Print This Document
Features
Monday - July 21, 2014
Strange Leadership: a book review

Having read several books on leadership and innovation, I approached Greg Atkinson’s Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization with some speculation, feeling it would offer the same perspective and suggestions given by books I had previously read. With that mindset, I was completely surprised by the richness and depth this book offers its readers. Atkinson’s love for Christ and the church resonates in his writing.  His genuine compassion and enthusiasm serve as catalysts for what he shares with his readers. It’s inspirational fire for those of us challenged by his words of wisdom and faith.

God Is the Chief Innovator
Strange Leadership is filled with spiritual truths and lessons. It reminds us that effective and innovative leadership stems from a heart centered on Christ. As Atkinson says, “God is the chief innovator.” He emphasizes that having a strong relationship with him gives us the strategies and direction we need to lead a church in community and faith. “Innovation is about following the Holy Spirit,” Atkinson writes, not our own path and ideas.  As we listen for God’s leading, our ministries will reach those we are called to help.
 
None of us is as smart as all of us.
 
Keep It Simple & Keep It Fluid
Many church leaders are church planners.  They need strategy, logic and a long-term plan to help them lead their churches and staff. Atkinson recognizes this need and values the importance of good planning and effective strategy, but he reminds us that in our planning, we must seek Christ and his direction.  He encourages leaders to remain “open to the Spirit’s leading and sudden change,” keeping plans simple, fluid and flexible.  He also asks that leaders “call to God, rely on him, desperately seek him.” This “spirit-led” leadership is the key to successful, innovative leadership.
 
The Ear of the Leader Must Ring With the Voice of the People
Some of the best insights Atkinson offers come from the quotes and scriptures inserted generously throughout the book.  Blending Bible stories with strategy, he teaches and demonstrates that great ideas come from many people, not just one individual leader.  In his discussion on collaboration, he points out that “none of us is as smart as all of us.” He reminds us that great ideas often come from working as a team. We are challenged to collaborate, communicate and dedicate our lives to our passion and purpose, as both team members and innovative leaders.
 
The World Is in Your Hands
As a marketing and social media director, I especially enjoyed Atkinson’s discussion on communication and globalization.  Many of us understand that communication is vital to the success of churches and their missions.  And, just like Atkinson, we are inspired to proclaim the gospel in new and innovative ways. His passion for sharing God’s word is evident as he discusses the need for interaction and the various platforms available to church communicators.  He reminds us that we cannot use the “old mindset” with the new tools, and we must be willing to “dive in” and develop new communication strategies. Yes—Facebook, Twitter, digital meet-ups and blogging are effective and necessary to share information in today’s society. We should work to build the church through these new tools and reach out to those who would otherwise be in the dark.
 
Watch What God Does and Then You Do It
Are you ready to be challenged?  Do you want to develop innovative and Spirit-led leadership skills?  Could you surrender your ministry to God and ask what he wants from you?  If the answer is yes, then you are ready for this book.  Your heart is longing for its truths, and God is asking you to read it. I encourage you to begin reading Strange Leadership with an open heart and let each chapter lead you into new thoughts, ideas and perspectives. Atkinson’s insight, intellect, experience, passion and open-hearted leadership will inspire you to listen for and hear God’s voice, respond to its leading and invite Christ into every aspect of your life and leadership style.
 
Courtesy of churchmarketingsucks.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.
Monday - July 21, 2014
WWI at 100: the battle of beliefs behind the 'Great War'

c. 2014 Religion News Service

(RNS) Some called it “The Great War.” Others called it “The War to End All Wars.” History proves it was neither.

As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I — a conflict that left 37 million dead or wounded and reshaped the global map — a number of scholars and authors are examining a facet of the war they say has been overlooked — the religious framework they say led to the conflict, affected its outcome and continues to impact global events today.

More than that, they argue, today’s religious and political realities — ongoing wars, disputed borders and hostile relationships — have their roots in the global conflict that began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

“You can’t understand the war fully without investigating the religious dimensions of the war,” said Jonathan Ebel, an associate professor of religion at the University of Illinois whose “Faith in the Fight: The American Soldier and the Great War” has just been issued in paperback.

“I would be the first to tell you the Great War was not a war of religion, but I think a big part of people’s understanding of what they were doing in the war, or why the war made sense to them, comes from religion.”

“Faith in the Fight” explores how American soldiers, field nurses and doctors and other aid workers used their religious experience to face the war. Reading through letters, memoirs and other contemporary accounts, Ebel discovered that rather than disillusioning those who fought the war, it somehow reinforced their ties to religion.

“The experience might have been something that knocked people off their beliefs, made them question,” Ebel said. “But based on the material I was able to draw on, the war for many Americans was not a disillusioning experience. Rather, it confirmed the illusions — if you want to call them that — of why they entered the war.”

Ebel draws a line from the “masculine Christianity” of the early 20th century (evangelist Billy Sunday’s enormously popular revivals often included military recruiting tents) to the way combatants and support workers thought of the war. Soldiers scribbled lines of Scripture on their gas masks, marked their calendars with a cross for each day they survived combat, and opened the pages of the Stars and Stripes military newspaper to read poems comparing them to the heroes of the Old Testament.

“The culture of pre-war America gave America images, ideas and beliefs perfectly tailored to war,” he writes.

That is echoed on a global stage in “The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade” by Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religion at Baylor University. The book pulls the lens back from individual Americans to highlight the religious imagery, rhetoric and symbolism used by all sides in the war to further their goals.

Several countries — especially Russia and Germany — saw the war as a fulfillment of their unique destinies as the kingdom of God. But Europe did not have room for so many countries with the same aspiration.

“You can toss a coin as to which country to blame, but their two clashing visions made war inevitable,” Jenkins said. “If you do not understand the messianic and apocalyptic imagery used by all sides, and how wide-ranging those images were among all classes, all groups, all nations, you cannot hope to understand the war.”

Jenkins gathers numerous examples of biblical images of angels, demons, apocalypse and righteousness and shows how both sides in the war used them to justify the fight and rally support at home. It is no wonder, he writes, that the war was frequently referred to as “apocalyptic,” or even as Armageddon, the final battle the New Testament says will restore a heavenly kingdom.

“I could almost rewrite my book in terms of angels,” he said, citing one of the most frequently used — and believed in — images of the war. The most famous example are the so-called “Angel of Mons” — ghost soldiers from the 15th-century Battle of Agincourt led by St. George who supposedly appeared on the the British lines in France.

But the ghost soldiers were the post-Mons invention of Welsh poet Arthur Machen. Yet when he pointed out they were a fiction, people accused him of suppressing the truth.

“You don’t get anything like that in World War II,” Jenkins said of the belief in angels on the battlefield. “In World War II, there were hundreds of depictions of angels, but they were all in films and books that were clearly fantasy and fiction. But the angel stories in World War I were taken seriously.”

But if the angels were fictions, the new realities established at the end of the war in 1918 were very real and still affect global religion and politics today, Jenkins writes. After the war, Jenkins said, Jews felt a more urgent need for a land of their own. The push for a Jewish homeland gained momentum and led to the establishment of Israel in 1948 — and to the conflicts between Israel and some of its neighbors today.

Adolf Hitler, too, latched on to the widespread humiliation that permeated a defeated Germany to establish his Third Reich, sowing the seeds for the Holocaust that would leave 6 million Jews (and millions of others) slaughtered.

Jenkins also traces the contemporary push for an Islamic caliphate — or Muslim kingdom — by contemporary groups such as The Islamic State and al-Qaida to World War I. In many ways, the Middle East map we know in 2014 has its origins in the aftermath of World War I.

“The end of the caliphate (after World War I) removed the certainty of faith and state for Muslims,” Jenkins said. “It was an uncharted wilderness. And what most of them have tried to figure out for the last 90 years is how do you live in that wilderness?”

He also tracks the rise of African Christianity to World War I, which he said exposed the previously isolated continent to new ideas and new faiths as they fought alongside or supported their European colonizers in the war.

“This was an era of mass movements, healings, religious risings, nationalist Christian restructuring, Marian visions,” Jenkins writes of Africa in 1918 and beyond. “When the newer churches write their history, they will give pride of place to those critical years after 1915, when believers tried to make sense of a world plunged into destructive insanity.”

The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or positon of the Florida Conference. Text photo courtesy Bigstock.com. Display photo courtesy RNS.

Wednesday - July 16, 2014
How to escape from a bad game

In the world of game theory, the game is always more important than the players. Otherwise good and moral people caught in a bad game will often fail to live into the people that they know they have been called to be. (And otherwise selfish and obdurate people in a good game will often act with more generosity and cooperation than the people they typically allow themselves to be.)

Most leaders know what it is like to be part of a bad game.

Economist Martin Shubik designed a game he calls the dollar auction to bring out the worst in us. The rules of the game are deceptively simple. The first rule is that the highest bidder wins the auction. The second rule is that the second-highest bidder must pay his final bid, even though he gets nothing. And the third rule forbids communication between the bidders.

Harvard’s Max Bazerman tests this game using a $20 bill. The game starts out quickly. Anyone would be thrilled to buy a $20 bill for a few dollars. But something strange happens as the bidding approaches $20.

The person bidding $19 is still happy to win the Andrew Jackson, but the person who bid $18 isn’t thrilled with shelling out $18 for nothing and so bids $20. But now the person bidding $19 doesn’t want to lose his investment and so bids $21 -- more for the $20 bill than it’s worth.

The terrible game continues until the second-highest bidder caves and the “winner” pays for one very expensive lesson in humility. Disturbingly, Bazerman once played a version of this game with Wall Street bankers who sent the bidding for a $100 bill over $1,000.

It’s easy to think poorly of the greedy chumps who would ever consider paying more than $20 for a $20 bill, but under the right circumstances, even good leaders can find themselves sucked into playing a bad game.

I remember when a pastor I will call John first reached out to me. It was an emergency.

John had been locked in conflict with certain members of his congregation for years. To express his frustration, he had begun preaching sermons that angered the congregation and picking hymns they neither knew nor liked. While John had been seeking a call elsewhere, he had been unsuccessful. In addition, he was suffering from a serious medical condition and needed insurance. He felt trapped.

The equally frustrated congregants had been rumoring that they might not approve the pastor’s terms of call at the upcoming annual meeting. But as an aging, declining congregation in a depressed community, they were unlikely to find a new pastor easily.

As in the dollar auction, John and the congregational leaders were playing a game either side could “win” and still very much lose.

Fortunately, leaders can change the game they are in.

One way to escape a bad game is to change the rules. Sometimes, rules that seem set in stone are not.

The Uniting Church in Australia, for example, discovered this possibility over a matter of meeting procedure. While leaders valued the clarity of their traditional parliamentary rules, they also desired a process that would allow greater room for the Holy Spirit.

So they changed their Manual for Meetings to include several steps of discernment, allowing the body to have a better sense of what members were thinking and feeling before taking a Robert’s Rules of Order vote. They changed the rules to create a manual that manages to retain the clarity of parliamentary procedure while opening the doors wide to the Spirit’s movement.

Another strategy is to change the incentive structure. Game theory emphasizes the role that payoffs play in a player’s decision-making process. The importance of payoff is particularly evident when it comes to self-interest versus community interest.

Classical game theorists like John Nash focus principally on individual payoffs -- “What’s in it for me?” However, when actual human beings play cooperation games like the prisoners’ dilemma and the public goods game, they value fairness in the community alongside personal gain.

Preaching, liturgy, music, liturgical art and poetry play a vital role in helping individuals and congregations shift the balance from care of self to care of neighbor. While many of us walk around with an implicit bias toward getting our own needs met, the right word or image or piece of music at just the right time can subtly yet powerfully move us toward being better neighbors.

Years ago, a colleague told me about an octogenarian in his congregation who was attending their new contemporary service aimed at adults age 25 and younger. The music was loud; the liturgy nonexistent. Knowing this senior to be conservative, my friend told him he was surprised that he liked the service.

“Like it?” responded the older man. “Who said I liked it? I don’t care for any of this.” Confused, my friend said, “Then why do you come? You’re here every time.” His response: “I come because these young people like it, and they’re important to me. Some time back you preached about worship not being about us. I guess that got under my skin a little bit.” A sermon changed the payoffs for this senior, inspiring him to attend a service that did not meet his needs yet helped the young people he cared about.

A third way of getting out of a bad game is to change the players. Of particular importance is adding a player. This action may seem one of the simplest, but it can be one of the hardest -- especially if the conflict has become personal.

It can be difficult to realize that you have become part of the problem, which makes it even more difficult to ask for help. But often, adding even one more person -- especially someone outside the system -- can significantly change the structure of the game.

One of the great strengths of denominations with active middle governing bodies is that many structures exist for inviting new voices into conflicted situations. While adding players doesn’t always resolve conflicts that have festered for years, fresh insights are often just what is needed.

Finally, a fourth way of getting out of a bad game is to disengage -- either avoid playing or stop playing once you realize what’s happening. The only way to win the Shubik-Bazerman dollar auction? Never play it in the first place. And if you have already bid, then the only thing to do is smile, accept the loss and stop digging the hole deeper.

One of the hardest things for a leader to do is remember that not making a decision -- at least an immediate decision -- is often the best course. Warren Buffett humorously notes that “lethargy bordering on sloth” remains the hallmark of his investment strategy. When leaders feel pressure to appear decisive, they are in danger of overlooking the wisdom of nonaction.

With those strategies in mind, let’s return to the pastor I called John, locked in a conflict with his congregation.

The main approach the Committee on Ministry tried with John was to change the players.

A small team had dinner with John and then visited with the governing body of the church before the annual meeting took place. A particularly important move in putting that team together was to pick one member who was well-known and trusted by both the pastor and the congregation.

After these conversations, all sides agreed that the unfamiliar hymns were the most heated point of contention. With the help of the new, trusted player, the body decided to change the rules of what might be called the “hymn game.”

While the pastor certainly had the right under church polity to pick the hymns, he wisely agreed (with the nudge of this new player) to allow a small worship committee to pick one of the hymns each week, ensuring that the congregation would be singing some familiar and beloved music at each service.

While this didn’t rival the Camp David Accords, it was a small breakthrough that allowed the pastor to continue and gave the congregation a greater say in worship planning.

Have you ever been stuck in a bad game? What helped you get out of it?

Click here for the first column in this series.

Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

Photos courtesy Bigstock.com.

 

 

Friday - July 11, 2014
Ring it, sing it, but don't try to wing it
A row of women ringing handbells
Participants in the advanced handbell class at the Florida Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts workshop take on some challenging music under the direction of Sondra Tucker. Photos by Susan Green.

FRUITLAND PARK – The choir house rules aren’t formally listed on a wall, but participants learn them pretty fast in one of Dr. Carol Krueger’s clinics.

No lard-butts.

No singing doorknobs.

No smiles upon the lips, only in the eyes.

Oh, and about those Rs: They’re for speech, not song. If you sing an “r,” you’d better be rolling it.

“I need you in front of the mirror tonight, practicing,” warned Krueger, as she coached middle and high school students at a weeklong workshop offered by the Florida chapter of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts.

“You don’t want to be a piece of lard. … Sit tall. We’ve got work to do.”

Krueger’s choir members were among more than 100 adults and youngsters to attend the 58th annual workshop, held at the Florida Conference’s Life Enrichment Center. Music directors and choir members from United Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches across the state worked to polish musical pieces for performance before family and friends at the end of the week. 

