Three Ways to Learn



Show Notes

Engaging all ages in ministry may seem core to the average church. Rural churches are finding creative ways to continue to incorporate children and adults, even in the face of declining populations and limited resources.

In this final episode of season two, you’ll learn about how the “Messy Church” approach to multigenerational ministry plays out in rural churches from Trish Johnsen, Senior Pastor at Salem Chapel United Methodist Church in LaPorte, Indiana. We’ll also hear from Brad and Joanie Perry from Alabaster Grace Ministries, who provided the music for season two, about how their music came to be.

Trish Johnsen, LLC (Licensed Local Pastor) at Salem Chapel United Methodist Church in LaPorte Indiana and Associate Pastor for Michigan City First United Methodist Church and also serves as an Associate Director of Church Development for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, specializing in coaching and training for churches that are establishing new kinds of faith communities through Fresh Expressions. She is a Messy Church practitioner in her local church, as well as a Messy Church Ambassador and Certified Trainer and a Certified Fresh Expressions US Pioneer Coach. My husband Chris and I live in Michigan City with our adult son, lots of cars, and a few pets!

Brad Perry, a highly decorated former NASA rocket scientist, and his wife, Joanie Perry, a long-time educator, are known professionally as Alabaster Grace. Joanie, Alabaster Grace’s primary songwriter, served for many years in the Virginia school system as a teacher and librarian.Brad, now the associate pastor of Historic White Marsh Church in Lancaster, Virginia, has spent much of his career at NASA.

Based in Irvington, Virginia, Alabaster Grace is dedicated to presenting the message of Christ through music, as well as the spoken and written word, to a world that is need of hope and encouragement. Brad and Joanie Perry continue to lead worship, perform at concerts, and share inspirational messages at church retreats, coffee houses, and conferences, ministering to thousands across the globe. For more on Alabaster Grace, visit alabastergraceministries.org.

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Related Resources:

Trish Johnsen – trish.johnsen@inumc.org

A special thank you to Alabaster Grace Ministries for their music.

Join our Facebook group: Rural Renewal Podcast Community

Email us: podcasts@freshexpressions.com

Interview Summary

I think it’s okay to step out on faith and try something. And if it doesn’t work, try something else. The Holy Spirit makes things move where it’s supposed to move, and we as people need to be ready to step out in faith and believe that.

Trish Johnsen

In this episode of the Rural Renewal podcast, we conclude Season 2 with engaging interviews featuring Trish Johnsen and the musical duo Brad and Joanie Perry of Alabaster. These dialogues explore innovative church practices and the integration of faith through music in rural ministries, offering a blend of motivational anecdotes and actionable insights.

Trish Johnsen serves as an associate pastor and is transitioning to a rural church while also working as a Fresh Expressions USA pioneer coach. Brad and Joanie Perry, performing as Alabaster, use their musical talents to inspire and unite rural church communities through their ministry, enhancing worship experiences and community connections.

The Concept of ‘Messy Church’

Trish Johnsen explains ‘Messy Church’ as a dynamic and engaging church model that fosters an inclusive community through shared meals, creative activities, and interactive worship, making it an ideal fit for families not typically engaged in traditional church settings.

Messy church is church… it’s messy, it always involves a shared meal, and it’s a time of worship that we call the celebration.

Trish Johnsen

Adapting Ministry for Rural Settings

Emphasizing the adaptability necessary for rural ministry, Trish discusses how rural churches can serve as pivotal community centers through innovative initiatives like community meals and gardens, which not only meet physical needs but also build spiritual and communal bonds. Trish notes that they have a couple of dinner churches in very rural churches where their dinner church population is bigger than their Sunday morning population.

Integrating Faith through Music

Brad and Joanie Perry share how their ministry, Alabaster, extends beyond performances to embed scriptural teachings within their songs. Their music serves as a bridge, connecting congregants and reinforcing the message of faith across diverse rural communities.

It’s about using our music that God’s given us to serve him… to bring people closer to God.


Music as a Tool for Community Building and Worship

Highlighting specific instances such as their participation in the Commonwealth Prayer breakfast, the Perry’s discuss how music can transform worship experiences and foster broader community engagement, effectively drawing people together in praise and reflection. The Perry’s share that music touches people in ways that words alone do not and therefore they ensure that each song has scripture in it, teaching as we sing.

This episode vividly illustrates the transformative power of innovative ministry approaches and music in nurturing faith communities, particularly in rural settings. Through their stories and examples, Trish Johnson and Alabaster demonstrate how embracing change and stepping out in faith can lead to profound impacts and revitalization within rural ministry.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can your community better integrate music into worship and outreach efforts?
  2. What potential does a model like ‘Messy Church’ have to transform your local church environment?
  3. How can ministries adapt to better serve the specific needs of rural communities?
  4. In what ways can your church leverage community events to foster deeper connections and spiritual growth?
  5. What role does creativity play in your approach to ministry?
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