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No Reset Button

Students know how to reset all kinds of devices, but resetting a student ministry is not so simple. Everyone knows that most adults “don’t like change,” but some students in high school and even junior high can also get entrenched in patterns and expectations. Even volunteer leaders feel hesitant as changes take shape, which is significant in student ministries where our team carries much of the weight of weekly ministry. To reset our weekly rhythms of ministry and community there was no button to push; it required wisdom and communication and patience.

One major factor that led us to reset the service format was our awareness that students spend most of the year learning in lecture style classes. This makes it tough for them to engage for an extended time of preaching in the middle of the week. We also wanted to help students grow deeper connections to other students, adult leaders and, most importantly, the scripture.

We started our transition by casting vision about our desire to maximize the value of our time with students when we gathered. The thought of changing our service structure alarmed some of our volunteer leaders. For several months, when we gathered with our leadership team, we spent time talking about the values that were leading us towards this shift.

Eventually, we launched a new Wednesday structure that starts with worship, followed by 15-25 minutes of teaching, roughly 30 minutes of discussion and prayer in gender-specific small groups that we call Circles. This helps us nurture relationships within our group and personalize the application of the scriptures we’re exploring. We still do one service a month in a large group format built around a theme that we call an Invite Night.

It sounds simple enough, but there have been bumps in the road. As we continued to articulate the values behind our change in format, we found increased appreciation and participation.  Thankfully, our new structure is producing fruit. The health of our ministry continues to increase; we are excited about what The Lord has in store for us.


Chris and Nia Gillott serve at CLC in Bensalem where they do ministry as a team. They love helping students discover what it means to be a disciple and equipping them to make disciples! They’ve been married since 2005, and have two children – David and Evangelia. Chris’s interests include running, making music and cheering for the E-A-G-L-E-S! Nia enjoys cooking (it’s her love language), photography, graphic design and she’s learning to sew. As a family, they love to be outside, to be together and to make new friends.

Organize or Agonize

January comes around every year, and every year it’s considered a time to reset personal priorities and take time to figure out what we’re going to do in the new year. The same holds true for your church. Coming out of the busy time of the Christmas season, it’s important to take time to get organized for the upcoming year. One of my personal axioms is “Organize or agonize,” and it’s true both personally and in our ministries. Proverbs 21:5 (NLT) says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” GT takes that to heart when it comes to planning our services.



At GT, we have a long-range planning meeting in January and August, that we call “Big Rock.” We invite a wide range of teams to attend this meeting from family ministry to creative arts to the teaching team. Even when GT was a much smaller church, we would do this. If you don’t have staff teams, you could include high-level volunteers and ministry leadership you do have. We look at the upcoming year, brainstorm and plan for the next 6-9 months. This includes looking at what’s happening on the church calendar as well as in the community. We want to make sure that baptism and communion Sundays have a strong tie to the message on those days. We look at when we’re having our First Responders service or our Veterans Day service. We break into small groups and brainstorm sermon series topics without getting bogged down in the details of titles and schedules.



The details get worked out in a meeting that we call “Bottom Line,” which meets most Monday mornings throughout the year. This is still considered a long-range planning meeting since we try to stay a couple of months ahead of the current sermon series. This is where we figure out exact texts, titles, and the one important thing we want people to take away from the message or the “Bottom Line.” This is a smaller group of people who are responsible for communicating the messages. Once a month a larger team gets together for a Service Planning meeting to review service orders, upcoming events, special happenings, and other important info for the upcoming month.



After reading about all of these meetings, you may think that our services seem so planned out that there’s no room for the Holy Spirit, but that’s not the case. We come into these meetings seeking the Spirit’s guidance and often have a time of prayer or worship prior to starting the meetings. And although we certainly do plan out how we expect our services to go, we are always open to the moving of the Spirit and have made changes on the fly when we’ve felt that prompting.


One of our values at GT is “We give God our best because He gave us His.” Part of giving our best involves planning so that we can make every component of a guest’s experience as excellent as possible, providing a reflection of how great God is. Planning and preparation allows us to be flexible when needed and communicate as effectively as possible.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT) says, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.
Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

How will you start off 2019? Will you organize or agonize this year?

Reset Your Life: Emotionally

As spiritual leaders, we regularly speak to others about issues in their lives. However, we often fail to examine some of these same issues as they relate to ourselves. Perhaps the most significant disconnect is in the area of emotional health.

Being emotionally healthy means living a life of wholeness, balance and contentment – even when we’ve experienced difficult and painful circumstances that can leave us feeling, burned out wounded and betrayed. Each of us goes through difficult seasons personally and in ministry. In fact, God’s word clearly tells us that we will face trials, tribulations, times of temptation and set-backs – along with the possibility of growing weary and wanting to give up. 

Have you been there? I know I have at times in my life and journey with the Lord. But the good news is, God doesn’t want us to remain stuck or to give up. He promises to bring us through – if we will allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.

God never intended for us to simply survive the circumstances we encounter. He wants to take us beyond survival to revival, allowing us to live again. Even more, He wants us to thrive.