Dr. Carol Krueger encourages youth choir members to note some inflections in their music to create a better sound.
Youth choir members respond to director Carol Krueger's coaching at the Florida Fellowship's annual church music workshop.
Young people use cups and sticks to strike a rhythm
Young participants in the Florida Fellowship church music workshop unwind by striking a rhythm with everyday items like cups and sticks.

In addition to choral singing, sessions focused on handbells, percussion, guitars, dance and other forms of worship through expressive arts. Krueger, choral activities director at Emporia State University in Kansas, was one of three nationally known clinicians to help musicians hone their skills at the workshop. Others were Sondra Tucker of Memphis, Tenn., handbell editor for Alfred Publications, and Dr. David Cherwien of Minneapolis, music director of the National Lutheran Choir.

All stressed the importance of warmups, posture, breathing and attention to the body as well as the soul. Singing is not for sissies, and that goes for handbells, too.

Moving an audience to a closer relationship with Jesus takes more than getting the words and notes right, participants were told. Energy, dynamics and practice play key roles.

“My Christ wants me to be the best that I can be,” Krueger told the young crooners gathered around her in the Pearson Building at the LEC.

Those are lessons that translate well for life, said Lorraine Miklos, who was chaperoning young people from Christ Presbyterian Church in Ormond Beach.

“By the end of the week, they’ve learned that hard work pays off, and then they can put that [concept] into anything,” Miklos said.

Joan FitzGerald, Florida fellowship president, said people who attend the workshop, including children and teens, tend to come back for more.

“It’s much more than just the music,” FitzGerald said. “It’s the relationships they will make with the kids that come, and it’s the [opportunities] we have for spiritual learning.”

Joyce Dawson, retired music director of Christ Presbyterian, said she has been attending the workshop for 34 years. Trained as a registered nurse, she answered a call to lead musical worship at her church with no formal background in the field and she saw the fellowship as a lifeline.

“It’s one of the biggest blessings in my life,” said Dawson, who estimates she has introduced about 120 young people to the event over the years.

“It was here that I learned to become confident. … I was saying yes to God, but I was very shy. I was a scaredy cat.”

Dawson and others rattled off stories of young people who found their calling through the workshop and went on to pursue careers in ministry, music or both.

“What starts here is kind of like a ripple effect down through the ages,” Dawson said.

Karen Forrester of First UMC in Bainbridge, Ga., credited the workshop with inspiring a desire in her son, now 22, to become a worship leader. She said the friendly atmosphere and setting of the Florida workshop keep adults and children from her church coming back.

When the church first decided to invest in improving its music ministry a few years ago, participants tried a training event at the Lake Junaluska retreat center, the hub of the Southeastern Jurisdiction for The United Methodist Church. 

Dr. David Cherwien directs the tenor section to chime in
Dr. David Cherwien directs the tenor section of the adult choir to start singing during a rehearsal of "Ain't That Good News" at the Florida Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts workshop.

“It was too overwhelming,” Forrester said. “We just started coming here.”

Hayley Welsh, 11, who came with the Christ Presbyterian group, said the rural, woodsy setting of the Life Enrichment Center helps foster a deeper spiritual experience.

“I have a closer relationship with God than I would at home,” she said. She pointed to a wall in the dining hall that boasted a mural and scripture and added, “Everything here has to do with God.”

Blake Justice, 12, and Rosie Pena, 11, also from Christ Presbyterian, said getting away from the everyday hubbub of life improves concentration and inspires a better performance.

“I really like how it’s in the wilderness, and you can see all the beautiful stuff God has made for you to live in,” Rosie said.

In addition to music workshops, the event featured worship led by Revs. Chris Sanders and Charissa Jaeger-Sanders of Christ UMC, Neptune Beach. Jaeger-Sanders, an ordained deacon, is the founder of Grace Works Studio, a ministry that helps people connect with God through artistic expression.

FitzGerald said the fellowship is funded through proceeds from the workshop and other donations. The Florida chapter is the largest and one of the oldest in the national Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. For information on the Florida chapter, visit www.floridafellowship.org or contact FitzGerald at half_note@verizon.net.

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

 

Annual Conference
Annual Conference Event Logos
MainContent|

Download links for 2014 Annual Conference logo:
 

Large color 2014 Annual Conference logo
 

Large black & white 2014 Annual Conference logo
 

Small color 2014 Annual Conference logo

 

Hotel Information
MainContent|

Click Here for Annual Conference hotel list.

Pre-Conference Brochure
MainContent|

Click here for Pre-Conference Brochure

Annual Conference 5K Run
MainContent|

Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 6:30 am - Lake Hollingsworth - Lakeland, FL

The inaugural Florida Annual Conference 5K is an opportunity to unite our Clergy and Lay Members of the Annual Conference - and connect with the greater Lakeland community - in an initiative to promote faith and fitness in a 3.1 mile fun run/walk around beautiful Lake Hollingsworth. 100% of the proceeds from the 5K will go towards our Annual Conference's support of the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Join this race towards greater health - for ourselves and for our sisters and brothers around the globe.

PACKET PICK-UP & RACE INFO:
Pre-Race Packet Pick-Up ~ Wednesday, June 11 at The Lakeland Center (8 am to 6 pm)
Race Day ~ Thursday, June 12 at Florida Southern College (corner of Ingraham and Lake Hollingsworth Drive, across from the Florida Southern College Wellness Center)
5:30 am Packet Pick-up & Registration
6:15 am Late Registration Ends
6:30 am 5k Start!!!

CLICK HERE to register

      

 

 

 

Group Meals Alphabetical
MainContent|

Click Here for Group Meals by Day and Time

All events below require advance reservations and payment.
 
Asamblea Hispana/Hispanic Assembly Dinner
College Heights UMC, 924 South Boulevard, Lakeland, 33803 
Friday, June 13, Dinner 5:00 PM
To register contact: Mercedes Andrades, mercyc004@yahoo.com

Asbury Theological Seminary
Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Seminary, featured speaker
The Lakeland Center, Room Hollingsworth A
Thursday, June 12, Dinner 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Cost of meal: $24.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2, 2014
Payment Deadline:  Monday, June 9, 2014
To register contact Bill Tillmann: bill.tillmann@asburyseminary.edu or 407-760-8665

Black Methodist for Church Renewal
The Lakeland Center, Sikes J
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $25.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register contact: Gertrude Stewart, gjarrett38@aol.com

Candler Club (Florida)
Contact:  Sarah Miller; sarah.miller@flumc.org
Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy
3700 Lakeside Village Blvd
Lakeland, 33803
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 11:45 PM

Celebrating Our Beloved Community
Contact: Sandy Voigt, flumc-sw@flumc.org
The Lakeland Center, Sikes K
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $20.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Clergy Mates
Contact: Tasha Smith, flumc-se@flumc.org
Florida United Methodist Center, 450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave.
Third Floor Conference Room
Friday, June 13, Breakfast 9:00 AM
Cost of meal:  $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:


Clergy Women
Contact: Anne Butcher; abutch413@yahoo.com
The Lakeland Center, Sikes J
Wednesday, June 11, Dinner
Cost of meal: $23.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Council on Finance and Administration (CFA)
The Lakeland Center, Morton
Friday, June 13, Lunch
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register contact:  Sue Bennett, sbennett@flumc.org

Deacon/Diaconal Ministers
The Lakeland Center, Lake Parker D
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
To register contact Winnie Dean, wdean@flumc.org
Cost of meal: $17.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2

Duke Divinity Alumni
Guest Speakers: L. Gregory Jones and Susan Pendleton Jones
Contact:  Katie McNichol, mkmcnich1@gmail.com
The Lakeland Center, Sikes I
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $22.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

East Central District
Contact:  Janet Kelley, jkelley@flumc.org
Trinity UMC 715 Cornelia Ave., Lakeland, 33815
Friday, June 13, Breakfast 6:45 AM
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register go to https://florida-reg.brtapp.com/EastCentralDistrictBreakfastatAnnualConference2014 .

Educational Opportunities Tours
Contact: Kathy Bouchard, kbouchard@travelwithus.com
The Lakeland Center, Sikes F
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:15 PM
Cost of meal: $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  Friday, June 9
To register contact: kbouchard@travelwithus.com

Extension Ministry
Contact:  Aaron Rios, arios@flumc.org
The Lakeland Center, Parker
Saturday, June 14, Breakfast 7:00 AM
Cost of meal:  $15.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors
Bishop Ken Carter, featured speaker
Contact: Susie Horner, susie.horner@flumc.org
Trinity UMC, 715 Cornelia Ave., Lakeland 33815
Thursday, June 12, Dinner 5:15 PM
Cost of meal: $17.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
Payment Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:

Florida United Methodist Evangelicals
Contact:  Rod Groom, rod.groom@gmail.com
United Methodist Temple, 2700 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 33803
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
Payment Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Florida United Methodist Foundation, Inc.
Learn about our new investment offerings and meet Fund Manager Bob DiMeo
Contact: Nadara Brock, nbrock@fumf.org
The Lakeland Center, Sikes J
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch at 12:00 PM
Cost of meal:  $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:

Haitian Ministry Committee
Contact:  Rosemary Gagliardi, rbgaglar@att.net
Florida Southern College Cafeteria, Lakeland, 33801 
June 13, Breakfast – 6:30 AM
Cost of meal: Individuals pay for their own meals

Historical Society
College Heights UMC, 924 South Boulevard, Lakeland, 33803 
June 11, Dinner – 6:00 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00
Reservations Deadline:  Thursday, June 5
Payment Deadline:  Thursday, June 5
To register contact Nell Thrift, thriftmail@aol.com

Lay Servant Ministries
Contact:  Rod Groom, rod.groom@gmail.com
United Methodist Temple, 2700 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 33803
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $12.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
Payment Deadline:  Thursday, June 2
To register click here:

Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA)
United Methodist Temple, 2700 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 33803
Thursday, June 12, Dinner 5:30 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00 adults; $13.00 children
Reservation Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register contact:  Marta Burke, martabee@aol.com, 305-975-2032

Reconciling Methodists
Contact: Martha Rutland, Martha.rutland@vitas.com
Fred’s Southern Kitchen
2120 Harden Blvd., Lakeland, 33803; 863-603-7080
Friday, June 13, Dinner 5:15 PM

Retiree Luncheon
Contact:  Lois Durham, ldurham@flumc.org
The Lakeland Center, Sikes H
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $10.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

South West District
Contact: Sandy Voigt, flumc-sw@flumc.org
Florida Southern Alumni Room, Charles Thrift Alumni Center
Florida Southern College
Thursday, June 12, Ice Cream Social 8:30 – 10:00 PM

United Methodist Connectional Federal Credit Union
The Lakeland Center, Lake Parker C
Friday, June 13, Lunch 11:45 AM – 2:00 PM
Reservations Deadline:  Friday, June 6
To register contact:  Renea Hazelbaker at reneacu@verizon.net or 863-687-2136

United Theological Seminary
Contact: tmmercury@yahoo.com
The Lakeland Center, Lake Parker C
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00 - $16.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2

To register click here:

Youth Ministry Luncheon
Contact:  Joel Pancoast, jpancoast@flumc.org
First UMC – Lakeland, 72 Lake Morton Dr., Lakeland  33801
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
Reservations Deadline:  Thursday, June 2
To register click here:
 

News
Tuesday - July 22, 2014
Madison Youth Ranch ready to open
Bedroom being readied for occupancy
At Madison Youth Ranch, finishing touches are being made to individual children's rooms like the one above. The first children will be welcomed Aug. 1 and will interact in group settings such as the family-style dining table below. Photos by Susan Green.
Dining table in one of the group homes at Madison Youth Ranch

PINETTA – Less than two years after 300 people huddled in the rain to break ground on the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home expansion known as Madison Youth Ranch, the final touches are being put to two large cottages and the house parents are moving in.

The new facility for young people in need of a home away from home passed all inspections for licensing last week, said Ruth Moore, administrative services director. The first children are expected to move in Aug. 1.

The cottages – one for girls, one for boys – will house 12 youngsters each, and every child will have his or her own bedroom, complete with twin bed, desk and chest of drawers.

“We feel like once we open, we will fill quickly,” Moore said.

It’s a milestone moment for the Children’s Home, the mother campus of which was founded more than a century ago in Volusia County, in the northeast corner of the state. The nonprofit institution, founded by Methodists and still largely dependent on United Methodist dollars for its survival, has expanded its outreach through foster family programs and other ministries to the Tampa and Orlando areas. But the new youth ranch is its first residential expansion apart from the original campus.

Located only a few miles from the Georgia state line, the ranch generally will accept children from a largely rural area between Tallahassee and Jacksonville, with a southern boundary roughly drawn at Gainesville.

“There’s a great need for the services we provide,” Moore said. “The 24 beds we’re beginning with today is just a drop in the bucket of what we can do.”

The 300-acre former farm site is expected to grow to 500 acres with a pending gift from an estate bequest.

Moore said the Children’s Home has been touched by the outpouring of support from local churches. Raising money for a chapel has been declared a primary project for the North West District. Several churches have sent volunteers to work at the site, and donations of bedspreads, sheets, towels and other linens have been so great that piles of them nearly fill a storage room

Children accepted for residential programs at the Children’s Home often are wards of the state, removed from their family situations because of abuse or neglect, Moore said. Other times, a child may be experiencing emotional problems too great for parents to deal with or the parents may temporarily place a child with the Children’s Home while they recover from a life crisis. 

Cottage facade with preparations at Madison Youth Ranch

Madison Youth Ranch is preparing to open.Guests can tour the site during an opening celebration and dedication service beginning at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 1647 NE Captain Buie Road, Pinetta. To RSVP or for more information, call (386) 668-5088 or email Madison.Ranch@flumch.org.

The ranch is part of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home near DeLand, which serves about 400 children through various programs in Florida. For information about the Children’s Home, click here.
 

The Children’s Home residential recipe for assistance includes teaching such concepts as manners and courtesy, clean and tidy rooms and basic cooking skills, Moore said.

“These kids often have not been in a traditional family,” she said. “Many of those who come here, they’ve been living on the street.”

The most important mission of the ranch, she said, will be “just to let people know they love them, and Jesus Christ is here, and bring that component of faith into their lives.”

Until a chapel can be built, the children will attend worship at First UMC, Madison, which has an active youth ministry, Moore said. The youth ranch residents will attend nearby public schools, but retired teachers and others with tutoring skills would be welcome as volunteers, Moore said.

Children’s Home residents typically have been passed around among relatives or foster homes and have fallen behind in school, she explained.

“Through no fault of their own, they probably haven’t been in the same school” for any length of time, Moore said.

“You can only just imagine the kind of walls and defenses a young person has had to put in place to survive,” she added. “We want this to be a healing process for them.”

John Sigafoose, a 30-year veteran of youth ministry, will be lead houseparent, along with his wife, Betsy. He said the expansion site offers great opportunity for the mission at hand.

“I can’t wait to get a bike,” Sigafoose said, adding that bicycle riding with young people builds camaraderie.

Moore said every child at the ranch will receive a trail bike and safety gear to help them explore the expansive woodsy site as a group activity.

Sigafoose said making connections with the First UMC youth group will be important.

“I’m really eager to get these kids involved in the youth group … so the local kids can witness to them,” he said. Often positive peer influences make the biggest difference in a young person’s life, he added.

Old homestead, now offices, at Madison Youth Ranch

The old homestead of a family farm now serves as offices for Madison Youth Ranch, part of the Florida United Methodist Children's Home.

