Pat Jones, Director of Healthy Church Ministries

This past Sunday, Pam and I had the privilege of visiting with Michael Longfellow, pastor of New Life Church in Chanute, Kansas, and cluster leader for that area. The New Life Church (formerly Highland Avenue United Brethren) had been stymied in growth by a very limited building. An opportunity came up last year for the congregation to purchase the Alcott Elementary School that was relocating to a new school complex.

The whole story of the purchase, renovation and first Sunday is a magnificent account of the grace of God. First, the school was purchased for $25,000. It is a two-story non-combustible building. The school left a centralized fire alarm system, a centralized communication system to every room, a number of tables and chairs, plus some other supplies and materials.

Through six weeks of hard work in renovation/construction, all done by the congregation, the place was transformed into a wonderful house of worship and fellowship. Funds were suddenly offered for special carpet in the former gym (now the worship center). Skilled professionals (electricians and plumbers) had just recently started attending and provided their skills and labor. Even a few eighty-somethings gave of themselves cleaning up both inside and out.

Michael (right) estimates that with some extra, unplanned projects that were done based on donations, that the total renovation costs amounted to around $21,000. That means they got the property and renovated for under $50,000. And the joyous thing: they are in their new facility debt-free.

This congregation that averaged 105 two years ago had an Easter attendance of 267. Previously, Easter attendances were enlarged by visiting family members. Not this year. Not this year. While some visitors were family, a good portion of them were from their neighborhood and other parts of the community.

Michael says that their desire is for the church to become the focus of the community once again. They have the beginning stages of an exercise room that will be available to the community. They plan to use the hallways and stairs as a walk/climb track.

With economic challenges hitting this community of 9400 very hard, Michael and the congregation see increasing opportunities for sharing the Gospel. This newly renovated facility will provide them the space to reach many people for Christ.

Dalton Jenkins, senior pastor, Bethel Temple of Praise, Yonkers, NY

On Easter Sunday morning and evening, we more than doubled our average attendance. It was a real “God Moment” to see those at the altar broken to tears as they repeated the sinners’ prayer.

In the morning worship the sermon topic was “There Is Power in The Blood Of Jesus,” taken from Hebrews 9. In the evening we had our Sunday school Easter Program.

We had six first-time converts, two in the morning and four in the evening’s Easter Program. Four of the new converts were teens. This Easter was a moment when the Holy Spirit moved upon the hearts of the people. Thank God!

Dan Kopp, senior pastor, Northpointe Church, Lewis Center, Ohio

At NorthPointe, it was our hope to experience “Not just another Easter.” This, especially in light of the fact that Christmas seems to be the “biggie” in so many lives. Of course, spiritually speaking, for the believer that should be Easter!

As a matter of fact, about a month or so prior, the kids came forward and decorated a “Chreaster Tree.” Plastic eggs were added to the lit tree in anticipation of Easter. We even sang a “Chreaster Carol.” In a later service, a gift was placed under the tree, symbolizing what gifts we’d bring to Him on Easter.

A week of prayer preceded Holy Week. Prayer-pairs hosted nightly walk-in prayer which culminated in a Prayer Gathering on Palm Saturday. On Palm Sunday we handed out Easter eggs with a devotional inside for Maundy Thursday evening.

On Easter Sunday, young cuties in their Easter best collected these eggs in their baskets. They contained gifts of “Time, Talent and/or Treasure” inside. We exceeded our minimum special offering goal for a total of $3000 toward critical improvements for the house on our property (that we’ve purchase for our future worship center).

As you arrived on Easter Sunday, a folded napkin was on each seat labeled “The Napkin’s Still Folded!” with our church name and the date. We celebrated the symbolism that while the grave cloths were strewn about, the napkin that had covered Jesus’ face was still folded! (John 20)

In Bible times, when a master got up from the table and just threw his napkin down, it meant he was done and the servant could clean up. But when he neatly folded and placed the napkin it meant he was not finished. He was not yet done.

It was a packed house with several brand new believers in attendance and several more who responded in various ways appropriate to our invitation. Praise God that the napkin is still folded… He is not done: saving souls, redeeming the prodigals, and encouraging the hurting and oppressed!

And praise His Name–it was not just another Easter. Merry Chreaster everyone.

John Christophel, pastor, Brooklyn Park UB, Baltimore, Md.

We are coming up on two years since we first broke ground on a new addition that will house and expand our after-school ministry. We called it “Faith that Moves Dirt.”  As of today we have received enough in donations to purchase all that we need to complete the building and re-open our program.

That is not the greatest reason to praise God. The best reason is the spiritual lessons of faith God taught us during this process.

Last week I was faced with a difficult choice. Funds were given two weeks ago to help the church or the after-school program. It was made my choice by the person who gave the donation. I held the funds, knowing we had to pay for the roof shingle work to be.

When an emergency need arose, I faced a difficult choice. Giving the $500 toward the emergency meant I would have to hold off on paying the roofer. I felt God telling me to take care of the emergency. God would just have to take care of the kids then, because we were down to our last $90 in the bank. That was last Thursday.

