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Wednesday - October 22, 2014
Renewing community in a networked society

A large-church pastor is worried about the health of his church. Small groups seem to be working fine, and the overall worship is fine. What is missing, though, is the sense that the congregation is a community capable of moral and spiritual formation.

The pastor’s worry reflects far more than the circumstances of one congregation, or even of congregational life more generally. It reflects the disappearance of the crucial “middle rings” that are central to healthy communities that nurture and sustain vibrant personal life.

Middle rings are what Marc J. Dunkelman describes in his book “The Vanishing Neighbor” as the heart of community in American life. Inner rings describe our most intimate relationships, with families and close friends; outer rings describe casual acquaintances. Middle-ring relationships are the people with whom a person “is familiar but not intimate, friendly but not close.” They are central to fostering a sense of vitality as well as nurturing those “meaningful disagreements” that shape a healthy body politic.

Typically, this middle ring comprises no more than 150 people, because of the limits of our brains. For much of American history, our middle-ring relationships have been formed through a “townshipped” model. This was as true for congregations as it was for our broader civic ecology.

Dunkelman notes, though, that profound changes in American life have transformed the ways we navigate and imagine the rings of our lives. Dunkelman highlights three broad categories of changes that are upending American community: the technological and economic revolutions of the last 60 years, the explosion in American mobility and the evolution of our lives at home.

These changes have affected the inner and outer rings, in many ways actually enhancing them. For example, social mobility has made people more reliant on intimate relationships, whether family members or close friends. Indeed, studies of cellphone usage show that the majority of our calls are to three to five people in our most intimate, inner rings.

The digital revolution makes it easier for us to maintain connections to casual acquaintances in our outer ring of relationships. It also makes it easier for us to establish new acquaintances through affinity groups and to connect even more broadly via social media. These outer-ring relationships can mobilize significant movements, such as the tea party on the right or the Occupy movement on the left.

Yet Dunkelman argues that such movements are not capable of addressing our yearning for the sustainable community found in middle-ring relationships. Those relationships have receded in the new social patterns of American life, leaving us feeling fragmented and isolated, even with healthy inner- and outer-ring relationships. We are missing a sense of community; in Dunkelman’s memorable image, the middle rings have become missing rings.

The danger in such a diagnosis is to become nostalgic and wistful, longing for “the good old days” of townships and community. But there is nothing that accounts for a longing for the good old days quite as much as a bad memory. Those forms of community were far from perfect, and wistfulness is likely to lead us to imagine a time that never was. Nostalgia for “townships” would be as counterproductive as it would be ineffective.

But it would be equally dangerous to ignore the challenges we face or to assume that we can adequately address those challenges through inner- or outer-ring relationships. The large-church pastor rightly senses that something is missing in the congregation he serves. Young adults also rightly sense that current institutions are failing them and us, and that new patterns are needed. But we are unsure what to do next.

Why? Dunkelman points to the pervasiveness and depth of the challenges:

A transformation of American community has come to affect everything from our propensity to innovate to our capacity to care for one another. It has disrupted our social institutions as much as it’s thrown a wrench into our politics. Without notice, a quiet revolution over the course of several decades upended the foundation that girded the very pillars -- government, businesses, banks, schools -- in which the public has lost faith. Its effects, which explain nearly every frustration listed above, run deep and wide.

Can we chart a future that is adaptive to the deep trends of our culture and nurtures middle-ring relationships?

Charting such a future will be challenging. As Dunkelman notes, we need to be honest with ourselves: “Simply reinforcing flailing institutions that have worked for decades, or tinkering at reforms around the edges, won’t fix our problems.” Those institutions aren’t working anymore in the ways we need them to.

Yet Dunkelman is also hopeful: “If we take a fresh look at what a networked society does and doesn’t do well, we can map out a plan to develop institutions that compensate for what we now lack.”

We will need the fresh imaginations of leaders of Christian institutions, and Christian leaders of institutions, in order to map out such a plan. Nurturing such imaginations will require clear-eyed diagnoses like Dunkelman’s, as well as the cultivation of “border crossing” relationships across sectors and across other divides among us.

And here senior pastors might be exceptionally well-positioned to provide vision and leadership -- IF we embrace the realities of a networked society AND offer a “traditioned innovation” approach to community and institutions.

Congregations and other forms of Christian community can and should gather people across divides, focus on forming relationships that bear witness to the fullness of God’s reign, and embrace issues across sectors and institutions that, sadly, currently exist more as silos than as networks (including the church).

The Fresh Expressions movement is one example of a Christian experiment that is helping to renew middle-ring relationships. Some of these fresh expressions have emerged out of larger congregations, addressing the gap between intimate small groups and the rather anonymous outer ring of the whole congregation; other fresh expressions are entrepreneurial startups in which hybrid forms of face-to-face and online gatherings connect people to each other in new ways. And yet others are crossing boundaries to work across sectors to serve and renew neighborhoods, especially in underserved areas.

Diagnosing our challenges without lapsing into nostalgia is critical, as is recognizing that we do not currently have the institutions we need to support and sustain middle-ring community. As we sow seeds of new and renewed forms of community through creative experiments and transformed imagination, let us also develop and renew institutions so those seeds will grow into full blossom.

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

Monday - October 20, 2014
Honoring the Sabbath like a command

It seems that, as Christians, we still take the Ten Commandments seriously. Murder, stealing, adultery, idolatry, lying—all of these are named in that list God gave to Moses on the mountain (Exodus 20), and, by and large, we still acknowledge that to break these commandments is wrong.

But what about the fourth commandment—the commandment about observing the Sabbath?

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)

It’s one of the original Ten Commandments that God gave to his people—an order to remember the day that God rested and obey Him by doing likewise. God didn’t offer this repetitive rest as a suggestion that might be good for us—He gave it as a commandment. It’s something God valued so much that He set it in stone.

We aren’t under the law anymore: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection freed us from the burden of having to fulfill the law. We don’t have to live in perfect alignment with the law in order to have right relationship with God. However, that doesn’t nullify the goodness of the commandments in the first place. Christ came to fulfill the law for us, but not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17). The rules written in stone were good gifts from God to His people—and they still are.

And, let us also remember that our freedom from this burden of having to fulfill the law—a freedom purchased with the costliest price of Christ’s life—doesn’t give us license to live however we please (Romans 6). We live under grace; we live as God’s people. So here’s why, I think, we need a re-imagining of the call of God to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” in our lives—and why we still need to take this commandment seriously.

When we take one day out of every week to rest, we are acknowledging that God is God and we are not. Ultimately, our ability (or our inability) to rest shows us how much we trust (or don’t trust) that God is in control. When we press the pause button on our striving and realize that the world continues spinning just fine without our work, we are tangibly acknowledging that God is the maker and sustainer of our lives. And if we struggle to close the computer or stay away from the office, we can then see more clearly where we have a hard time trusting Him—and where we struggle to recognize that we really aren’t in control of the world, or even in control of our own lives.

I started observing the Sabbath nine years ago, while I was in college. Now, as a wife, mother and teacher, there is always another load of laundry, always another class to prepare for. And certainly, there is always something “productive” that I could choose to do on our Sabbath. But this pattern of working and resting, week after week, has formed in me a sense of trust and peace that I did not experience prior to engaging in the discipline. It has helped me release my death grip on control.

I look forward to the Sabbath now—not as a day to play catch-up—but as a day where I can focus on being grateful simply to be alive. I spend time with my family without an agenda. I take a nap. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I read. Mostly, I do things that I love, things that help my soul unwind and attend to God’s presence in my life. And I have experienced a deep freedom in learning to say no to the continual pressure to work and produce.

God’s command to His people to keep the Sabbath holy was given out of the deep love He has for His children. He knows how we are formed (Psalm 103:14), how much work we can handle and how we need time to “be” rather than “do.” The Sabbath is a reminder that my days are ordered by God, not by me. It is a reminder that while there will always be more to do, there will not always be more time on this earth. It is a reminder that I am finite, that I need rest, and that God cares for me enough to help me rest.

There’s a wrong way to go about this, of course. If we make observing the Sabbath all about rules and regulations, as the Pharisees did, we are going to miss God’s heart behind it. Jesus pronounced that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), and so we keep the Sabbath holy because the Sabbath is a gift to us from God, not because we are trying to please Him. Christ has already done that on our behalf. He did the greatest work of reconciling us to God through His sacrifice on the Cross, and therefore we don’t have to work our way to God.

When we cease from working one day a week, it points us to the deeper truth that in Christ, we can cease from our striving. We can trust in all that He has done for us.

And we can rest.

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

Tuesday - October 14, 2014
Florida Conference Connection has news for you

Click here for the latest headlines from the Florida Conference. From missions to ministries to leadership opportunities, there's always something going on.