In some ways, the opening of the expansion site has seemed to move quickly, but it was not without hurdles, Moore said.

Expansion was part of a strategic plan update in 2008, when the Children’s Home board celebrated the institution’s 100th anniversary, she said.

“The No. 1 goal was to serve more children in more places in strategic ways.”

Then in 2011, board members Billy and Dianne Sullivan offered to donate some land in Madison for a group home expansion. Local opposition eventually led the board to a different site. Representatives of the Shirley Barksdale Foundation heard of the effort and began talks about turning over 240 acres Barksdale bought in rural Pinetta to start a program for handicapped children, including an equine therapy component.

“There was property here but not a lot of money,” Moore said. “We believe that it was just waiting for us.” 

Mike Moore, operations director, hangs a clock on the wall of a group home
Mike Moore, operations director at Madison Youth Ranch, hangs a clock on the wall of one of the new residential group cottages.

The Sullivans donated acreage to provide access to a county road, and another supportive United Methodist couple in Madison, John and Bunny Maultsby, provided a substantial financial gift toward the first group home.

Plans include the eventual construction of a stable that will fulfill Barksdale's dream of using horses to reach children in need. Moore said she hopes eventually there will be funding for a swimming pool as well.

When Ruth and her husband, Mike, who is operations director, first arrived at the site, there were no paved roads and the only structures were the old homestead, aging outbuildings and some outdoor bathrooms built to facilitate summer camps on the property.

There were electricity and well water on site, but no phone or Internet services. The Moores lived in a recreational vehicle for several months while a home was built. They still use the old farmhouse for offices and storage.

Each of the residential cottages cost about $1.5 million to build and equip, Ruth said.

“The bulk of our money comes from United Methodist churches in Florida,” she said. “Our primary need is just to continue to get operational dollars. We believe, as we have seen everything unfold, that God is going to continue to provide for our needs.”

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

Friday - July 18, 2014
Diversity is 'no big deal' at Centenary Camp
Centenary Camp, in the northwest corner of the Florida Conference, has been a youth ministry since 1960. Photos by Susan Green. Click here to see additional photos.

QUINCY -- Like any good story, the road to Centenary Camp has its share of twists and turns.

To get there, motorists wind along back roads named for family farms to a spot about 2 miles off Quincy’s main drag. There they find a pine-filled 38 acres that have been a cradle for the soul for more than a half-century.

The camp opened in 1960 in the heart of North Florida farm country. It began as a summer youth ministry for Centenary UMC, back when everyone in town knew everybody else and everyone knew Jesus.

Today, the camp remains surrounded largely by cow pastures, tilled fields and pine forests, but the demographic and spiritual environment has changed dramatically.

Young people who find their way to Centenary Camp these days often find more than nourishment for their spiritual journey; they find their way to Jesus for the first time.

Julie Gaby, summer camp nurse at Centenary, remembers when children and teens of shared Christian heritage spent a chunk of the summer in fun and fellowship at the camp. An alumna of Centenary UMC’s youth ministry, she was one of them. 

Montana McQuaig, 14, reads a scripture at Bible study
Montana McQuaig, 14, reads a scripture from Isaiah at Centenary Camp Bible study.
Syneria Melnyk, 12, of Sneads paints a cross at Centenary Camp
Syneria Melnyk, 12, of Sneads paints a cross ornament during crafts class at Centenary Camp.
 Youth girls check out each other's work at the crafts table
Young people from all backgrounds mingle together at Centenary Camp.

Today the camp draws youngsters from varied backgrounds. African American and Caucasian children whose parents and grandparents were born here mix with children whose parents came from Mexico or Central America to work in the fields. Many have never been to church.

“(For) how many of these kids is this the only face of Jesus they see?” Gaby said, reflecting on the camp’s metamorphosis over the years.

“A lot of them,” said Donna Bruns, who has been running Centenary with her husband, Dave, for almost nine years. “They’re starving for it. We’ve seen a lot of kids that have come to know Jesus through this camp.”

And they’re not just hungry for spiritual knowledge. In impoverished Gadsden County, one of the poorest counties in Florida by per capita income, many would not get three meals a day without Centenary, Donna said. Some wouldn’t know how to swim if not for the camp pool and staff coaching.

“So many impoverished children have no access to swimming lessons,” Donna said. “We bring them in and teach them to swim and teach them about Jesus.”

As with other camps operated by the Florida Conference, the summer program at Centenary mixes Bible study, prayer and devotions with activities like archery, volleyball and crafts.

When the Brunses, who previously worked at Red Bird Mission in Kentucky, took over operations at Centenary, they found block buildings musty from disuse and rotting wood-frame, screened shelters.

“The camp was just about closed down,” Donna recalled. “Nobody was using it. Emmaus had even quit using it. It was in bad shape.”

Centenary UMC had long since discontinued its program and was leasing the site for a nominal fee to the North West District. Rev. Jack Tilk, who became pastor at Centenary UMC about seven years ago, said the district was trying to interest local churches and other ministries in using the camp, but it was a slow-go.

And nobody had money for repairs.

Enter the Florida Conference. Tilk, who serves on the Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries, approached conference leaders about adding Centenary to its family of retreat facilities.

Since the conference took over the site in 2009, the dormitories have received new roofs and the water and septic systems have been upgraded, Tilk said. 

Emely Carrillo, 14, of Gretna prepares to launch an arrow
Above, Emely Carrillo, 14, of Gretna prepares to launch an arrow at a target in the Centenary Camp archery area. Below, volleyball and swimming are part of the camp's daily activities.
Volleyball at Centenary Camp
Swimming pool at Centenary Camp

Camp staff and volunteers have turned two of the decaying shelters into four-walled buildings for use as a chapel and multipurpose room. Painting, including hand-stenciling Bible words and scriptures to the walls of the dining hall, lodge rooms and common areas, has been a priority since the Brunses arrived.

Tilk volunteers a lot of his time at the camp during the summer, along with Rev. Eddie Allen of St. Mary Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Quincy and Rev. Bob Dehner of Greensboro UMC.

The diversity of the camp and the camaraderie are striking, Tilk said.

“It’s awesome,” he said during lunchtime in the dining hall. “You see all these kids: They’re Hispanic, they’re black, they’re young, they’re older, and they’re sitting together eating.”

Three of Allen’s children attend the camp, which has programs for ages 9 through 15.

“They absolutely love this camp,” the pastor said. “It might be one of the most unique camps there is in Florida.”

Responded Donna: “I think it’s the most unique camp in the world.”

Donna goes door to door in neighboring areas to recruit kids for camp each year. Many can’t afford the fees, so there’s fundraising to pay for scholarships beyond what the conference can provide. Children from as far away as Lake City attended this year. Between day camps and overnight programs, the camp serves more than 250 young people each summer.

“Everybody thinks it’s a big deal that we’re diverse,” Donna said. “It’s just our community.”

Often, when children at Centenary Camp are asked what they expect to do when they grow up, they start out by suggesting they’ll work in the fields or they will rely on government subsidies to pay the bills of everyday living.

Camp counselors encourage them to envision a better life.

“Without dreams, how do you set goals?” Donna asked. “Without goals, how do you get out of poverty?”

Mictsi Carrillo of Quincy is among those inspired to dream because of her time at Centenary. Now 20 and a summer counselor, she began attending as a camper five years ago.

“When I first came here, I was very shy,” she recalled. “Miss Donna made me feel really comfortable.

“The thing I like about this place is it makes me feel really safe. ... I love the fact that if a child has a problem or something, we always try to make them feel loved.” 

Dave and Donna Bruns in snack hut he built at Centenary Camp
Dave and Donna Bruns stand in the snack hut where youngsters get drinks and ice pops during the summer at Centenary Camp.

She is working toward a certified nursing assistant’s license and hopes to use it working with children with disabilities.

Michael Hatfield, 16, is one of four boys from Eastpoint, about an hour away, who raise money in their community so they can attend the camp each summer. Hatfield was a counselor-in-training this year.

“The first camp I ever went to was this camp,” Hatfield said. “I found God at this camp. … God’s love is all over this camp.”

Syneria Melnyk, 12, of Sneads has been attending the camp for two years. She said she likes being in small groups that make it easier to talk and share ideas.

“Each year we get to learn a different thing about God,” she said. “I get to see old friends and meet new people. We get to know each other better.”

Now that the buildings are in better shape, the Brunses said they would like to see more use of the camp for youth and adult retreats during the winter months. They would like to enclose the remaining wooden shelter to create another multipurpose room, and they would like to build a pavilion to provide shade and shelter during the hot, rainy summer months. About $10,000 of the $30,000 cost of the pavilion has been raised.

Dave Bruns said he would also like to install a ropes course. Groups that lease the facilities help support the overall ministry of the camp, his wife said.

“I really believe these kids’ lives are changed by this.”

For information about Centenary Camp, click here or call (850) 856-9779.

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.
 

Monday - July 14, 2014
UMW event urges awareness of disabilities

LAKELAND – In many cases, churchgoers and ministry leaders alike can help people with disabilities fully enjoy worship with some simple thoughtfulness, workshop attendees were told Friday during a “Mission u” event at Florida Southern College.

For example, asking a person who can’t walk or see whether help is needed before touching or pushing is a common courtesy and respects the person’s space. Churches can also use technological advances, along with time-tested methods like American Sign Language, to make church services accessible to those don’t hear or see well, said Mary Harris, who leads a ministry for the deaf at Conway UMC, Orlando.

Including people with disabilities was a major focus of this year’s Mission u, a four-day event featuring education and fellowship that began Thursday, July 10. The event is offered annually by Florida’s United Methodist Women. This year's theme was "Learning Together for the Transformation of the World." 

Mary Harris talks to an audience about ministry for people with disabilities
Mary Harris, who leads a ministry for the deaf at Conway UMC, Orlando, demonstrates sign language communication at a Mission u workshop. Below, workshop participants listen and practice commonly used signs. Photos by Susan Green.
Mission u workshop participants practice sign language skills

Ministry leaders who work with people with autism and developmental disabilities also had parts in the program.

In addition to disability awareness, classes focused on the Roma of Europe, commonly known as gypsies, and spiritual growth, with the topic “How Is It with Your Soul?”

In Harris’ session, about 30 attendees learned that even within a particular disability category, there can be considerable differences that lead to different needs and approaches.

Among people who don’t hear well, Harris said, there are those who have been deaf from birth and others who suffer hearing loss over time.

People with a lifelong hearing loss are more likely to know sign language, while others may feel daunted at trying to learn those hand signals and gestures late in life.

Patience and sensitivity – slowing down with sign language or not hurrying someone in a wheelchair – can go a long way in helping people with disabilities feel independent and involved in church activities, listeners were told. They were also reminded that not all disabilities are visible or readily apparent.

Using appropriate technology also can help make church activities more accessible. For people with profound hearing loss, for example, recent advances have opened up a world of communication, Harris said.

“Now they are Skyping each other,” she said. “Their technology … has taken a lot of isolating barriers away [to allow] them to share together.”

People who don’t know sign language should feel free to convey simple ideas, including a welcoming attitude, through body language and facial expression, Harris said.

“Really and truly, a lot of sign language is very visual,” she said.

Church leaders also were encouraged to complete an accessibility assessment to determine where improvements can be made in welcoming people with all levels of ability. The United Methodist Church has developed an audit checklist and encourages congregations to invite people with disabilities to be involved in the assessment. To access audit forms and information, click here.

For a United Methodist perspective on accessibility, including a resolution adopted at the 2004 General Conference, click here.

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.
 

Friday - July 11, 2014
Religious leaders petition Congress
to support immigrant children

Religious leaders are urging President Obama and Congress to provide funding for legal assistance to unaccompanied migrant children who are in U.S. custody after fleeing violence, murder and extortion abroad.

The emergency funds would go toward helping children who have entered the United States without lawful immigration papers and without a parent or guardian. The money could also help meet mental health needs.

Bishop Minerva Carcano speaking at past event
Bishop Minerva Carcano of the Los Angeles area is among religious leaders urging emergency funding to help child refugees in the U.S. without their parents. File photo from the General Board of Global Ministries.

Multiple speakers, including United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano and the Rev. David Vasquez, spokesman for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, took part in a national teleconference Thursday (July 10). They then sent a petition signed by more than 3,800 people to Congress.

“We are asking President Obama, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to do the right thing by providing funding for the care and due process of these migrant children — including the full implementation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act,” said Carcano.

Carcano visited the Oxnard detention facility in California this week and said it was at capacity with 570 children. The children were clean and well-dressed, she said, but there were no funds for mental health care or legal assistance.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic congresswoman from California, emphasized that it is time for Congress to respond.

“None of this is perfect,” Lofgren said. But, she continued, “as a country we can step up and do a lot better.”

-- Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission.

 

Friday - July 11, 2014
Ring it, sing it, but don't try to wing it
A row of women ringing handbells
Participants in the advanced handbell class at the Florida Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts workshop take on some challenging music under the direction of Sondra Tucker. Photos by Susan Green.

FRUITLAND PARK – The choir house rules aren’t formally listed on a wall, but participants learn them pretty fast in one of Dr. Carol Krueger’s clinics.

No lard-butts.

No singing doorknobs.

No smiles upon the lips, only in the eyes.

Oh, and about those Rs: They’re for speech, not song. If you sing an “r,” you’d better be rolling it.

“I need you in front of the mirror tonight, practicing,” warned Krueger, as she coached middle and high school students at a weeklong workshop offered by the Florida chapter of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts.

“You don’t want to be a piece of lard. … Sit tall. We’ve got work to do.”

Krueger’s choir members were among more than 100 adults and youngsters to attend the 58th annual workshop, held at the Florida Conference’s Life Enrichment Center (LEC). Music directors and choir members from United Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches across the state worked to polish musical pieces for performance before family and friends at the end of the week. 

Dr. Carol Krueger encourages youth choir members to note some inflections in their music to create a better sound.
Youth choir members respond to director Carol Krueger's coaching at the Florida Fellowship's annual church music workshop.
Young people use cups and sticks to strike a rhythm
Young participants in the Florida Fellowship church music workshop unwind by striking a rhythm with everyday items like cups and sticks.

In addition to choral singing, sessions focused on handbells, percussion, guitars, dance and other forms of worship through expressive arts. Krueger, choral activities director at Emporia State University in Kansas, was one of three nationally known clinicians to help musicians hone their skills at the workshop. Others were Sondra Tucker of Memphis, Tenn., handbell editor for Alfred Publications, and Dr. David Cherwien of Minneapolis, music director of the National Lutheran Choir.

All stressed the importance of warmups, posture, breathing and attention to the body as well as the soul. Singing is not for sissies, and that goes for handbells, too.

Moving an audience to a closer relationship with Jesus takes more than getting the words and notes right, participants were told. Energy, dynamics and practice play key roles.

“My Christ wants me to be the best that I can be,” Krueger told the young crooners gathered around her in the Pearson Building at the LEC.

Those are lessons that translate well for life, said Lorraine Miklos, who was chaperoning young people from Christ Presbyterian Church in Ormond Beach.

“By the end of the week, they’ve learned that hard work pays off, and then they can put that [concept] into anything,” Miklos said.

Joan FitzGerald, Florida fellowship president, said people who attend the workshop, including children and teens, tend to come back for more.

“It’s much more than just the music,” FitzGerald said. “It’s the relationships they will make with the kids that come, and it’s the [opportunities] we have for spiritual learning.”