Saturday I receive a call from a couple who read about our program, our need of raising $4000 more for the project, and of our chocolate peanut butter Easter Egg fund-raiser. They want to use the purchase of a couple of eggs as a excuse to make a donation. Once I looked at the checks they gave for the eggs/donation, I realized they donated $1,000. Another couple wrote me an email after they read the same story. I received their donation of $4000 today. A local hospital called me today and said they read the same story in the paper and wanted to donate a grant of between $200 to $300 to the after-school program.

I believe my obedience allowed God to bless our after-school program more than ten times what I gave. We are a struggling church just like many others, but God continues to bless our efforts to better care for our community children. In the past month we have seen two teen deaths 100 feet from our center. One was hit by a car and the other was a gang shooting. Since then we have had two other evenings with gunfire within blocks of our church.

People are amazed that a small congregation of 40-50 people can not only attempt, but complete such a large task. It is succeeding because of our resolve and the combined efforts, love, prayers, and support of hundreds of people.

For several years, Fowlerville has rented the high school auditorium for its Easter service. But this year, they decided to stay in their own facility, but to add a service. So in addition to the three Sunday morning services, they added a Saturday night service. Altogether, about 1,040 people attended services at Fowlerville over the weekend.

Craig Loewen, senior pastor, Heidlersburg/Mt. Olivet charge (Pennsylvania)

Our Easter Sunday began with our Easter Sunrise Service at 7:00 a.m. and was shared with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. St. Mark’s and Mt. Olivet (Adams County) are small churches, but our attendance was 87, which is the best we’ve ever had.

Afterward, we all enjoyed a communal breakfast at the Heidlersburg Fire Hall with food provided by the Heidlersburg UB Church and prepared by Fire Hall volunteers.

Mt. Olivet enjoyed a full church with lots of special music in a service that combined both the worship and sunday school hour.

Heidlersburg also enjoyed special music provided by the congregation and a special dramatic monologue provided by Cindy Conley of York Springs. The attendance broke all previous records with 144 people present.

It is my personal goal to use the Easter services and the upcoming Christmas services with even more of a directed, proactive purpose fulfilling each of the five strategies as expressed in Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Church.

Jerry Drummond, pastor of East Washington UB (Ashley, Mich.), reports the following numbers for Easter:

  • 123 at the Sunrise Service
  • 141 at the breakfast
  • 234 in the two worship services.

He says, “The sunrise service was the most encouraging, because we had several families from our community attend. Most of them stayed for the breakfast. I was encouraged by the results, but I know it was an Easter crowd. The next few weeks will tell if we made any lasting effects.”

Darwin Dunten, senior pastor, Findlay First UB (Findlay, Ohio)

Findlay First UB and the Rock Church participated in a joint Good Friday Service with over 100 people in attendance.

Findlay First UB had it highest attendance in five years with 271 in both services. The church has been seeing new faces since August. The exciting part is that the new faces are pitching in and helping. Many participated in the choir and helped with the Easter breakfast.

The most memorable event was when two little girls from the community that we invited to attend showed up wearing Easter dresses that their mother gave them. (The mother worked at a laundromat and those were unclaimed dresses.) The two little girls sat by themselves until a family noticed them and asked them to sit with them. They ate breakfast and enjoyed the Easter Egg Hunt. Then their mother and father came and picked them up.

Milt Herrold, senior pastor, Orrstown UB (Orrstown, Pa.)

We held a round-the-clock prayer vigil from Thursday evening until the Sunrise service on Sunday. People could come and pray, read Scripture, or worship through music in the sanctuary. We tried to have a host and co-host available as well.

While only about 25% of the congregation participated, some beautiful things happened. We had two people participate long distance from Idaho. Several people gave eight or more hours over the course of the four days, even some people who don’t participate in many of the other functions outside of Sunday.

Every church leader participated. Two church leaders insisted on taking my 1:30 am to 6 am shift on Easter morning. When I went over to the church at 5:30 am, I found that a third leader had also spent the night there praying.

Mark Rutledge, senior pastor, Praise Point (Willshire, Ohio)

We began our Easter observance with the cantata “Easter Song” on Friday and Saturday nights. The church was almost full on Friday, as it was the Good Friday Service for the Parkway Ministerial Association. There was also a good attendance on Saturday night. The cantata was open to singers from the community, along with our own congregation.

Saturday afternoon we hosted an Easter Egg hunt for community children. There were games, crafts, and Bible stories for the different age children followed by the egg hunt. There were 69 youngsters registered to find the 1000+ eggs.

Our Sunrise service began the Sunday schedule, and a powerful presentation was witnessed by over 100 people. Vicki Smith put the service together featuring singers and narrators in costume and film clips.

The breakfast was sponsored by the Camp Committee. All donations will go toward sending children to Camp Cotubic this summer. They are raising $12,000 to help send over 50 children from the church and community to Camp Cotubic.

The weekend concluded with the worship Service on sunday morning, which saw an attendance of 236.