How can we press the reset button on our emotions for 2019?

First, be honest with yourself and with God. What has crept into your heart this past year (or at any time in the past) that has set you up to be an emotionally unhealthy leader?

Be willing to deal with the issues that you’re struggling with so the Lord can bring you to a place of healing and restoration. Choose to let go of any hurts, disappointments and offenses, and forgive those who have wronged you.

Cast all your anxiety, weariness and cares on the Lord, and allow Him to care for you. (Matthew 11:28, 1 Peter 5:7)

Determine that you will enter 2019 with a revived heart, refreshed and ready to thrive … not by might, not by power, but by the Holy Spirit.

Reset Your Life: Physically

The New Year has traditionally been a time to hit the “reset” button on different areas in life. I’ve found myself in this cycle every January with my health. I didn’t need to be told what it looks like to be healthy or that it is important to be healthy, yet I found myself meeting the statistics of being an unhealthy pastor. Pastoral Care Inc. states that “over 50% of pastors are unhealthy, overweight, and do not exercise” and that included me. 2018 was the year I hit my reset button for health, losing nearly 100 pounds, my blood pressure dropped, and I saw my health and ministry improve.


If you want 2019 to be the year you hit your health reset button, here’s three questions I have learned to ask myself which may help you:

What is my reason for getting healthy?

What will I do to achieve my goal?

Who will hold me accountable?

Most people don’t need to be convinced that health should be a priority in their life, so why the struggle? Your reason must be personal and may be different than what you know it should be. I knew I should be healthy for various reasons; however, those reasons didn’t motivate me to lose weight. My reason was my wife, future family and ministry. I struggled as a pastor constantly asking, “How can I pastor others towards spiritual health when I was so far from physical health?” Your reason may not be my reason, and that’s okay.

Once your reason is determined set yourself up with your steps toward your goal. Find the diet and exercise plan that will get you there and follow through. For me that was counting my calories and macro-nutrients, lifting weights and cycling. If something does not seem to work try something different. My wife and I tried everything from Vegan to Keto Diets until we found what worked. Talk to your doctor and determine the best plan for you. Then tell this plan to somebody you trust and give permission to who will hold you accountable.

What would it look like for you to hit the reset button on health? There’s no better time than now to begin this journey.

David and his wife, Michele.

Reset Your Life: Spiritually

I’ve only been pastoring for six years. Just when I get comfortable, ministry, people and my Lord remind me that I haven’t quite arrived. Being a church planter has been the most difficult yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I spent 26 years as a US Army officer (which included several deployments after 9/11), yet planting a church has been the most challenging.

About 6 months ago, I stood outside of our church (located on a commercial street in Philadelphia) and observed so much brokenness. I asked myself if we were making a difference in our community. At that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me that His presence can bring the transformation I longed for in a way that our strategies/planning could never achieve. Those are essential in order to execute the mission, but without His presence they are incomplete. Immediately, I felt compelled to research past revivals.  I was led to the Hebrides Revival (Scotland) in 1949. This revival included a powerful presence of God’s in response to the prayer of two elderly ladies (ages 84 & 82) and seven men who earnestly prayed for a move of God. The initial question to their pastor which led to intense prayer was “Can we try God?”

Before the revival, not a single young person attended their services. Afterwards, the church was bursting with young people. Bars and dance halls closed! God’s presence moved throughout the community and brought immediate transformation. This church, like many of ours, had conducted conferences and had grand church growth ideas, but hadn’t prayed fervently as the Word urges us to. His presence made all of the difference. I’m all about church growth strategies/conferences, but we won’t experience the entirety of what God wants if we don’t face the question, “Can we try God?”

Redeeming the Time

We all know that time has three tenses: past, present, and future. I was struck by this reality when I was thinking about Paul’s encouragement for believers to “redeem the time.” (Ephesians 5:16) As we approach the end of the year and prepare to embark on a new one, the question begs, “in what ways can we ‘redeem’ time?” 


There are two ways to redeem time that has already gone by. First, we can learn from mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m on a plane as I write. When I got to my seat, someone else was sitting in it! It was obviously a man and his wife. I didn’t want to separate them…today, even though you buy your tickets together, it is not certain that you’ll get to sit next to one another on the plane. So I looked at them and said, “Well, how can we work this out?” Then Robin said, “Don, our seats are back here.” My bad. It was early in the morning – I was a row off. I apologized. Lesson: double check the sign. There is always a lesson to learn from our mistakes. We can redeem the past by learning from it. Improve your future by carrying forward the lessons learned from mistakes, and secondly redeem time by repeating your wins. What went right last year? Does that bear repeating?


I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m not fully engaged in the present. I can be in a meeting or in a conversation, but distracted by other things on a long “to-do” list. Do you ever do that? Sometimes we suffer from distractedness. Multitasking is a form of distractedness. I’ve read of a few individuals who have gone back to a simple flip phone to eliminate the temptation of constantly using their device. They have decided to put stronger boundaries between their virtual life and their real life. I’m not going to do that. But I do resonate with the need to find ways to be fully engaged in the moment and in the real world. Redeem the time – intentionally reduce distractions. I once heard a person commenting on their pastor’s interpersonal style. Their comment challenged me. “When you are talking with Pastor, he makes you feel like you are the only one in the room.”