Joyce Dawson, retired music director of Christ Presbyterian, said she has been attending the workshop for 34 years. Trained as a registered nurse, she answered a call to lead musical worship at her church with no formal background in the field and she saw the fellowship as a lifeline.

“It’s one of the biggest blessings in my life,” said Dawson, who estimates she has introduced about 120 young people to the event over the years.

“It was here that I learned to become confident. … I was saying yes to God, but I was very shy. I was a scaredy cat.”

Dawson and others rattled off stories of young people who found their calling through the workshop and went on to pursue careers in ministry, music or both.

“What starts here is kind of like a ripple effect down through the ages,” Dawson said.

Karen Forrester of First UMC in Bainbridge, Ga., credited the workshop with inspiring a desire in her son, now 22, to become a worship leader. She said the friendly atmosphere and setting of the Florida workshop keep adults and children from her church coming back.

When the church first decided to invest in improving its music ministry a few years ago, participants tried a training event at the Lake Junaluska retreat center, the hub of the Southeastern Jurisdiction for The United Methodist Church. 

Dr. David Cherwien directs the tenor section to chime in
Dr. David Cherwien directs the tenor section of the adult choir to start singing during a rehearsal of "Ain't That Good News" at the Florida Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts workshop.

“It was too overwhelming,” Forrester said. “We just started coming here.”

Hayley Welsh, 11, who came with the Christ Presbyterian group, said the rural, woodsy setting of the Life Enrichment Center helps foster a deeper spiritual experience.

“I have a closer relationship with God than I would at home,” she said. She pointed to a wall in the dining hall that boasted a mural and scripture and added, “Everything here has to do with God.”

Blake Justice, 12, and Rosie Pena, 11, also from Christ Presbyterian, said getting away from the everyday hubbub of life improves concentration and inspires a better performance.

“I really like how it’s in the wilderness, and you can see all the beautiful stuff God has made for you to live in,” Rosie said.

In addition to music workshops, the event featured worship led by Revs. Chris Sanders and Charissa Jaeger-Sanders of Christ UMC, Neptune Beach. Jaeger-Sanders, an ordained deacon, is the founder of Grace Works Studio, a ministry that helps people connect with God through artistic expression.

FitzGerald said the fellowship is funded through proceeds from the workshop and other donations. The Florida chapter is the largest and one of the oldest in the national Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. For information on the Florida chapter, visit www.floridafellowship.org or contact FitzGerald at half_note@verizon.net.

Check out the videos below for a sampling of rehearsals, worship and other activities at the workshop. 


Below, Dr. David Cherwien directs the adult choir in a rehearsal of "Standing in the Need of Prayer." Videos by Susan Green, edited by Don Youngs.

 

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

 

Monday - July 7, 2014
For the Sake of the Bride: Restoring the Church to Her Intended Beauty

Frustrated and broken-hearted over the acrimonious debates and shouting matches in our beloved United Methodist Church regarding the one issue of homosexuality, Dr. Steve Harper felt compelled to write ”For the Sake of the Bride: Restoring the Church to Her Intended Beauty”--compelled by the love of Christ.  And, this spirit of love and grace pervades the book.

I have known Steve Harper for more than 40 years, and we have been "soul friends" for at least 20.  I know his heart.  I have seen the fruit of his ministry in the lives of scores, no, hundreds, of seminary students who have been shaped more fully into the likeness of Christ because of Steve's teaching and living.  He lives and writes out of a deep sense of prayer.

In “For the Sake of the Bride,” Steve takes us with him on his journey through Scripture, our Wesleyan tradition and to the wisdom of his (and, for many of us, our) mentor, E. Stanley Jones.

Jones, a 20th century Methodist Christian missionary in India, used “Round Table” conferences where people from various religions and viewpoints were brought together not to discuss creeds or to argue positions, but to share what they had learned of God through personal experience.  The objective was for participants to listen to one another in mutual respect, while being prepared to be open about what God meant to them personally.*

Looking for a way forward through the strident impasse that blocks the vision of so many on this one issue, Steve centers his reflections on the Round Table approach that helped "Brother Stanley" in his mission work in India.

Journeying with E. Stanley’s approach, Steve's book is an attempt to restore "Christlikeness to the Center" of everything--particularly the discussions around the topic of homosexuality--rather than various sides or factions or camps or culturally accommodated expressions of Christianity.

We come to the Round Table with faith, hope and love; faith that God is with us, hope that God will lead us to a better place together, and love that treats each one at the table with respect, grace and love.

And, meeting at the Round Table is done with the highest integrity and respect for each other and each other’s point of view.  Each must be given the courtesy of being taken seriously, which Steve, indeed, does.

So, now, having "set the table," Steve invites us to engage in a Round Table discussion of seven questions, all related to homosexuality and the Church.  Steve is courageous enough--and respectful enough--to state where he currently stands. This is vitally important for the Round Table approach to have validity: one must share openly a "current standing" in order to be truly open to the best presentations of the others at the table.  Steve does this with grace; my prayer is that all the rest of us will, as well.

The seven key questions Steve raises in “For the Sake of the Bride” are THE questions of our day:

  1. Is homosexuality a sin?
  2. Can two people who are homosexual fall in love the same way that two people who are heterosexual do?
  3. Can there be such a thing as gay 'marriage'?
  4. Has the Christian church ever condoned homosexual marriage?
  5.  Should clergy be allowed to perform same-sex marriages?
  6. What about ordaining homosexuals to be clergy?
  7. How are we to deal with the consequences of a North American decision in other countries and cultures?

The reader may or may not agree with where Steve comes down on any or all of the questions, but that probably isn't the point.  The point is that the reader stays at the table, continues in respectful conversation with Steve and others, praying and trusting that God will lead us all--together, in the spirit of unity--to a way forward; and, just possibly, yes, even miraculously, to demonstrate to the world that the Church, after all, can function differently--in the most excellent way--than the world.

The temptation will be, especially with an issue as highly charged as homosexuality, to agree or disagree with Steve's position. Then, if one disagrees, to criticize or even vilify Steve, which is far easier than doing the hard work of staying at the table.

With Steve, I believe that schism and "amiable separation" are not of God, that unity is near to the heart of Jesus (John 17).  Steve's book is a giant step forward in meeting at the Round Table and helping our United Methodist Church find a way to sustain the Spirit of Unity by living the Way of Love.

Rev. Dan Johnson is the senior pastor at Trinity UMC in Gainesville, Fla.

* Courtesy of E. Stanley Jones Foundation, www.estanleyjonesfoundation.com.


 

Monday - July 7, 2014
Lockmiller awards fuel vital church ministries
Camp Hope participants in front of Freedom UMC, Waldo
Summer programs like Camp Hope at Freedom UMC near Waldo keep youngsters fed and engaged in fun, educational activities. Photo from Freedom UMC.

WALDO – Camp Hope is living up to its name.

Nearly 30 children, ages 6 to 16, are enjoying a month of summer fun that likely would not happen except for dedicated church volunteers and a $2,000 award from the Alice W. Lockmiller grant program.

The jam-packed schedule of activities from June 16 through July 24 includes Bible study, fishing, swimming, movies, skating, arts and crafts, an animal-rescue zoo, games and basketball. And for the first time, campers will take a field trip to the beach and sing in a choir.

"It would be so hard to do this because the church and the community just don't have the funds," says Rev. Mary Jackson, pastor at Freedom UMC near Waldo and Greater Bell UMC, Brooker.

Every year churches and ministries like Camp Hope receive a helping hand through the Lockmiller grant program, which is administered by the Florida Conference from funds managed by the Florida United Methodist Foundation. Cash incentives from $500 to $2,000 are awarded to programs that focus on at-risk children and families, with an emphasis on eradicating hunger.

This year, $2,000 was given to each of 10 churches for summer feeding programs, school supplies, day care supplies, education enrichment, parenting skills education and physical recreation. First UMC, Fort Meade, received a $1,000 grant for a summer feeding program. And, for the first time, $2,000 was given for scholarships to enable young clergy to attend Florida Advocacy Days, an annual event in Tallahassee when Florida Methodists participate in Florida Children's Week.

The grants are distributed from a charitable trust honoring the legacy of Lockmiller, a lifelong Methodist who donated to many causes and ministries during her life. She died in 2007. The conference Global Missions and Justice Committee oversees the program.

Children of various ethnicities eating lunch
The annual Lockmiller grant awards to churches and ministries are intended to further children's education by providing food and learning opportunities.

For First UMC, Deland, the $2,000 grant will be an opportunity to expand the children's ministry.

In July, the church will launch a special respite care program for at least 20 families of developmentally disabled children, ages 5 to 16. Many of the children have been diagnosed with autism.

"We understand it will have to have a rolling start," says ministry volunteer Amy Filson, whose background is in nonprofit management. "Twenty is our goal, 20 plus. We're targeting a wide group. It's all developmental disabilities."

About 25 church members of all ages will serve as volunteers who will give parents and caregivers "A Night on the Town" to go out and do something fun, such as dinner and a movie. Or they can choose to relax at home while volunteers provide child care.

Also, the ministry will hold four "Crowd Parenting" workshops to increase awareness about resources available in the community. The first workshop will be "Three to One," based on a concept of providing three positives for every negative.

Filson is organizing the workshop, along with Mimi Lundell, executive director of The Chase Academy, a school for children with autism, and staff members of the Applied Behavior Center for Autism.

The Lockmiller grant will pay for printed handouts, refreshments and arts and crafts supplies.

"It's going to build a sense of community and demonstrate the church's responsibility to meet their unique needs," Filson says. "We're all God's children, and we have to adapt and provides services to everyone."

The training and skills that volunteers receive are transferable to day-to-day experiences in the community, Filson says.

"It will teach what are the appropriate things to say and do. It's the idea of awareness. We're just really grateful for this opportunity to fill this need in our community."

At Freedom UMC, Jackson feels blessed to bring Camp Hope each year to a community where many families have scarce resources. This is the camp's third summer.

But she says, "This is the first time we've been able to use two buses. Last year we had one bus and I put some kids in my car. Transportation is a big problem, and the cost of gas."

About eight volunteers help out. This year, campers are putting together a wooden tool box from pre-cut pieces that they sand, glue together and paint. During the week there are $1 movies and $2 swims at a local pool, all paid with grant money. Other activities include fishing at Newnan's Lake, east of Gainesville.

"We made bamboo fishing poles," Jackson says.

At the end of camp, there usually is a trip to a nearby water park.

For the first time, campers not only have Bible study but they are forming a choir. Also, a University of Florida student is working with some campers to improve their reading skills.
 
Amid the fun, Jackson says there are rewards not only for campers but also the volunteers.

"It's knowing that if we didn't provide this time for the kids, some of them would be walking the streets and getting in trouble," she says.

"We feel good knowing we have a safe environment for the children, that they are learning and they are children of Jesus. We hope we are making a difference in their lives."

Below are the other 2014 Lockmiller grant recipients, each receiving $2,000:

• DeLeon Springs UMC, Jacksonville, for a food pantry program;
• Ebenezer UMC, Jacksonville, to feed children during the summer;
• Forrest Hills Hispanic UMC, Quincy, for school supplies;
• First UMC, Bonita Springs, for summer camp supplies and transportation;
• First UMC, Dunnellon, for camp scholarships for special needs children;
• First UMC, Port St. Lucie, for Sarah’s Kitchen feeding program;
• Joining Hands Mission Church, Holiday, for family transportation needs;
• Sisters Helping Sisters in Need, Gainesville, for an afterschool program.
 

-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.

Thursday - July 3, 2014
Building a trail and a community in Boone

I don’t know what else I know about leadership, but I know this: I believe in the generative power of creative friendship.

Here’s what I mean. When I first arrived at Boone United Methodist in 2011, I tried to get to know the campus ministers in our North Carolina town right away. After all, revivals historically break out on campuses, and I come from academia. Plus, campus ministers keep me in cool music.

I hit it off right away with Eric Heistand, the campus minister at Appalachian State University who works with the Cru (formerly Campus Crusade). We share a love for Tim Keller’s work on the church’s calling to bless the city -- in Keller’s case, New York.

Photos courtesy Bigstock

We wondered together whether that approach could work in Boone, our university town of 18,000 permanent residents and 17,000 students.

“I tell you what a church in this town ought to do,” he said. “Build a trail up Howard’s Knob.”

Howard’s Knob is the highest peak in Boone. It features a county park with breathtaking views of the valley, great spots for hanging hammocks and space for students to just be. If you’ve seen our local outdoor drama about Daniel Boone, “Horn in the West,” you know that Widow Howard is one of the main characters. I’ll let you guess where she lived.

The hairpin-curve road up to the park is a wonder, but it’s not hiking-friendly. The outdoor community has always wanted a way to hike up Boone’s greatest peak.

I searched through the mental database of my congregation and found that our church owns some 50 acres up Howard’s Knob, on the side away from town. It has a conservation easement on it, so we can’t develop it, and the donors who gave it had suggested we build a trail on it.

“I think we could do that,” I told Eric.

That was two years ago. Eric subsequently joined our church and became the Sunday school teacher of our fastest-growing class, mostly filled with 30- to 40-somethings with small kids.

He marshaled this group, along with others, for the trail-building project. They began digging the trail with energy I thought not possible among the minivan set.

Our kids joined the effort as well, learning to wield exotic tools like fire rakes and Pulaskis. They’ve dug once a week, and sometimes twice, and invited friends from school to help.

The trail-building crew has included folks beyond our church community. Blue Ridge Conservancy has directed the whole thing as part of their mission to protect local wild spaces. Our neighbors have pitched in. Fraternities, sororities and athletic teams from App State have dug trail and trained on the thing. We’ve had volunteers as old as 80-plus and as young as 2.

Some who’d never find themselves inside a church have found themselves outside it, doing hard manual labor together to create something designed to bless our town.

The Boone United Trail has become the kind of project that Andy Crouch, following Keller, calls “a counterculture for the common good.”

We recently inaugurated the trail with bounce houses, free trail mix (bless you, Earth Fare) and barbecue (bless you, Kickin’ Mule). We expected 300 people and had north of 400, including town council members, chamber of commerce leaders and friends we’ve never met who came for the party.

We’re far from done -- one extra loop needs digging, and the whole thing needs fortifying. But we have digging volunteers we never had before. And after two years of investment, Eric and his fellow trail bosses will see the thing through. Boone has its newest hiking trail.

Our slogan for it has been “Welcome to our backyard.”

It hasn’t all been easy, of course. Some neighbors have feared we would reduce their property value (although research shows that trails actually have the opposite effect). And getting volunteers to dig through rock can be a challenge.

Eric’s fellow trail boss, Scott St. Clair, at one point found that he was struggling to extend his arms as he examined kids in his pediatrics practice. His own doctor asked him, “Have you been doing lots of manual labor for some reason?” Scott said no and then thought, “Oh yeah, I’ve been digging up a mountain.”

We can’t actually get to the top. Howard’s Knob Park is tantalizingly close, but there remains private property between our easement and the park. Yet for all the challenges, the fruit has been real -- 2.7 miles of a lollipop trail that rises 600 feet and will give your legs a workout. Your soul, too.

Some might wonder why a church would bother with a trail. We have enough projects to tackle within the church, Lord knows. And besides, isn’t building a trail more of a civic-do-gooder sort of thing?

But we see it as a way of blessing our town, of showing that we love what our community loves, of getting us in new relationships with folks we’d never have met otherwise, of making our backyard theirs.