You'll also find our classifieds, information about people and churches on the move and news feeds from the United Methodist News Service and the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

It's also the place to submit a story or subscribe to blogs. Visit us here.

Friday - October 17, 2014
Leaving traditional churches might be a good thing

The rise of the “spiritual but not religious” in America has created a lot of conversation among Christians over the last two years. Now one pastor and activist is arguing that the trend might be a good thing. Kelly Bean is former pastor of Third Saturday Organic Community and coplanter of Urban Alley, a egalitarian intergenerational intentional community in north Portland, Oregon. She is author of “How to Be a Christian Without Going to Church,” which explores the benefits of alternative forms of worship. Here we discuss her message and whether it jibes with the Bible’s teachings.

RNS: It is understandable that some people don’t want to wake up on Sunday mornings and listen to a preacher talk past them. But Christians are still called to be a part of the church, so is going lone wolf really an option?
 
KB: Let me push back a bit. It is one thing to state a warning about the lone wolf syndrome as a statement of fact, and it is another to use it as a response or a rebuke to people who may be feeling for a variety of reasons that they have no alternative but to leave church as they have known it. I hope that those who read my book will hear me loud and clear when I say, “Please, DO NOT GO IT ALONE.”
 
Click here to read the entire interview. Courtesy of Religion News Service. Photo courtesy of Bigstock.com.
Annual Conference
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Download links for 2014 Annual Conference logo:
 

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Hotel Information
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Pre-Conference Brochure
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Annual Conference 5K Run
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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
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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
Thursday - October 30, 2014
North Central DS to preach on national radio show

Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, superintendent of the North Central District of the Florida Conference, will be the featured preacher for two upcoming Sundays on “Day 1” with host Peter Wallace, a nationally broadcast ecumenical radio program, according to a prepared statement from the program's producers. The sermons also will be accessible online at Day1.org.

Haupert-Johnson's sermons will be geared to the Advent season, starting with Christ the King Sunday on Nov. 23. Her sermon that day is drawn from Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24.

Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson headshot
Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson

“Today’s Hebrew Bible lection describes the reign of God without king imagery,” Haupert-Johnson said. “God comes as a shepherd. God’s shepherds have failed to do their job. God’s shepherds have not sought the lost or healed the sick or done what God called them to do… God takes off and joins the search. God has left the building.”

Her second sermon on the program, “Waiting in Lag Time,” is tailored for the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30. It is based on Mark 13:24-37, which describes the return of Jesus Christ in power and glory. In it, Haupert-Johnson asks, “What do we do with this in-between time, this lag time? How do we handle the waiting, especially when things seem to be falling apart all around us?”

Haupert-Johnson was appointed to the district by Florida Bishop Ken Carter in 2013 after serving as co-pastor with her husband, Allen, of First UMC, Ocala. She had a career in law before responding to her call to ministry.

Previous pastoral appointments include churches in Tampa, Cape Coral and Lakeland. As district superintendent, she oversees 83 churches in north central Florida, a diverse area of large and small churches that includes urban, suburban and rural communities, as well as a Native American ministry, a large camps and retreat center near Leesburg and a vibrant campus ministry at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

She is a graduate of the University of Florida and its College of Law, as well as Candler School of Theology at Emory University, where she serves as chairperson of the Candler Alumni Board.

The radio program will include interviews with Haupert-Johnson conducted by Wallace, who is also executive producer.

Haupert-Johnson told Florida Conference Connection she was excited to be invited to preach on the program.

"I really like the program," she said. "I've listened to it for a long time. I thought it would be a great opportunity."

Recording sermons for radio was a first for the seasoned preacher, who was accustomed to being part of televised worship services at First UMC, Ocala. Those broadcasts were live, whereas the radio presentations were recorded in advance.

"I really appreciated the opportunity for do-overs," Haupert-Johnson quipped.

Knowing her words would be heard without visual cues, however, prompted her to craft her sermons a little differently while taking care to speak in a natural, conversational way.

"You have to think about how your words are going to come across," she said. "It's a different animal."

“Day 1” has been broadcast every week for 69 years, formerly as “The Protestant Hour.” Featuring outstanding preachers from the mainline denominations, “Day 1” is currently distributed to more than 200 radio stations across America and overseas. The program is produced by the Alliance for Christian Media, based in Atlanta. For more information, call toll-free at 888-411-Day-1 or check the program’s website, http://day1.org

-- Susan Green, managing editor of Florida Conference Connection, contributed to this report. 
 

Wednesday - October 29, 2014
Gimme shelter: Churches help newest Family Promise make good

Logo for Family Promise of Greater Brandon BRANDON -- Family Promise of Greater Brandon is making good on its promise to provide a path for homeless families to put their lives back together.

The church-based shelter program that began in May has had four families "graduate" into affordable housing and new jobs.

Largely with volunteers and a coalition of 13 area churches, including seven United Methodist churches, Family Promise is taking a grassroots approach to combat homelessness. The focus is keeping families together in a safe environment while giving them the tools to restart their lives.

Though the program is non-sectarian and welcomes everyone, faith and prayer are in abundance as the churches and volunteers, week by week, rotate responsibilities for providing shelter and home-cooked meals.

"Who does hospitality better than a church?" asks Deborah Humphrey, president of Family Promise's board of directors and a member of St. Andrew’s UMC, Brandon. "They have members and generally they have space to use. This is what churches do. In the Methodist church, we are taught to serve others."

The nonprofit agency is the 10th Florida affiliate of the national Family Promise organization that began in New Jersey about 20 years ago. Affiliates are in more than 180 cities in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

Shelter and meals are just the start of what Family Promise offers.

At the Family Promise Day Center - a converted single-family house owned by First Presbyterian Church of Brandon - families receive case management services to help in job searches and résumé preparation. The center provides families with a mailing address needed for job applications and other services and transports them in the Family Promise van as needed. 

Kids and adults sitting around at a table with crafts in front of them
Kids and parents enjoy daytime activities at the Family Promise Day Center in Brandon, above, and nighttime shelter in local churches. Below, the first "graduating class" of families who found housing and assistance through Family Promise of Greater Brandon, with executive director Kathy Brogli, fourth from right. Photos from Family Promise of Greater Brandon.
Group photo shows first families to find housing through Family Promise

The average stay for a family in the program is 68 days. Family Promise programs have a record of 75 percent to 80 percent success in helping families become independent again.

Case management of families continues for a year after they leave the program.

"We're making a difference in the lives of children and their parents," says Kathy Brogli, executive director of Family Promise of Greater Brandon. "I'm really proud of all our families."

The reasons for homelessness often are loss of a job or an illness with unexpected medical bills, but Brogli says, "The biggest reason is lack of (affordable) housing."

On a recent night, Angela Dionne, head host coordinator for Limona Village Chapel UMC, Brandon, oversaw a dinner prepared and delivered by volunteers. During Limona's rotation duties, Grace Community UMC, Lithia, also helped with meals.

A dinner menu might include salad, chicken and rice and sweet potatoes. Everything is planned weekly, "so we don't end up with four nights of pizza," Dionne says.

"It's well balanced for families. We want them to be as comfortable as possible."

Limona Village converted its fellowship hall into a temporary shelter with cubicles for private sleeping quarters. Two church volunteers spent the night with shelter guests. Children were able to play games and watch television in a lounge area. Tables and chairs created a dining area, and guests had use of a full kitchen.

With dinner over, volunteers and guests had time for quiet conversations. A couple of men came in later after getting off work and fixed plates of food.

One family was nearing the end of a stay with Family Promise.

Robert, 42, had just started a job at Amazon in Ruskin, and in a matter of days planned to move his fiancé and his four children, ages 17, 14, 11 and 7, into an apartment.

He brought his family from Indiana and for a while lived with a relative in Pasco County. Even with experience as an electrical engineer, he struggled to find work.

For a month, home was his truck.

But now Robert says, "I can see the light at the end of the day."

When he sees someone on a street corner, asking for help, he says, "I always stop and give them what I've got. You never know what's going to happen day to day."

The people on street corners are only part of the story, Humphrey says.

"People don't think, 'Oh, he might have a family,' " she says. “You don't know. People who sit next to you on a bus or in an office, they could be homeless."

This year, the Point-in-Time homeless count prepared by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found about 2,250 men, women and children were homeless in Hillsborough County. Families made up about 18 percent.

"It can happen to anyone at any time," says 41-year-old Michelle, a mother of two children, ages 14 and 11. "People are one paycheck away from being homeless."

Michelle came from Mobile, Ala., to accept a job with a cleaning company. When she arrived, she found there was no job. She and her children stayed with friends for a while and at motels. The lack of a permanent address made it difficult to get her children enrolled in school, but a social worker smoothed out problems and referred Michelle to Family Promise.

