From the Pastor – August 2020
In a recent conversation with a couple from the church, the question came up about how we can grow our church. How can we get more people interested in attending our services? I was reminded of the cottage meetings I held in my first month here at Westville UMC where I asked the question, “What is your hope for this church?” The most common answer was to grow our attendance. I think that every church in America would have the same hope for their church. So, what’s the answer? How do we reach our goal?
There are so many books written on the subject of increasing attendance in church. There are seminars held on the subject and other church leaders have put together the most successful programs for attracting people to their church. We could spend a lot of time and money by subscribing to these programs, hiring consultants to put a plan together for us to best reach the community…or…we could take it back to the basics. INVITE SOMEONE.
Let’s face it. Just the thought of inviting someone to church can be nerve-wrecking.There’s a lot of inner dialogue that happens. How do I bring it up in conversation? What if I come across as judgmental? What if I get rejected? What if I make them uncomfortable?The tendency is to ask a lot of “what if” questions that focus on the negative side. But what if you reminded yourself of the potential, instead?
What if God has been preparing their heart and has been waiting for me to invite them?
What if they say yes?
What if they’re hurting and find healing at church?
What if they give their life to Christ, and future generations are changed because of it?Keep those in mind, and use the tips below to overcome any fears you might have!
How do you bring it up in conversation?
Approach #1 – When you’re not sure whether they attend a church.Lead with this simple question.
“I was wondering, do you go to church anywhere?”
If they answer yes, then the follow-up conversation is easy.
“That’s great! So happy to hear you have a church home. What church do you attend?”
This approach works because it celebrates the church they’re connected to and shows them you’re not trying to recruit them to your church.If they answer no, you can follow up with an invite.
“Well, if you’re ever looking for a great place to go, I go to Westville United Methodist Church and would love to see you there!”
This language is simple, casual, and friendly in tone. It doesn’t assume they’re looking for a church and leaves the decision up to them.If they don’t ask a follow-up question or engage further, then you’ll want to leave the conversation at that. If they ask a question or share a bit of their faith journey, then it’s a good sign they’re open to hearing more.Take the opportunity to share more about your church: why you love it, how God’s used it in your life, give them an invite card, etc.
Approach #2 – When you know someone doesn’t attend a church.
Try leading with this question:
“I’m curious—did you ever go to church when you were growing up?”
The key with this question is how you follow up.This question is an easy way to start a conversation, but the real value is learning more about a person’s background with church, faith, and Christianity.There could be many reasons why someone doesn’t currently attend a church. They could’ve had a bad experience growing up. Been hurt by people. Maybe they’ve always wanted to but never made it a priority.Whatever the reason, you’re trying to understand why. So don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions.
“Have you ever thought about attending a church (again)?”
“If you don’t mind me asking, how come you don’t see yourself going to church?”
“If it’s not too personal a question, what was the bad experience you had?”
The answers to these questions will help you tailor a more personal invite at the right time. Use what you learn, and ask God for wisdom on how best to invite them to church. That could be during this conversation or another time.
Is there something about your church they’d like? Is there a specific message series you can share that speaks to a situation they’re going through? Do you apologize on behalf of other Christians or churches that have hurt them?Remember, you don’t have to invite people to church the very first time you talk to them. That can be something you work toward.
How do I avoid making a person feel judged or uncomfortable?
It’s all in the approach.Notice the “posture” the conversation starters above take. They’re casual and friendly. They don’t assume anything and don’t force any type of answer. Pay attention to the conversation and engage as much or as little as you feel the other person is comfortable with.That’s the key to inviting someone (or having a conversation about faith) without the person feeling judged or uncomfortable.And don’t forget to always invite with kindness.How you end the conversation will be how they remember your invite. So be kind, gracious, and understanding no matter the response.
What if I get rejected?
You will, but don’t let it discourage you. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not personal.Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.A “no thanks” won’t negatively impact your life. But a “yes” could change someone’s life forever. Press through any fears of rejection and keep inviting! You’ll never get a “yes” if you never ask.
Another common fear is getting a negative reaction.In my experience, almost everyone will accept your invite graciously whether they’re interested or not.
As you invite people to church, you’ll find most of your fears are not reality. Rejection isn’t as bad as you think. People generally avoid confrontation. They’re not going to be hateful toward you or feel judged by you.
Now let’s play the what if game again.
What if they say yes?
What if they experience authentic community and love for the first time?
What if the church renews their faith and hope in Christ?