My predecessor John Fitzgerald spoke of seeing prayer mountains on a pilgrimage to Korea -- places of prayer that have fueled revival in that country. Why not here? Big God-things happen on mountains: Abraham’s near sacrifice, Moses’ and Elijah’s meetings with God, Jesus’ most famous sermon, his ascension. We can’t say in advance what will happen on ours, but we expect to be changed by it.

We can say it’s a lot easier to get up the mountain in our backyard now. And we expect strangers to meet on it and become friends, friends to gather on it and meet God, and everyone who walks up it to come down changed.

Creative friendship births things that otherwise would not have existed. It’s not easy, but it is profoundly good.

Courtesy of Faith & Leadership, www.faithandleadership.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position and the policy of the Florida Conference.

Wednesday - July 2, 2014
An Independence Day prayer

Lord God Almighty, you have set us free to joyfully serve you. Grant us a heart for peace with justice, and strength with patience.

We are also mindful today of those who are not free in mind, body or spirit. We pray for their needs as well.

Thank you, O Lord, for your grace and mercy in our midst.  Help us use our freedom to glorify you and build your kingdom, which is founded on hope.

We pray all these things in Jesus' name,

Amen

Blogs
Tuesday - August 5, 2014
faithHighway offers great free guides

faithHighway offers numerous church tools which help the local church in growing their congregation and connecting with their communities in powerful ways.  The "Social Media and the Church" e-book is full of great ideas and tips, and they also have e-books on creating great websites and church marketing ideas.

You can check out the free e-books at www.faithhighway.com.

Tuesday - July 29, 2014
Social media: To schedule or not?

By Steve Fogg

As the use of social media by churches becomes more common, a debate is raging: Should you schedule your social media posts or not?

For the anti-scheduling camp, the very nature of scheduling social media is like pre-recording a message for a dinner party and expecting everyone to want to talk to you.

For the pro-scheduling camp it’s a no brainer. Why wouldn’t you?

Click here for the pro-scheduling and anti-scheduling arguments.  Courtesy of www.churchmarketingsucks.com.

Tuesday - July 22, 2014
Vision is Viral

An interview by Kevin D. Hendricks

Justin Wise is ready to help the church get social. He’s been a social media pioneer and just released his new book, The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication. If you’re looking for a practical, how-to guide to social media for your church, this is not it. Instead this is an exploration of the why of social media.

We asked Justin a few questions about churches getting social:

What does a social church look like?

Justin Wise: A social church speaks the language of the culture. Simply put, our society is moving more and more online. A social church heeds the words of Jesus when he says “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” Social church takes into account the communication preferences of others before their own comfort level. A social church has the mindset that says “we are in a dialogue now.” The monologue status the church has enjoyed for decades is gone.

How can churches get started in social media? What’s a good first step?

Justin: The best way to get started with social is to understand what you want to accomplish with social media. And this really goes beyond “we want to have more Facebook likes” or “we want to have more followers on Twitter.” It’s knowing who you are as an organization, what you want to accomplish and then building a strategy for how social media can help you get there.

So, for instance, if a church doesn’t have goals, if a church doesn’t know what the finish line is that they are running toward—social media is not going to be helpful; in fact, it is going to be a detriment to that church. So really the first step in social is understanding who you are as an organization, what you want to accomplish and what your values are. And from there building a social media strategy on top of that.

I know that sounds a bit abstract but it’s really the best way to get started. Social media will just make a poor vision fail faster. Social media has a fantastic way of exploiting weaknesses and exploiting organizations without a vision, without an overarching purpose for their work. So the first step in getting started is to know who you are as an organization, what’s your big idea, what you want to accomplish and what your goals are. And then build a social media strategy that helps support those goals.

Click here to read the rest of the interview with social media guru Justin Wise, courtesy of www.churchmarketingsucks.com. The opinions are those of the author/interviewer and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

 

Friday - July 18, 2014
Making Disciples in a Postmodern World

 

All authority has been given to me, Jesus says.  Therefore go and make disciples.  Someone noted a generation ago that “disciples are made, not born.”   And thus the Christian life is always a process, a journey, a new creation.  To keep going we need disciplines.  The call gets us started.  The disciplines keep us going.  There is a connection, between what we hear from God, and how we respond to what we have heard.  Is there a resonance between the call from God, the call to others and our way of life?  Is it real?

 

Sometimes the answer is no.

 

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom (7.21).  

 

But at other times, and with the help of God, the answer is yes.

 

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, Jesus says, is like a wise woman who builds her house on the rock.  (7. 24)

 

The call and the disciplined life we see most clearly in Jesus.  Matthew tells us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the people were amazed, “because Jesus taught them as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (7. 29) 

 

What does it mean to teach with authority?  That is an intriguing question in our postmodern world.  In a modern world, we could convince skeptics to believe through the brilliance of our arguments: this was C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict.  But in a postmodern world, authority is derived from something quite different: not the compelling nature of our argument, but the degree to which our words resonate with our lives.  

 

He taught them as one who had authority.  Jesus had the form of godliness, but he also had the power. The power fueled his mission: to make disciples.  And so we too are called to make disciples, sent to make disciples, of all nations, even the gentiles.  Go not just to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, Jesus says (15. 24); that had been his mission, but now it expands. 

 

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  The Trinitarian doctrines had not been worked out at this stage in the early church, but the names had meaning nonetheless.  Surely the disciples would have known the story of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3, which comes just prior to his calling them to follow in Matthew 4.

 

The voice of the Father—an affirming, blessing voice.

 

The descent of the Dove—an empowering, encouraging sign;

 

The obedience of the Son—who hears, who stands in the waters for us and for all who would come later.

 

And so we baptize in order to bless, to affirm, to empower, to point toward future obedience.  Baptize, Jesus says, and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. 

 

We teach, primarily, from the scriptures, and we obey as we learn to listen to them.  There is a linguistic connection between the words obedience and auditory.  To obey is to listen.  In the present moment, this is the fundamental practice of discipleship.  And as leaders, lay and clergy, we can carry this one step farther.  We read the Bible in a context.  Martin Luther helped us to struggle with the relationship between the Bible and the Church. In his own time, he felt, the church had become captive to a culture of greed and had missed the core message of grace. This has been a rediscovery of the church throughout history. John Wesley as a young adult was caught in the grip of trying to please God as a missionary; he failed at this and returned to his home in London. And then he describes this experience:

 

“In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

 

I will let you in on a secret, if you promise not to share it too widely: the church is a fallible institution, and throughout history the church has been on the wrong side of justice and even the will of God.  A catholic historian gave this analysis of the church in Luther’s day:

 

Night fell on the German church, a night that grew darker and darker…amongst the common people, a fearful decline in true spiritual practice into religious materialism and morbid hysteria; amongst the clergy, both lower and higher, widespread worldliness and neglect of duty; and amongst the very Shepherds of the Church, demonic ambition and sacrilegious perversion of holy things.”

 

But God is never without witnesses. Men and women of conscience have come along----Martin Luther and John Wesley, Sojourner Truth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa,  Oscar Romero and who knows, maybe even Pope Francis—as witnesses to truths that had been buried in the ground, like treasure hidden in a  field and waiting to be rediscovered.

 

And so the church is always in dialogue with the Bible. As Karl Barth, the great theologian insisted, “the church is always being reformed according to the word of God”.   Luther’s reformation had the effect of placing the scriptures in our hands, urging us to read them, for the formation of our consciences.   For the Christian who is engaged with the world, this is discipleship.  And it is not that this supplies us with all of the answers:  instead, as a fellow bishop friend often says, we are forced to “enter into the agony of our own decisions.”

 

This is what is asked of the church, in every generation:  that we engage in the interpretation of all that Jesus commands—to seek the reign of God, to love one another as he has has loved us, to announce the forgiveness of sins, in his name, to make the cross visible, costly grace, but grace still, demand and gift.

 

For the one who challenged:

 

unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will not enter the Kingdom of God (5. 29) 

 

also comforted:

 

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…my yoke is easy and my burden is light (11. 29).

 

We believe in the grace of Jesus Christ, a free gift, and yet a grace that calls for a lifelong disciplined response.  Here, it seems to me, our two traditions (Lutheran and Wesleyan) have much to teach each other.  It is a wonderful gift to be a member of the body of Christ, and to be in full communion an extraordinary sign of that.  At the same time it is inherently demanding, because it is the way of the cross.  And yet along that costly way there is a glimmer of light, contained in the promise:  I am with you always.

 

Tom Long, in his commentary on Matthew, gets it right:

 

There was only one word that could have prevented them from collapsing with laughter or racing away in fear at the enormity of the mission, only one word that could have strengthened their resolve and sent them out to the vast and forbidding world carrying only the gospel, and that was the word that Jesus spoke:  

 

Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

 

The early Christians, Mortimer Arias writes, had lost their missionary nerve.  Matthew’s community was not a utopia.  The weeds and the wheat were growing up together, the bad threatening to choke the good (13. 34).  There were false prophets and people who misrepresented themselves, hypocrites who were not what they seemed to be.  They needed the clarity and confidence as they engaged the culture.  They needed to remember what that meant for themselves and for the world.  In the life of Jesus, and in his last words, they were reminded of a call, a disciplined life, a witness, a teaching.  We need these reminders.  

 

A part of what it must mean to be in full communion with one another is to say, “we will remind each other of the common sources—grace, faith, discipleship”.  And when we struggle to live the Christian life, or even to make Christ visible in the world, when we lose our way, we are confessing, “we need to be reminded”.

 

The disciples heard the call of Jesus in their lives and they must have asked the question, “ how could they possibly do all that God was calling them to do?”  Then they remembered the promise.   My preaching professor at Duke Divinity School, Rick Lischer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian, would insist that no sermon should end without an announcement of the good news.  Here it is.  They remembered the promise:

 

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

 

It turns out, that was all they needed.

It turns out that is all we need.

 

Or, as your tradition teaches so profoundly:

 

I did nothing.  The word did it all!

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

 

Sources:  Mortimer Arias and Alan Johnson, The Great Commission; Thomas Long, Matthew (Westminster Bible Companion); Martin Marty, A Short History of Christianity; Albert Outler, ed., John Wesley.

Tuesday - July 15, 2014
Book review: Rewired by Brandon Cox

By Karen Shay-Kubiak

Brandon Cox was a pastor at Saddleback Church and recently planted a Saddleback daughter church in Arkansas. He also oversees the content and online community of Pastors.com and Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox. He was tweeting before it was cool and was the editor of the site fuelyourblogging.com. With his feet in both worlds—ministry and social media—he brings a unique perspective to the discussion about social media in the church.

The first part of Rewired provides an overview of the evolution of church communication. Cox makes the provocative claim that “God invented social media,” then does a good job of substantiating it by demonstrating how God has paved the way throughout history for the good news to spread like wildfire.

The first part of Rewired provides an overview of the evolution of church communication. Cox makes the provocative claim that “God invented social media,” then does a good job of substantiating it by demonstrating how God has paved the way throughout history for the good news to spread like wildfire.

The author pleads with church communicators to be agents of change—to “rewire” the way we do ministry and embrace the values of a social media-saturated culture. Values like authenticity, compassion for others and generosity are not only today’s communication reality; they are evidence of Christ among us.

The second part of Rewired further addresses philosophy and why we need to engage the world via social media. Cox asserts that it’s the mission of the church to engage: “It is impossible to fulfill the Great Commission as Jesus gave it without engaging the culture around us.”

Section three, “The ‘How’ of Social Media,” was where I found the real meat. Cox has a number of great suggestions for maximizing technology—including blogs, websites, mobile web and apps, as well as Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

“Part of flooding the online space with God’s glory and with the gospel of Jesus is making sure the gospel is given a great deal of attention next to all the other stories being told. This has been our mission since the beginning, and we now have more tools than ever for getting it done,” says Cox.

He addresses the importance of voice, brand, good design, usability and mobile technology, with specific examples of each.

There were two things I particularly liked about Rewired.

1.  It’s a mix of “how” and “why.” Many of the books I’ve read on social media and the church are one or the other: either a Facebook and Twitter handbook, or a rationale for considering whether to engage at all. This book covers both.

2.  It includes excellent reflection questions at the end of each chapter. The questions made me consider personal application and I wrestled with some important questions. This would make a great book study for a communications team or group of social media volunteers.

In summary, if you (or your senior pastor) are still not sure whether to engage in social media or why you even should, the first two-thirds of the book will convince you. If you’re already sold on using social media in your church’s communications—and are the type who enjoys eating dessert before dinner—you may want to skip ahead and read part three first. Either way, if you’re a church communicator, Rewired is well worth your time.

The book review's opinions are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference. Courtesy of www.churchmarketingsucks.com. 

Tuesday - July 8, 2014
The FBI hasTwitter slang cheat sheet

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com

Hey, kids. You on Twitter? Sure you are. Well, guess what. The FBI is on Twitter too. Oh, yeah. They know all about you and Twitter. With your hashtags and what-not. And guess what else: You're not going to be able to fool the FBI with your cool little slang words any more, because the FBI has an 83-page (eighty-three page!) manual on what all the Twitter slang words are, and they're not afraid to use them in the quest for justice. Some of them are obvious, like SMH and SRSLY. A few are a little less common, like TOTM (Time of the month) and BYTM (better you than me).

And then there are some Twitter slang words that make you wonder if someone is pranking the FBI. It's a little hard to believe there's a huge demand for slang like EOTWAWKI (“End of the world as we know it”) and IITYWTMWYBMAD (“If I tell you what this means will you buy me a drink?”) but who knows what the kids are up to on Twitter these days? We'll tell you who knows: The FBI. You can read the full document here ...

Monday - July 7, 2014
A Catholic Spirit Reconsidered

 

I served as a pastor of local churches for twenty-eight years.  Over that time I would occasionally notice the absence of a formerly active parishioner, and a thought would cross my mind: I wonder where that family has been lately? I would then encounter her at the athletic field, or him in a grocery store, and we would  begin to have an inevitably awkward conversation. There would be an awkward pause, and then a brief conversation.  “We’ve decided to find another church”, they would tell me.  And then the reasons for leaving would unfold: a contentious relationship, an unpopular social position, an unmet expectation in worship, a judgment—harsh or restrained—about someone’s morality.  

 

In a culture that teaches us to self-identify according to real or perceived preferences, I understood. And yet, as a pastor, I always hoped for something more. Now, as a bishop, this drama is repeated on a larger stage. The situation involves the expectations of clergy and laity, movements and obstacles related to justice and the desire to be unshackled from institutions, even as those same institutions supply the resources we want, need and have come to expect. 
 

I’ve read the literature on our need for community—in a book like Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone— and the powerful forces that undermine it—in Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart. I have experienced the joy of unity and the beauty of diversity. And I have known their painful absence.   

 

So what motivates us to live in community? And whatever might inspire us to stay in community, or remain as one denomination, as a United Methodist Church, alongside those who hold starkly different positions than us on matters that are of  such great importance?


   A helpful source for us, as followers of Jesus, is his parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt 13:24-30). We sometimes yearn for a vineyard that would be more holy, just, or pure if those with whom we have conflict are no longer present. There was evidently a temptation in the early church among the Zealots or the Pharisees or in the Qumran community to define communal discipline by weeding out “followers of the evil one.” In Jesus’ teaching, we are urged not to undertake any kind of weeding out or uprooting. This is finally and in time the work of God. In the vivid image of Jesus’s parable, we grow together, wheat and weeds, in the church. This is a call to live together, patiently aware of our own imperfections and those of others. At times we live together in the midst of an experience that is moderately discomforting; and at other times, our relationships are strained by matters that go to the core or who we are and who we aspire to be.  

