Category Archives: Resources

Open Enrollment for EPC Benefits runs November 1-30

 

November is Open Enrollment month for the EPC’s Health Benefit programs. Open Enrollment presents the opportunity for churches to enroll their staff or make changes to employee coverages. The 2023 Open Enrollment website provides information on the EPC’s five medical/prescription drug plan choices, as well as dental, vision, and life/disability insurance benefits.

Individual plan details and comparison charts are easily accessed, as well as information on Member Care programs such as chronic condition management, nurse health coaching, 24/7 virtual primary care, and the Healthcare Bluebook. All enrollment or coverage changes made during Open Enrollment will become effective January 1, 2023.

During open enrollment for 2023:

  • Churches can enroll in EPC benefit plans for the first time.
  • Churches can make changes to benefit elections for currently covered individuals.
  • Churches can add to, or change, their plan offerings for 2023 by completing a Benefits Election Form.
  • If enrollment and plan selections are not being changed for a current participant, then no action is needed. Under this “passive process,” all will automatically retain their current coverages for 2023 unless they actively initiate a change.

Bart Francescone

“Our staff and Board of Directors work hard in partnership with our plan administrators to provide high-quality benefits and a variety of health management programs at the lowest possible cost,” said Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. (BRI). “Our benefit programs are designed to support the achievement of personal health goals and to provide assurance that medical expenses will be covered should a need arise. With these assurances, it is our hope that EPC ministers and staff will be free to focus their energies on their callings to proclaim the gospel.”

EPC benefit plans are available to full-time employees (30 hours or more per week) of EPC churches, as well as World Outreach domestic workers, chaplains, and EPC ministers serving out-of-bounds or without call.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should contact the individual who handles benefits at their church or organization,” Francescone said. “And as always, BRI staff members are happy to answer any questions someone may have about our programs.”

For more information about the EPC’s 2023 benefit plans, contact BRI at 407-930-4492 or benefits@epc.org, or see www.epc.org/2023openenrollment.

The EPC’s benefit programs are administered through BRI, a ministry of the EPC under the leadership of Francescone and the BRI Board of Directors. The BRI Board is a permanent committee of the General Assembly.

Kim Wells highlights inclusive leadership principles at annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

At the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, executive educator and leadership coach Kim Wells discussed the topic “The Strategic Power of Inclusive Leadership.” The event was held October 13-14 in Denver, Colo.

Wells, who serves as the Executive Director of Executive Education at the Howard University School of Business in Washington, D.C., said inclusive leadership involves six areas: knowing how to listen, getting feedback from stakeholders and/or constituents, not only listening but also acting, being a facilitator, having strong mental health, and demonstrating commitment to their people by action.

Wells noted that listening and getting feedback should come from a wide variety of sources.

“Are we talking to the people on the front lines? Are we listening? Are we coming down from our big offices and connecting? How can we have a forum where we are learning from our people? People are watching what we do, not what we say. How do we behave? How was that decision made? We can avoid a lot of confusion and strife if we include them in the process.”

He also explained the importance of a leader going beyond listening and being open to input from others.

“Don’t try to make big decisions in a vacuum,” he said. “There will be times as a leader when you have no choice, and hopefully you’ve done your homework. But inclusive leadership shows people that their contributions are valued. As we do that, we use our resources more efficiently. Ask the question: who else should we have here? We need to come out of our own sphere.”

Inclusive leadership also involves investing in the entire team, Wells noted.

“Provide learning and development opportunities,” he said. “Invest in them—invest, invest, invest. And not just the younger people. Let your older people know that they are still valuable to you.”

Regarding action planning, Wells explained the need for leaders to be aware of their own unconscious biases and how they affect others.

“Stop being unaware of your own behaviors and interactions, and educate yourself,” he said. “Ask for feedback to keep your unconscious biases in check. Inclusive leadership is not about race or gender, it is about listening—to different ideas, different perspectives, different people. And not just listening but engaging with others.”

Now in its ninth year, the gathering is a two-day event for EPC executive pastors and directors, church administrators, and others in senior operational leadership positions.