Planning and vision casting are two of my favorite things. You can’t read the Bible without getting the impression that God is a planner! Genesis 3:15 is the first revelation of our Redeemer (“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”) But God’s “plan” of salvation goes back before that moment. Revelation 13:8 identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.” That’s a revelation of long range planning! Effectiveness in ministry is directly linked to vision and planning. A good vision will apply lessons learned from the past, project goals and strategies for the future so that we can be fully and effectively engaged in the present. For pastors and those in ministry, we have the opportunity to speak prophetically to the future of the ministry in which we are engaged. We do this not simply with ambition, but by availing ourselves to the fullness of the Spirit to sanctify and inspire our imagination to envision a better future. In this way, we are “redeeming the time.”

As we approach 2019, let us “walk circumspectly (diligently), not as unwise (wasters of time and opportunity) but as wise, redeeming the time…” (Ephesians 5:15) Learn from the past (assess), be focused in the present (engage) and anticipate by faith a great New Year (envision). 

One Team

Although the term “team” may not be found in the Bible, the concept is consistently exemplified.

Jesus assembled a team and called them disciples.

Peter assembled a team and called them deacons.

Paul assembled a team and carried the gospel to the corners of the Roman empire.

Every good leader knows that if they want to have maximum effectiveness, they will have to assemble or develop a team. 

In Good to Great, researcher Jim Collins spends an entire chapter discussing leadership. In the very next chapter he discusses assembling the right team.

Ed Stetzer (Comeback Churches) noted the major habits of churches that were able to make a comeback after experiencing plateau or decline. One of the key characteristics identified was they “launched a team-oriented vision; implemented team strategy in everything.” Stetzer went on to say, “The study made it clear—you cannot turn around a church alone. It takes a team effort.”

Whether we are building a church or a ministry, to be effective we need a team.  

This afternoon I watched the men’s final at Wimbledon.
In what seems to be a highly individualistic sporting match, both the winner (Novak Djokovic) and the runner-up
(Kevin Anderson) thanked their teams. No matter what discipline you explore, whether sports, military, corporations or education, you will likely find that success involves more than one particularly gifted leader or intellectual. Sustained effectiveness almost always involves a team.

One of the most impactful events that I’ve ever attended was Tommy Barnett’s “Pastor’s School.” Although Barnett had both the finances and relational connections to bring in any top-tier speakers to inspire participants, he did something quite different. He allowed us to benefit from his ministry team. We were able to hear their stories, benefit from their experience(s), and see their context. I was so inspired at Pastor’s School that I returned three more times, often with my pastoral staff and deacons. Our team grew in vision, passion, and our church grew in ministry effectiveness.

How are you doing as a team leader, member,
or developer? 

This year at Ministers’ Enrichment we are asking our Network ministry team to share inspiration and information that we pray will enhance and enlarge your vision for effective ministry. Although it’s not possible for every team leader to speak, we have asked several of our full-time staff to speak broadly enough to include everyone present, yet specifically enough to represent the focus of ministry which they lead.


Your Team + Our Team = One Team.

That’s not a complicated mathematical equation. You didn’t have to have taken algebra, geometry, calculus, or linear algebra and differential equations to figure out the solution. In the real world 1 + 1 = 2, but not in this case. More + more = one, or is it really twice as much? Perhaps it is exponentially more. None of this really matters. All we have to realize is that if we all work together, more gets done and more gets accomplished. If I’ve learned one thing during the last 13 years as District Director of our ministry, it is that no one person can do it all. It takes a team. Not just a team of individuals with the same personality and talents, but a team with diversity and multiple talents. Take our human body for instance. Each part has a specific function and each helps us to complete various tasks to function properly. Take one or more parts away and we find ourself at a deficit, not functioning as efficiently. Sometimes I often think if I could clone myself I could get so much more done; however, since I have not been blessed with all the God given talents, I doubt that would be very productive or beneficial. We still need the diversity that a team provides. Each of the ministries we are involved in has a specific function and meets a specific need. Add one or more teams together and you get one team with much more diversity and even more potential. Often we are reluctant to join forces because we do things one way and others do things another way, but aren’t we really looking to accomplish the same thing? Building the kingdom of God? A ministry benefits most when everyone is working together and smoothly as a team. To be most efficient the body has to work together as a team and not as separate entities. Collaborating together as we focus on a common team goal helps maximize our effectiveness. Let’s team up and be the best version of a team we can be. The benefits add up to infinity.

Our Team, Not My Team

Every time he saw me, a recently hired 16 year old (Bongiorno Conference Center kitchen employee) he would say, “Hey boss, what’s up?” After a half dozen comments, I told him, “I’m not the boss; I’m the team leader.” The look on his face said it all. His next question was, “What’s a team leader?”