What if they find their identity in Christ and walk in greater confidence?
God wants to use you. And often, it’s through a simple invite. If we do our part, God will do His part. We just have to plant the seed.
Who will you invite this week?
July : IF IT AINT BROKE – DON’T FIX IT… written on June 26, 2020
A couple of weeks ago, an announcement was made that we were going to possibly open our sanctuary back up to in person worship on July 5th. The decision to reopen on that specific date was in accordance with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s 5 part plan to reopen Indiana. The fifth and final phase of his plan is scheduled to be rolled out on July 4th. While, at this time, that is still the Governors plan – we…your church leadership…would like to give things a little more time.
Every week, on Wednesday, Governor Holcomb and his team, gives an update on the Indianapolis news station to inform us Hoosiers about how the pandemic is affecting the people of this great State. This past week, there were 281 new cases of COVID-19 reported bringing the total in the state to 43,140 people that have contracted the virus. In the past week, there were 9 new deaths bringing the total death count to 2,386.
The Methodist founder, John Wesley, spoke of Three Simple Rules – Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love With God. As a Methodist and as your pastor, I feel that rushing into the sanctuary for in person worship could potentially be harmful. While statistically, the percentages of new cases, deaths, and hospitalization seems to be trending down – would I be doing GOOD by potentially putting your health at risk? And as I continue my own journey with Christ and as I continue to love God with all of my heart, mind, and soul – I also love you. I could not live with myself if one of my flocks ended up contracting this virus after sitting in the sanctuary for 45 minutes. It’s just not worth the risk.
And besides…if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. I am loving the drive-in church thing – and from what I hear…you all are enjoying it too. We will continue to work on improving the worship experience for you, improving the quality of the sound. Improve the quality of the video sermons. And while we are working on that, we will also be closely monitoring the situation with the weekly updates from the government and the CDC. As of today, we are looking at August 2nd as the new projected reopening date.
Here’s what we will need from you. When we do move back into the sanctuary, we are going to need a few things. First of all, we will need to stock up on cleaning supplies. I know that right now, it’s hard to find Clorox wipes or Lysol – but if you find any kind of anti-bacterial spray or cleaning product we can use to disinfect surfaces like the pews, door handles, light switches, bathrooms, etc… And any hand sanitizer…The church will gladly accept your donations.
Next thing we will need is VOLUNTEERS. When we reopen, I would like to have volunteers to serve as ushers and to help make the worship experience as hands free as possible. These ushers will be stationed at every door to open the door for our guests so to avoid having to touch handles. Ushers will also help direct people to their seats where social distancing guidelines will likely still need to be followed.
Lastly, for now anyway (we might think of other stuff), we will need a team of volunteers to deep clean and disinfect the church every Sunday. Before and after the service – surface areas will need to be wiped down with disinfectant as a precaution.
I wish I could tell you that things are going to be back to normal soon…Reality is…I think we need to redefine what “normal” is.
While this new normal might not be ideally what we want, my hope is that it will bring us closer to God and to be even more reliant on Him and His provisions. That, while we are closely listening to the news reports on how we should all act and what we should do to avoid getting sick – we should pay even more attention to what God is telling us – through His Word – on how we should act and what we should do to avoid eternal death.
Stay hopeful – stay faithful – and stay encouraged. God is still in control.
Greetings to you all in the name of Jesus Christ,
As I sit at my desk writing this letter, I do so with so many thoughts raging through my mind. I’ve just gotten home from visiting a dear friend and church member in the hospital. I can’t imagine how hard it is for the family to not be able to be with him due to the hospital restrictions on visitors. They were, however, able to speak with him through the use of technology where the nurse was able to connect them through a ZOOM meeting. I am also thinking about the task of officiating a wedding for two young people in our church. It will certainly not be their ideal marriage ceremony, and many people will not be able to attend as originally planned. In this case, their love for each other and their desire to become one flesh through the sacred act of marriage has more meaning than having a big wedding. They will recommit their vows when things allow for it to happen safely. On top of these two things, I am also trying to prepare the sermon for this Sunday and also address the State of the Church with all of you.
The question is obviously…When will we start gathering in the church sanctuary again for worship? In other communications, it was shared that our Bishop suggested that we wait until at least June 14th based on the Governor’s 5-part plan and the recommendation of the CDC. Here’s what it would look like if we were to gather on June 14th and we followed the guidelines that have been put in place for in-house worship.
