In order to reach a younger age group, their preferences must be addressed.
5. Lack of Involvement/Ownership in the Ministry of the Church
Over and over we heard that only a few are engaged in the ministries of the church, while the majority are not involved or do not feel empowered to use their giftedness in the Body.
The pastor and the people will adopt the following vision statement: Forest Dale Wesleyan Church exists to honor God by making new disciples for Jesus Christ. This will be in place by June 1, 2012. The Forest Dale Wesleyan Church will define the community to which Christ has called it. Upon completing the definition, the congregation shall prayerfully select two numbers--one indicating the number of lives in this area to be touched for Christ through acts of service during the next five years, and the other indicating the number of souls to be reached with the Gospel during the next five years. These numbers will be selected by July 1, 2012.
In anticipation of this new vision and mission of the congregation, the pastor shall lead his people in a service of prayer and repentance--a time of asking God to forgive the lack of intentionality and passion for reaching the lost. Following this service, a bus tour will be taken of the target area with strategic stops to pray for schools, public facilities, etc. This will be completed by June 10, 2012.
2. Inadequate Facility/Lack of Parking
The pastor will lead the congregation in leveling the carriage house that stands behind the parsonage. Once leveled, grading and graveling will be done to add additional parking spaces. A small storage shed will be placed at the back of the lot for lawn mowers, etc.
The old school building that sits on the property will be remodeled so that it can be used year-round. The large room will be subdivided into a pastor's office/meeting room, with the rest becoming a children's worship center. A task force will visit two sister churches to see what they have recently accomplished in remodeling their children's areas.
A modern bathroom will be placed in the corner of the present foyer, thus making it possible for a bathroom to be accessible to all. The inner set of sanctuary doors will be replaced by French doors, giving a warm, inviting look into the sanctuary.
The present nursery and office in the basement will be reversed, with much care given to make the nursery area the most attractive space in the building. New carpets will be installed, walls painted and adequate lighting will be addressed.
These projects will be completed by September 30, 2012.
Fundraising for these special projects should proceed immediately, with emphasis given to asking current families to give $1000 - $2000 where possible. If fundraising falters, consideration should be given to a short-term loan so that projects can be completed in a timely manner
The pastor must see his role change from being the chaplain of the congregation to the following...
1) Preaching and calling the congregation to address spiritual issues;
2) Producing and directing worship;
3) Developing leaders, empowering leaders and holding leaders accountable;
4) Representing the congregation to the various communities that the congregation serves;
5) Overseeing bridge events and assimilation/follow-up.
This job description will be in place by July 1, 2012
It is imperative that the pastor's office outside of his home be completed ASAP. Office hours will be instituted and a volunteer clerical person recruited to help the pastor organize the church to operate like a church of 150. The pastor shall focus on gathering and assimilating during this season of church transformation.
During the next year, the pastor shall lead the congregation in four bridge events and the follow-up events necessary for assimilation. His coach will help select the time and type of events and aid in assessing their effectiveness.
In order to introduce more modern equipment into the worship experience, a new sound system will be installed along with a projector to use with the big screen.
To open up the platform and allow the speaker/musicians closer contact with the congregation, the communion table will be moved to the back wall. Extra furniture and instruments will be removed from the platform and other areas tidied up.
5. Ministry Involvement/Leadership Training
Emphasis will be placed on recruiting and training congregants to execute ministries. Where no leader is available, that ministry will cease until God provides a leader. The pastor will recruit and appoint leaders for the Worship Team, Children's Ministry Team, Assimilation Team and Small Groups Team. These four will serve as the nucleus of the Ministry Team that will meet monthly for leadership development, goal setting, planning and accountability. This team will be in place and functioning by September 1, 2012.
A delegation of at least 12 individuals will attend Unleash 2012, the training event offered by the district, on June 16, 2012.
Understanding that worship, assimilation and children's ministry drive the growth of a small church, these three ministries, as well as a small groups ministry, will be the focus of the church for the next year. Getting Ready for Company shall be the rally cry! Nothing will be done without asking the question, "How would a new person view what we are saying or doing?"
THE CONGREGATION (INCLUDING THOSE WHO ATTEND REGULARLY BUT MAY NOT YET BE MEMBERS), WILL VOTE ON THIS REPORT ON SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2012. IF ACCEPTED, THE DISTRICT WILL DO EVERYTHING IN ITS POWER TO PROVIDE HELP AND RESOURCES TO IMPLEMENT THE REPORT. IF THE REPORT IS REJECTED, THEN THE PROCESS WILL BE OVER AND THE DISTRICT WILL NOT ATTEMPT TO ENCOURAGE SUCH CHANGES, SINCE THE CONGREGATION HAS SPOKEN.
Rev. Paul James
Rev. Dick Osborne