In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings, participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Wells and has the same format as the October event, takes place November 10-11 in Orlando. For more information, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

Dean Weaver, Brad Strait to host March 2023 Israel pilgrimage tour

 

In March 2023, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver and NLT Chairman Brad Strait will lead a “Best of Israel” spiritual renewal tour of the Holy Land.

“More pastors than ever are discouraged, depressed, struggling in their relationships, or burning out,” Strait said. “As a denomination, we are working to create ‘refilling moments’ that can strengthen our fellow pastors and encourage their love, faith, relationships, preaching, and effectiveness in Jesus’ church. This renewal trip to Israel for pastors, their spouses, and other leaders is one part of this effort.”

“We will see the best Israel has to offer—places that will fan every person’s faith and magnify their biblical knowledge. Every day is filled with ‘wow’ moments of Jesus and biblical times and places. Each stop is a living encounter with the words of Scripture, and a sermon waiting to be preached,” Strait noted.

The tour is March 7-16, 2023, and costs $3100 per person, all-inclusive from New York City.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/israeltour2023.

“In All Things” podcast episode 45 features theological education discussion with Kent Mathews

 

Kent Mathews, President and Academic Dean of Heartland Theological Seminary in Kansas City and Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program for seminary students is the guest for episode 45 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Mathews discuss the challenges and opportunities in preparing people for vocational ministry, and how Heartland Seminary and the EPC Mentored Apprenticeship Program combine rigorous academic preparation with practical, mentor-partnered application.

Mathews also describes the need to develop a pipeline of ordination candidates for ministry in rural churches—including the benefits of serving in rural communities—and how small churches can be better equipped for fostering community.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 39 features Next Generation Ministries Council, Revelation 7:9 Task Force member Enid Flores

 

Enid Flores, Ruling Elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, is the guest for episode 39 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Flores discuss her involvement in the EPC’s Next Generation Ministries Council and Revelation 7:9 Task Force, as well as her recent service as Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida and Caribbean. Flores also describes her vision for developing pathways of service for younger leaders in the denomination, as well as her desire that every EPC church member would be engaged in the work of the larger Church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 38 features EPC Chief Financial Officer Pat Coelho

 

Patrick Coelho, Chief Financial Officer at the EPC Office at the General Assembly, is the guest for episode 38 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Coelho discuss his upbringing as a first-generation American and his role as CFO of the denomination. Coelho also explains how he serves as a resource for EPC churches, including how the EPC set up online giving for churches at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and his leadership of the annual gathering for EPC Executive Pastors and church administrators. In addition, he describes the EPC’s fiscal year, annual financial audit, and the recently approved change in funding formula from Per Member Asking (PMA) to Percentage of Income (POI).

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 35 features EPC church member, former imam Mark Christian

 

Mark Christian, member of the EPC’s Covenant Presbyterian Church in Omaha, Neb., and author of The Apostate: My Search for Truth, is the guest for episode 35 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Christian discuss his upbringing in Egypt in a family of the Muslim Brotherhood, becoming an imam at age 12, and how a journey of questioning the claims of Mohamed for a deeper understanding of Islam resulted in a failed attempt on his life and ultimately to faith in Christ.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings. Christian’s book is available on request from the EPC Office of the General Assembly by emailing info@epc.org. Supplies are limited.

“In All Things” podcast episode 19 welcomes Roy Yanke, Executive Director of PIR Ministries for discussion of pastoral transitions, health, coaching

 

Episode 19 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Roy Yanke, EPC Ruling Elder and Executive Director of PIR Ministries, a commended resource of the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee. This week, host Dean Weaver and Yanke discuss how he got involved with PIR, and the services the ministry provides to pastors, Presbyteries, and local churches.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

National Church Health Team developing personal evangelism resource based on Three Circles method

 

When it comes to healthy church growth, evangelism should be a primary means of adding people to the church. The church is strengthened spiritually and numerically when the gospel is proclaimed, and the Holy Spirit enables people to respond by grace through faith.