She is hopeful about finding a job soon, possibly with a janitorial service, and then moving into an apartment.

Richard, 43, and his wife, Marta, 35, were jobless and evicted from their home before they came to Family Promise with their children, ages 12 and 9. Richard has found work at Amazon; Marta is working as an intake counselor at a nonprofit agency, Solita's House in Tampa’s Ybor City.

"It's been scary," Marta says. "It's been sad. I do have two very good kids. We've always sat down and explained what's going on. No matter what, we won't let anything separate us."

The family is struggling to find an apartment the parents can afford. Marta says she worries about getting back into a situation where the family can be evicted.

"It's another challenge that we will overcome," Richard says. "I'm just grateful. It's not a fun experience for sure. It's a situation I wouldn't want anybody else to go through. You lose a sense of dignity and pride. There's a lot of emotion that goes with this situation."

Family Promise is hosting an indoor putt-putt golf fundraiser dubbed “Tee Off in Tuscany” from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at The Barn at Winthrop Special Events Hall, 11349 Bloomingdale Ave., Riverview. For information, visit www.familypromiseofgreaterbrandon.org or call Brogli at (813) 681-6170.

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

Monday - October 27, 2014
More U.S. Christians listed as 'churchless'

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.

How does 38 percent sound?

Sun shines through stained glass cross into empty room
Researcher David Kinnaman describes a "post-Christian" American society in which four in 10 people are essentially secular in practice, though many still identify themselves as Christians. Photos from Bigstock.com.

That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.

He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”

If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.

Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.

The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, once called nominals — people attached by name only — “survey Christians.” They don’t want to cut ties with their parents or go all the way to atheism, Stetzer said, “so they just say ‘Christian’ since it is the default category from their heritage.”

Kinnaman now has the numbers to back that up.

“We are far from becoming an atheist nation,” he said. “There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship.”

How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview “is becoming its own social force.”

When political scientists burrow into election results, they may find that church attendance is less and less useful for predicting or evaluating political social and cultural attitudes. If you are not around people of strong belief, there’s not a lot of spillover impact.

Stephen Mockabee, an associate professor of political science at University of Cincinnati, has compared church attendance to medication: “It’s not only the drug but also the dose that matters.”

The churchless come in several tribes, according to Kinnaman.

About a third (32 percent) still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.”

That might include Katie West of Mount Sterling, Ky., or Mike Wilson of Webster City, Iowa. 

A casually dressed woman prays alone surrounded by empty pews
People who read the Bible and worship at church are becoming fewer, a recent study finds.

West keeps the Christian label because, she said, “I follow or at least try to follow the teachings of Christ.” She avoids religious services “unless roped into a wedding or funeral,” but considers herself “a spiritual person without looking at a Bible.”

Wilson is the paid webmaster for a Lutheran church but he can’t recall the last time he attended a worship service or read the Bible. He checks the Christian box if asked in a survey, even though he resonates more with Buddhist and other Eastern philosophies.

“Religion is the starting point to enlightenment, but at some point you have to take that leap of faith and make your personal relationship with God exactly that — personal,” Wilson said. “So if you can find a religion that encompasses that better than Christianity, I will call myself that.”

Other “tribes” among the churchless include:
 

  • 25 percent are self-identified atheist or agnostics. Kinnaman calls them “skeptics.” And their ranks have changed in the last two decades. The percentage of women is up to 43 percent from 16 percent since 1993. Highly educated and more mainstream than before, “this group is here to stay,” he said.
  • 27 percent belong to other faith groups such as Jewish or Muslim or call themselves spiritual but not religious.
  • 16 percent are Christians — people with a committed relationship with Christ, Kinnaman said — who don’t go to church anymore.


Kinnaman predicts no change in direction. He concluded: “The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is.” Here's the breakdown: 

  • Millennials (born between 1984 and 2002): 48 percent;
  • Gen X-ers (born between 1965 and 1983) : 40 percent;
  • Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) : 35 percent;
  • Elders (born in 1945 or earlier) — 28 percent.

Karen King, 52, a dispatch scheduler for a local transit agency in Mount Vernon, Wash., knows her state is among the least churched in the nation. Yet among the secular crowds, there are plenty of churchgoers.

“I know because I schedule people to get to churches through Dial-A-Ride. There must be 40 or 50 churches between Mount Vernon and nearby Burlington.”

And King goes to none of them.

The granddaughter of a Presbyterian pastor, King says she hasn’t been to church for a worship service in more than 30 years. Her daughter, a millennial and a pagan, doesn’t go either.

Although King still thinks of herself as a Christian, she has stepped back from denominational brands. Instead, she says, she just tries to show love.

“I do random acts of kindness. I talk to God when I think I need to. I think I have a good connection to Mother God and Father God.”

-- Cathy Lynn Grossman is a writer for Religion News Service. This article used with permission. Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission.


 

Friday - October 24, 2014
ESOL ministries: a good fit for Florida

It was on a boating trip with friends that Rev. Cherie Chapman opened her heart about a mission she had prayed would find a home at her church: teaching English to those who spoke another language, also known as ESOL.

On the trip with her was Bonnie Taylor. She had taught ESOL classes in Connecticut for several years before moving to Fort Myers and joining Tice UMC. She told Chapman she had prayed for God to lead her back to that mission. 

Adult tutoring three children of different races
In a state that's becoming home to a growing number of immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, helping newcomers learn English can be a powerful gift to enhance their future. Photo from Bigstock.com.

Within a week, the prayers of both women were answered.

Two Spanish-speaking women came to Tice UMC, where Chapman is pastor, looking for English language classes.

"God just put everything in place," Chapman said.

Five years later, Tice is among Florida Conference churches reporting the blessings of changing lives and opening doors for people who have been marginalized by language barriers. Some host programs at their church, while others volunteer off-site or pool their resources with neighboring churches to offer the gift of English to others.

The program at Tice started with a handful of students meeting twice a week and has expanded to include free family and adult classes several times a week. The church also has partnered with the Literacy Council Gulf Coast and adopted the council’s Carol DeJoy Moms & Tots literacy program.

About 30 to 35 women attend Moms & Tots, and 15 to 30 people attend adult evening classes. Many are migrant workers and day laborers, often from Guatemala, who live near the church and work in the Immokalee area.

"We are in a very poor neighborhood," said Chapman, whose church counts about 120 worshipers on Sundays. "(ESOL students) are walkers. They walk to wherever they are going. They are lucky if they have a bicycle. Transportation is something they aspire to but not something they often attain." 

Mothers with kids in strollers raise hands to respond to a teacher in English class
Classes that help immigrants with children learn English, like this one at Grace Place near Naples, prepare families for school and doctor's office conferences, as well as better employment opportunities. 2012 file photo by Susan Green.

Depending on attendance, four to six tutors help with classes. At Moms & Tots, mothers take classes while their kids go to day care and their own ESOL program tailored to children. The families are hungry for education.

"Education is a key to not being a day laborer," Chapman said. "They see this much more clearly than our native folks."

Meeting community needs

That’s also true for immigrants who settle in the northwest part of Florida. Watching people use newfound English skills to land better-paying jobs is among the rewards of ESOL ministry for Pat Striplin, a member of Killearn UMC, Tallahassee.

A retired educator, she has organized ESOL classes for Spanish-speakers at Greensboro UMC in neighboring Gadsden County since 2008. The ministry recently tapped some French-speaking volunteers to help teach English to a growing number of Haitian residents.

More than 30 volunteers from four churches participate on a rotating basis. Each Thursday evening, they board a bus to Greensboro, about 45 minutes away, and spend two hours tutoring about 50 adults and children from a largely rural community with a high illiteracy rate.

“Our goal is to help them learn English in a Christ-centered environment,” Striplin said.

Volunteers come not only from Killearn but Good Samaritan and Chaires United Methodist churches and a Baptist church, all in Leon County. Classes follow a curriculum tailored to varying skill levels. State-certified teachers lead each class but depend on others to help English learners become comfortable with speaking a non-native language. 

Greensboro UMC photo of sanctuary
Volunteers from three United Methodist churches and one Baptist church in Leon County travel to Greensboro UMC in a rural community to help Spanish- and French-speaking immigrants learn English. Florida Conference file photo.

“They need conversational skills to help them as they shop or go to their child’s school (for parent-teacher conferences) or go to the doctor,” Striplin said.

Volunteers at Greensboro and the other churches take turns providing food that is served before classes, Striplin said, and sometimes students bring a dish from their native country.

Across the state, in Jacksonville, Faith UMC is another church reaching out to an immigrant community, this time mostly Cuban refugees. The congregation began English classes about two years ago.

Jacksonville is home to one of several federally funded refugee resettlement programs managed by the state. By agreement with Cuba, up to 20,000 Cubans migrate annually. Other immigrants come from Haiti, Russia, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Burundi and Iraq.

