Updates from First Church

Dear First Church Family:

Your elders and staff are leaning forward to the next stage of our reopening. Beginning September 13, we will open up our ministries that have been on hold for the past several months. Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry and Small Groups will kick off on that date. The end of this letter will give specifics for your family since the rollout will look differently for each ministry.

With so many people gathered in our building, we wanted to make sure that we are as responsible and respectful as possible. So, we will be following CDC guidelines as well as local and federal recommendations, and now requiring masks within our building unless you are seated in our Worship Center, where we have social distancing in place.

This decision has been challenging and preceded by much prayer and conversation. Our ultimate prayer is that we see life change as we move forward. With in-person and online services, there are many options for your family. Our staff is brainstorming creative ways that your children and students can gather in various environments for community, learning and spiritual growth.

I have been thinking about Paul’s instructions to the Philippian church in chapter 2 verses 1-4: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

As we live out those words, our goal is community. Our prayer is life-change. Our desire is to partner with your family to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. With that in mind, these are the plans for each ministry. More details will be provided to your family via the ministry leaders.

Children’s Ministry

Sunday Mornings:
  • Nursery-Preschool provided during both services
  • K-2 Grades large group during 9:00 and 10:30 in the Kid's Worship Center
  • 3-5 Grades large group during 9:00 and 10:30 in the Middle School Room
Sunday Evenings
  • Kid’s Sunday Evening Programming will begin on October 18.
    More details to come.

Youth Ministry

Sunday Mornings
  • Beginning September 13
  • High Schoolers will meet at 9:00 AM in the Youth Worship Center for small group Bible study.
  • Middle Schoolers will meet at 10:30 AM in the Youth Worship Center for small group Bible study.
Sunday Evenings
  • Beginning September 13
  • 6 - 7:15 PM Middle and High School will be meeting outside (weather permitting) as much as possible.
  • Follow signs when you arrive to locate your group.

Small Groups

Beginning September 13, some of our Sunday morning small groups will start to gather in our building. Contact your small group leader to inquire if your group will begin within the building. If you are interested in joining a small group, contact Brad Miller at brad@firstchurchconnect.com

We are excited to head into this next stage of ministry. We are praying for your family. We are looking forward to seeing you on September 13 in anticipation of all the things that God will do.

We will always be with The Lord!

Pastor Johnny McCallister

Dear First Church Family:

Let's Keep Lookin' Up! We have the good report. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is not wringing his hands and He is large and in charge! Our passion is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus - "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" Hebrews.

As we move through the phases of Indiana's Back on Track plan, the elders and I are excited to let you know that we are aiming to gather together under one roof on Sunday May 31st. While trusting the Lord in all things, we have certainly missed our in-person worship services! It will be wonderful to meet once again.

However, Governor Holcomb's plan instructs us to follow CDC social distancing guidelines, so it is not a return to the normal we have had; it will be a new normal for this new season. Here are a few areas we want you to be prepared for:

  • This will only be our large group gathering. The church will not be able to accommodate small groups, student or children's ministries, Grace ministry or coffee and cookies for now. The spaces we have available simply aren't adequate to open those ministries and responsibly follow the guidelines, especially as we begin our return.
  • We will have ushers to help us maximize our seating capacity and maintain a smooth traffic flow (both in and out) while still following physical distancing procedures. We are asking families to sit together to maximize capacity. If you have a mask, we would encourage you to wear it for protection.
  • Sanitization of the facility will occur before and after each service, so the lobby will not be available for visiting and conversation for now. We will open the doors 15 minutes prior to the service.
  • Federal, state and local health officials are recommending that those over 65 and those at higher risk refrain from coming to public gatherings for now. And of course, those who are sick or those who have COVID-related symptoms, or if someone in your household has COVID-related symptoms, please refrain from coming. This is for your own protection as well as the protection of others.
  • The services will continue to be available online as we reopen, so those who are unable to join us in the building can join us online live at 9:00am. If you are unable to watch the service at 9:00am, it will be available to re-stream the rest of the day.

I know some of this may seem strange and new but we are trying to do our best to move forward. At any point, local and state health officials may ask us to change our plans, so this is a reminder that any or all of our plans are subject to change.

Again, more details will come next week but we wanted you all to be aware that just like working, shopping, and eating out, this will look different than before. But throughout history, God's people have had to change the way they gathered for worship. We now find ourselves in that same long tradition. No matter if it is in a cathedral or a cave, a steeple or a stable, a living room or live - God can still be praised, the Living Word can still be preached, and the Holy Spirit can still exercise His power in our lives.

I am excited church family, to see how our faithful God brings us through all of this, and to see the fruit in your life and mine that will be a part of expanding His Kingdom in this generation and beyond - to the praise of His Glorious Grace.

Because of Him,
Pastor Johnny McCallister

To our First Church of God Family:

I hope this letter finds you well. Don't grow weary in doing good. In Romans we read, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-38) We may be separated for a season, but this too will pass and we are certainly not going to be separated for eternity!