Bob Stauffer

Bob Stauffer, EPC National Director of Church Health, said that the unfortunate reality is that churches often experience a disconnect between understanding evangelism’s role in church growth and becoming a church that actively evangelizes. Church leadership must both value evangelism and teach members how to share their faith, Stauffer often says. However, a 2019 Lifeway Research survey found that 55 percent of people who attended church at least once per month reported that they had not shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months.

“Over my many—many—years in ministry, one thing I can almost always count on is that an evangelistic church is much more likely to be a healthy church,” Stauffer noted. “One of the first things we wanted to do as a Church Health Team is offer a resource that can help our congregations in the area of knowing how to share their faith.”

Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations (and companion Life on Mission smartphone app) and its Three Circles evangelism method is the resource Stauffer and his team are starting with for a clear, practical, and simple approach to personal evangelism.

Developed by Jimmy Scroggins, Lead Pastor at Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., Three Circles is a simple way to explain the gospel through the lens of God’s design: sin’s entrance into the world and the brokenness it creates, and how the gospel of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection gives people the means to recover and pursue God’s design for their lives and the created order.

If a narrative of God’s design, our brokenness, and the redeeming power of the gospel sound familiar, it’s because the language echoes ideas Reformed thinkers have articulated for years—often using the terms creation-fall-redemption-consummation.

But why base a resource on a specific evangelism method? Why not endorse several—or let churches choose their own method?

The Church Health Team believes that if churches have to select their own evangelism method, the chances are good that they will pick nothing.

Glenn Meyers

“It can be a real challenge to encourage people to share their faith in ways that are practical and doable,” said Glenn Meyers, Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa. Meyers is a member of the Church Health Team and also is current Chairman of the EPC National Leadership Team. “Because Three Circles is simple, graphic, and adaptable, this tool is just what we needed.”

Over the past few months, two Family Church pastors have conducted Three Circles training with various groups in the EPC. These include nearly 150 attendees at the fall meeting of the Presbytery of Alleghenies, and the January meeting of the National Leadership Team at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Meyers attended both meetings and has since shared the Three Circles model with the congregation’s junior and senior high school students. He also plans to train church’s elders and deacons in how to use it.

“By training the entire church in the same evangelism model, we will have a shared language of evangelism—a vocabulary that translates across groups in the church,” Meyers said. “I hope this shared language will strengthen a culture of evangelism in the church.”

Stauffer noted that what’s true in one church can be true across the denomination.

“If churches embrace the Three Circles method and use it to actively evangelize, I believe an EPC denominational culture of evangelism will grow and flourish,” he said. “The best place to start is the Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations book and Life On Mission app.”

Scroggins will lead an evangelism training session on Tuesday morning at the 42nd General Assembly, June 21-24 at Ward Church in suburban Detroit. Registration opens on April 1.

“I believe God is preparing us to be actively involved in the ongoing outreach of His gospel love, all to the growth and the glory of His Kingdom,” Meyers said. “The Three Circles are going to be a handy tool.”

by Megan Fowler
EPConnection correspondent

“In All Things” podcast episode 14 features Texas pastor Hector Reynoso, author of bilingual Shorter Catechism devotional resource

 

Hector Reynoso

Episode 14 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Hector Reynoso, Pastor of Genesis Presbyterian Church in Mercedes, Texas. This week, host Dean Weaver talks to Reynoso about his bilingual family devotional resource based on the Westminster Confession Shorter Catechism, Walking with Jesus: Family Discipleship. The book, along with a companion Practice Book, is available as a free download in PDF format at www.epc.org/walkingwithjesus.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

EPC Teaching Elders named PIR Ministries regional representatives

 

Anne Horton and Jason Yum have been named Regional Representatives for Pastor-in-Residence (PIR) Ministries. Horton is as Pastor of Cedarville United Presbyterian Church in Cedarville, Ohio, in the Presbytery of the Midwest. Yum is currently without call but serving on the Nominating Committee for the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest.

PIR Ministries is led by Roy Yanke, a Ruling Elder for Grace Chapel EPC in Farmington Hills, Mich. The ministry helps exited pastors navigate vocational transition by providing a proven process of restoration within a caring and restorative environment.