This made me think; we talk team all the time. Team building is the hot topic in business, church, education and sports. Everybody wants to build a great team. But what lies at the core of a team?

If you Google team building you will get hundreds, if not thousands, of sites for books, seminars, trainings, podcasts, YouTube videos and much, much more.

I’ve built several teams in my lifetime; some were super effective and some not so effective—so what’s the difference?

With a team, all members share input as well as all sharing in the outcome. Everyone owns it. Everyone has a vested interest in winning.

How does one develop good team members?


I pray for God to send me and surround me with the right people. Jesus said in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It is rare that God ever sends us plug-and-play, ready-to-go phenomenal team members. I believe He sends us good people and wants us to develop them.


I treat people the way I want to be treated. Be kind, generous, and genuine. I determine to go the second mile in serving those God sends me.


I look at their strengths (Strengths Finder 2) and try to place them in areas that maximize their strengths. People who serve in their strengths seem to maximize their service.

I strive to know them and understand them. We look at all of the team’s personality/temperaments (Personality Plus). I hope to help them understand who they are and how they are wired. This helps us know each other better. As a team we begin to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every personality and how we function emotionally, as a parent, at work, as a friend and as a team member. As we begin to know team members, we begin to build trust with one another.


I try to help each team member understand they are making a difference, and together we make a tremendous difference in the lives of people. When people know their work on a team really counts, they will have a tendency to make their commitment to the team count even more.


I try to give my team members certain markers they can use to measure their success. They need to know they’re doing a better job today than they did yesterday. There is a sense of engagement when you can measure your success.


As our appreciation of one another grows through knowing and understanding team members, our trust also grows. I welcome healthy conflict. Healthy conflict is not to be taken personally; it’s not about team members, it’s about building a better outcome and team purpose.

True teams share decisions. There is always a team leader who is responsible, but the pressure of leadership is easier to bear when there is a collective of leaders reaching those decisions.

The wisdom of teams:

In a true team, when one wins, we all win. Allow team members to make mistakes without consequences, just don’t let them make the same mistake twice (then they haven’t learned). When team members step it up and fail, I take the blame if they succeed, I give them the credit. I’ve said it before, one is too small of a number to make a great difference. Our team will always accomplish greater feats than I ever could alone. I am indebted to them.

Two Congregations, One Team


Many of us have the opportunity to come to church on a weekly basis and worship in our native tongue, English. We are able to worship in our “heart language,” the language that we were spoken to as a child, the language that we pray in, and the language that connects with our soul. But there was a growing Hispanic community around Houston, Pennsylvania, who did not have a place of worship, simply because they were not English-speaking.

Four years ago that changed when Pastor Francisco Teodoro and the leadership of Central Assembly of God teamed up to answer God’s call to minister to the Hispanic community in the Houston area, located outside of Pittsburgh. With a joined mission, Central Assembly of God launched a Parent-Affiliated Church, Iglesia Cristiana Central, that specifically ministered to the Spanish-speaking community.


Central AG provides the resources, the building space and support system for Pastor Francisco and Pastor Kurt Jenkins to partner together so the ministry can thrive! Pastor Francisco leads Spanish-speaking worship services on Sunday mornings at “The Rock,” which is the student center. Throughout the week, he also leads a Bible study in a mobile home community, discipleship classes, a weekly prayer service, as well as an alternate Friday service for those who cannot attend on Sunday mornings.

When Pastor Francisco began this ministry, he didn’t wait for the Hispanic community to find the church. He sought them out and formed relationships by visiting the mobile home community and apartment buildings which were largely populated by Hispanics. He posted road signs and banners. He visited local Mexican restaurants and met the owners and workers, offering to pray with them. He went to Walmart and formed relationships with the Hispanic employees. Pastor Francisco simply started making friends for Jesus in the community, and he showed them his “authentic invitation” in his words. He shared, “My purpose, the God-purpose in my life, is that God created me for this time to preach the Gospel. My blessing is changing lives.”

Central AG’s Hispanic ministry extends beyond the walls of their community, and people travel from all over the region to join his congregation. Pastor Francisco leads a weekly online prayer meeting, which is broadcast to Mexico, and usually has about 100 people tuned in for prayer. He also mentors 6 pastors from different parts of the world via skype, pastors from Cuba, Mexico, and his home country, El Salvador.


Long before coming on staff at Central AG, Pastor Francisco ministered from a distance to his home country of El Salvador. He would preach on the radio to a little island called Isla Tasajera with only 1,500 occupants. The island had only dirt and sand roads and three vehicles, but they had a great love for Pastor Francisco and his ministry, so much so that they started inviting him to visit them and preach the Gospel, and even honored him by giving him a piece of property.

When Pastor Francisco came to Central AG, the church adopted the island as a focused project, under the direction of Missions‘ Pastor Vicki Barton, and continued to invest by raising $50,000 to build concrete fish tanks for tilapia harvesting on the property that was originally donated to Pastor Francisco. Through this investment, they are teaching those on the island how to fish and become entrepreneurs! Central AG has also entered a spiritual covenant with the main church on the island, and it was renamed, “Central AG of Isla Tasajera.”

