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JANUARY 24, 2016



We want to thank the pastor, lay leadership, and congregation of Rural Chapel United Methodist Church for the invitation to conduct this HCI Consultation. We gained invaluable understanding of your ministry through the self-study document provided by the leadership, interviews with ten staff and key lay leaders, Readiness 360 Survey, and the weekend focus groups with members of the congregation. We also gained invaluable insight from a Mystery Guest Report which included the written reflections of thirteen people who each made one visit to a worship service at Rural Chapel UMC over a five month period. Throughout the whole process everyone cooperated with us and provided all the information we requested. Our prayer is that God will use this process to enhance the ongoing mission and ministry of Jesus Christ through Rural Chapel UMC.



1.     Caring Faith Community: We repeatedly heard in our interviews with leaders and the focus group how genuinely caring people are at Rural Chapel UMC. Mystery guests experienced strong hospitality reflecting an openness to new relationships by church members. 


2.     Pastoral Leadership: From several sources we heard that Pastor Craig is grounded in an authentic faith. His leadership empowers persons to identify, embrace, and employ their spiritual gifts. Pastor Craig is able to translate his knowledge of biblical truths into everyday living. 


3.     Spiritual Leadership: The HCI team was impressed with the spiritual depth in the leadership of Rural Chapel UMC. During our interviews we heard how people have come to a deep faith in Jesus Christ. From the interviews and focus groups we found a church filled with people growing in their faith and willing to move into risk-taking mission. 


4.     Expectation and Desire to Make an Impact on Its Community: During the interviews and focus group, we learned that the congregation deeply desires to more effectively reach out and make a positive difference in the surrounding community. In an area that lacks places for and a sense of community, this congregation would love to be a “community for the community.”


5.     Children and Youth Ministry: Serving children and youth is part of the identity of Rural Chapel UMC. It is a doorway to discipleship not only for young persons, but also for the adults who lead them. Rural Chapel UMC has high expectations in this area with a deep desire to grow this ministry and outreach.



1.     Alignment of Ministry with the Vision of the Church: There is a need for Rural Chapel to align all its ministries and missions with the stated core vision, “making time to grow in faith together,” so that everything the church does contributes to accomplishing this core vision.


2.     Discipleship Pathway: There is no clearly defined path or mentoring plan designed to guide people to spiritual growth in a systematic and lifelong way. This lack of an intentional discipleship pathway was noted by several key leaders.


3.     Community Connections: Members expressed a frustration that the church has little impact in reaching surrounding neighborhoods for Christ. Rural Chapel UMC is uniquely positioned to make a difference for the Kingdom by providing a sense of Christian community to an area where a sense of community is lacking.


4.     Accountable Leadership and Church Structure: Frustration was expressed around the number of meetings and the difficulty of getting “volunteers” for ministry. Further growth is needed in goal setting and accountable alignment to the core vision of the church. 


5.     Facility and Grounds: Throughout the weekend we heard concerns about Rural Chapel’s facility. The issues raised ranged from cosmetic appeal to inadequate space for ministry.



1.     Vision Clarity and Alignment: We affirm the stated core vision of Rural Chapel, “Making time to grow in faith together as we: Connect, Grow, Share, Worship, and Care.” All present and future ministries are expected to align their planning and activities with the core vision.


Beginning after April 1, 2016, the Pastor will preach a sermon series that will challenge the church to rally around and apply the vision in all areas of the church’s life and ministry and revisit this topic quarterly. This interpretation will also occur in all aspects of church life, including but not limited to classes, studies, Sunday School, and fellowship groups.


The Pastor, in consultation with the Church Coach, will recruit a Vision Alignment Team. This team will consist of five people who will perform a ministry audit and assist ministry leaders in reviewing the alignment of their ministry areas with the core vision. Any ministry not focused on the core vision will be given a year to adapt in order to fit the core vision or be dissolved. It is expected that this audit will be done annually. The Vision Alignment team will be formed by April 1, 2016, and recommendations for implementing this team’s work will be finalized on or before September 1, 2016. Recommended resources are Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser and Simple Church by Thomas Rainer. 