Jason Yum

“We are excited that the Lord has led Anne and Jason to become a part of our ministry family,” Yanke said. “Their individual experiences have made them both passionate about pastors’ health. Because we are a highly relational ministry, our volunteer Regional Representatives continue that emphasis through their natural connections with those in ministry, including those in crisis and transition.”

Horton said she is excited to work with PIR Ministries.

Anne Horton

“We work with pastors in crisis who have left or were asked to leave churches, but also with those in the pulpit who want a little help navigating day-to-day ministry,” she said. “Clergy coaches provide a confidential listening ear as they walk alongside a pastor who is struggling with such ministry realities as conflict, self-care, addiction, and stress. In my opinion, clergy coaching is the best gift a church can give a pastor—or we can give ourselves—especially as we continue to navigate these extra-stressful times.”

PIR Ministries offers a variety of services to ministry leaders and churches, including the Pastor-in-Residence restorative program for pastors in transition; Refuge Church, a place of protection and security for exited pastors; Clergy Coaching; Ministry Spouse Care; the Pro-D Assessment professional development assessment; and more.

Roy Yanke

“Anne and Jason are helping us put flesh and bones on the hope that the gospel and grace of Christ offers to those in vocational ministry for a healthy ministry life,” Yanke added. “They are good at listening, encouraging, and helping ministry leaders find the resources they need for renewal or restoration—many of which PIR Ministries offers. As Regional Representatives, they will be volunteering their time and effort to share information and the resources of PIR Ministries in their areas of influence.”

PIR is a commended resource of the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee. For more information, see www.pirministries.org.

Heartland Seminary’s innovations benefit students and EPC congregations

 

TE Kent Mathews serves as President and Academic Dean for Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City. The school is a commended resource of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“Why is it,” Kent Mathews keeps asking, “that preaching is the only class in which seminary students are required to practice what they’re learning?” An EPC Teaching Elder who serves as President and Academic Dean of Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City, Mathews asks a long list of other questions related to seminary education in the 21st century:

  • Why are academics so often separated from application?
  • Does someone learn to become an evangelist simply by reading books and listening to lectures—shouldn’t he or she be required to actually “do” evangelism, or apologetics, or pastoral care?
  • Why don’t seminaries attempt to make traditionally academic subjects like theology or church history more practical?
  • Why are students not asked to reflect on how what they study might apply to their daily lives or their current ministries?
  • Why aren’t students required to identify and meet weekly with a mentor—someone who is resourced by the seminary to invest his or her life in the life of the student and whose purpose is to discuss the student’s failures and successes; patterns, processes, and learned behaviors; attitudes and approaches to ministry? In short, to take the student under his or her wing and impart the things that seminary doesn’t address?
  • Why is so little of what future pastors actually do in day-to-day ministry taught—or even talked about—in seminary courses?
  • Why is seminary education so expensive?

Mathews knows students are asking them too, along with this one: How will I pay off my exhorbitant student debt why working in my modestly paid pastoral position?

“According to a ten-year-old study, seminarians were asked if they could change anything about their seminary experience,” Mathews noted. “The top three answers were to reduce the cost of tuition, allow me to practice what I’m learning or make seminary courses more hands-on practical, and provide a mentor to invest in my personal development.”

Mathews explained that those answers are the basis for Heartland Seminary’s Master of Divinity program.

“Heartland is the first accredited MDiv program to make all three of these things non-negotiables,” he said, adding that the program meets all of the EPC’s educational ordination requirements for Teaching Elders and was recently recognized as a “Commended Resource” by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“The MVC was very excited to commend Heartland as a resource for the EPC,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. Iaumurri serves as the Office of the General Assembly’s staff resource for the MVC. “As seminary education continues to evolve to meet the needs of the next generation, Heartland offers students a unique avenue for ministry preparation that will surely benefit the EPC and its churches.”

Heartland is firmly committed to conservative biblical scholarship, Reformed theology, and the Westminster Confession. Tuition for the 72-credit Master of Divinity degree is $500 per course.