 

In our denomination, the matter that is most divisive is the conversation around human sexuality, which is at times framed as an issue and more often lived in family and parish relationships. I should insist here that I am not characterizing the straight person as the wheat and the gay and lesbian person as the weed, or progressives as the wheat and conservatives as the weeds, or vice-versa! I am reminded of the wisdom of the Nobel Laureate Alexandre Solzhenitsyn: 

 

                            "The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.

  To say that the wheat and the weeds grow within each of us is to acknowledge our acceptance of grace and our need for confession. The warning about removing the weeds from the wheat is not to become passive or complacent. Rather, in removing the weeds, we will also uproot the wheat. How does one speak out of conviction about one aspect of a person’s life, without doing harm to him or her, or to a family? None of us is one-dimensional, and none of us can be reduced to any issue! If we can be reduced to any common experience, it is surely our need for the grace of God.   

 

To add complexity, the seed (God’s word) speaks differently to each of us, and the shallowness of a local church’s soil can be a function of the desire to be relevant or the steady stream of messages in the social media that distort the still, small Voice. Most leaders in our denomination would agree that we are not in a place that positions us for the substantive conversation that is so often needed. Contributing factors to this environmental condition are the lack of deep spiritual formation in many congregations, inadequate theological formation of youth and their parents, weakening denominational infrastructures (support for camps, campus ministries, church-related colleges and theological schools), a market economy whose mobility diminishes  long-term, trust-filled relationships and a surrounding culture that is increasingly secular, materialistic and individualistic. 

 

The difficulty in having a mature conversation around issues of human sexuality (or racial profiling or “stand your ground” laws or immigration) is shaped in part by the shallowness of our spirituality, the weakness of our congregational life, and the fragmentation of our communities, and now, it seems, our denomination.    

And so we are tempted to flee from those who challenge us. The “homogeneous unit principle,” which came in for ridicule in the church-growth movement, turns out to define us when we simply want to hang out with people who think, vote, pray, and behave like us. This may not be a conscious decision. It simply requires less energy to stay in our own small tribes!  

 

And yet, perhaps we hope for something more. And yes, perhaps the Gospels call us toward the creation of something better. So we live together, wheat and weeds.  The church is never a static institution.  It is always changing.  At its best, the church is a kind of “greenhouse” where we are planted, cultivated, pruned, and thus transformed. To live together is a gift of grace, to remain in a real church in a local context, and not in Bonhoeffer’s description of the community that is our “wish dream”.  It is to participate in the means of grace with other sinners who are also invited to the gospel feast. This is an essential activity in our maturing as disciples until the harvest where God is both a gracious and just redeemer. So we discern, judge, and evaluate; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in a sermon on this parable, “while we have to judge, there is a judgment beyond our judgment, and there are fulfillments beyond our fulfillments”. 

The practices of humility and patience, from a human point of view, can seem somewhat passive and even indifferent, particularly when the energies that flow toward opposing convictions threaten to fracture the community.  And yet, we trust in the slow and steady shaping of providence, we hope for what we do not see, and we “grow side by side until the harvest” (Matt 13:20).  

 

So back to the church and human sexuality.  I would encourage Christians who cannot accept those in our communities who identify as gays and lesbians, in orientation or in practice, to place the judgment of them (and all of us) in God’s hands. As the Apostle Paul asks in Romans 8:34, “Who is in a position to condemn?” And I would encourage gay and lesbian Christians to be patient with their brothers and sisters in the church who have not walked their journey. This is not a justification for continued injustice. And yet it is also true that sexuality itself is a mysterious, complicated, and emotionally-charged subject. Rational conversation and dialogue will emerge only if those who disagree come to the table hearing the admonition of James: “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry” (James 1).  I am encouraged that some are seeking to recover the model of E. Stanley Jone’s roundtable in India, which held the conviction that “God is trying to speak to us, and God will use all of us to construct that message”. 

As Methodists, we have understood this to be our way of life, with God and with each other.  In “The Character of a Methodist,” John Wesley commented that “as to all opinions that do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” And in “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection,” he insists that “orthodoxy, or right opinions, is at best a slender part of religion, if it can be allowed to be any part at all.” His sermon on the “Catholic Spirit” is focused around a question and an answer taken from 2 Kings 10:15 (KJV): “Is your heart right with my heart? . . .  If it is, then give me your hand.” Wesley’s interpretation of this verse of scripture is worthy of our reflection:  

 

 “If it is, give me your hand.” I do not mean, “Be of my opinion.” You need not. I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, “I will be of your opinion.” I cannot; it does not depend on my choice. I can no more think than I can see or hear as I will. Keep you your opinion; I mine, and that as steady as ever. You need not endeavor to come over to me or bring me over to you. I do not desire to dispute those points or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other: only, “give me your hand.” 

He likens the catholic spirit to the universal spirit or universal love, and concludes:  

 

“lastly, love me not in word only but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience you can (retaining still your own opinions and your own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand.”   

 

Join with me in the work of God!

 

    Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Tom Langford, one of my professors at Duke Divinity School and a resident of this community, addressed the Council of Bishops in a lecture entitled “Grace Upon Grace”.  His theological exploration led, in the end, to the question of homosexuality.  He speaks of a grace which is “the reach of God even to those who are alienated from God”, he interprets the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (Jesus thou art all compassion!) and I Corinthians 13 (grace bears, believes, hopes, endures all things, and grace never fails).  And then we concludes with a dialogue between this grace and the issue of homosexuality and same sex marriage.  

 

He cautions us to begin with humility, noting that each side of the debate “often claim the moral high ground”.   He then invites us to “quiet down, recognize the awesomeness of God’s grace and be humble”.  This humility grants us the time and space to seek God’s will, which is imperative for a matter with such complexity.  He writes:


“The issue is so complex that it cannot be quickly resolved.  Perhaps United Methodism can become the exception and await the guidance of God.  It may be that in the end we shall not reach consensus.  It may be that we shall not be held together in the Body of Christ by agreement, but by love.”

And then he notes that there is precedence for such a time of waiting, praying and being in relationship with one another.  He mentions other moral issues on which Christians do not agree, among them war, divorce and abortion.  He then concludes:

“If we can stay together, it may be only with tension and disagreement over the nature and implications of homosexuality to separate the Body of Christ.  If we can stay together, it may be only with tension and disagreement, but until we know more and understand the will of God better, we may by grace have to learn to live with fellow Christians who disagree with us.”

 

So we grow together, the wheat and the weeds.  Every now and then, in the first century or in the twenty-first century, we have an impulse to uproot and purify the community, to surround ourselves with those who resemble our own vision of where God is leading us.  It is a natural human impulse.  Jesus must have sensed it, in his own community, and so he gave the disciples and us, a parable.   

 

“Let the weeds grow a little higher”, Jesus says to us.  It makes no sense, in morality or in agriculture, and yet, in the Kingdom of God, it is the higher way.  “In uprooting the weeds you will do harm to the wheat.  In destroying what you perceive to be evil in your neighbor, you will do harm to the community and to yourself.” 

 

So whatever might motivate us or inspire us to live in community?  I think this is precisely why Jesus taught this parable, why John Wesley reflected on the “Catholic spirit”, why Tom Langford struggled with the Council of Bishops, fifteen years ago in his lecture, why the question emerges in these days.  

 

There is no grand answer, but there is guidance for us:  

 

 We let the weeds grow a little higher,   trusting in the providence of God.  We let the weeds grow a little higher,  remembering that the Lord is our judge.  We let the weeds grow a little higher,  grateful for the patience of the One  who has begun a good work in us,  and, the scripture promises, will be faithful to complete it.  Amen.  

 

Sources:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.  Thomas Langford, “Grace Upon Grace”, Vision and Supervision.  Reinhold Niebuhr, “The Wheat and the Tares”, Justice and Mercy.  John Wesley, “A Catholic Spirit”, “The Character of a Methodist”, and “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”.    

+In grateful memory of Dr. Thomas Langford of Duke Divinity School.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday - July 1, 2014
7 things every pastor should do every week on social media

By Rich Birch | Courtesy www.churchleaders.com

67 percent of adults use social media regularly. [Study]

If two-thirds of your church showed up to a meeting every week, would you want to use that meeting to communicate with them? If that percentage of folks in your community came to an event in your town next week, would you want to find a way to use that platform to reach people? 

Church leaders that ignore social media are missing a significant channel for reaching people in their community.

You might be hindering God’s work in your church because you aren’t posting enough status updates!

Social media is simply a way for you to connect with people and get to know them better.

Do you want to build relationships with your people? These networks are amazing platforms for spreading ideas and concepts.

Surely you want more people to connect with the message of Jesus? Social networking allows a leader to leverage more influence faster than so many communication platforms in the past.

Do you believe God is asking you to influence this generation?

Click here for seven simple and straight forward tasks that every pastor looking to connect through social media needs to do every week.

 

Tuesday - June 24, 2014
Review: how to use social media effectively

By Jay Caruso | Courtesy churchleaders.com

 

So is social media effective for a Church? It can be, but in most cases, it probably isn’t. The shocking reality is that I bet most Churches know that their Facebook page isn’t producing anything, that is, except an image.

I agree that in most cases it is not effective. The question, however, is:

Why isn’t social media effective?

It’s often not effective because it is implemented and executed poorly. If done right, people will engage, and it can be more successful at keeping people informed than any church bulletin.

The goal for this post is to focus on three separate tools for social media, highlighting the mistakes Churches make using them and providing the effective measures. I hope this guide will help you and your church to create a successful implementation or relaunch.

But first, it should be made clear who the audience is.

It’s simple:

1. Church Web sites, for the large part, are for people new to the Church

2. Social media is for those who are already engaged with the Church

Click here to read the complete article.

 

Classifieds
Sunday - July 20, 2014
Contemporary Worship Leader

Pine Castle United Methodist Church is seeking a part-time, enthusiastic, experienced individual to work with the Senior Pastor and the Director of Music. PCUMC, located in Orlando, FL, is a congregation of over 400 in average worship attendance. This position would report directly to the Senior Pastor and would require leading worship on Sunday morning plus lead practice and planning meetings during evening hours during the week.

Must be a committed follower of Jesus Christ and be a person of high character.
Must be willing to embrace the United Methodist Doctrine.
Must be a self-starter yet be able to take specific direction from the Senior Pastor and Director of Music .
Must be able to work well with other staff members. Must be a team player.Must be able to maintain Christian and professional relations with staff, volunteers, congregation and visitors. 
Candidate preferably a Seminary student or graduate with advanced musical skills in singing and acoustic guitar. 
Must have the ability to organize and plan the music for each worship service.
Must have the ability to play, sing and lead the congregation in worship.
Have experience working with computer software that manages media.
Sunday - July 20, 2014
Bookkeeper part time

 Seeking a part time Bookkeeper with some Accounting experience.

 
Required experience:
Proficient in Quick books
Payroll
Monthly financial statements
 
Preferred experience:
Fund accounting 
Excel 
Payroll taxes
 
80 hours per month flexible schedule. 
Send resume to staff parish chair eryl58@aol.com
 
Sunday - July 20, 2014
Director of Children's Ministries

 Director of Children’s Ministries - Americus First UMC, South GA Conference

 The Director of Children’s Ministry directs and supervises all FUMC ministries which serve children through fifth grade and their families.  
• The Director works collaboratively with FUMC leaders and staff to provide opportunities and an environment for children to grow in faith – individually and together.  
• The Director advocates for children and families, ensuring that FUMC’s programs provide for their spiritual needs and attract young families with children.  
• The Director seeks opportunities to be involved in spiritual growth for our children outside church activities by remaining connected through regular contact and prayer.  
• The Director has a great Children’s Ministry Team to work with in the development of a comprehensive children’s ministry.
• Position is full-time.
• Salary negotiable.
 
Please send resumes to Rev. Jim Smith or Mrs. Drenda Sternenberg, SPR Chair, Americus First United Methodist Church at office@fumcamericus.com or fax to 229-931-6191 or mail to 200 S Lee Street, Americus GA 31709.  Phone: 229-924-3169
Sunday - July 20, 2014
Director of Worship

Edgewater United Methodist Church is a growing, vibrant, diverse, 7 day a week, community outreach church, with a mission to help people meet, know and serve Jesus Christ. We have an average of 650 in attendance each week. At our 3 contemporary services, our praise band plays worship songs by Bethel Live, New Life Worship, Hillsong United, and similar artists.

 
The best candidate for this position will be a passionate lover of Jesus Christ who:
 
• Will lead worship at 3 services each week as well as occasional special services
• Can lead vocally with either an acoustic/electric guitar or keyboard/piano
• Brainstorm creative service elements
• Help create overall look and feel of media set design
• Have a congregational heart toward worship (no rock stars or performers)
• Be an excellent communicator and facilitator on stage
• Manage the scheduling of volunteer musicians and vocalists
• Manage, plan, and lead weekly worship team rehearsals
• Ensure that the band is able to play songs with excellence
• Identify, invite, and mentor musicians and vocalists
• Plan weekly services and creative aspects with the pastor and Worship Design Team
 
If God is calling you for this position, please send your resume and video sample or YouTube/website link of you leading worship to employment@edgewaterchurch.com or mail a hard copy to:
 
Edgewater United Methodist Church
C/O Dan Prine
19190 Cochran Blvd.
Port Charlotte, FL 33948
Sunday - July 20, 2014
Director of Worship & Arts/Contemporary Worship Leader

 Killearn United Methodist Church (www.kumconline.org) in Tallahassee, Florida has an anticipated opening for Director of Worship & Arts/Contemporary Worship Leader.  KUMC is a thriving congregation with a 2800 member congregation in Northeast Tallahassee.  Combined weekend attendance in four services is approximately 1000.

 
The position is responsible for overseeing a thriving worship and arts ministry and its staff, as well as, being the primary worship leader for two Contemporary Services.  This position is also responsible to provide worship leadership for Celebrate Recovery’s large group gathering by participating as a worship leader and scheduling volunteer worship leaders.
 
Minimum qualifications for the position are a bachelor’s degree in music, worship studies or related field (or equivalent experience), at least two years of worship leading experience and demonstrated leadership and communication skills.  Theological education as well as familiarity with Wesleyan theology and the United Methodist Church is a plus. 
 
Send a resume, demonstration of personal worship leading skills and a brief, personal written philosophy of worship as well as salary requirements via e-mail to Erick Ashley at: eashley@kumconline.org. Please send video footage of your worship leading skills via Youtube or other means via the web. All qualifying materials will be sent to an interview committee.
Wednesday - July 16, 2014
Director of Children's Ministry

 Full time position in Tampa

Wednesday - July 16, 2014
Director of Facilities

 Full time position in Tampa

Wednesday - July 16, 2014
Full Time and Part Time Toddler/Twos, Threes and Floater Positions

Seminole Heights United Methodist Preschool in Central Tampa is hiring dependable, energetic, experienced Christian people who love children and have the desire to make a positive difference in their lives. Applicants should have strong classroom management skills. They must have 45 hrs. Child Care Certification, have or be working towards a CDA or higher certification, and complete employment history/background screening and drug screening.