By June 1, 2016, the Church Coach will lead a Strategic Planning Workshop to look at the future needs and ministry possibilities of the church with a focus on aligning dreams and possibilities with the church’s core vision. The task of implementing this strategic plan is the work of the Ministry Council.


2.     Discipleship Pathway: The Pastor in consultation with the Church Coach will appoint a four-person Faith Formation Team by April 1, 2016. The team will develop a clear, simple process for growing people in Christ-centeredness and the formation of our faith by September 1, 2016. Goals are to develop a discipleship pathway for newer believers and seasoned Christians which includes faith-sharing practices, spiritual gifts, and leadership development. The team will work closely with existing ministry teams and programs to put these new offerings into place. Resources for this prescription are the books Move: What 1000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth by Hawkins and Parkinson, Shift by Phil Maynard, Activate by Nelson Searcy and Deepening Your Effectiveness by Lavy and Glover.


3.     Community Connections: In a community interview with the Berlin Township Fire Chief, it was noted that, “…there is a need to create a sense of community in our community.” Rural Chapel is positioned to create “community for the community.” Rural Chapel will create a Community Connection Team of 5 persons who will be chosen by the Pastor in consultation with the Church Coach by April 1, 2016. The Community Connection Team will attend an upcoming How to Reach New People Workshop sponsored by the East Ohio Conference scheduled in conjunction with the Congregational Vitality Office.


Through the How to Reach New People Workshop and with the help of the Pastor and Church Coach, the Community Connection Team will create a plan that involves training members and friends to engage and interact with the community in new ministries and partnership with other groups. The team should consider possibilities such as off-site Bible studies, marketing, bridge events, and ways the church facility can be used or improved to be a connecting point for this area. The Pastor will be freed to spend at least six hours a week in the community meeting people and making connections.


4.     Organization and Accountability: In consultation with the Pastor, the Church Coach will lead the leaders of the church through a training on Accountable Leadership and models for streamlining church structure by September 15, 2016. At the 2016 Fall Charge Conference, this model will be presented for adoption. By January 1, 2017, this new leadership model will go into effect.


5.     Facilities: By August 1, 2016, the Pastor in consultation with the Church Coach will create a five person Facility Evaluation team to conduct an audit of the interiors and exteriors of buildings, grounds, and signage. They will determine what needs to be done to improve appearances to better match the high expectations of the unchurched people in this affluent area. The team will prioritize a list of needed improvements and make recommendations to the Ministry Council about how to proceed by September 15, 2016.


By May 30, 2017, the Facility Evaluation Team will conduct an audit to evaluate how the facility expedites or impedes the core vision of the church. The report will be shared with the church leadership by August 1, 2017.



We, the consulting team, want to thank you for the opportunity to serve your congregation in this manner. Our prayers and hope for your congregation is that God will use this process to help implement your mission effectively, clarify your core vision for ministry, and develop a plan to intentionally reach out, connect, influence and build new disciples for Jesus Christ.


Rev. Kelly Brown, Director of Congregational Vitality, Lead Consultant

Rev. Karen Oehl, District Superintendent, Mid-Ohio District

Rev. Dr. Brian Oglesbee, Pastor, Norwalk First UMC

Rev. Sue Chidley, Pastor, Flat Rock & Seybert UMC

Rev. Michael Grant, Pastor, Poland UMC

Rev. David Gilbert, Coach

Rev. Sue Antolik, Pastor, East Fairfield UMC

Mr. Rick Hatton, Lay Leader, Firelands District


Town Hall Meeting Dates:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 7, 2016, after worship

Tuesday, February 16, 2016, 6:00 p.m.


Charge Conference: Sunday, February 21, 2016, after worship


Earlier Event: January 24
Later Event: January 24