“Typical seminaries charge between $1,500-$2,000 per course,” Mathews said, adding that each Heartland class is completely accessible online and incorporates a close mentor relationship for every student.

Heartland also maintains an in-person Master of Arts in Applied Theology program in the Kansas City area that has been pioneering its program since 2000.

“The plea for practical training has been proven in our program,” Mathews said. “Our second-most popular course is Cultural Analysis and Engagement, where we talk about the major issues that are currently polarizing both culture and the church. We discuss how to understand both sides and how to engage positively in the discussion and affect change.”

The most popular course? “How to Not Only Study the Bible, but Actually Apply It in Your Life.”

Mathews said the curriculum is also non-traditional in that “up to half of the books students are required to read are books that the student identifies for himself or herself—as long as they are approved by the professor—which allows each student to focus on areas of particular interest to him or her within the scope of the course curriculum.”

He added that assignments in all courses are geared toward application.

“For example, students read top-level, highly regarded texts on each of the three broad periods of church history, then are required to write research papers on the 25 most important people, events, and developments in each period and how they should affect both daily Christian living and effective pastoral ministry,” he said.

Julien de Leiris and Paulo Barros are “textbook examples” of the effectiveness of Heartland’s innovative approach. De Leiris has just begun his MDiv studies while Barros completed his this past summer. Both men are on staff at Colonial Presbyterian Church EPC in Kansas City, which hosts the in-person Heartland classes.

Paulo Barros

Barros, who serves as Colonial’s Director of Worship and Arts, has been a worship leader for more than half his life—the last 21 as a fulltime vocation. At 57 years of age, he was the oldest student in the program.

“I hadn’t been in school for a long time and it was tough,” he admitted. “But I always wanted to learn how to pastor others. I needed that knowledge and felt drawn to it, so this was part of my dream to be a better worship leader. When you work with vocal leaders and musicians, you develop relationships, you shepherd them. I can do that much better now.”

De Leiris, Colonial’s Executive Director of Ministry and Programs, also leads Called to Serve, a ministry intending to do no less than “energize and revitalize the Reformed Church that is slowly dying in France.”

Julien de Leiris

Two years ago, after two decades as CEO of major public works projects for the city of Leon (the second largest city in France), de Leiris felt God calling him “to serve Him, not just faithfully but fully.” To the consternation of his non-Christian extended family, he resigned his job and moved his wife and children across the Atlantic and half of the United States to be obedient to that call.

Called to Serve will bring French youth leaders to study a variety of successful churches in the Kansas City area for several months before returning to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge in local French Reformed Churches,” De Leiris explained. “The FRC funds one-year of sabbatical for every pastor after his or her fifteenth year in ministry. We are developing a practical continuing education program for them over here as well.”

“Just like Paulo and Julien,” Mathews said, “all of our students gain invaluable skills and insights that will bless both them and their ministries. But the benefits to the EPC go further. EPC churches will be able to call new pastors who won’t make all of their initial mistakes at the expense of their first churches.”

Mathews emphasized that Heartland MDiv graduates “have acquired more than just information from their education. Churches will also be able to call pastors who don’t have five to ten to twenty years of student debt to pay off. And the denomination will begin to develop a growing subculture of ministerial leadership development—one that believes the current generation of pastors should be involved in the discipleship of the next generation of pastors.”

For more information about the Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry, see www.hsmkc.org.

by Craig Bird
EPConnection correspondent

“In All Things” podcast episode 2 highlights EPC benefit programs with Bart Francescone

 

Episode 2 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. This week, host Dean Weaver and Bart discuss the EPC benefits program for Pastors and church staff, including the medical benefits plan, wellness and preventative care programs, retirement plan, and more.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

EPC launches “In All Things” podcast

 

The EPC has launched a new podcast, “In All Things,” hosted by Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. In each week’s 30-minute episode, Weaver and his guests discuss topics related to the EPC and the greater Church. In the first episode, three members of the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) discussed the group’s scope and function. NLT Chairman Glenn Meyers; Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly; and Rosemary Lukens, Moderator-elect of the 41tst General Assembly), also provided an overview of the EPC’s four strategic priorities.