- Ask all individuals who are 65 and above or who have an underlying at-risk health condition to stay home and watch services online
- Ensure 6 feet between individuals or family units of the same households during services
- Space and mark seating, alternating rows when possible
- Clean between each service and disinfect high-contact surfaces regularly
- Place hand sanitizers in high-contact locations (e.g. bathroom, entry, exit) and ask staff, members, and guests to sanitize their hands before entering the building
- Guests must put on a face covering before entering the building
- Place signage telling staff, members, and guests to not enter if they are symptomatic or if they have tested positive for COVID-19
- Implement non-contact greetings (no passing the peace, hugs, handshakes, etc.)
- Avoid handing out materials (no hymnals or bulletins)
- Keep coffee and other self-service stations closed (no coffee, tea, or cookies)
- Establish safety protocols for any communion and collection to avoid contact (no communion)
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS • Consider waiting to reopen the preschool and children areas until schools reopen. If open, do not place a mask on children age two (2) or under per CDC guidelines, and limit leaders in the preschool and children’s areas to those who do not have pre-existing conditions and those under age 65 (no children’s Sunday school)
- If in-person music teams are used, use proper social distancing and limited team members (corporate singing is not encouraged.)
My thought is this…with all the precautions we will need to take and the limitations we will be under – I’m afraid that it will all be a distraction and take away from our worship. And if this “new way” of worship isn’t any better than what we are currently doing with our drive-in service and recorded sermon being sent out via email, YouTube, and Facebook…then maybe we should reconsider opening up the church so soon. I understand the desire that so many of us have to be together, but I feel as though I have a responsibility to everyone to make a decision that considers not only your feelings, but your health, safety, and peace of mind. With that being said, I am suggesting that we delay the opening of our sanctuary until we can all feel safe in meeting together and we will be able to have less distractions. As of today, I would like to suggest that we postpone our in-person services until July 5, 2020 at the earliest. I would also like to hear from all of you on your thoughts. A brief survey will be sent out soon to gather information on your needs, to help me better understand how I can serve you, and to understand your feelings and concerns about our situation.
As I said earlier, I am also working on this week’s sermon. It happens to be Pentecost Sunday and the suggested text comes from Acts 2 which starts out with, “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place”. After weeks of separation due to social distancing and quarantine, those seven words, “they were all together in one place,” have renewed significance. While we might not be able to see the red paraments on the altar in person, we can still worship together outside of the church – in our cars, sitting in lawn chairs or the back of your pick-up truck – or by watching the sermon online. Let us remember in this season that the Holy Spirit draws us together and is present within us while we remain apart.
At the end of the Pentecost story in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit shows his power by bringing over 3000 people together where they worshiped, prayed, studied, and ate together. We are all missing these things – especially the eating! Let’s think about it this way…we are giving up our time together because we recognize just how connected we actually are. Yes, we are apart. But because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are not alone. We are connected to God and to one another.
Acts 2:47 tells us that the first church “praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone.” Online worship, drive-in church, and social distancing are a couple of ways we are following their example today.
While we are apart, we continue to be the church for one another, because the Holy Spirit is with us wherever we are.
Thank you for your continued support, your patience, and your understanding. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you have.
Remember – God loves you…and I love you…and there’s not a thing you can do about it.
The way things were…” is a term we have all probably heard a lot lately. Wishing things would go back to the way things were before our lives were turned upside down by the Covid-19 virus – but how far back do we want to go? Do you remember using a rotary phone? The way things were includes being tied down by that pesky cord connecting the phone receiver to the wall. Could you imagine watching a teenager try to figure out how to make a call on one of those? They wouldn’t have a clue. We have recently seen the return of vinyl records and record players as a form of playing music. These things take us back to the way things were…but what about cassettes and better yet, 8-track tapes? This young generation would struggle to figure these things out and would question how we were able to survive “the way things were” back then. However, we did survive, and we will continue to survive. Allow me to remind you all of what mankind has been able to survive…
There was a flu pandemic in 1889, Polio in 1916, the Spanish Flu (Influenza) from 1918-1920, the Asian Flu in 1957, AIDS, H1N1, Ebola and the Zika virus. Each one of them were serious and scary, but it seems that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought us all to a new level of concern. Whenever faced by a pandemic or epidemic, we tend to think that this is the first one or we will never get through this. As believers, we are called to respond in faith knowing that God is in control and that the power of the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us. 2 Timothy 1: 7 states, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Here is my hope…
I hope that relationships have become stronger and that we all will have a greater appreciation for those in our lives. That every handshake and hug be a sincere sign of love and respect. That there will be a new excitement about coming to worship together in the sanctuary of our church. I hope that we will take at least as much consideration to the commands of Christ as we have taken from the CDC and local government. We seemed to follow the guidelines regarding social distancing, isolation, and wearing protective gloves and masks because of fear. Fear that we might contract this virus or pass it on to a loved one. It has totally changed the way we live. I pray that we will all live a changed life as new creations in Christ, where our fear of the Lord will outweigh the fear of sickness and death. “Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
“The way things were” is not necessarily a better way – but maybe “the way things will be” is going to be exactly what we are needing.