Faith UMC provides worship services in Spanish, as well as space for refugees from Myanmar to hold worship and special events.

"It's a wonderful fit," said church volunteer Donna Glasner. "We seem to have led our congregation to embrace refugees."

A church of about 80 Sunday worshipers, Faith relies on volunteers and donations to conduct weekly classes for about five students.

"We are a bunch of non-teachers," Glasner said. "Nobody is trained as a teacher or in ESOL. It's just volunteers trying to help people in the community who need to improve English skills."

Glasner bought the book "ESOL for Dummies" to aid tutors. Classes are taught in English only, though on occasion Google is used for translations, Glasner said.

“It's a real blessing to be able to get to know people as they go through classes," she said.

Better language skills, better life 

Donna Glasner, left, with student Zonia Cruz in ESOL tutoring at Faith UMC
Donna Glasner, left, helps Zonia Cruz, originally from Cuba, improve her English skills at Faith UMC, Jacksonville. Photo from Faith UMC.

Grassroots efforts from churches of all denominations and local nonprofit organizations can help fill education gaps, said Jan Setzekorn, literacy services director at UMCM Suncoast, formerly known as United Methodist Cooperative Ministries, in the Florida Conference’s Gulf Coast District. The agency's literacy sites include Wesley UMC and Pasadena Community Church in St. Petersburg and Manatee UMC, Bradenton. Anona UMC sponsors classes in Largo, along with Pinellas Park Library and Highpoint YMCA.

Suncoast supports programs aimed at ending poverty. Volunteers can train to be tutors there, as well as at the Literacy Council Gulf Coast.

"We look at it from the standpoint of Methodism, which believes in helping people in need whether they have money or not," Setzekorn said. "It (literacy) is the most incredible way to change a life beyond anything I could ever imagine. It's almost like having a magic wand."

For many, ESOL classes can be about economics. "Anyone who speaks English is going to make more money," Setzekorn said. "If your hope is for citizenship, it's a requirement."

Suncoast aims to teach family members together and intentionally provides sites where clusters of immigrants have sprung up in order to overcome transportation issues.

"School systems are starting to recognize the value of grassroots programs," Setzekorn said. "We can work with students who might not ever walk into a large building. We don't expect them to come to us. We come to them. We meet their needs.”

For volunteers in the Greensboro UMC outreach, many of whom work all day before boarding the bus for the ESOL program, the rewards are worth the effort. People chat excitedly about the families they are getting to know. Children who began in the program in 2008 have now grown into teenagers able to help in the ministry, Striplin said.

“When we get on that bus (to return to Tallahassee), everybody is tired, but they’re just so energized because it’s been a fun evening,” she said. “It’s just a real blessing.”

At Tice, the outreach has yielded life-changing rewards for givers and receivers. By the measure of whether the church would be missed if its doors ever closed, Chapman said, "Our community would notice. Absolutely they would notice. It's changed us."
 

-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa. Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

Monday - October 20, 2014
Ministries build relationships before churches

What do crockpots, coffee shops, sports bars and yoga have in common?

For a 21st century evangelist, they can all be a part of New Church Development.

Anything that brings people together, then bonds them together, can pave the way for a relationship with Jesus Christ, say today’s church planters. 

Older couple listening to speaker at outdoor venue
Above, Bill and Barb Furlong, left, and Stacy Collins enjoy Collective's Easter service at Cafe DaVinci in DeLand. Below, Robbie Carelli and Michael Furlong lead musical worship in a small, casual setting at Collective, a new church initiative in DeLand. Photos from Collective.
Two musicians singing in coffee house setting

For example, a group of people who ride bicycles together may regularly include a stop to discuss a Bible passage, said Rev. Dan Jackson, New Church Development director for the Florida Conference.

“For these people, that’s church,” he said. “It isn’t necessarily in the steepled church of years past.”

In fact, Jackson predicted that new church starts actually involving new congregations in new buildings will be rare for the Florida Conference in years to come. More common will be second-site worship groups that remain under the wing of a healthy church but meet at a different time and place – possibly even in commercial eateries and coffee houses -- drawing people of similar interests together.

The strategy is expected to dovetail with another disciple-making effort being launched in the conference, tentatively called Fresh Expressions. Rev. Audrey Warren, pastor of Branches UMC, Florida City, and a co-convener of the initiative, said Florida Conference leaders will meet Nov. 17-18 with Virginia-based Fresh Expressions US to discuss the possibility of a formal partnership.

In the meantime, some conference members already are practicing what they preach. Warren cited a ministry in North Florida, where Methodists take tents, crockpot meals and a guitar to a trailer park and worship with residents there.

At her own church, she leads Yoga Chapel, a spiritual experience that combines scripture and exercise.

“It’s building relationships,” she said. “That’s really what Fresh Expressions starts with – listening to and building community.”

Jackson likens his task to the mission field of old, when Christianity was young and largely in the hands of a firebrand preacher called Paul. Today’s climate requires church planters to target not only lapsed Christians but the huge number of people who have no faith or church experience at all.

“We’re nearing the point of starting over in nurturing people in their faith,” Jackson said. “How did we do it in the beginning? …We’re continually looking for ways we can take the gospel to where the people are.”

Part of his job, he added, is to help district leaders realize “we’re not simply a grant-giving operation, but we want to be directly involved in planning and bringing new church starts to fruition.”

Sometimes that means working with existing congregations that are growing to determine if the results can be transplanted elsewhere.

“I believe our future as a conference is in finding what’s working and then capitalizing on that,” Jackson said.

The conference also is investing more in preparing new clergy for the challenges of church planting in today’s culture, he said. New church planters typically will spend at least a year in ministry in a healthy congregation, then another year in planning for an off-site disciple-making ministry before launching the effort.

Church planters also receive training through a series of seminars under the New Church Start Academy program, which began in August.

Targeting the outsider

Dan Jackson headshot"We’re continually looking for ways we can take the gospel to where the people are.”


-- Rev. Dan Jackson,
 New Church Development

Jackson is no stranger to preaching outside traditional church walls. As a pastor in the West Ohio Conference several years ago, he led Bible study in a bar for three years.

The ministry started as a joke, when a member of the church’s men’s group asked how he could get more men to attend church.

“Someone said, ‘Bet if we had it at Ralphie’s (they would come),’” Jackson recalled, referring to a popular sports bar in the community.

Jackson saw the genius behind the jest. “The first night we ran a men’s Bible study there, we had 40 men,” he said, adding that customers saw the discussion group and moved to join in.

Some churches, like University Carillon UMC, Oviedo, on the edge of the University of Central Florida campus, have managed to draw younger crowds by offering praise band services at times other than Sunday morning. Still others are experimenting with interactive, online services.

One of the challenges of new church planting methods listed by Jackson is getting traditional worshipers to understand that the newcomers may never gravitate toward the age-old customs of coming to Jesus.

“Every time I was at a local church and I would start some kind of new, targeted worship, where over time we had people who were patrons of the bar become regular attendees of Bible study … I’d have someone say, ‘As people mature in their faith, they’ll want to come to the real worship.’”

Jackson said one way of growing in faith is to accept that these alternative worship styles are no less authentic than the traditional Sunday morning experience many Methodists grew up with. 

“If the goal of a church (new or established) is to do mission better or more imaginatively in order to attract more people to an existing church, it isn’t a fresh expression. The aim of a fresh expression isn’t to provide a stepping stone into an existing church, but to form a new kind of church that steps out in its own right.”

-- From freshexpressionsus.org

Among budding expressions to watch is Collective, a Sunday night worship experience that meets in a former newspaper outpost in DeLand that has been outfitted to resemble a casual eatery. Jackson described an eclectic blend of furniture, including a couch, coffee tables and high-top tables with chairs.

“You feel like you walked into a lounge someplace,” he said.

The atmosphere is meant to create a feeling of intimacy that works only in a small setting. That poses some challenges for financial support, Jackson pointed out.

“It only works if you can get a low-cost facility continually,” he said.

Though meeting on its own, Collective, billed as a “misfit faith community” on its website, is supported by the long-established First UMC, DeLand.

The community’s pastor, Ben C. Collins, didn’t grow up going to church but found his faith as a high school student attending a Baptist church. He answered a call to ministry in college, working as a Baptist youth minister while attending Stetson University. He later became exposed to Wesleyan teachings at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Collins said he had a “rough time” early on as he pursued traditional preaching, and he thought he was leaving church ministry a few years ago. He began meeting with a group of people for Bible study at his home, then at a local bar.

“I guess I’ve kind of always known that the underside of people who wouldn’t show up in church on a Sunday morning were the people I was called to connect with … those people with one foot out the door and those hesitant to come in,” Collins said.