“I am very excited to talk to leaders throughout the EPC and tell our story in this long-form podcast format,” Weaver said. “We call this series, ‘In All Things’ because as the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1, all things were created through and for our Lord Jesus—He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. So we plan to discuss ‘all things’ as they relate to the EPC. The Office of the General Assembly exists to serve our churches, and we are offering this podcast as a way for people to hopefully better understand some of the ways we do that.”

Guests in future episodes include leadership staff at the Office of the General Assembly, committee chairmen, EPC authors, and many more.

Episode 1 is available below, and also can be downloaded on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Noted leadership author Tod Bolsinger headlines annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

Tod Bolsinger, Senior Congregational Strategist at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains, explains the Adaptive Change Process to attendees of the first of two Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gatherings on October 21 in Denver, Colo.

At the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, noted church leadership expert and author Tod Bolsinger discussed the topic “From Surviving to Thriving: How Not to Waste a Crisis.” The event was held October 21-22 in Denver, Colo.

Bolsinger drew from his books Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains as he described the challenges of being a ministry leader over the past 20 months, noting that 2020 was like 1918, 1929, and 1968 all at the same time.

“We had a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a cultural crisis,” he said. “I don’t know anyone in ministry who isn’t exhausted.”

Bolsinger told the 20 attendees that in Crossing the Unknown Sea, author David Whyte said the antidote to exhaustion is not rest, but “wholeheartedness.”

“Many of us are doing our best, but we have fallen into half-heartedness,” Bolsinger said. “We didn’t go into ministry because we wanted to follow state or local ordinances, or whatever the shifting opinions are. We got into this because we love God and love people, and want to connect people to the God we love. We didn’t go into ministry to be in a place of conflict.”

Bolsinger outlined five steps for not simply surviving a crisis, but thriving within it:

  1. Identify adaptive challenges
  2. Refuel on trust
  3. Focus on the pain points of those you serve
  4. Find yourself a few Sacagaweas
  5. Try some aligned things

Regarding the idea of identifying adaptive challenges, he explained that a crisis has two phases: acute and adaptive.

“The goal of the acute phase is to stabilize, protect, and buy time,” he said. “Think of a medical triage situation, like a hospital emergency room.”

In the adaptive phase of a crisis, leaders should address root issues that they may not have had the will to confront before the crisis.

“You thrive in the acute stage through relationships,” he said. “You survive in the adaptive phase by learning to face losses and addressing the underlying issues that keep you from moving forward. An expert can solve technical problems, and those solutions serve a really important purpose. However, adaptive challenges require people to make a shift in values, expectations, attitudes, or habits.”

Concerning trust, Bolsinger noted that people don’t resist change, they resist loss.

“When trust is gone, the journey is over,” he emphasized. “We need to continually grow our trust account and wisely invest it in what will truly transform. People won’t judge us on intentions; they judge us on impact.”

In focusing on the pain points, Bolsinger described a fundraising effort among a group of potential donors for Fuller Theological Seminary, which he serves as Vice President and Chief of Leadership Formation.

“They told me that nobody cares if your institution—which of course in our case here is our church—stays alive. They only care if your institution cares about them,” he said. “You have to go out and talk to people and know their pain and how you can help with their problem. Nothing will change the more we focus internally. The way to move forward is to ask how we can meet the pain points.”

In explaining the need to “find yourself a few Sacagaweas,” Bolsinger related the story of Sacagawea, the Native American teenaged nursing mother who helped lead the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery across the Rocky Mountains.

“She had no voice, no privilege, no power whatsoever, but she became the key to their being able to continue,” he said. Among other contributions, Sacagawea interpreted for a meeting with a tribe they encountered—and discovered that the chief was her brother. Bolsinger emphasized that the episode was critical to the survival and ultimate success of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

“We need to find some Sacagaweas who can interpret a culture that may be foreign to the one we know.”