Wednesday - July 16, 2014
Miami Lakes United Methodist Preschool Teacher Needed

 Miami Lakes UMC has a private Christian Preschool.  We are looking for an individual who has a heart for Jesus and for children to be a Lead Preschool Teacher.  Applicant needs to be a fun, enthusiastic individual who is versatile in instructing children 2 1/2 - 4 years old. Current Staff Credential is required.  Part-time position available.  Please contact preschool@miamilakesumc.net for more details.

Conversations
Monday - July 21, 2014
Strange Leadership: a book review

Having read several books on leadership and innovation, I approached Greg Atkinson’s Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization with some speculation, feeling it would offer the same perspective and suggestions given by books I had previously read. With that mindset, I was completely surprised by the richness and depth this book offers its readers. Atkinson’s love for Christ and the church resonates in his writing.  His genuine compassion and enthusiasm serve as catalysts for what he shares with his readers. It’s inspirational fire for those of us challenged by his words of wisdom and faith.

God Is the Chief Innovator
Strange Leadership is filled with spiritual truths and lessons. It reminds us that effective and innovative leadership stems from a heart centered on Christ. As Atkinson says, “God is the chief innovator.” He emphasizes that having a strong relationship with him gives us the strategies and direction we need to lead a church in community and faith. “Innovation is about following the Holy Spirit,” Atkinson writes, not our own path and ideas.  As we listen for God’s leading, our ministries will reach those we are called to help.
 
None of us is as smart as all of us.
 
Keep It Simple & Keep It Fluid
Many church leaders are church planners.  They need strategy, logic and a long-term plan to help them lead their churches and staff. Atkinson recognizes this need and values the importance of good planning and effective strategy, but he reminds us that in our planning, we must seek Christ and his direction.  He encourages leaders to remain “open to the Spirit’s leading and sudden change,” keeping plans simple, fluid and flexible.  He also asks that leaders “call to God, rely on him, desperately seek him.” This “spirit-led” leadership is the key to successful, innovative leadership.
 
The Ear of the Leader Must Ring With the Voice of the People
Some of the best insights Atkinson offers come from the quotes and scriptures inserted generously throughout the book.  Blending Bible stories with strategy, he teaches and demonstrates that great ideas come from many people, not just one individual leader.  In his discussion on collaboration, he points out that “none of us is as smart as all of us.” He reminds us that great ideas often come from working as a team. We are challenged to collaborate, communicate and dedicate our lives to our passion and purpose, as both team members and innovative leaders.
 
The World Is in Your Hands
As a marketing and social media director, I especially enjoyed Atkinson’s discussion on communication and globalization.  Many of us understand that communication is vital to the success of churches and their missions.  And, just like Atkinson, we are inspired to proclaim the gospel in new and innovative ways. His passion for sharing God’s word is evident as he discusses the need for interaction and the various platforms available to church communicators.  He reminds us that we cannot use the “old mindset” with the new tools, and we must be willing to “dive in” and develop new communication strategies. Yes—Facebook, Twitter, digital meet-ups and blogging are effective and necessary to share information in today’s society. We should work to build the church through these new tools and reach out to those who would otherwise be in the dark.
 
Watch What God Does and Then You Do It
Are you ready to be challenged?  Do you want to develop innovative and Spirit-led leadership skills?  Could you surrender your ministry to God and ask what he wants from you?  If the answer is yes, then you are ready for this book.  Your heart is longing for its truths, and God is asking you to read it. I encourage you to begin reading Strange Leadership with an open heart and let each chapter lead you into new thoughts, ideas and perspectives. Atkinson’s insight, intellect, experience, passion and open-hearted leadership will inspire you to listen for and hear God’s voice, respond to its leading and invite Christ into every aspect of your life and leadership style.
 
Courtesy of churchmarketingsucks.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.
 
Photo courtesy Bigstock.com.
Monday - July 21, 2014
WWI at 100: new books examine the battle of beliefs behind the 'Great War'

c. 2014 Religion News Service

(RNS) Some called it “The Great War.” Others called it “The War to End All Wars.” History proves it was neither.

As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I — a conflict that left 37 million dead or wounded and reshaped the global map — a number of scholars and authors are examining a facet of the war they say has been overlooked — the religious framework they say led to the conflict, affected its outcome and continues to impact global events today.

More than that, they argue, today’s religious and political realities — ongoing wars, disputed borders and hostile relationships — have their roots in the global conflict that began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

“You can’t understand the war fully without investigating the religious dimensions of the war,” said Jonathan Ebel, an associate professor of religion at the University of Illinois whose “Faith in the Fight: The American Soldier and the Great War” has just been issued in paperback.

“I would be the first to tell you the Great War was not a war of religion, but I think a big part of people’s understanding of what they were doing in the war, or why the war made sense to them, comes from religion.”

“Faith in the Fight” explores how American soldiers, field nurses and doctors and other aid workers used their religious experience to face the war. Reading through letters, memoirs and other contemporary accounts, Ebel discovered that rather than disillusioning those who fought the war, it somehow reinforced their ties to religion.

“The experience might have been something that knocked people off their beliefs, made them question,” Ebel said. “But based on the material I was able to draw on, the war for many Americans was not a disillusioning experience. Rather, it confirmed the illusions — if you want to call them that — of why they entered the war.”

Ebel draws a line from the “masculine Christianity” of the early 20th century (evangelist Billy Sunday’s enormously popular revivals often included military recruiting tents) to the way combatants and support workers thought of the war. Soldiers scribbled lines of Scripture on their gas masks, marked their calendars with a cross for each day they survived combat, and opened the pages of the Stars and Stripes military newspaper to read poems comparing them to the heroes of the Old Testament.

“The culture of pre-war America gave America images, ideas and beliefs perfectly tailored to war,” he writes.

That is echoed on a global stage in “The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade” by Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religion at Baylor University. The book pulls the lens back from individual Americans to highlight the religious imagery, rhetoric and symbolism used by all sides in the war to further their goals.

Several countries — especially Russia and Germany — saw the war as a fulfillment of their unique destinies as the kingdom of God. But Europe did not have room for so many countries with the same aspiration.

“You can toss a coin as to which country to blame, but their two clashing visions made war inevitable,” Jenkins said. “If you do not understand the messianic and apocalyptic imagery used by all sides, and how wide-ranging those images were among all classes, all groups, all nations, you cannot hope to understand the war.”

Jenkins gathers numerous examples of biblical images of angels, demons, apocalypse and righteousness and shows how both sides in the war used them to justify the fight and rally support at home. It is no wonder, he writes, that the war was frequently referred to as “apocalyptic,” or even as Armageddon, the final battle the New Testament says will restore a heavenly kingdom.

“I could almost rewrite my book in terms of angels,” he said, citing one of the most frequently used — and believed in — images of the war. The most famous example are the so-called “Angel of Mons” — ghost soldiers from the 15th-century Battle of Agincourt led by St. George who supposedly appeared on the the British lines in France.

But the ghost soldiers were the post-Mons invention of Welsh poet Arthur Machen. Yet when he pointed out they were a fiction, people accused him of suppressing the truth.

“You don’t get anything like that in World War II,” Jenkins said of the belief in angels on the battlefield. “In World War II, there were hundreds of depictions of angels, but they were all in films and books that were clearly fantasy and fiction. But the angel stories in World War I were taken seriously.”

But if the angels were fictions, the new realities established at the end of the war in 1918 were very real and still affect global religion and politics today, Jenkins writes. After the war, Jenkins said, Jews felt a more urgent need for a land of their own. The push for a Jewish homeland gained momentum and led to the establishment of Israel in 1948 — and to the conflicts between Israel and some of its neighbors today.

Adolf Hitler, too, latched on to the widespread humiliation that permeated a defeated Germany to establish his Third Reich, sowing the seeds for the Holocaust that would leave 6 million Jews (and millions of others) slaughtered.

Jenkins also traces the contemporary push for an Islamic caliphate — or Muslim kingdom — by contemporary groups such as The Islamic State and al-Qaida to World War I. In many ways, the Middle East map we know in 2014 has its origins in the aftermath of World War I.

“The end of the caliphate (after World War I) removed the certainty of faith and state for Muslims,” Jenkins said. “It was an uncharted wilderness. And what most of them have tried to figure out for the last 90 years is how do you live in that wilderness?”

He also tracks the rise of African Christianity to World War I, which he said exposed the previously isolated continent to new ideas and new faiths as they fought alongside or supported their European colonizers in the war.

“This was an era of mass movements, healings, religious risings, nationalist Christian restructuring, Marian visions,” Jenkins writes of Africa in 1918 and beyond. “When the newer churches write their history, they will give pride of place to those critical years after 1915, when believers tried to make sense of a world plunged into destructive insanity.”

The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or positon of the Florida Conference. Text photo courtesy Bigstock.com. Display photo courtesy RNS.

Wednesday - July 16, 2014
How to escape from a bad game

In the world of game theory, the game is always more important than the players. Otherwise good and moral people caught in a bad game will often fail to live into the people that they know they have been called to be. (And otherwise selfish and obdurate people in a good game will often act with more generosity and cooperation than the people they typically allow themselves to be.)

Most leaders know what it is like to be part of a bad game.

Economist Martin Shubik designed a game he calls the dollar auction to bring out the worst in us. The rules of the game are deceptively simple. The first rule is that the highest bidder wins the auction. The second rule is that the second-highest bidder must pay his final bid, even though he gets nothing. And the third rule forbids communication between the bidders.

Harvard’s Max Bazerman tests this game using a $20 bill. The game starts out quickly. Anyone would be thrilled to buy a $20 bill for a few dollars. But something strange happens as the bidding approaches $20.

The person bidding $19 is still happy to win the Andrew Jackson, but the person who bid $18 isn’t thrilled with shelling out $18 for nothing and so bids $20. But now the person bidding $19 doesn’t want to lose his investment and so bids $21 -- more for the $20 bill than it’s worth.

The terrible game continues until the second-highest bidder caves and the “winner” pays for one very expensive lesson in humility. Disturbingly, Bazerman once played a version of this game with Wall Street bankers who sent the bidding for a $100 bill over $1,000.

It’s easy to think poorly of the greedy chumps who would ever consider paying more than $20 for a $20 bill, but under the right circumstances, even good leaders can find themselves sucked into playing a bad game.

I remember when a pastor I will call John first reached out to me. It was an emergency.

John had been locked in conflict with certain members of his congregation for years. To express his frustration, he had begun preaching sermons that angered the congregation and picking hymns they neither knew nor liked. While John had been seeking a call elsewhere, he had been unsuccessful. In addition, he was suffering from a serious medical condition and needed insurance. He felt trapped.

The equally frustrated congregants had been rumoring that they might not approve the pastor’s terms of call at the upcoming annual meeting. But as an aging, declining congregation in a depressed community, they were unlikely to find a new pastor easily.

As in the dollar auction, John and the congregational leaders were playing a game either side could “win” and still very much lose.

Fortunately, leaders can change the game they are in.

One way to escape a bad game is to change the rules. Sometimes, rules that seem set in stone are not.

The Uniting Church in Australia, for example, discovered this possibility over a matter of meeting procedure. While leaders valued the clarity of their traditional parliamentary rules, they also desired a process that would allow greater room for the Holy Spirit.

So they changed their Manual for Meetings to include several steps of discernment, allowing the body to have a better sense of what members were thinking and feeling before taking a Robert’s Rules of Order vote. They changed the rules to create a manual that manages to retain the clarity of parliamentary procedure while opening the doors wide to the Spirit’s movement.

Another strategy is to change the incentive structure. Game theory emphasizes the role that payoffs play in a player’s decision-making process. The importance of payoff is particularly evident when it comes to self-interest versus community interest.

Classical game theorists like John Nash focus principally on individual payoffs -- “What’s in it for me?” However, when actual human beings play cooperation games like the prisoners’ dilemma and the public goods game, they value fairness in the community alongside personal gain.

Preaching, liturgy, music, liturgical art and poetry play a vital role in helping individuals and congregations shift the balance from care of self to care of neighbor. While many of us walk around with an implicit bias toward getting our own needs met, the right word or image or piece of music at just the right time can subtly yet powerfully move us toward being better neighbors.

Years ago, a colleague told me about an octogenarian in his congregation who was attending their new contemporary service aimed at adults age 25 and younger. The music was loud; the liturgy nonexistent. Knowing this senior to be conservative, my friend told him he was surprised that he liked the service.

“Like it?” responded the older man. “Who said I liked it? I don’t care for any of this.” Confused, my friend said, “Then why do you come? You’re here every time.” His response: “I come because these young people like it, and they’re important to me. Some time back you preached about worship not being about us. I guess that got under my skin a little bit.” A sermon changed the payoffs for this senior, inspiring him to attend a service that did not meet his needs yet helped the young people he cared about.

A third way of getting out of a bad game is to change the players. Of particular importance is adding a player. This action may seem one of the simplest, but it can be one of the hardest -- especially if the conflict has become personal.

It can be difficult to realize that you have become part of the problem, which makes it even more difficult to ask for help. But often, adding even one more person -- especially someone outside the system -- can significantly change the structure of the game.

One of the great strengths of denominations with active middle governing bodies is that many structures exist for inviting new voices into conflicted situations. While adding players doesn’t always resolve conflicts that have festered for years, fresh insights are often just what is needed.

Finally, a fourth way of getting out of a bad game is to disengage -- either avoid playing or stop playing once you realize what’s happening. The only way to win the Shubik-Bazerman dollar auction? Never play it in the first place. And if you have already bid, then the only thing to do is smile, accept the loss and stop digging the hole deeper.

One of the hardest things for a leader to do is remember that not making a decision -- at least an immediate decision -- is often the best course. Warren Buffett humorously notes that “lethargy bordering on sloth” remains the hallmark of his investment strategy. When leaders feel pressure to appear decisive, they are in danger of overlooking the wisdom of nonaction.

With those strategies in mind, let’s return to the pastor I called John, locked in a conflict with his congregation.

The main approach the Committee on Ministry tried with John was to change the players.

A small team had dinner with John and then visited with the governing body of the church before the annual meeting took place. A particularly important move in putting that team together was to pick one member who was well-known and trusted by both the pastor and the congregation.

After these conversations, all sides agreed that the unfamiliar hymns were the most heated point of contention. With the help of the new, trusted player, the body decided to change the rules of what might be called the “hymn game.”

While the pastor certainly had the right under church polity to pick the hymns, he wisely agreed (with the nudge of this new player) to allow a small worship committee to pick one of the hymns each week, ensuring that the congregation would be singing some familiar and beloved music at each service.

While this didn’t rival the Camp David Accords, it was a small breakthrough that allowed the pastor to continue and gave the congregation a greater say in worship planning.

Have you ever been stuck in a bad game? What helped you get out of it?

Click here for the first column in this series.

Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

Photos courtesy Bigstock.com.

 

 

Wednesday - July 16, 2014
What we get wrong about "finding God's will"

What is God’s will for your life?

This question tends to haunt us while we go through our college years. We struggle through it by choosing our major, deciding where we will spend our summer, figuring out where to go to grad school, and so many other decisions.

If you are like me, anxiety creeps up on you every time you think about your future plans.

But why do we get so anxious? For me, I start thinking about how I have one opportunity at every decision I make, and when I choose one path, I am saying no to another. But how do I know the path I choose is the right one?

The phrase we have all heard in answer to this question is we need to find God’s will for our life. And for the past 21 years, I thought I had to keep praying for God to open my eyes to the will he had laid out for me. That if I just kept searching long enough and hard enough, I would know exactly what I was supposed to do in the future.

