The Ulrich family moved to Merrillville, Indiana, in 2016 to start RE.THINK Church.

Rev. Marc Ulrich and his wife, Heather, have served in various Wesleyan churches through the years. But in 2015, they sensed the Holy Spirit leading them into a new season which included church planting.

RE.THINK Church, a multicultural, multiethnic and multigenerational church, has been on a mission to start a movement to bless Merrillville for generations to come. The city is a Chicago suburb that is located just across the Illinois border.

When the couple planted the church, the name was important as they considered how they could impact the community.

“I believe it’s time to reconsider what ‘church’ is known for,” said Ulrich. “I also believe it’s possible for us as church leaders to resist the temptation to force our ideas and methods of church. Maybe Jesus has another idea and method for us to consider that might reach this current generation.” So, the name “RE.THINK Church” came to fruition.

And God is using the church with a different kind of name to reach Merrillville — in a unique way.

God has opened a door for the Ulrichs to impact Merrillville Intermediate School (MIS) students through interactions occurring first within the school system and business community.

“Some of these students are friends of our son, Shad,” said Marc. “I have served as a substitute teacher for a couple of year now as a way to engage our community and students. This last year, I fulfilled a long-term sub position and saw these students every day. This year, I am teaching 8th grade, and Heather works in the superintendent’s office.”

Several students whom the Ulrichs know lead small businesses. As COVID-19 hit, lockdown orders caused education and businesses to quickly move to a digital platform. Merrillville was not exempt, and the couple wanted to live out one of their church’s values: to provide solutions to problems that may affect others which would, in turn, add value to the community as a whole.

“Heather had the idea to allow these students to highlight their businesses,” said Marc. “So, we hosted our first Merrillville Student Business Expo in the parking lot of RE.THINK. We had tables set up throughout the parking lot and created commercials for each business. We also promoted these businesses on our social media platforms.”

“When we realized that our students were stepping up to lead or try something new in a time when many of us just want to sit down and wait out the storm, we were inspired by them and wanted to encourage their efforts,” said Heather. “These kids showed up at the business expo, and I was so proud of each of them!”

RE.THINK Church’s interactions via social media increased, as did its opportunities to sow seeds of the gospel.

The expo was a huge success. Most of the booths had items to sell, and some sold out. One student, Jeremie, set up his booth with a few tools, handcrafted projects and a projects sign-up sheet. He even booked a few jobs as a result. Jeremie is busy running cross country and prepping for his senior year.

“[Students] came prepared to sell their products and secure future business,” said Heather. “Our hope for these kids is that they know their worth — that it doesn’t come from any item or business they could ever have, but rather from Jesus. And I think that’s my hope for everyone. The business is simply an avenue that God allows us to use to serve and love others in our community and world. It’s important to remember that the avenue can change but our mission should remain the same.”

The faith background of the students whom Marc and Heather minister to is mixed, giving the couple the opportunity to impact them wherever they are on the faith scale.

“Most of the young leaders know of Jesus and grew up in church,” said Marc. “Some have no concept of church or faith. When we invited them to be part of the expo, we explained that Jesus has a plan for them and their business. We have and will continue to pray for them and their business. We also explained that Jesus has a few principles for doing business. If they are interested in hearing more, we’d love to share them and how we have used these principles in our own journey of starting RE.THINK Church.”

“Intentionally using our resources to add value to our community has allowed us the platform to disciple these young business leaders in the coming months,” said Marc. “We want to plant the gospel where we go and let God bless our efforts as only he can here in Merrillville.”