In trying “some aligned things,” Bolsinger emphasized the importance of prototypes that align with existing core values.

“Try some experiments that are safe, modest, and aligned,” he said. “Don’t launch the ‘first annual’ thing, just do a one-off thing. And afterward, don’t ask, ‘Did it work?’ Ask ‘What did we learn?’ It’s not failure if we are learning.”

Bolsinger earned MDiv and PhD degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. Prior to being named Vice President at Fuller in 2014, he served as Associate Pastor and Senior Pastor in two Presbyterian churches in California. He is author of Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change; Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory; Leadership for a Time of Pandemic: Practicing Resilience; and It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian.

The gathering, now in its eighth year, is a two-day event for EPC executive pastors and directors, church administrators, and others in senior operational leadership positions.

Twenty EPC church leaders attended the workshop. In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings—particularly related to changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic—participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

“There are a lot of conferences out there that you can go to and get something out of,” said attendee Mark Eshoff, Executive Minister for Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif. “But the things we talk about here are the things I work with every day. Minute-for-minute this is absolutely the best use of my time.”

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Bolsinger and has the same format as the October 22-22 event, takes place November 11-12 in Orlando. For more information or to register, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

41st General Assembly recordings available

 

Video recordings of the 41st General Assembly are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2021recordings. Included are the Leadership Institute plenary sessions, worship service messages, committee verbal reports, dinner programs, and more.

The videos feature Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss.; D.A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill..; George Robertson, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk; Glenn Meyers, Moderator of the 40th General Assembly; and more.

In addition, audio recordings of the Leadership Institute seminars “Chaplains Workshop,” “Creating Church Planting Networks and Partnerships,” and “The Israel of God” are available. These also are available in podcast form on the EPC’s podcast channel at www.podcast.epc.org as well as Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

Audio recordings of numerous Networking Lunches will be available soon.

#epc2021ga

Updated mobile app available for 41st General Assembly

 

The EPC’s GA mobile app, updated with information and content for the 41st General Assembly, is now available for Apple iOS and Android operating systems.

The app includes a wide variety of information, including daily schedules, meeting room locations, all GA-related documents including the Commissioner’s Handbook of action items and other information, permanent and interim committee reports, standing committee assignments and meeting details, and more. Users can donate to the worship service offerings and send prayer requests to the host church prayer team. The app also offers one-touch access to EPConnection (the EPC’s news and information service) and the denomination’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Previous users of the iOS version will need to update the app on their mobile device for the most current content (look for the EPC GA app under the “Updates” tab of the App Store).

New users can click here to download the GA app for iOS; click here to download for Android, or search for “EPC GA” in the iPhone App Store or the Google Play Store app.

The app was developed by the EPC Communications Department and AppsforMinistry.com.

The 41st General Assembly is June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn. For more information, see www.epc.org/ga2021.

 

#epc2021ga

Revised Procedure Manual for Ministerial and Candidates Committees now available

 

The revised, second edition of the Procedure Manual for Ministerial and Candidates Committees is now available for download in PDF format. The Manual was developed by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee as a resource for EPC Presbyteries, churches, and ministerial candidates. The second edition includes amendments and legislative actions approved through the 38th General Assembly.

The manual can be downloaded at no cost from the EPC website at www.epc.org/downloads/#training and from the EPC Resources online store at www.epcresources.org.

“The Procedure Manual puts in one place the constitutional requirements from the Book of Order, practices required by our Acts of Assembly, and other helpful material,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “It also contains sections that will have great value to search committees, Sessions, and Candidates Under Care.”

New to the second edition is “From Candidacy to Call: an Overview of the Ordination Process.” The section provides a high-level overview of the process of the pastoral call, including steps and milestones for candidates, search committees, and Presbytery Ministerial and Candidates committees.

Another change from previous editions is that forms, checklists, and other resources designed to be used by Presbyteries and churches are not included in the second edition, but rather provided as links to downloadable forms on the EPC website.