Many of you are already aware of the Governor's daily briefings and the need for us to shelter in place continues. Local health officials continue to ask for all of us to do our part to stop the spread of this pandemic. As a result of these announcements, we are continuing in this season of ministry at First Church of God.

Thank you for your continued patience and support as we write a new book about providing ministry opportunities during a pandemic and how to function as a church family. Our weekly services are available on Sunday morning and they stay available as we are trying to encourage and have a shared experience of Worship and The Word at firstchurchconnect.com. We continue to minister and are trying to stay connected in Children's ministry, Student ministry and Adult ministries to resource folks and give opportunity during this season. Each Sunday morning, we also send out a Sunday Morning Bulletin with links to the different ministries so you can stay connected. Please keep checking out Facebook and Instagram for updates and encouragements. We have also launched our Helps Ministry in this difficult season to minister by helping with deliveries, calling, and prayer.

Pray! Please pray for our first responders, our medical community, and all those serving in essential businesses around us - pray for protection, direction and God's presence in their lives. Pray for our leaders and those in authority. Pray for an end of this virus, pray for those who have it and for the families who have lost loved ones.

As Helen Keller stated, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." I have seen this alive in our church since the day I arrived and am so thankful for how you always look for ways to help. In the meantime, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay positive. Keep on trusting and loving God and let us love one another.

I miss you guys! Nothing can replace seeing you in the lobby, in a service or bumping into you out and about. I have taken for granted just how so many of you come so eagerly to reach up to God and reach out to others. Ya' know, I always said we are better together. Man, that is the truth. Psalm 29:11 says, "May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!"

Keep Lookin' Up!
Pastor Johnny McCallister

To our First Church of God Family:

Our staff and leadership are lifting you and your family in prayer during this unusual time in our community. We know that the enemy wants to use confusion, isolation and noise to distract us from God's voice and the calling He has put on each one of us. As a church we want to find ways that we can stay connected despite the recommendations to limit our social gatherings.

I want you to know that for the foreseeable future, we will not be gathering at the church building on Sunday mornings. All of our services will be provided online through our website at First Church of God. At this point, we really have no idea how long we will be asked to keep safe distances from each other and limit large and small gatherings. But this is our way of doing our part for the community we love and to follow the guidance of the President, Health Department officials and our local leaders. However, we are already planning a huge celebration service when it is deemed that we can safely gather!

I want to remind you that throughout Scripture, the Church was never confined to a building. The Church is the entirety of God's people throughout the world displaying the glory of God. Already, we have heard many stories of God's people displaying His glory through charity, helps, evangelism and comfort during this stressful time. And all of this is happening outside of the walls of 1200 W Depoy Drive. This is the church of Scripture!

We are in the process of creating communities of prayer through our website. We will be helping those in need as we connect people together through a new "helps" ministry being established. So, you will receive more information as this is formalized.

So, while we will not be meeting face to face, we are making every effort to continue community through creative means. Our offices will continue to remain open as we are able.

We look forward to the Sunday we can all gather together!

Until then: "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble" -1 Peter 3:8

In God's Grace,
Pastor Johnny McCallister

Dear Church Family,

Yesterday, our governor requested limiting non-essential corporate gatherings to no more than 250 people due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), which included churches. Under the direction of the elders, First Church will NOT physically meet this Sunday, March 15 (AM & PM). However, we will meet together by digital means. That also means we are cancelling our Spaghetti Supper fundraiser tomorrow; thank you for those who brought in food, gave a donation, and those who have been making desserts.

We won't be gathering physically together. Praise the Lord for technology-we will be having church online this weekend. You'll be able to access the video of our service (produced by our amazing staff and volunteer team) from home. The video will be posted on Sunday morning on the First Church of God website. Johnny will continue the Timeless sermon series from 2nd Samuel.

We encourage you to tune in as we all make it a priority to worship God together these weekends, even though we're doing it remotely. You can get the message notes and give online on our website. Invite your friends (via text, phone, email or social media) to join you!

We thank you for your grace and flexibility, as we endeavor to be good citizens and comply with these measures to ensure the safety and health of the most vulnerable among us. What an opportunity we have to choose attitudes of peace and servanthood, as we willingly disrupt our routines to communicate love and care to our neighbors!

For more information about COVID-19, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

Psalm 46:1 says, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." As we've seen in the last few days, information coming from officials and the health department may shift our plans, as new measures are put in place for public health and safety. We will keep you updated as we know more and what our church office hours will be. In the meantime, let's be the Church wherever we are, acting out of love and God's peace, which passes all understanding. We need to be praying for first responders, those who work in the medical field, and for the leaders in our government. Thank you in advance for your cooperation to contain further spread of disease and maintain best practices for a healthy community.

The Elders & Pastor Johnny McCallister