Already this year, Central has made numerous trips to the island to teach spiritual leadership, kingdom lifestyle, business and finances. They also hired an El Salvadorian professional who is training a few church members on a weekly basis about how to care for the fish and tanks.

It is amazing to see how God has used this ministry model to reach the unreached and unite the Spanish- and English-speaking congregations of Central AG! Pastor Kurt emphasized that that they operate as, “two congregations, but one church family,” and this model works because “the leadership of the church really embraced it.”

Missions is not just overseas; sometimes it’s reaching out to the immigrants, the undocumented, the non-English speakers in our communities and creating a space for people to grow in their faith and in their heart language, whether that is Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic or Vietnamese. Although launching a ministry in a second language and dealing with language barriers and cultural differences is not always an easy feat, because of this Hispanic ministry, now a church in western Pennsylvania has had a profound impact on a tiny island in El Salvador! Now that is a picture of God’s mission for the world.

One Team, One Vision

Imagine a baseball team where the players don’t share a unified vision of winning games. They don’t listen to the coach and each individual thinks he knows best what will win the game. That’s probably not going to be the best strategy. A strong, successful team is a team with one unified vision, and the coach is the one who needs to inspire the players to share that vision. Church leaders often function in a coaching role for the staff and volunteers that they lead by inspiring a shared vision that keeps everyone working together in the same direction. If a clear vision isn’t articulated, you will find that there can be many visions often competing for time, energy and attention.

In order to inspire a shared vision, there are two critical components – inspiration and vision. To inspire means to guide or affect by divine influence, to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, to breathe into. I pray that as leaders, we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. We also need to be inspiring others and there are several ways that we can do that:

Through our words: the words of a leader are powerful, whether for good or bad.

Through our stories: getting to know each other.

Through our attitude and enthusiasm: this applies to all
personality types; even quieter people can be inspiring.

Through our actions: people will watch what you do more than listen to what you say.

Vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with wisdom, a mental image of what the future will or could be like. We need to be seeking God’s wisdom and allow Him to direct our plans and thoughts when it comes to the future of our churches. But even if you have the greatest of visions for your church, you won’t get too far if you aren’t clearly casting that vision to those you lead. Casting vision is a lot like fishing. You have to watch that the line doesn’t get tangled when you cast; you have to have clear and straightforward communication when sharing vision with people. You also have to do it over and over again. Vision leaks over time and people need to be reminded of the future they are working towards. Even if you think you’re over-communicating, do it more!

We also need to make sure that the vision we are casting is an inspiring one. What makes an inspiring vision? It should paint an exciting and clear picture of the future, compel and motivate people to get on board, move people to action, engage the heart, tell the story of impact, and be forward looking with a sense of direction. Most importantly, it needs to be based on
the Bible.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” The Lord also used tablets for sharing the Ten Commandments – clear communication that shared the vision He had for His people. To truly be one team, we need to have one vision, clearly communicated and inspiring us to action.

Interview with Jeff Marshall

An interview with Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Marshall

What do you think has prepared you the most for this new step?

I think it’s been a combination of my ministry experience of thirty-four years, which included planting New Day Assembly of God. Previous to that I was a school administrator for twelve years, and served as presbyter of the Southwest Metro section in Pittsburgh.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’ve always believed in being a servant leader, recognizing what needs done and doing it, whatever the task, nothing is too small or too big. I like to work as a team. I believe in working with people instead of over people.

What are your core values?

My core values? First, my personal relationship with Christ.

Family is so very important to me. I love being a husband, a father and especially a grandfather. I am a husband to Cathy, the father of four children (Katie, Micah, Eden and Shuyler) and a grandfather to Selah and Gideon. “And if I would have known being a grandfather was so much fun, I woulda’ did it first.” That’s actually a quote from Robert Owen, but I use it all the time.

What are you looking forward to the most with your new position?

Supporting Pastor Don in his leadership and being available to pastors and churches to help as much as I can with credentials and transitions. When I was a presbyter that’s one thing that I always enjoyed…working with pastors. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.

What is a message that you hope to inspire leaders and churches with?

I’m Pentecostal – that’s my DNA and I believe in it. I trust in the Spirit of God to lead me and guide me. I believe that if you look in the New Testament, the reason the church grew was because of the power of the Holy Spirit; that’s what’s going to make the church grow again.

Interview with Don Immel

An interview with District Superintendent Don Immel

What do you think has prepared you the most for this next step?

I see it as a lifetime of saying yes. Denny Sproull asked me to be the CE rep for our section. I was pastoring a very small church at that time, and I said, “Yes.”

A couple of years later I said, “Yes” to being on the sectional committee. This was a role reversal, because at one time the sectional committee was my board. Now I had the opportunity to serve and help home missions’ churches. That was followed by a “Yes” to being secretary of the section.

So, what’s prepared me the most? Serving as a presbyter prepared me to serve as Secretary-Treasurer, and serving as Secretary-Treasurer combined with Presbytery, along with pastoring churches, have all helped to prepare me for what God has called me to today.

