GraceConnect E-News, No. 56, Week of July 14, 2014


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
The youth and adults mingle at one of the Thirds in the Burg events hosted by Leesburg, Ind., Grace Brethren Church. 

Unleash the Laity: the Life and Death of a Church Outreach Ministry 

Tim Sprankle, pastor of the Grace Brethren Church in Leesburg, Ind., has a driving value: if a member of the congregation has an idea for a ministry or program, then, as often as possible, he wants find a way to make it happen. Under one condition: the person with the passion must take the lead on the project.

“Thirds in the 'Burg started several years ago when we talked about how our church doesn’t have enough outreach to the community,” Sprankle explained. “A woman in our church wanted to gather some people together and invite the community to come to a coffee shop-type event every third Friday for prayer and conversation. A ‘third place’ – to borrow the Starbucks term.”
“When she approached me about it, I told her something I need to tell my whole congregation more often: ‘You don’t need to ask for permission – you need to rally support.’”
“As a pastor, it is a challenge to let other people run with their ideas – to ‘unleash the laity,’ to borrow the words of [Grace Brethren missionary and author] Tom Julien. More pastors don’t do it because it takes less time in some ways to do everything yourselves. It’s easier to micromanage.”
But Sprankle was true to his values and allowed an event to grow out of the passion of church members.
“The first year we themed it with a bunch of different things. We had an Antiques Roadshow night, a bluegrass night, an art night, and a back-to-school ‘Ugly Teacher Contest.’ We had a night where we camped out on our church lawn. There was always food, drinks, live music, and never a cost.”
The church had hosted Thirds in the 'Burg for a year in a half every third Friday when the initial leader stepped down. The event had, at times, seen a turnout of 400 people, and, despite high or low numbers, provided the church members with an opportunity to connect with others in their community. With no one volunteering to take the lead, the church had to decide what to do next.
“Doing something every month is pretty labor intensive,” notes Sprankle. “It was hard to maintain fresh ideas and energy. We still want to find ways to connect to the community.”
They eventually decided to house 'Thirds in the Burg under their more consistent seasonal events – such as the Fall Festival and the spring Easter egg hunt. Sprankle and the Leesburg church family are currently throwing themselves into another initiative – this one Sprankle’s idea – the Mobile Library. Twice a week for an hour, volunteers from the church read stories to children at the nearby Whispering Pines trailer park. Students who come regularly receive incentives, including coloring books, reading material, and book bags filled with school supplies. The activity is a simple, yet astoundingly effective, way to prepare children for school in the fall, helping them to stay caught up in their classes.
“We will read for 40 minutes and then [the kids] read to us, [things like] Bernstein Bears, picture books, Dr. Seuss, all sorts of stuff.”
Sprankle is already seeing the seeds of good relationships as a result of the ministry.
“Two of the mothers are now part of our ESL program during the school year,” he said.
 “Someone had an idea and we found a way to make it fly.”

Top Photographs: Images from Thirds in the 'Burg events, including Fourth of July festivities, Open Mic nights, and Fall Festival.

Bottom Photograph: Young children from the Mobile Library initiative enjoy receiving school supplies and reading stories once a week with members of Leesburg, Ind., Grace Brethren Church. 


Peter Forshtay was licensed as an elder at Crossroads Community Church, Wissinoming, in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday. Peter is the congregational pastor at the church, which is part of the MetroGrace church planting initiative in the City of Brotherly Love. Peter's wife, Danielle, is also in the photo at right.

Grace Church, Sebring, Fla., recently commissioned the team that is re-planting Grace Church, Ocala, the Grace Brethren church in Ocala, Fla. At the center left of the photo at right are Pastor Todd McQueen and his wife, Debbie, who are leading the team in Ocala. Dr. Randy Smith, pastor of Grace Church, Sebring, and Matt Wheelock, associate pastor at Sebring, are directly behind Debbie McQueen.
Israel: from Conquest to Exile
This week's featured book

Israel: from Conquest to Exile 

By John Davis and John Whitcomb

Frequently used as a textbook in Bible colleges and seminaries, Israel: from Conquest to Exile provides a fascinating survey of Old Testament history from Joshua through 2 Chronicles (1407 B.C.-586 B.C.), combining two books by Dr. John Davis with one book, Solomon to the Exile, by Dr. John Whitcomb. 

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Events in the FGBC

July 17-21, 2014 – Fellowship Vision Conference (FGBC)
July 22-27, 2014 – Momentum Youth Conference (CEN)
July 29-August 11 – National Timothy Adventure (GBB)
September 19-20 – Women in Scripture Class (WGUSA)
October 17-19  Leadership Summit (WGUSA)
November 11-24, 2014 – Cambodia GO Team (WGUSA)

CEN – CE National
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
GBB – Grace Brethren Boys
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA

Send events for the calendar to
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