Thank you to everyone for your continued support and may God continue to bless you all.
Just remember that God loves you – and I love you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
From the Pastor – APRIL 2020
In the words of John Lennon, “Nobody told me there’d be days like these…”. What a difference a few days have made for all of us around the world. We find ourselves in difficult times where we have been called to isolate ourselves from everybody. To practice social distancing is something that many find difficult because we thrive on interacting with our friends, family, neighbors, and even the stranger at the grocery store. A few days, or more likely – a few more weeks – can make a difference in our spiritual lives and hopefully strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us not forget that we are still in the season of Lent, and what a perfect opportunity we have to really reflect on our lives. And let us also not forget that regardless of what the calendar says, we can and should celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior every day. As followers of Christ – everyday is EASTER! And if we need to wait a few days longer before we can come together to worship in our sanctuary, that is what we will do. I promise you that when we are given the “all-clear” sign and are able to meet again – we will celebrate Easter together.
In the case of Jesus a few days made a drastic difference. On Palm Sunday the people of Israel welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna, and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” But only a few days later many of these same people were shouting ‘crucify him.’
Today, as we reflect on this season, I am reminded of a sermon I heard that I would like to share a portion of with you. The following was written by S.M. Lockridge (1913-2000) who was a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego California from 1953-1993. I hope these words will bring you a sense of hope as you reflect on the Easter story.
Jesus is praying – Peter’s a sleeping – Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’
Pilate’s struggling – The council is conspiring – The crowd is vilifying – They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’
The disciples are running – Like sheep without a shepherd – Mary’s crying – Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’
The Romans beat my Jesus – They robe him in scarlet – They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’
See Jesus walking to Calvary – His blood dripping – His body stumbling – And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
The world’s winning – People are sinning – And evil’s grinning
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands – To the cross – They nail my Savior’s feet – To the cross
And then they raise him up – Next to criminals
But let me tell you something – Sunday’s comin’
The disciples are questioning – What has happened to their King – And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming – Has been achieved – But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
He’s hanging on the cross – Feeling forsaken by his Father – Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
It’s Friday – But Sunday’s comin’
The earth trembles – The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit
Hope is lost – Death has won – Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’
Jesus is buried – A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place
But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!
Remember – God loves you – I love you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
Important News Release: March 17, 2020
Westville United Methodist Church
*It was announced today that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is urging a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people. Our Bishop, Julius Trimble, also sent out a communication today requesting that all churches suspend their regular worship services.
It is for that reason that the decision to cancel church services and church events has been made and will go into effect immediately. At this time, the church will remain closed until at least April 12th (Easter Sunday) at which time we will re-evaluate and announce whether or not we will have service on Easter.
*We will also be cancelling our Friday Night Fish Fries for the remainder of our Lenten Season.
*The Westville United Methodist Resale Shop will also be closed until April 4th. We will reevaluate reopening at that date.
From the Pastor… March Letter
The Season of Lent…
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, meaning “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of spring. The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by new converts and then became a time of penance by all Christians. Today, Christians focus on relationship with God, growing as disciples and extending ourselves, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of ourselves for others.
Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
So, how will you choose to participate in this season of Lent? I’ve heard of people deciding to give up things such as chocolate, fast-food, or coffee. Many avoid eating meat on Fridays during Lent, which is why our fish fry is so popular. Others might choose to fast from practices that don’t necessarily make them a better person – like gossiping or criticizing others. Whatever it is you decide to give up, the intent needs to be a big part of truly recognizing Lent. Jesus calls us to fast, but simply tells us to do it for the right reasons. It should not be for our glory, but for God’s. Ideally, if we are doing something sinful, then it would be good to try to stop doing it. But something that is not sinful can be given up, not because it is unclean but because we are called to something greater. It’s about sacrifice.