But Kevin DeYoung blew up this idea for me while I was reading his book Just Do Something.

We Never Find God’s Will for Our Future 

In the beginning of the book, DeYoung says, “We should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.” This rocked my world. I always thought that if I made a wrong decision or took a wrong turn, I would be removed from God’s plan.

But what he is saying here is that we are free from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time. It is not a maze for us to perfectly navigate in order to reach our end goal, but instead, God desires for us to trust Him with all of the twists and turns. 

Yes, God is sovereign over my life. Yes, He has specific plans for my future, but He does not expect me to find out the details of His plan before I get there. So this whole idea of finding God’s will for my life has been me searching for something God does not want to reveal. But why does He choose to withhold His plans from us?

An Unknown Future Leads to Faith in a Known God

If we knew every step and detail of our lives, there would be no reason for us to have faith in God. When times get tough, we realize we need someone greater than ourselves to direct where we are going. That’s why God doesn’t always want us to know the perfect road He has laid before us. It would be like someone spoiling the incredible plot twist of Fight Club or Inception. What makes the story great is the  confusion and uncertainty, and then in the end, every puzzle piece comes together to create a beautiful picture.

Not only does God have an epic plot for your life, but He wants you to trust in Him. God has given us these tough decisions not to be stressed out but to make us realize we can’t do this on our own. He gives us more than we can handle, so we are forced to lean in on Him to find strength. Just as Provers 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” So instead of praying to find God’s will, let’s start praying to find faith in God’s guidance.

God’s True Will for Our Lives

Now if we never find God’s will for our future, then what is Paul talking about in Ephesians 5:17 when he says, “Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is?” What Paul is describing here is a different definition of God’s will than we normally think about.

Many times, we only think of God’s will for our life in regards to the future, but there’s so much more to it. No matter what your future plans are, God wants you to seek and glorify Him right now. Simply put, God’s will is your growth to be like Christ and glorify Him in all things.

We need to do away with the idea that He wants us to go to Him in order to find out our future. Instead, God wants us to go to Him to be transformed in our heart and mind. God’s past, present, and future plans for your life have one constant: His glory. And if God has transformed our hearts, our decisions will be made with His glory in mind.

As DeYoung says, “God is not a Magic 8-ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.”

So Make Decisions With Confidence

If God has given us a new heart that desires what He desires, our decisions are going to line up with His plan. We work through these decisions with the wisdom He gives us through the Spirit.

We are often so intent on looking for some hidden plan God has laid out for us that we forget to consult the passions and desires He's given us.

We will never find the perfect road God has laid out, but He will give us desires He wants us to chase after.

Find those passions and pursue them.

Make decisions and stand firm in them.

Have faith in God and trust in Him.

God is bigger than your major. God is bigger than your job. And God is a whole lot bigger than the worry you have about your future.

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. The views are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Florida Conference.

Photos courtesy Bigstock.com.

Monday - July 14, 2014
Silence: a path to action

I had such a hard time packing for my weekend away — cramming my bag with a stack of contemplative practice books, an anthology of my personal prayer journals, candles, an array of writing of instruments, and an iPod fully loaded with chanting monks and Hillsong worship songs. What does one take to a three-day silent retreat? Apparently a lot of noise.

My husband I were in the throes of church planting in Harlem. Our commitment to reimagining church not as a building, but as an incarnational community living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ had left our calendars fully loaded with “to do” lists for neighborhood barbecues, marches against “stop and frisk” laws, and prayer circles that met in our home.

And I was tired. Not exhausted from loving our neighbors — those connections were life giving, but I was exhausted from the constant hum of demands permeating my every thought and prayer. I had thoughts about strategically extending our capacity for outreach or leveraging our networks to mobilize folks to action. And my prayers … well my prayers had degenerated into “Jesus-can-you-be-my-butler?” sorts of prayers. These are the kind of prayers often involved directing God toward what needed to be done to successfully complete the next project or event. Prayers that began with: “Creator God, the barbecue is tomorrow, but the weather forecast says it’s going to rain; please give us a beautiful sunny day.” These prayers were doing little to sustain my soul. And one day as I found myself once again binging on old episodes of Arrested Development while secretly eating an entire bag of my son’s cheesy goldfish crackers, I realized that I was teetering on burnout.

So off I went to “fix” my exhaustion with a three-day silent retreat. I was prepared to maximize my silent time. I intellectually agreed with the importance of nourishing the soul with silence and was compelled by the many times that Scripture shows us how Jesus left crowds to be alone with God (Mark 1:35). Nonetheless, there I was packing the noise. My human drive toward activity had once again reared its seductive head.

Silence as a spiritual discipline is not simply an outlet to avoid burnout or for when the distractions of Facebook are no longer sufficiently numbing our exhaustion and busyness. Our humanity requires ongoing practices of silence in order to listen to God. Thomas Keating beautifully noted this truth when he wrote, “Silence is God's first language; everything else is a poor translation.” Practicing silence creates a sacred barrier that serves to protect us from the frenzy of activity that can flood our lives in such a way that there is no room to listen to God.

That weekend, I left the poor translations: the iPod, the journals, and the books. I decided instead to make the bed, watch the birds, take a nap, pick some wildflowers, and drink fresh water. And soon enough, my soul was receiving God’s love, beauty, and provision through the quiet, even mundane human activities we often forget we need to live.

Silence can be more than a spiritual discipline we surrender to when we’ve exhausted all other forms of active practices. Choosing to practice quiet and solitude — without the readily available distractions of the Internet, buzzing cellphones, or the constant stream of music in our headphones — can provide countercultural openings to listen and experience the tender love of God.

Undoubtedly, I will never be confused with one of the early Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers. And I don’t have life rhythms that allow me to regularly flee the hustle of Harlem and head for a secluded monastery, but my practices of silence continue to flourish in small daily ways. Nourishing my soul with quiet and stillness has become an essential life-sustaining fuel for loving God, neighbor, and self well.

As co-laborers with Christ in repairing and bridging the connective tissues that unravel shalom in our local and global communities, where are the opportunities to incorporate silence in the mundane of our daily lives? This task isn’t easy, and it may require leaving some familiar noise behind. Yet the good news, God’s language through silence, continually seeks our wellbeing. She is ever waiting.

Dr. Mayra Lopez-Humphreys , part of the Emerging Voices Project, is a native New Yorker, professor, and pastor with more than 16 years of community engagement. She is also the associate pastor at Metro Hope Covenant Church, a multiethnic church that meets in Harlem’s historic National Black Theater.

Courtesy of Sojouners Magazine www.sojo.net. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or polity of the Florida Conference.

Photo courtesy of Bigstock Photos.

Thursday - July 10, 2014
Learning from growing church in England
Westminster Abbey, London (Bigstock photo)

The Church of England set out to learn from the 18 percent of their churches that grew in the decade up to 2010. A study conducted between 2011 and 2013 sought to investigate the factors influencing church growth in the Church of England.

While there is “no single recipe” for growth, they concluded there are some ingredients closely associated with growing churches. In many ways, these factors mirror findings in the United States from the Faith Communities Today research and that of others.

Leadership

Those studying the Church of England found a strong correlation between growth and qualities of leaders when these qualities are combined with an intention to grow. Leadership qualities that stood out included the abilities to motivate, envision, and innovate. Such qualities, according to the study, lead to growth when found in a leader who makes a priority of numerical growth.

Mission and purpose

Churches with a clear mission and purpose were far more likely to grow. Two-thirds of such churches grew compared to one-quarter of churches without such clarity regarding purpose.

Willingness to reflect and adapt

Self-reflection was a prime characteristic of growing churches, whereas “doing things by default” was more common among declining churches. Worship is a good example. No particular style of worship led to growth, but how the worship style was chosen was critical. Growing churches openly considered their options so that worship became “chosen rather than inherited.” Growing churches were willing to experiment and fail until they found the right match between tradition and culture. “Vitality comes with reflection and choice” is how one person put it.

Lay leadership

The quality and participation of lay leadership was found to be critical alongside clergy leadership. Active involvement of lay members throughout the congregation’s ministry was a hallmark of growing churches. They also found that rotating leadership roles was important, especially if younger members and new members are included in leadership and service.

Focus on growth

Three avenues of growth tended to be found among the vital congregations. First, the orientation of the congregation was outward toward engagement with the community and with those not involved in church. Second, a welcoming and carefully planned engagement with new people in the church focused on establishing ongoing relationships. Third, two-thirds of the growing churches offered programs to help existing church members grow deeper in their discipleship.

What about declining churches?

While 18 percent of churches were growing in the decade under review, 27 percent were declining, with the remaining 55 percent remaining rather stable. The number one factor associated with decline was the inability of churches to retain younger generations. Growth was found where there is a high ratio of children to adults. A church with no children or youth is very likely to decline. Churches with young people are twice as likely to be growing

What we will never know

It should be added that there were some factors the researchers found that had no significant association with growth or decline. These included the theological orientation, gender, ethnicity, or marital status of the clergy. They also included the style of worship so long as the worship was considered and agreed upon.

As with all such findings, we look for clues for our congregations in order to take our own next faithful step. But we always keep such data in perspective. A section of the report titled “Church Growth: What We Will Never Know” cites the words of the Reverend Canon John Holmes: “With all these hypotheses there needs to be a proper humility and caution. The ways of God are not always easy to fathom or chart, least of all predict. Any wise student of church growth should always acknowledge the mystery of God’s loving action in the world and admit that there are times when we really don’t know why this cathedral or church has grown in this way at this time. But then God is God and we are not.”

Courtesy Lewis Center for Church Leadership www.churchleadership.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.

Further reading

The full report of “From Anecdote to Evidence: Findings from the Church Growth Research Programme 2011-2013” is available at www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk.

Events
Thursday - July 24, 2014
Facilities Safety Seminar

A safety seminar for facility managers, maintenance workers, trustees or anyone interested in making their church campus safer.

 

Friday - July 25, 2014
Family Camp

This summer, invest in your family’s faith and join us for Family Camp! We’ll be exploring what it means to be made in God’s image, and how we are all called to impress that image on the world around us. From Creation to the Great Commission, we’ll journey through Bible stories that remind us who God made us to be -- and have a lot of fun doing it!

You won’t want to miss the campfire, swimming, stories, games, songs, and more. Plus, NEW for 2014, there will be on-site canoeing and archery! Don’t miss out!

Friday - August 15, 2014
Lay Servant Ministries 18th Annual Training Event

Florida Conference Lay Servant Ministries
Annual Training Event
Life Enrichment Center, Fruitland Park, Florida
August 15-17, 2014

Join us for a wonderful weekend of inspiration and training with Bishop Kenneth Carter, Rev. Geraldine Lewis, Rev. Harold Lewis, Rev. Jeanine Clontz, and Mrs. Dee Allen! For a full flyer, download one here.

For more information, see our website at http://flumclsm.org, or contact Rod Groom at info@flumclsm.org, or by phone at 941-356-4566.

Thursday - August 21, 2014
East Central dCOM Meeting

 District Committee on Ministry Meeting

Candidates contact Elizabeth Flynn for appointment.

ecdregistrar@tomokaumc.org 

Thursday - August 21, 2014
NE District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM)

The North East District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM) will be meeting.

Saturday - August 23, 2014
Disaster 101: Basic Disaster Ministry Training - FUMC Deland

 

This training provides an introduction to the unique and important role the faith community plays in disaster mitigation, preparation and response.
You will hear practical suggestions about how you and your church can respond to disaster in your community in cooperation with other churches, emergency management officials and the Disaster Recovery Ministry of the conference. You will learn the value of communication and collaboration in meeting the needs of disaster survivors and recall the importance of being the church in the midst of crisis.

There is no cost for this training; however, REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED for planning purposes.

Check in Begins at 9:30 and lunch is provided


For more information, please visit www.flumc.org/DisasterRecovery or contact Pam Garrison in Disaster Recovery Ministry at (800) 282-8011 Ext. 148 or pgarrison@flumc.org.

This is training is required before going on to take specialized training in Early Response and/or Spiritual Response.

 

 

Sunday - August 24, 2014
UMVIM Mission Team Training - FUMC St. Petersburg

Are you interested in leading or participating on a mission team from your church? Do you want to lead or participate on a team to Haiti, Africa, Sager-Brown or somewhere else here in the states and be the hands and feet of Christ?

UMVIM Mission Team Training prepares volunteers to be a part of a Volunteer in Mission team, to projects in the United states and around the world.  The training will help the Leader know their role, as well as help the team members to understand their roles on the team.  You will learn the "ins and outs" of organizing a mission trip from recruiting the team, to picking the location, getting support, staying safe, planning the work and much, much more.  You will also enjoy a wonderful time of fellowship and connections with other mission with other mission minded folks.

Not sure if you are ready to be a part of a team?  Come and learn what it takes - you will be well informed and a better team member!

Cost is $30 per person and $40 per couple.  Individuals receive a Team Manual and we will ask that couples share one.  Lunch is included.  Lunch will be served at 12:30 pm.

For more information, please contact Greg Harford (800) 282-8011 x 195 or by email gharford@flumc.org.

 

Monday - August 25, 2014
New Church Start Academy

New Church Start Academy is a ministry of New Church Development. The program is for pastors who are leading new churches, second sites of existing churches or targeted expansions of existing churches throughout the Conference.

Tuesday - August 26, 2014
AC Clergy Meeting

Atlantic Central District will hold a Clergy Meeting on August 26th, 9:00am to 3:00pm at Lakewood Park UMC. All clergy are required to attend.

We will have a worship time from 9:30 – 10:00, then welcome the new pastors to our District. Jen Stiles-Williams, co-senior pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Orlando, will be with us to share a vision/planning process that can help all of us in reaching our communities for Christ. District Superintendent, Gary Spencer would like for you to bring one person who is process oriented or a strategic thinker, lay or staff. This person should be someone who can help or helps you in your planning and visions for ministry. Jen presented this to a group at the Cabinet and Gary thought it was a very practical and purposeful way to go about ministry.
 
Please RSV (meetings are required) to Patti (flumc-ac@flumc.org) at the office so we can plan for lunch and call Gary if you cannot attend. We will have lunch together, cost $5.00 a person.
Districts
Atlantic Central
9015 Americana Road Ste. 4
Vero Beach, FL 32966-6668
phone: (772) 299-0255
flumc-ac@flumc.org
East Central
PO Box 4232
Enterprise, FL 32725
phone: (386) 259-5756
flumc-ec@flumc.org
Gulf Central
1498 Rosery Rd East
Largo, FL 33770-1656
phone: (727) 585-1207
flumc-gc@flumc.org
North Central
1135 E Fort King St
Ocala, FL 34471
phone: (352) 789-6981
flumc-nc@flumc.org
North East
1415 LaSalle Street
Jacksonville, FL 32207-3113
phone: (904) 396-3026
flumc-ne@flumc.org
North West
P.O. Box 13766
Tallahassee, FL 32317-3766
phone: (850) 386-2154
flumc-nw@flumc.org
South Central
202 W Reynolds St.
Plant City, FL 33563
phone: (813) 719-7270
flumc-sc@flumc.org
South East
536 Coral Way
Coral Gables, Fl 33134
phone: (305) 445-9136
flumc-se@flumc.org
South West
2049-B N. Honore Avenue
Sarasota, FL 34235
phone: (941) 371-6511
flumc-sw@flumc.org