We are excited for this new opportunity to help people know and follow Jesus. Check out all of the details below.
What is it?
Grace Community Church of Willow Street (GCC) is partnering with Bethel EC Church of Conestoga to provide pastoral services to Bethel Church with the goal of redeveloping Bethel Church into a healthy, growing, multigenerational Gospel-centered congregation focused on reaching the village of Conestoga and its surrounding township. Bethel Church has served the Conestoga community for 124 years. They are currently a congregation with 73 members and a weekly attendance of 25-30. They may be small but they have vision for their community. Bethel Church operates the Conestoga Food Bank.
Why Bethel Church in Conestoga?
GCC and Bethel are member churches of the same denomination – the Evangelical Congregational Church (ECC). When Bethel’s current part-time pastor announced his intention to leave Bethel Church effective June 30, Pastor Mike and ECC Bishop Bruce Hill began to talk and pray about the possibility of a partnership whereby GCC would provide Bethel with pastoral services such as weekly worship leadership and preaching and weekday pastoral care. As sister churches, GCC sees this partnership as an opportunity to reach out in the spirit of Christ – loving our neighbor as ourselves and doing to others what you would have them do to you. GCC has been abundantly blessed and God expects us to bless others as an expression of our gratitude to Him. The ECC sees this partnership as an opportunity to help Bethel Church redevelop and renew their ministry so they can grow again.
How will GCC provide pastoral services to Bethel Church?
A team of pastors will serve the weekly worship and weekday pastoral needs of Bethel Church. Pastor Paul Weitzel will lead the team. Pastor Kevin Kumher and pastoral intern Jake Farnham will serve on the team. Pastor Kevin has been associated with GCC for seven years. He served as pastor at the nearby Mill Creek Bible Church from 1998-2010. Since then, he has worked as Director of Production at Stir Foods. Jake Farnham served as a pastoral intern at GCC in 2018 and currently volunteers with his wife Jessie in our children’s ministry. He will graduate from Lancaster Bible College in May and works for Good Food, Inc. Pastor Mike will oversee this team and the provide guidance and support to Bethel Church’s Ministry Council.
Who will pay for this partnership?
The answer is Bethel Church. Bethel Church will pay GCC $25,000 for the first year of pastoral services, and GCC will pay the pastoral team members and cover other expenses incurred by the partnership. For example, Bethel Church’s bulletins will be printed at GCC each week and the cost will be paid by this annual fee. This partnership for pastoral services will require no funding from GCC.
Will Pastor Paul continue to serve GCC?
Yes. Pastor Paul’s job description will be adjusted to allow him to devote 10-15 hours each week to Bethel Church, which includes sermon and worship preparation and pastoral care. To enable him to give those hours to Bethel Church, we will use partnership funds to hire a part-time (16 hours/week) Adult Discipleship Pastor to assume responsibility for that part of Pastor Paul’s current job description. The hire is complete; an announcement will be made in the next few weeks. Again, the cost of this new position is fully funded by the partnership payment from Conestoga.
Pastor Paul will most likely preach at Conestoga two Sunday mornings each month. He will be at GCC on the other weekends and he will continue to serve as a monthly preacher for our weekend services as well as GCC’s young adult pastor. Like all GCC pastors, he will provide pastoral care to GCC families as part of our team of caring pastors.
How long will this partnership last?
It is our hope and prayer that Bethel Church will experience renewal and growth through this partnership and that there will be an opportunity for Bethel Church to have a full-time pastor again in future years. To ensure that this partnership is achieving the purpose of renewal at Bethel and that it is not negatively impacting the life and ministry of either GCC or Bethel, a quarterly evaluation of the partnership will be conducted for at least the first year. The leaders of both churches have agreed that the partnership may be renewed annually pending positive evaluations from both churches. The first year is defined as July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022, which is considered “the conference year” within the Evangelical Congregational Church.
Do you have other questions?
Pastor Mike will host a Q&A on Saturday, April 24 immediately following the 6:00 pm service in the GCC Café, and on Sunday, April 25 at 9:00 am and 10:30 am in classroom 205. No registration is needed. If you are unable to attend one of the Q&A sessions, please feel free to email Pastor Mike here.