This season remember to Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God. Go ahead and eat the chocolate.
SUNDAY IS COMING!
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.—Psalm 118:24
Suppose a millionaire told you that on the stroke of midnight he was going to deposit in your bank account a gift of eighty-six thousand four hundred dollars. What would you say?
You’d probably say, “What’s the catch?”
And he would say, “The catch is that in the following twenty-four hours, you will have to spend it all. If you don’t, it will vanish.”
Eighty-six thousand four hundred dollars? It’s not very likely that someone will be making a deposit into your account for that kind of money. But how about eighty-six thousand four hundred seconds? That’s the number of extra time-units that this Leap Year Day brings to all of us. And when the hands of the clock close on midnight, February 29th, all of them will be gone.
What should one do with these bonus minutes and hours? Not an easy question, is it? I recently read an article where this very question was brought up, and this is what he said: “There’s a little game I play with myself on Leap Year Day. I call it ‘Suppose.’ Suppose all the little pleasures and satisfactions we take for granted happened to us only once in four years?
Little things like the smell of bacon frying, or the song of a bird, or the laughter of children playing in the yard. If such things happened only on Leap Year Day, how precious and marvelous they would seem. If you play this little game, even half seriously, it will intensify your awareness and your appreciation for all the days that the Lord has given us. Use this extra day to remind you how wonderful life really is on all the other days. It may sound a bit foolish, but it works for me. Maybe it would work for you.”
I invite you to join me this year on Saturday February 29th, to play “Suppose”. I do believe that taking the time to be aware of all the amazing gifts that God gives us DAILY will give us a whole new appreciation for this amazing life we live as followers of Jesus Christ.
Can you imagine…only smelling bacon once every 4 years? NO!
For the magical gift of time, granted to each of us in exactly the same measure, we thank You, dear Lord.
As I reflect on the past year, I find myself smiling about all the things that have happened – even those things that at the time, did not bring a smile to my face. I’ve also been thinking about how much our lives are like books. As we skim through the different chapters in our lives, we will find that in our book some chapters are sad, some are happy, and some are exciting. The important thing to remember is that if we fail to turn the page in our book, we will never know what the next chapter holds. We often get stuck looking at the same chapter over and over and letting it consume us. It’s time to turn the page.
As we enter into a New Year, we will have a blank page on which we are going to put words. We will have an opportunity to start a new chapter in our lives. New Years Day is a good time to fix our eyes on the only One who knows what the year is to hold. You can boldly enter the coming year with renewed hope in the power of God to do through you what you cannot. (You may want to read that last line again.) You can boldly enter the coming year with renewed hope in the power of God to do through you what you cannot. It’s time to begin righting the story of your life.
I’m excited to start this new journey with you as your pastor as we enter into 2020. I anticipate that every one of you in this church will have your own chapter in my book and I can only hope that I will be mentioned in yours.
Wishing you the best chapter yet in this coming New Year.
In His Service,
Greetings in Christ!
It is with great appreciation to the Lord Jesus Christ and His leading in my life that I will begin my journey here at Westville UnitedMethodist Church serving as your pastor.
I would like to take this opportunity to send you a note of thanks for the warm welcome I have already received, and I am looking forward to joyous and fruitful ministry in the years to come.
Just a little information about myself…my name is Toby Guill (pronounced Gill) and I am 48 years old. My wife’s name is Kim, and I’ll just let you ask her how old she is. Together, we have a son named Zachary who is 24 years old and is in the process of discerning his call to ministry. Our home, which is located in Burns Harbor, is rounded out with our two dogs – Gracie and Cooper.
I have a full-time position at Arcelor Mittal Steel in Burns Harbor where I work “shift-work” on the Pickle Line. This type of work schedule keeps me from having what some might call a “normal life”. I, however, vow to make myself available to everyone via phone, text, or email. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat – (I’m just not very good at using all of them.)
I accepted Jesus as my Savior on July 9, 2008 after a drowning incident at Lake Michigan. I accepted my call to ministry only a couple of years ago and became a Licensed Local Pastor in December of 2018. I have been serving as pastor in Whiting Indiana for the past year and a half. I am currently enrolled in Course of Study classes where I am learning so much about being an effective leader in the church and I anticipate graduating in about nine years. (Don’t order the cake yet.)
I look forward to meeting each one you, if not for the first time – then meeting you again.
I’m super excited!
Pastor Toby Guill