Healthy Churches, Healthy Communities
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Other times, a newly ordained pastor has never officiated a funeral and has questions about protocol, such as when to stand at the casket. Or a dwindling congregation and the pastor part ways on less-than-positive terms. Or maybe the weary worship leader just needs some encouragement and a jump-start of faith.
Whatever tools a congregation may find itself in need of as it reaches the community for Christ, as church health directors for the South Texas District, U.S. missionary candidates with U.S. Mission America Placement Service Jim F. Kautz Jr. and his wife, Melissa, likewise an ordained Assemblies of God minister, help provide resources to facilitate the journey.
Kautz defines a healthy church as outwardly focused with a vision behind it that mobilizes the congregation to reach the community at large, regardless of the numbers of congregants or size of the building.
“It’s that marriage of vision and outward focus working together to meet the needs of the community,” he says. The Great Commission begins with preaching the gospel, he stresses.
“For years we have said, Let’s open the doors and hope for the best,” Kautz says. “But in this post-Christian era, much of any given population is unchurched. We’ve got to go make disciples. Church health provides churches and pastors resources to do that.”
The idea for the church health directors position formed a decade ago when Tim R. Barker became South Texas superintendent. He says the Holy Spirit impressed on him his responsibility to facilitate the health, growth, and development of the district’s 1,000 ministers and 300 churches and ministries. He modeled the district’s revitalization effort on that of the Acts 2 Journey promoted by the General Council, which gets not only ministry leaders, but also the entire flock involved in the church’s mission.
Meanwhile, the Kautzes became pastors of an established church in Texas City, a coastal metro Houston suburb struggling after 2008’s Hurricane Ike, which devastated the southeast Texas coast. The dozen remaining congregants at First Assembly of God all had reached senior citizen status.
“The Kautzes brought that church back to health, where it’s a vibrant congregation again, with a lot of energy,” Barker says. The church now has 85 regular attendees.
As church health directors for South Texas, the Kautzes focus on seven areas, the most common being education. Not only do they offer the Acts 2 Journey, but they also provide AG training to help church ministry directors to launch or restart. They provide resourcing and how-to logistical support that may include workers to help put on an event. A church may need carpet and paint in the nursery or chairs for the fellowship hall. The couple’s network includes other churches or congregants with businesses that might offer gifts in kind or at a lower cost.
The Kautzes have helped churches that never had an internet presence learn how to do services during the coronavirus lockdown via Facebook Live.
They pair pastors wanting mentorship with a mentor and give transitional support to adherents needing help choosing a new pastor. Likewise, they walk congregations through healing after a pastor’s departure, and help new leadership boards learn how to play their role in the church.
The second most common need the Kautzes meet is encouragement.
“We remind them they can do it, that God’s not done yet,” Kautz says. “Through a phone call, or over lunch or coffee, 10 minutes of encouragement can ignite a church pastor, a worship leader.”
Last year Kautz met with a pastor who had more than 30 years of experience in the pulpit. The pastor confided that he had run out of steam, and thought he didn’t have any more ideas. Such a revelation surprised Kautz, who thought from external appearances the minister had it all together. Kautz encouraged him to attend an upcoming training.
From there, Jim and Melissa Kautz led this pastor and the church on an Acts 2 Journey, which helped them devise a new vision. At a ministry fair, adherents signed up to volunteer with the church’s ministries to youth, children, and others.
Barker says he has witnessed the couple’s impact in churches across the district.
“God has used Jim and Melissa to come alongside and bring encouragement to burnt out pastors and walk their journey with them,” he says. “They are true servants, prayer warriors, a gift from God to me and an answer to prayer.”