“The Kensal church just opened themselves up to the Holy Spirit,” says Rev. Jeanne Sortland, who serves at Kensal and Wimbledon United Methodist Churches.
The spirit is moving at the United Methodist Church in Kensal, North Dakota. A technology upgrade is allowing the congregation to reach into the community by small groups, growing the children’s ministry, starting a youth group, and hosting community gatherings.
The number of people that show up for worship and other events each week has grown from less than ten each week to more than 40, over the past few years.
“The very first time I preached at Kensal, there were two people,” says Sortland. “Now, if we are under 20, it seems like we are empty. “
Amanda Lee coordinates a community Sunday School program for 40 children each week and Vacation Bible School with more than 45 children. Lee has spent the last three years, building a Sunday School program for the entire community. The program started when Rev. Becky Holten was serving the congregation. Holten has since retired. Lee incorporates video, music, and lessons using whatever technology she has available.
“It has been a struggle for the last three years. We have one projector that we use for worship and Sunday School. So, every Sunday, I have to hustle to move the projector, laptop, and screen downstairs, after worship, before Sunday School starts,” says Lee. “The kids were waiting for me to get things ready. The new technology will make things go a lot smoother.”
This fall, the congregation started a small group Bible study, right after worship service. Sortland preached about the small groups and digging into the Bible. A lay member stepped forward to lead a small group, Sortland guided the group to find the materials. The small group has completed one study and is already into another.
Lee says, “We have a lot of diversity in ages and families. We started our first Bible study. We have a lot of parents that drive 20 minutes or more to bring their children to Sunday School. I thought it would be nice if they had something to do besides sit in their car the whole time. There are eight to ten people that come to Bible study each week. The Bible study is open to everyone in the community.”
A new community youth program, involving worship, confirmation classes, and also activities is underway. The youth group will meet on Wednesday night.
Lee’s husband serves as a technology advisor. This past summer, the congregation has purchased a fabric screen that hangs on the wall permanently and a projector for the Sunday School area.
The recent focus has been enhancing the technology in the sanctuary. The sanctuary is the place where worship, small groups, and Vacation Bible School happen. The sanctuary is currently equipped with a 75-inch screen in the front of the sanctuary, HDMI cables, internet, and laptop. A 65-inch screen will be installed soon in the back of the sanctuary.
In the future, the congregation will add software that simplifies worship planning and presentations such as Easy Worship, Media Shout, and Pro Presenter.
Other ideas for the use of technology include showing movies for families in the community. Also, if things need to be projected for a community meeting or event, the United Methodist Church in Kensal is hoping to be a gathering place.
The next purchase will be wireless microphones and a mixer. The wireless feature will help avoid cords that people have to walk over and also the crackling sounds that happen when things are not connected currently.
Kensal UMC applied for a Breakthrough Ministry Grant to help fund the technology upgrades. The funds from the grant plus donations have made the entire project possible. “We have been able to move ahead more quickly, because of the grant,” says Pastor Jeanne.
The technology is inviting the next person to Jesus. “The people that are coming from different churches, or no church, appreciate the diversity of music and opportunities,” says Lee. “Last year for VBS, we didn’t think we could fit everyone into our small church. It is a blessing to see people coming.”