About a year and a half ago, he had his clergy credentials transferred to the Florida Conference and joined the First UMC staff in DeLand, with the express mission of nurturing Collective, which now attracts about 80 people to weekly worship. The ministry also counts followers in Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and Nashville, Tenn., among online participants who regularly participate in the offering.

The Sunday evening experience appeals to people as eclectic in their backgrounds as the furniture in the worship space. Some are former Catholics, Episcopalians and Quakers, and at least one has followed Buddhist traditions and likes the inclusion of meditation in the service. A few people had no religious background before finding Collective.

Many work weekends, particularly late-night Saturday shifts that make Sunday morning church a challenge, Collins said. Others simply prefer not to break up their weekend with worship attendance.

The ministry has attracted some young families and a surprising contingent from the older generation, with the oldest being 84, Collins said.

“One of the unique things we have identified is that we’re definitely, markedly millennial in our theology and philosophy,” he said.

“The single common thread … the thing they identify with is they’re sort of looking for a place that’s specifically not pretending to have all the answers.”
 

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

Wednesday - October 15, 2014
Haitian Methodists hunger for knowledge
 Sunday school children in yellow shirts raising hands, looking animated
Sunday school children in the Methodist Church of Haiti need lesson materials, which are being developed by missionary Sharon Harbottle. Photo from the Christian Education and Evangelism ministry in Haiti.
 
Sharon Harbottle, center, with her husband, John, to her left, meet with vistors and native young adult leaders in Cange. Photo from Rev. Beth Bostrom.
 
Sharon Harbottle, left, listens to schoolchildren in Haiti as Ruth Gomez, left background, of the FIU-MDC Wesley Foundation mission team looks on. Photo from Rev. Beth Bostrom.


Today’s Methodist missionaries to Haiti arrive by plane and carry access to God’s word in their smartphones, but in many ways the mission field has changed little since the first Wesleyan preachers from England stepped on the island about 200 years ago.

Poverty, language barriers, scarcity of resources and logistical challenges greet modern-day evangelists like Sharon Harbottle and her husband, Dr. John Harbottle, of the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Now two years into a three-year stint in Haiti, the two shared their experiences with listeners at the Florida United Methodist Center in Lakeland last week.

The Florida Conference has had a covenant relationship with the Methodist Church of Haiti since 2006. In addition, many Florida congregations last year helped address the nutrition needs of that impoverished country by participating in Stop Hunger Now food packaging events.

But food is not the only critical need for the people of Haiti.

“These people are hungry, and they’re waiting,” Sharon Harbottle told listeners Friday at the Methodist Center. “They’re hungry for knowledge and more learning.”

She is a former high school teacher and lay preacher with a degree in theology who has been developing Christian curricula for adults and children in Haiti. Her husband, a physician, has been working to organize the efforts of a network of 11 Methodist-affiliated clinics in Haiti, eight of which are currently operational. Keeping the facilities supplied with the appropriate medications and staff for each community being served has been a challenge, he said.

This past summer, the Florida Conference Institute of Preaching answered a call for help in training local Methodist pastors in Haiti, partnering with Sharon’s ministry and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. The result was a two-day preaching seminar led by Dr. Ed Phillips from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and Rev. Courtney Smith, a church pastor and Candler graduate.

The institute team traveled to Petit-Goave, Haiti, about 40 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, expecting to coach about 75 pastors. Instead, they found more than 90, some of whom drove up to eight hours to attend.

Both Sharon and Rev. Pam Carter, a veteran of missions to Haiti, were touched by the appreciation shown by the preachers who attended.

“We were amazed at how overcome the preachers were with emotion,” Sharon said.

“You would have thought it was Christmas when they were given their certificates” for completing the training, Carter said.

In addition to instruction and individual critiques of sermon delivery, the pastors received resources translated into their native Creole language and gift bags of toiletries and bookmarks.

Two more seminars are planned for January in Port-au-Prince, targeting another 175 pastors. Even after that, less than half the approximately 600 preachers active in Haiti’s Methodist Church will have received the training.

Most church pastors in Haiti come from the ranks of laity, Sharon explained. Only 15 of the country’s 230 Methodist churches are shepherded by ordained clergy. Pastors often have few written resources to help in sermon preparation, and they must contend with frequent power outages as they craft and practice their presentations.

The Harbottles’ ministry includes a printing press, which cuts down on production costs for the specialized training materials Sharon produces, but there are still significant expenses. In addition to the Institute of Preaching program, she also has written two Sunday school books for teachers and is working on books for children and youth. 

Dr. John Harbottle provides instruction to two Haitian nurses
Dr. John Harbottle works with Haitian nurses at one of the Methodist-affiliated clinics to improve operations and ensure health care for the community. Photo from John and Sharon Harbottle. For information on this ministry, click here.

Revs. Paul Massingill, Wesley Foundation director at Florida International University and Miami-Dade College, and Beth Bostrom, campus chaplain and Wesley director at the University of Miami, have taken student mission teams to Haiti, where they observed the Harbottles in action.

Both pastors said they were impressed with the Harbottles’ skill and enthusiasm for coaching local Methodists in leadership skills that will help them address needs in the surrounding community once the missionaries are gone.

In addition to helping with Christian education, Sharon works with local church leaders on such duties as stewardship reports. John works with nurses and clinic administrators to improve budgeting, inventory and operations methods so that the facilities can continue to serve local healthcare needs.

“John and Sharon made a really strong impression (on visiting students) as to what it means to respond to a call,” Massingill said, adding that students from Florida typically are struck by the dramatically different living conditions of people inhabiting a place so close to their home state.

“It’s always very eye-opening for the students to go and spend some time there,” Massingill said.

Bostrom said she has taken two mission teams of students to Haiti, where they spent most of their time in the village of Cange. There they visited a hospital and met with young adults who organized a program that offers educational enrichment in art, music and sports to about 100 young people in the community.

In January, the Harbottles joined the group to hear from the young Haitians in charge how they determined the need and built the ministry. Bostrom said they were interested in ideas to motivate others toward leadership roles in Haiti.

“It’s really a joy to know them,” Bostrom said. “They have such a passion for their work, as well as compassion. … Their work is about supporting and empowering the (locals), which is the only sustainable method of ministry.”

The Harbottles expect to return to England in May and report to church leaders there. They hope to extend their mission work in Haiti after that.
 

Want to learn more?

Click here to read about Sharon Harbottle's work with Christian Education and Evangelism in Haiti and how you can help.

Click here to read about Dr. John Harbottle's work with the Haiti Health Program and how you can help.

Click here to read a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission report on the Harbottles' ministry in Haiti.

 

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

Tuesday - October 14, 2014
What's the UMC position on Halloween?

Scarecrow atop a pile of pumpkins at Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs
Pumpkin patches like this one at Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs, are a fall mainstay at many Florida Conference churches.
The United Methodist Church does not have an official statement or position regarding Halloween. Church members are free to make their own decisions about participating in Halloween activities.

Many local churches offer safe alternatives to traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating. Fall festivals, trunk-or-treat events and pumpkin patch sales can serve as community outreach as well as raise money for missions or youth ministries.

Click here to see Florida Conference churches that have posted seasonal events to the conference website

Others turn the focus to more on giving than receiving. Collecting for UNICEF or giving Fair Trade chocolate are ideas for using the occasion to "treat" or give to others

Click here for more ideas from United Methodist Communications.

(Teaser photo on the Florida Conference Connection home page from Wesley Church, West Melbourne.)

Friday - October 10, 2014
Make a difference, make a friend
at Mission Impact

DAYTONA BEACH – It’s an idea that sprang from the laity session of Annual Conference 2013, when attendees agreed to reach out to someone of a different generation.

Conference Lay Leader Russ Graves followed up on it a year later, at Annual Conference 2014, encouraging members to save the dates of Jan. 16-17, 2015, for a “Make-a-Friend” event intended to foster intergenerational relationships.

Graves said his intent was to encourage others to share in the rewards he experienced by reaching out to young people he didn’t know.

“Young adults have changed my life,” he said, describing how spending time with those born many years later recharged his outlook and ministry. “It is almost as exciting as discovering Christ for the first time.

“There is a side of young adults that helps us reconnect with when we were younger and … when our dreams were bigger and our desire was stronger to make a difference, before the world got hold of us and said, ‘You can’t do that.’” 

Photo of Bethune-Cookman University sign
Bethune-Cookman University, founded on a concept of mission and community service, will host Mission Impact Florida, an intergenerational event Jan. 16-17. Photo from Bethune-Cookman University.

The initial idea has crystallized into Mission Impact Florida, a two-day gathering at Bethune-Cookman University that will combine the idea of an intergenerational get-together with an emphasis on missions. Adults of all ages from across the conference are invited.

