“It’s exciting to see our congregations and pastors working together in the context of their community. Even with unique ministry styles and unique ministry expressions of both pastors and congregations, these folks have found important common ground in mission. The really beautiful thing is the humility of these men and their respective congregations! They are asking a different question. Rather than asking, ‘How can we survive?’ they are asking, ‘How can we work together to expand the Kingdom of God in this community by showing the love of God, building relationships, and gaining the opportunity to share the name of Jesus?’ These folks are a great example for other congregations in our Michigan District. We’ll continue to support, pray for, encourage, watch, and learn as they journey forward with GoodLife.ˮ– Rev. Dr. Robert E. Kasper, Assistant to the President – Congregation Mission and Ministry Facilitator for the Michigan District, LCMS, on the GoodLife Community Partnership initiative.
The following is an interview with Rev. Thomas F. Fischer of Gethsemane, Rochester Hills, which started GoodLife Community Partnership. Rev. Fischer is pictured on left, above.
Michigan in Touch: How did GoodLife come about?
GoodLife Community Partnership is the result of Gethsemane’s passion to reach the Auburn Road community, from Auburn Hills on the west to Utica on the east. Gethsemane officially launched GoodLife in July, 2014.
Michigan in Touch: When did it officially launch?
Since 2012, our leaders have had a passion to reach out to the area of Auburn Road west of Crooks. Through the support of Rev. Roosevelt Gray, Jr., former Michigan District, LCMS Mission Executive, we received a grant to begin a part-time café-style ministry in January 2013. After several months, our leadership determined we needed to expand our vision.
Beginning in March 2013, our leaders consulted with Rev. Michael Ruhl of the Center for US Missions. With his coaching, we started developing an awareness of the many kinds of missional communities. Most importantly, his coaching led us to realize that we could attract people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ more effectively through missional communities.
Michigan in Touch: How is Gethsemane involved?
Throughout 2014, Gethsemane learned more about how missional communities work—and how we could develop a missional community to reach out beyond our walls of bricks and mortar. Rev. Kelly Bedard’s “Reach Out” workshop and Rev. Greg Finke’s book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission,” were extremely helpful.
The Michigan District, LCMS and our regional Congregation Mission and Ministry Facilitator, Rev. Dr. Robert E. Kasper, have been wonderful resources for insight and encouragement. It would be an understatement to say Dr. Kasper was helpful. He has been remarkably helpful, encouraging, and creative in seeking God’s guidance for a self-sustaining entity to reach the community for Christ.
At Gethsemane’s request, the Michigan District sponsored Greg Finke’s workshop at Christ Our Savior, Livonia in January, 2014. In the spring 2014 Mission Planters’ meeting at the District Office, Rev. Ed Doerner presented Messiah, Midland’s “Pier Ministry” paradigm. His presentation helped to shape the final parameters of the GoodLife vision.
Michigan in Touch: How did Goodlife reach out for support?
Since Gethsemane is a smaller congregation, we sensed a need to seek other area LCMS churches who might partner with us. Rev. Tim Kade and Epic Church, an LCMS English District congregation near us, received our invitation with open arms. In just the first six months of our partnership, we made significant and important beginnings to impact the greater community through GoodLife. Presently the pastors of both churches serve on the GoodLife Board consisting of 3 members from Epic and Gethsemane.
Michigan in Touch: Can you describe the relationship with Epic?
Our relationship with Epic, begun in March, 2014, is on several levels.
The first level of this relationship is that it is a partnership between two LCMS pastors who share a passion for outreach in a shared community setting.
The second level of this relationship is that it is a partnership between two churches to coordinate resources for the betterment of both congregations. By partnering together, we are able to multiply our effectiveness with outstanding youth ministry, senior ministry and family ministry programming that neither of us could do as well—or at all—if we were to do it separately.
The third level of this relationship is our shared roles in leading GoodLife to become an active, vibrant and effective Kingdom presence in our community.
I like to illustrate this partnership as three concentric circles. The innermost circle is the individual congregation, isolated. The next circle is called “Multiply,” and is made up of partnerships with other LCMS churches. The outer circle is the Community Partnership, which connects the congregation to the community.
Michigan in Touch: Who are GoodLife’s volunteers?
At this early stage, most of the volunteers have been members of Epic and Gethsemane. Already we notice other area churches and organizations want to help and become involved. Our hope is that the community involvement will far exceed the member involvement of both churches … and that the unchurched who are involved with GoodLife will become part of our faith community.
Michigan in Touch: Tell us what’s happening.
Missional efforts of GoodLife include: sponsoring guitar lessons at Reuther Middle School; supporting a local business owner and helping him restart his business; offering a matching grant of up to $500 for CrossRoads Pregnancy Center; and working with Avondale Middle School’s “Multiply” program to help sponsor a Christian VBS-style summer program. We also have been organizing a fundraising dinner for CrossRoads to take place in Spring 2015; hosting a Bricks4Kidz summer camp at Baldwin Elementary School as a follow up to events held in February and March. We partnered with Epic, Gethsemane, American House Senior Living, and other volunteers in the community to hold an Easter Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza at Hampton School, Rochester Hills. Hundreds of children and their families found over 3,500 Easter eggs, did crafts, bounced around in the Bounce House and met the Easter Bunny.
If your congregation would like to join this partnership or create something similar within your own community, feel free to contact Pastor Fischer at goodlifepartnership.org, and be sure to ask him for “best practices.” He would certainly be glad to share his experience so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. The Michigan District offers guidance and encouragement as well. The District’s CMMFs are deployed to serve congregations, specifically ministry staff and lay leaders, to resource and facilitate activities which strengthen and support the local mission and ministry of the congregation. For more information, click here.