“Many of these forms are updated—sometimes multiple times—between printings of the Manual,” Iamurri explained. “These forms have been available on the EPC website all along. With this edition we included an Appendix that includes a clickable link for each form, which will always be the most current version.”

Church Revitalization Workshop session 7 recording, other resources now available

 

The recording of the final session of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. “How our identity in Christ, leading change, and overcoming barriers can lead to revitalization” was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

Recordings of the entire seven-part workshop are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, as well as resources for church and personal revitalization recommended by each of the facilitators. In addition, written summaries of each month’s session are available in Spanish.

Audio podcast versions are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

Church Revitalization Workshop concludes May 26

 

The EPC’s seven-part virtual Church Revitalization Workshop concludes on Wednesday, May 26, with a discussion of how the believer’s identity in Christ, leading change, and overcoming barriers can lead to revitalization in the local church. Previous installments of the monthly series focused on the revitalization of the Session, the revitalization of the pastor, and revitalizing the congregation through evangelism.

Facilitators of the workshop include Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern) and is open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information, recordings of previous sessions, or to register for the final installment, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

Session 6 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of the sixth monthly session of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. “The Revitalization of the Congregation, Part 2: Revitalization Through Worship” was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcast versions of each session of the workshop are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

Revitalization through worship the topic of April 28 Church Revitalization Workshop

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, April 28, with a discussion of how to utilize worship as an engine for church revitalization. Previous installments of the monthly series focused on the revitalization of the Session, the revitalization of the pastor, and ways to revitalize the congregation through evangelism.

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

2021 Leadership Institute features Ligon Duncan, George Robertson, Rufus Smith, practical training workshops

 

Ligon Duncan, George Robertson, and Rufus Smith are the keynote speakers for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s sixth annual Leadership Institute. The Institute is a strategic component of the EPC’s 41st General Assembly, to be held June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Each of the plenary speakers will address a topic related to this year’s General Assembly theme, “God Will Restore.” The theme is based on God’s promise in Joel 2:25 that He “will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten … You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you … ”

Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., will address “Combating Biblical Anemia: Scripture, Discipleship, Worship, and Preaching” on Tuesday, June 22. His presentation will be available via live stream on the EPC website.

On Wednesday morning, June 23, Robertson will discuss “Soul Care for Pastors.” He serves as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, host church for the Assembly.

On Wednesday afternoon, Smith will speak about “Kindness that Leads to Reconciliation.” He serves as Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis. Both Wednesday sessions will be available via live stream and include time for Q-and-A.

Four ministry-specific leadership development gatherings will be available for in-person Assembly attendees.

  • Chaplains Workshop, featuring Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, and Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. Berry will lead sessions on “Why Religious Freedom Matters and What Our Nation’s Founders Intended” and “Threats to Religious Freedom and What We Can Do to Protect It.”
  • Creating Church Planting Networks and Partnerships, led by Tom Ricks, Lead Pastor of Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., and Chairman of the EPC Church Planting Team.
  • Transitional Pastor Training, led by Bob Stauffer, Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery of the Alleghenies.
  • The Israel of God, a discussion of the identity of Israel in the biblical narrative—apart from contemporary political considerations—in which God’s purposes for His covenant people as revealed in Scripture will be examined, as well as thoughts on how Christ’s church should respond with compassion and justice to both Israelis and Arabs. The seminar will be led by Mike Kuhn, Missional Theology Specialist for EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network.

Each of these workshops is open to anyone attending the 41st General Assembly in person.

See www.epc.org/ga2021leadershipinstitute for more information on the Leadership Institute, including full seminar descriptions, times, and speaker bios.

See www.epc.org/ga2021 for more information about the 41st General Assembly, including a full schedule, links to online registration, and more.

#epc2021ga

Session 5 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of “The Revitalization of the Congregation, Part 1” of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. The workshop is being held via video conference on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registration for future installments of the workshop is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcast versions of each session of the workshop are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

March 24 Church Revitalization Workshop addresses congregational vitality

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, March 24, with a discussion of how to develop and maintain the vitality of the congregation. Previous installments of the monthly series focused on the revitalization of the Session and the revitalization of the pastor.

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.