“The aim still is an intergenerational event,” said Kylie Foley, who is organizing Mission Impact Florida for the Florida Conference. Foley also is the Florida field coordinator for Imagine No Malaria, a United Methodist campaign that aims to wipe out the mosquito-borne illness in parts of the world where it still exists. Imagine No Malaria will be a key focus of Mission Impact, along with local projects in the Daytona community, and $10 of each attendee’s $20 registration fee will go to the anti-malaria campaign.

“It’s a great segue to say, 'Make a friend, but make a difference,’” Foley said. “Mission is for all people, without exception. … Mission is not just a trip, but it’s everyday life.”

The two-day event, scheduled for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, will begin Friday, Jan. 16, with evening worship and then a “Camp Out to Stamp Out” event featuring s’mores and games, sponsored by Imagine No Malaria. Also that evening, Derrick Scott III, a Florida Conference campus ministry director for Jacksonville colleges, will combine his talents with musicians from across the conference in a concert for the event.

The following day will include short presentations by Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, director of Justice and Multicultural Ministries for the Florida Conference; Heidi Aspinwall, the conference’s Young Adult Missional Movement director; and Rev. Erwin Lopez of the Central Florida Wesley Foundation.

Florida Bishop Ken Carter also is scheduled to speak Saturday, and a young adult panel will discuss missions as well. Musical groups from Bethune-Cookman also are scheduled to perform.

After the presentations, participants will be given the option of attending a missions-related workshop or heading out in the Daytona area for a specific mission opportunity. Halifax Urban Ministries, a homelessness prevention and assistance agency, and Derbyshire Place, a ministry aimed at helping low-income families, are among destinations for Mission Impact attendees.

Graves, a Bethune-Cookman trustee, said university leaders heard about the conference’s goal of encouraging intergenerational relationships and offered to host an event.

Rev. John Baldwin II, presidential policy adviser at Bethune-Cookman, said the idea carried a natural appeal for a school where the motto is “Enter to learn. Depart to serve.”

“When our founder started this school, she started it to empower people in the community to build a healthier community and to contribute their assets to the community around them,” Baldwin said, referring to Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune’s original training school for girls, founded in 1904, blossomed into a college and later a university after affiliating with The United Methodist Church in 1924.

The university is encouraging student participation and offering civic engagement credits that some students need to graduate, Baldwin said.

Graves said local congregations will lend support by making church campuses available for people who want to save on lodging costs by bringing cots, air mattresses or sleeping bags. And at least one local hotel has agreed to provide a discounted rate to those who mention “Mission Impact” when they book a room.

The lay leader said he also wants to encourage young people to approach their elders and invite them to the event. Older adults, fearing rejection, seem less likely to make the first move, he said.

“The older adults are scared of it.”

Sharing in mission work provides the ideal icebreaker and puts both generations on an equal footing for cross-mentoring, Graves said.

“We don’t want them instructing,” he added. “We don’t want them saying, ‘Come to my church and be like us.’ This is about relationships for … Kingdom-building.”

Graves said intergenerational relationships will continue to be a concept promoted at Annual Conference 2015, scheduled to be held June 10-13 on the Bethune-Cookman campus.

For Mission Impact Florida information and registration, click here.

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

 

Thursday - October 9, 2014
GBHEM task force tackling clergy debt concerns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- New findings from the United Methodist-affiliated Seminary Indebtedness Task Force reveal that the average educational debt for United Methodist seminary graduates has reached $49,303.  

“Based on median annual conference compensation for new clergy, we now know that many of our clergy are well beyond the nationally recognized critical level (10 percent of income) for manageable debt,” said Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of the Office of Loans and Scholarships at the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM), which appointed the task force. 

The figure for average student debt is calculated by combining the average Master of Divinity program debt for United Methodist students, $35,761, and the average undergraduate or prior-to-seminary debt of $13,542. The figures were taken from data supplied by 13 United Methodist theological schools.

“Currently in the U.S., college students have a trillion dollars of educational debt. The task force is bringing our institutions and annual conferences together to look at this issue, which is affecting our clergy and their families,” Collinsworth said.

Locally, the Florida Conference received a $50,000 grant this year through the United Methodist Young Clergy Initiative to develop an educational program aimed at debt reduction for clergy members. The program is expected to start in December. 

Based on information compiled in July, active, full-time provisional elders and deacons with one year or less of service in the church earn a median total annual compensation  -- salary plus housing allowance or parsonage amount -- of $49,742, according to data analyses collected from the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. This includes a median annual base salary of $38,000.

"Seminary debt is keeping young, innovative clergy from being able to take risks in their ministry -- the very same risks, in fact, that a 21st century church needs to be making," said Tyler Sit, recent seminary graduate and church planting resident at Urban Village Church in Chicago. 

New calculations estimate the critical level of student debt for United Methodist new full-time clergy to be around $35,500. This figure assumes earning the median annual compensation for new clergy, putting the FinAid-recommended 10 percent of gross monthly income toward student debt and the ability to repay the debt in a 10-year standard plan at a 6.8 percent interest rate.

“Using data supplied by seminaries, we have painted a clearer picture of the debt facing our clergy and seminarian students. Now we need to create discussion, cooperation and resourcing among the levels of the church that can combat this problem,”  Collinsworth said.

"Seminary debt is keeping young, innovative clergy from being able to take risks in their ministry -- the very same risks, in fact, that a 21st century church needs to be making."
-- Tyler Sit, Urban Village Church, Chicago

GBHEM staff and task force members shared the current calculations at a recent joint meeting of seminary financial aid directors, project managers for Lilly Endowment grants, two seminary presidents and boards of ordained ministry (BOM) staff from 18 annual conferences. Seven United Methodist seminaries were among 67 across the U.S. that received money from the Lilly Endowment as a part of its initiative to address economic issues facing future ministers. 

Root causes discussed by the group included the financial realities of the cost of seminary, loan availability and access, lack of financial literacy, process and timing for students to identify themselves as candidates for ordination and additional pre-seminary debt. Solutions brainstormed at the meeting included creating a financial literacy element in the group candidacy or vocational discernment process to provide information on funding resources as part of the group study. This, however, would be aimed at declared candidates on track to be certified and would help only those who identified their call to ministry early.

Other ideas included a greater emphasis at seminaries on financial training/counseling about debt limits and fiscal realities. Annual conferences could partner with seminaries to contact prospective students and include education about regional funding in the recruitment process. Others wanted more support from the district committee level in the discernment process, moving a conversation about the reasonable maximum debt for clergy into a local context.

Legislation approved at General Conference 2012 recommended that GBHEM form a task force to address financial assistance and seminary debt for certified candidates for ordained ministry. The Seminary Indebtedness Task Force is a subset of the GBHEM Young Clergy Initiative.

Seminary representatives at the meeting expressed need to receive Ministerial Education Fund checks at the schools before students pay tuition bills, which would avoid odd short-term borrowing, and a hope to be involved earlier in the ordination process via candidacy retreats or discernment spaces. Annual conference BOM staff members spoke of the need to streamline data collection and identify persons from their conference who are actively enrolled in a seminary.

Overall, meeting participants rallied behind a call for greater consistency and clarity across the connection about what debt limits are for candidacy and ordination, as well as when credit checks are required in that process. Sit advised students, “Don't try to run away from your debt. Ask questions ... about your financial status until you are absolutely confident in how you are going to scratch out debt before it interferes with your ministry.”

The Seminary Indebtedness Task will give a final report to the Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table in 2015 and to the 2016 General Conference.

The task force will also lead discussions on United Methodist clergy debt at the following upcoming events:

  • Oct. 12-14, Association of United Methodist Theological Schools, Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology;
  • Nov. 5-7,  National Association of United Methodist Foundations, Asheville, N.C.
  • Nov. 19-21, Consultation on Theological Education, hosted by GBHEM, in San Diego.
  • Dec.4, GBHEM and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., will facilitate a joint conversation with four  annual conferences (Baltimore Washington, Pennsylvania Delaware, Susquehanna and Virginia) on clergy debt and, specifically, how seminaries and annual conferences can work together for the students they share.

Contact Allyson Collinsworth for more information about the Seminary Indebtedness Task Force.

-- Nicole Burdakin is an editorial and production assistant, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Susan Green, Florida Conference Connection managing editor, contributed to this story.

 
 

Blogs
Monday - October 27, 2014
Where did you see God today?

I am...Innocent...Pure...Free...Giving...Loving...Happy...Full of life...Made in God's image...

I want what you want...To be loved...To be held...To be accepted...For someone to care that I exist...

“Since you did it for one of the least important of these, you did it for me.”

There is no greater good than to minister to others.  It may seem at times we are taking a small water hose to a raging fire…helping others in such a short time span…and with few resources of our own…  It may seem like we aren’t doing enough to make much of a difference…  But doing good for others…is never ours to judge.  It is not ours to determine the outcome…  It is ours to simply do as our Father told us to do.