Tell us about your family.

We have 3 children – Benjamin, Rebecca and Donnie. Ben and Emily live in Pittsburgh and work for UPMC; Ben in the IT security area and Emily as an OB nurse. Becca, who is due to have a baby in August, and Nathan, a dentist, live in Fort Worth, Texas. Donnie and Kylie, along with Kaedence our first grandchild, live in Monroeville, PA, where Donnie is a youth pastor and Kylie has a photography business.

Our empty nest is not what we thought it would be. We knew that one day our kids would be well-functioning adults. They are, but we miss them terribly and pine for the connectedness of having our family close by.

What are you looking forward to the most with your new position?

First is mentoring young ministers and helping them to achieve their dreams of kingdom effectiveness. That is something that I am anxious to engage in with them.

On the other end, it is caring in a pastoral sense for our credential holders. The ministry can be, and often is, traumatic. I’m absolutely sure that post-traumatic stress (not disorder, but post-traumatic stress) is part of our reality and it has largely gone unaddressed. We want to care for our ministers and their families as well as our churches.

Four Ways to Connect

What makes a good team? What allows many unique individuals to work well together to achieve a common goal? What would you say is the most important part of building a truly successful team? How about investing in relationships? There are a lot of components that allow a team to thrive, but one of the most important aspects is connecting with each other and investing in each valuable member. Here are four simple ways to connect with others through an easy to remember acronym: T.E.A.M.:

Time Well Spent

Encouraging Others

Acts of Service

Motivational Gifts

So, what do each of these mean, and how can you apply them in the workplace with your team members? As you can guess, not everyone is made to be exactly alike; we have all been created by God to be unique, to fulfill different roles, to accomplish different goals, and yet somehow, we are all made for community, to be connected to others. So how can we achieve working on a team in harmony with people who are so different from us? It helps to know what makes people feel most appreciated and cared about. Similarly to the 5 Love Languages, the four points of T.E.A.M. work to seek out what makes people feel most valued, and how we can use that knowledge to invest in the relationships of our team.

Time Well Spent

For team members who need quality time to feel valued, activities like one-on-one get-togethers or meetings can be a very successful way to connect. Knowing that you are available to them in this way will benefit their work on your team! Make sure that when you set aside time for people who need quality time, you don’t become distracted as this may lead to hurting that person.

Encouraging Others

For your teammates who need to be encouraged to feel appreciated, words can go a long way. Making a point to shoot a word of praise over to a member who thrives on encouragement will help that person to feel confident that they are doing a good job. When you need to confront this type of team member, make sure that criticism is constructive and approached gently, as it may be perceived as an insults or personal attack.

Acts of Service

This is a tough one! As a leader of a team, it is often your job to delegate tasks to your members, giving them each different responsibilities. It can be challenging to come alongside everyone who needs acts of service to feel valued by taking on their responsibilities – so find a way to serve your team members outside of the workplace, furthering the relationship in that respect. As a teammate, connecting with people who love acts of service by helping them with a busy workload can be an effective way to grow your relationship. Make sure that if you commit to help someone who feels cared about by acts of service, you follow through on that commitment; if you don’t, it can be quite offensive.

Motivational Gifts

Most people who appreciate and connect by receiving gifts aren’t looking for a wad of cash! A token of appreciation like paid time off, or a small, meaningful gift can be an effective way to motivate your team member and show your appreciation. These types of members thrive on tangible, meaningful things to know they are doing a good job, and that their work is valued. Be sure to give credit where credit is due to these team members; if passed over for a responsibility or role they may feel they earned or deserved, it could cause some hurt feelings.

All-in-all, we know that everyone is different, and appreciates different ways of affirmation. Not all of your team members may fit into this mold of T.E.A.M. but it doesn’t hurt to try connecting in these intentional ways. So let us know how you’ve impacted your team members, or, how someone has made you feel valued and appreciated!

Dare to DREAM Big Together

Sixteen years ago the Lord put a dream in my heart for the waters of His Spirit to rise across our Network so that all ships would rise together as He worked among us.

We often think of this as our dream, but in truth this is God’s desire – His dream. A part of that dream is the sense of unity we experience when we see ourselves as a part of the team God has raised up to impact Pennsylvania and Delaware with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, none of us can change the world through our own efforts, but it is truly incredible what can occur when we join hearts and efforts to reach those God has placed around us. We experience what it means to be “Better Together.”

Marjie and I have been honored to serve you as your Superintendent these past years. Your love and support for us has created an atmosphere where God’s presence has been felt and His favor experienced. As we look to the future, it is our prayer that our future leadership will experience the same prayer, support, encouragement and love that you have afforded us. We thank you for your care for us and trust you will commit to follow those who will lead into the future.

