Leading, Loving, Learning
Retreats bring a special opportunity to share new insights and inspirations in a large group setting. This fall, 16 church groups across the north, east and northwest experienced this firsthand at the kickoff retreats for a program called ABIDE. Developed by small member church experts from Spiritual Leadership Inc., ABIDE places the focus on discipleship and spiritual growth instead of numerical growth.
As the Daingerfield FUMC team facilitator, Erica Koolstra enjoys leading her four teammates, including Rev. David Gilliam, through group activities at the district gatherings and her home church. “Our team is connecting in new ways, praying for each other and serving as accountability partners,” says Erica, “as we focus on leading, loving and learning.”
Since she is studying to become a local pastor, Erica has a special appreciation for training that makes the faith journey more fulfilling. ABIDE’s book and Bible studies have already opened the team’s eyes to the “glory sightings” happening all around them. Erica shares, “God is leading our members to be incredibly hospitable, inviting, loving, generous and creative as they begin taking their place in new ways in the church.”
The team is encouraged that about one-third of the 85 active members at Daingerfield FUMC recently participated in the church-wide study on “A Disciple’s Path.” The leaders are also grateful to Bishop Scott Jones for sharing this resource with the Texas Conference after seeing how it enriched the small congregations in the Great Plains Conference.
The laity-driven nature of ABIDE is David’s favorite aspect. He says, ABIDE is a blessing in that it empowers church to focus on leading, loving and learning regardless of who is pastor. David is encouraged to see longtime member Sally Greene and brand new member Laura Wilson participate in the Daingerfield FUMC group and encourage the congregation to share glory sightings where God is at work. “Laura has jumped right in, and Sally is on fire when it comes to sharing about ABIDE,” adds Erica, “and taking action by starting a new Sunday school class for women.”
The teams’ next steps involve sharing dreams for the future of Daingerfield FUMC. ABIDE has helped them recognize how vibrant their faith community already is, while planting seeds of new possibilities. “Big membership numbers are not necessary for big discipleship results,” Erica says. “The Holy Spirit had quite a ripple effect through just 12 disciples.”