Twenty-eight people gathered from First UMC-Claremore (OK), Kingston UMC (OH), Pasadena Community Church (FL) and First UMC-St. Petersburg (FL) …headed to Alajuela, Costa Rica for this UMVIM trip.

Our destination and “home base” was Centro Metodista, an out base facility for housing mission teams coming-and-going into Costa Rica.  It is located merely minutes from the San Jose International airport.

This base provided dormitory residential facilities.  David and Doralbis Sardiñas are the residential managers, overseers, coordinators – you name it, they do it, at this facility.  They were our hosts for this trip.

Our team provided three organized ministries during our week stay:  1) construction work at the facility, 2) Vacation Bible School and 3) medical clinic.  The VBS and medical clinic were held at a nearby church, that of Pastor Victor and Grace Vargas, Tuetal Sur Methodist Church in Alajuela.

It was a blessing that our leaders, Bruce and Ruth Anderson, were committed to “keeping close to God” during the week.  Every meal one of the team members shared a personal devotional and Carmen led us in singing together.  Every day Bruce asked us to share our testimony, “Where did you see God today?”  Following are some of the stories the team members have shared for this article.  As Luke, writing to Theophilus, encourages, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us.”  So too, we write our stories:

"I saw God in a young boy who meticulously colored his craft project for VBS. He spent the entire time making sure that every detail was perfect. Then when it was time to leave, he proudly presented it to me as a gift. His gift reminded me that we can never outgive God and that He brings blessings upon our own feeble acts of giving."

 "I saw God in many ways. Therein gives me such desire to go back. I had a granddaughter who brought her 90-year-old grandfather and her baby into the clinic to be seen.. She was so loving and so concerned for her very old 90-year-old grandfather. And just the fact that they came in families.  It wasn't just one person coming to be seen, they wanted to make sure all their family was taking care of,  but  not just medically. They were coming to the church..AND…they came back in the afternoon-- the mothers, one father and they brought their children for the vacation Bible school. And then at the end of vacation Bible school, as they were leaving, once more, I see God as all of our wonderful volunteers made sure that each person in each family had something to take home with them."  

"I saw God during our worship experience at Tuetal Sur Methodist Church. The Holy Spirit, in us, conquered the language barrier. We were greeted by the congregation with welcoming hugs and faces shining with the love of Jesus. There was such energy from the praise band, glorifying our Risen Lord.  They were singing in Spanish and I was singing in English. And, last, but not least, I was touched by Victor’s sermon and will always remember his dramatics, casting out the fishing pole. I felt truly connected with the global community of believers." 

"I saw God in so many places so I will chose the Sunday service at the inner city church.   I felt the love of God through the people at that service.  You could also feel the love the choir director has for our Lord.  With God there are no barriers." 

"I saw God while participating in the Church Service at La Iglesia Evangelica Metodista El Redentor -The Methodist Evangelical Church of the Redeemer.  They greeted us so warmly and gave us a bulletin with the words, so we were able to worship along with them in Spanish, or in English if we liked, because they were singing hymns that we knew.  I really felt a fellowship with them, and thought how great it was to be  praising God and worshipping God our Creator, in two languages.  It was kind of like singing in tongues, and we really felt that the Holy Spirit was among us." 

"At the leadership training on Sunday afternoon, Greg spoke a lot about having cultural sensitivity when we go to other countries on God's mission.  I think it was important to try to speak a little Spanish if  one can do so.  But the language of the heart was so much more important, whether we were hugging crying children, holding babies so their mother could  be free to do the crafts, or packing snacks and a toy for each child who came to the Vacation Bible School.  We saw God in the fact that the number of children who came was almost twice the second day, and many many more on the third day.  We were so happy to hear that Victor’s church was fuller than it had ever been the Sunday after the Bible School." 

"I saw God in the children that came to VBS.  One young man, Kenny, particularly captured my heart the first day.  He arrived early with his two younger siblings.   Although he was just 10 or 11 years old himself, I was mesmerized in the way he helped them get settled in the circle on the floor with such honor, grace and compassion.   He didn’t sit with them but went and stood against the back wall as an observer.  My heart tugged because this was his time also to be loved upon and learn about the great love Jesus has for him.  How could I draw him in? I couldn’t communicate with words however they weren’t necessary.  God had already given me all that was needed to invite, a smile. A smile was returned by a smile and then bigger smiles. As Kenny joined us on the floor, and in the craft room and on the soccer field with his beautiful smile, God reminded me of his faithfulness to provide specifically what is needed to share great love."  

"I love reading everyone's stories.  I am touched to hear everyone share how their hearts have been opened and changed.  The excitement to return  gets me excited too.   I think we've all been bitten and moved by the mission bug, it is now in our blood and we will never be the same!  Reminds me of a book from YWAM-[Youth with a mission] --  "Forever Ruined for the Ordinary". I was blessed to be part of this loving, dedicated, and kind team.  I was sooo excited to finally be able to go on a mission trip again after being sidelined for 10 years due to medical issues. I saw God everywhere...  in all of you ,  all of our new Tico friends,  spectacular nature and scenery,  worshipping and  sharing communion with our sisters and brothers - I think it may be like that in heaven-  - I could go on and on... I was touched by  the children who came to  us.    They came so excited, and trusting and eager to be part of whatever we were going to do.  They graciously accepted our inability to speak their language.  They came early just to be with us and in anticipation.  They were all clean despite their living conditions  and dressed in their best clothes.  I saw little ones running in the gate and jumping around and giggling and twirling  in  excitement and  pure joy.   When they left they were so loving to give hugs and promises to come back. They gave us their best, their joy, and their love.  What priceless treasures  they bestowed on us. They touched  me and made my heart sing and smile.  They  reminded me,  God wants me to come to Him like that and  His heart smiles when I do."  

"I saw and felt God's presence in a local woman, Aida. I would describe her as the Rose Oescher of the church we served in Costa Rica. From the first time we met, we bonded. It was hugs and love each time we saw each other thereafter. However, on the last day of clinic, I was trying to thank Aida for praying over all the patients that we had seen. Now keep in mind, I speak no Spanish and she speaks no English. She then grabbed my hand and led me to the back of the church where she put her hands on my head and began praying over me. I never felt so humbled yet special in all my life. I had no clue what she was praying, but it didn’t matter... I FELT it! I physically felt her words of prayer rushing through my body, penetrating each capillary. I couldn’t speak; all I could do is cry and feel weak in the knees. After she finished praying, I knew I had to get back to my team. I tried sneaking into the back of the team meeting hiding my swollen, watery eyes and avoiding conversation because I knew I couldn’t talk about what just happened to me. I was numb, overcome and vulnerably tender-hearted. Realizing I just couldn’t join my team quite yet because I was so emotional, I slipped back out. I heard my mother’s voice, in all her years of nursing wisdom saying, “When you feel you’re in a situation where you need to regain your composure, it’s always acceptable to excuse yourself to go wash your hands. You can go into the bathroom for privacy and run your hands under the water”.  So, I walked quickly to the bathroom to be alone to stop this crazy crying. As I enter the bathroom, I hear someone in there. It’s Aida! Crying loudly! The Holy Spirit touched her as well! The water works just poured out all over again! What a mess, but it was a beautiful, God-kissed mess! Eventually, we were able to join our group again, but it took me a few days to be able to talk about this without getting emotional. That was an extremely powerful “moment” for me that I will NEVER forget and Aida is a person now etched in my heart for the rest of my life." 

May God be glorified by sharing the stories of His good deeds through His chosen ones!

Paul Marshall, member of First United Methodist Church in St Petersburg, Florida

A feature video of the trip can be seen here:  http://youtu.be/r0JIWQvCXDY

 

Wednesday - October 15, 2014
Chaplain Steven Souders receives presidential award
Steve Souders headshot
Steve Souders

Congratulations to Cmdr. Steve Souders, command chaplain of the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, who recently was awarded the President's Meritorious Service Medal for his work in 2011-14 as director of the Mayport Ministry Center.

According to a prepared statement about the citation, Souders led a ministry center that delivered proactive pastoral care to 5,000 sailors and their families associated with 19 ships, including 6,700 instances of pastoral counseling, along with worship and religious education events, community relations projects, training sessions and burials at sea.

"Commander Souders' exceptional professionalism, personal initiative and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service," reads the statement signed by Rear Admiral P.A. Gumataotao.

Souders recently reported to Dr. Wayne Wiatt, Clergy Excellence director at the Florida Conference, that he has been named command chaplain of the naval station's chapel. The position includes coordinating pastoral care for 70 tenant commands, homeported ships, personnel and their families.