Our gratitude goes out to our excellent staff, both departmental leaders and support personnel at the Ministry Center and the Conference Center. Their excellence, passion and loyalty have established a context where unity is evident. Our presbyters have led with great integrity and passion for your sections and churches. Their commitment to God, you and our fellowship has been a source of great encouragement to me. Our ministers, churches and followers of Jesus across our Network made serving in this capacity a joy that provides significance for all we do. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers, love and passion to be people of the Spirit and of the Word as we have labored together for His Kingdom. May God continue to grace us with His presence until He comes again.

The Belle Vernon Dream

As a church rooted and planted in Fayette County, Faith Assembly has sensed a call to be a county-wide church that is aware of and addressing the major issues of our area. Through prayer and conversation with other Fayette County churches, four specific areas have been identified as strongholds over our community. Those specific strongholds are poverty, dysfunctional homes, spirit of religion and empty wells of addiction. In 2016, there was a strong desire to move beyond prayer for the stronghold of addiction and to begin “getting our hands dirty” in the matter.  As a church, we began to ask God for a piece of property that would become a home to a ministry and to a small group of men who would become discipled and changed by the Spirit of God.

When it comes to the drug epidemic in Fayette County, our desire is to see broken lives restored. The plan is to begin a discipleship home first and then establish a church in the same community. In the Recovery Phase, we would open a home to men who are willing to commit to a six-month program that would integrate discipleship classes, a work program and support group. The work program would include a cleaning service that is made available to area churches for financial support. In the Church Phase, the church would launch as an extension of Faith Assembly with a campus pastor serving on-site.

In a miraculous answer to prayer, Presbyter Tim Bunney and the Southwest Suburban Home Missions Committee offered us a recently donated property that includes a church, apartments and classrooms. We are grateful for this generous gift. Our next step is to begin the renovation on the property. We ask for your help in seeing the Dream become a Reality in Belle Vernon!

Philly Dream Center


As Urban Missionaries, we feel a strong call to one of the neediest parts of the city, North Philadelphia and Kensington. Here are some of the ministries that have been launched in our first year of ministry in these communities:

S.H.I.N.E (Spreading Hope In Neighborhoods Everywhere)  is reaching children with a sidewalk Sunday School. One of the locations is nicknamed “Needle Park” because of the notorious fame for a park where drug dealers and addicts congregate. In the midst of this, there are many unattended children playing at the park. On a weekly basis, we reach these children, as well as some guardians, with this outreach.

Mobile Food Pantry distributes free groceries to needy families and seniors. Philadelphia is the poorest “big city” in the nation. Nearly 25% of children go many mornings and nights without a proper meal. This is why we purchased a large truck to distribute much needed food throughout the most needy neighborhoods of Philadelphia.

Midnight Angels is a ministry that Shirrie leads with a team of women who reach women in high human trafficking areas including strip clubs. The team drops off gift baskets, prays for the women, and invites them to a Bible study.

We need your help… We have reached a point where we are in need of purchasing or leasing a facility where our church can move forward with the dream that God has given us… launching community worship services, offering a School of Urban Missions cohort, hosting Philadelphia short term mission trips and internships, and developing micro industries (Philly needs “Double J”- Jesus and Jobs).

Turnaround Kids’ Ministry

I receive several calls and emails asking, “How can I turn around our church’s children’s ministry?” This request comes from the leadership of all size churches. Many are looking for someone, volunteer or part time, to make it happen for the church. Often that one person ends up burning out too soon, so first and foremost, pray for a team. Ask the Lord of the harvest for workers, not a solitary worker. Remember one is usually too small of a number to make a significant difference.

Here are some steps that can help turn children’s ministry in the right direction.

  1. Communicate the need. When the congregation understands the urgency and importance of a solid and engaging children’s ministry, they begin to adopt the awareness of what is important to the life of the church. When the pastor preaches on the importance of children, it soon becomes important to the listener. Share a simple, but clear vision for what your church’s kid’s ministry can become. Start off with a simple, easy to grasp future; include what your church values in their ministry to kids. This will help the congregation envision what will be the most important concepts for kids’ ministry.
  2. The BIG ask. People respond to a vision from the pulpit that has been highlighted as important and valuable, especially if it’s a team concept. Many will be overwhelmed and decline if they feel it all falls on them. Ask people to be a part of this most valuable team. Team ministry lightens the load and eases the pressure to volunteer.

  3. Equip and appreciate the team. Help team members do what they do best. If they are teachers, train them. If they are running a game night, resource them. Make their ministry easy. My famous saying to my team, “What do you need from me?” Then, appreciate the team in as many ways as possible; I’m still working on this.

  4. Share the win. Do everything you can to show that great ministry has been accomplished. Feature children and kids’ leaders publicly as often as possible. Mention something weekly to the congregation. Remember, that people want to be a part of a winning team. When team members know their ministry matters, they will continue to serve with passion.

  5. Evaluate everything in a positive light. Help the team measure their success in ministry. An easy to understand vision and values will be the goal and guide. Help the team to understand it is never about the individual, it’s about creating a better children’s ministry.

Adapted from the article: Six Steps to Revitalizing Your Children’s Ministry, by Jeremy White, Influence Magazine, September 8, 2017


As pastors, we have to evaluate the direction we are going and encourage those who are going with us. We must instill biblical values, inspire dreams, and then measure the results. Pastor Jim and Wendy Paisley are youth pastors who are leading a turnaround youth ministry in missions. When they arrived at Faith AG in Hazleton, PA they were met by students that never gave a thought about missions or missions giving. Their giving to Speed The Light was marginal.    

It is universally considered that to “turn something around” is to reverse the previously poor performance of something and make it successful. But, how do you do this? Pastor Jim was faced with the obstacles of:

Changing a mindset

Changing culture

Having no goal

Pastor Jim revealed his secrets and overcame these obstacles by:

Consistently speaking toward the mission

Actively involving students in a fundraiser

Mentoring through personal giving

Now their youth ministry consistently raises over $10K each year for Speed The Light, with a record high giving of $21,751. Jim said, “What excites me most is that many students have graduated from high school and are still giving to either Speed The Light or our church’s missions fund. We have also seen a difference in our community because we are raising up a generation that has a desire to reach the lost both near and far. We believe that we are helping equip missionaries with the essential means to reach people with the Gospel all over the world! Our students’ heartbeat is to go and to send!”


Doug Sayers

Youth Ministries


It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The Turnaround

Devin and I came to Abundant Life Church in Birdsboro in the beginning of 2014. The church had been in existence for about twelve years, but was now struggling in a number of ways. Attendance was very low (around 40), the building was in desperate need of updating, and many of the once thriving ministries had lost their steam. Now four years later, because of God’s grace, consistent prayer, strong leadership, a faithful core of laborers, and wise financial restructuring, our small church has been revitalized. Four years ago, our church wasn’t very involved in the community, but now there are so many ways people can get involved and serve, and really make a local impact physically and spiritually.

Loving Loud in the

When we arrived in Birdsboro, one of the first things God led us to pray for was unity with other churches, and He has answered that prayer while teaching us how to reach out and make valuable connections with other local churches! A major aspect of our community impact is our partnership with other churches in the area that share the same Gospel-driven mission; I don’t think there is any one outreach that our church does 100% exclusively. Our weekly children and youth ministries impact many unchurched families. A handful of those families have started attending our church, and many of them are still building a relationship with us through their children. We host an annual community VBS, and again, a handful of the volunteers are from other local churches.

Our church also serves a few times each year at our town’s “Community Table” which provides a free sit-down meal for anyone in need. We provide the dinner, serve the people, and have opportunities to sit and listen to their stories. We partner with our local fire department and hold an annual community egg hunt which has grown to become a very large well-attended community event. Each Christmas, we support the town’s Christmas celebration by providing the live music and giving out free concessions.

We partnered with three other churches and held a one day event in the park last summer called, “Love Loud.” Close to 1,000 people benefited from free haircuts, health screenings, groceries, lunch, family portraits, and much more! We hope to make this an annual event because the families in our community really need this kind of love and support! We have also helped to start a “Celebrate Recovery” ministry, again partnering with other local pastors and lay leaders to meet a major need of those with addictions.

Turnaround Lives

After being at Abundant Life for about a year, we launched a “Rebuild Project” to update our building. Devin set a goal of about $70,000 to raise for the renovations, however, we would need volunteers to do a lot of the labor. During this time, a young man started visiting the church. This young man was a plumber, and when he heard that we needed new toilets installed, he volunteered to help. It was during those late nights of bathroom renovations, working side by side with Devin, that this young man had the opportunity to really share his story. Because he felt needed and was given opportunity to connect with other Christians, he began to realize God’s purpose and calling on his life. He began to be involved in discipleship opportunities, and he and his wife invited God’s healing power into their lives and marriage. Both of them have since gone through our discipleship “growth track” and are actively serving in ministry. They both went on their first mission trip this past summer and are continuing to grow in their walk with Jesus!

Our Turnaround Steps

  • A weekly prayer meeting with a handful of faithful members
    • We consistently sought God for wisdom each week and asked in faith for big things. It didn’t matter that there were only about ten people coming out to pray each week. What mattered was that we were faithful, and we prayed with faith.
  • A small core of faithful laborers
    • We invested in a core of volunteers who had a heart to serve and who were supportive of the new leadership.
  • Patience to learn and strengthen the existing church culture
    • We did not make any major changes in the first six months, instead we focused on preaching God’s Word, seeking God for vision, and building relationships with the people.
  • Financial restructuring
    • Devin’s accounting background was an asset as he was able to make some major changes to spending so the church could steward their money in a much wiser way. Devin has been bi-vocational as an accountant and just recently went full-time at the church.
  • Casting fresh vision
    • Sharing a new vision and new goals with the church helped people know where we were headed and that they were needed for the journey! In our case, our building remodel project greatly contributed to the growth and involvement of attendees.
  • Wise counsel from others
    • We asked for advice and guidance from many wise leaders outside of our church. One of the best pieces of wisdom we received in regard to the revitalization process was, “It’s a marathon, NOT a sprint.”

Guest Contributor

Jess Blankenbiller

Abundant Life Church

Birdsboro, PA

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