Tuesday - October 14, 2014
Debunking the myth of the social media expert

If you’re anything like us here at FLUMC, you’ve probably felt discouraged by a big drop in your church’s organic reach on Facebook.

It’s no secret that Facebook is moving closer to a pay-only model. And reality has hit home now that they’re asking everyone, including nonprofits and churches like us, to pay money to interact with the communities we’ve rallied together online.

This new challenge makes it clear that there is no such thing as a social media expert who can predict every curveball that the social media game has to throw at us. After all, Facebook is a public playground, and we are only permitted to play by their rules.

Over at churchjuice, Jerod explains how even someone with his level of experience can be derailed by sudden game changes like this, and what he learned from his mistakes. Read more!

Tuesday - October 7, 2014
Timing is everything

You’ve put together some great content that’s fresh and original and you’re ready to share it with your fans and followers.

But wait one second! What time is it right now?

Have you considered if this is the absolute best time to post? Sharing content when your church members aren’t even online won’t do you much good. By the time they login your content will be buried under a pile of newer content.

The obvious solution is to only post when most of your followers are online. But how are you supposed to know when that is?

There are some excellent tools available to help you figure that out. They’ve done a great job explaining exactly how this is done over at RazorSocial. Read more!

Tuesday - September 30, 2014
Make a human connection with your followers

An active follower is a great thing to have on your team. Having people interact with your page in any shape or form is a sign that you're doing something awesome with your social media account. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take it a step further.

Social media isn’t just about getting information to people. It’s a way to connect with people authentically—to let them know that your church is made up of people just like them. It’s a conversation!

So start talking back. Once someone becomes active on your site, engage with them however possible. Look at the content they share with you, whether it be in the comments or on their public accounts.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can make a strong connection with an active follower, our friends at Church Marketing Sucks put together some great tips for inspiring your Twitter fans. With a little tweaking, most of these tips can apply to other social media platforms as well. Click here to check out their post!

Thursday - September 25, 2014
Mission Service Opportunities through Generation Transformation

Generation Transformation (GT) applications are now available for 2015 young adult mission opportunities. Generation Transformation is an initiative of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries offering service opportunities for young adults ages 18-30. With three different mission tracks to choose from, GT offers a program to fit the mission desires of all who wish to serve. “Generation Transformation is for all who are willing to go, and ready to respond to God’s call,” says Rachel deBos, a Mission Interpreter for Global Ministries.

Generation Transformation is a movement of young adults using their faith to address injustice and work for systemic change around the world. It is often said that United Methodist missionaries go “from everywhere to everywhere,” making GT truly a global initiative.

“Global Ministries is committed to offering mission service opportunities for young people all around the globe,” says Judy Y. Chung, who leads missionary services. “As young people are mobilized to serve in mission, integrating faith and justice, the movement will inspire and transform the world.”

Three different programs offer a variety of options for young adults who are interested in missionary service:

1.     Global Mission Fellows sends young adults ages 20-30 out of their home context for two years of mission service. This is a faith- and justice-centered opportunity that grew out of the historic US-2 and Mission Intern programs. The Global Mission Fellows aim to engage with local communities, connect the church in mission and grow in personal and social holiness. “The program’s revised structure will better reflect the Global Ministries mission to ‘connect the church in mission,’” writes Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee, the program’s executive secretary. “Local United Methodist leaders — lay leaders, pastors, missionaries and/or campus ministers — will provide mentorship and support, helping Fellows navigate opportunities and challenges that arise when pursuing a life of mission.”

2.     Global Justice Volunteers is a short-term service opportunity for young adults ages 18-30. Small teams of volunteers spend 10 weeks during June, July and August exploring the links between faith and social justice. They work with grassroots organizations around the world.

3.     Individual Volunteers offer individuals and couples the flexibility to volunteer for a period of two months to two years. Volunteers serve at placement sites all over the world, including the United States. Every effort is made to accommodate placement preferences.

Generation Transformation is changing the world one young adult missionary at a time. 2015 service applications are now available. The priority date for submission is Oct. 15. If you’re a young adult committed to working for justice through faith, or know someone who is, you’re encouraged to apply now and share these opportunities throughout your network! These programs develop strong young leaders who are committed to building just communities and a peaceful world.

Learn more about Generation Transformation at www.umcmission.org/GT or email gmfellows@umcmission.org. Follow @umcmissionGT on Twitter for program updates. Please keep these young adults in prayer along with the communities they will serve. Financial support can be made through Advance #13105Z.

Media contact: Melissa Hinnen, Director of Content & Public Information, mhinnen@umcmission.org

Please share this blog with your friends by using the email icon in the upper right corner of the page (the icon looks like an envelope). New readers can subscribe here. To unsubscribe, send your full name and e-mail address to dataupdates@flumc.org with the subject line “Unsubscribe-Global Missions Blog.”

Tuesday - September 23, 2014
How to revive your church's Twitter

Has your church not been as successful on Twitter as you’d hoped? Maybe you’ve seen another church getting a lot of headway recently, and you just can’t seem to figure out what they’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.

There’s no reason to be hard on yourself. Twitter is an odd egg, and you aren’t the first church to have problems cracking it.

Recently, our friends at churchjuice put together a list of 5 common pitfalls that church’s get stuck in when starting up a page. These include:

  1. Not completing your profile
  2. An inconsistent personality or voice
  3. Automated content that wasn’t written for Twitter
  4. A lack of variety in your tweets
  5. Not sharing or talking with others

If you feel you’re guilty of any of these read more at churchjuice.com.

Tuesday - September 16, 2014
Using technology for the ministry of the Gospel

Pastor Greg Laurie is a notable pastor (Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, California) and evangelist with Harvest Crusades that has held large-scale outreaches since 1990. He was interviewed by Brendan Stark (Web Director at Harvest) in a keynote address at the CITRT (Church IT Roundtable) Regional event back in March 2014. Pastor Greg Laurie shared his value as a pastor for using technology, the Internet, and social media, and how they must be used for the ministry of the Gospel.

Click here to listen to the podcast and access other great resources by Social Media Church.

Tuesday - September 9, 2014
Getting started on Pinterest, Tumblr and Foursquare

By Evan LePage

 

The following is an excerpt from A Guide to Getting Started on Social Networks by HootSuite University. The guide teaches businesses how to leverage nine popular social networks to better connect with customers and prospects. Part 3 of this series covers Pinterest, Tumblr and Foursquare.

Download The Guide

With a growing number of social networks, it can be difficult to determine where businesses should put their attention and resources. As as each social network is different, they each require their own content and engagement strategies for their unique audiences.

Unique audiences definitely applies to Pinterest, Tumblr and Foursquare, three social networks that fall outside of the social media strategies of most businesses today. Each of these three networks serves an engaged audience with particular tastes. Though they don’t have as many users as Facebook or LinkedIn, their users are extremely engaged and passionate – meaning tons of opportunities for your brand.

Pinterest

Pinterest has over 70 million users. With over 2.5 billion monthly page views, it has become one of today’s top social networks. Pinterest allows individuals to organize images and videos into personalized visual collections, known as Pinboards. Users can then create pinboards from design inspirations and their favorite products, and browse through public pins and follow boards created by other users.

When using Pinterest, consider the following:

  • Because the average Pinterest user spends over 15 minutes on the the site per visit, Pinterest can provide significant value to businesses looking for a simple tool that engages customers effectively.
  • Pinterest is perfect for contests as the network encourages user-generated content. For example, with photo-pinning contests, businesses can get their followers to pin photos showcasing creative uses their products.

Use Case

Airbnb, an online vacation rental website, recently launched a contest where they gave a free trip to one of their Pinterest followers. To enter the contest, followers were encouraged to pin images of all the destinations they wanted to travel. By tagging Airbnb in each pin, followers were entered into the content, and by sharing their pinned images on other social networks, they increased their chances of winning. Not only did Airbnb see an increase in followers on Pinterest, their contest was shared across other networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a publishing platform that is home to 160 million blogs. With its easy to use blogging platform, Tumblr exemplifies the power of social sharing, and provides businesses with a powerful publishing platform.

Tumblr allows businesses to share as well as follow other blogs. Brands are able to take advantage of the user-friendly platform and tell their story through text, photos, links, and videos.

When using Tumblr, consider the following:

  • Tumblr is a free platform that is easy to use, providing a place where businesses can easily host their company blog or website.
  • Businesses can make their Tumblr page their brand’s content hub where sales and marketing share photos of new products, infographics or other types of promotional content.

Use Case

The news website, Mashable, uses the Tumblr platform for their company blog, where they share behind-the-scenes company culture, helping to build their online community and following.

Foursquare

Foursquare is a mobile geolocation app that allows people to “check in” to different types of venues, such as restaurants, retail businesses and other popular locations. Once a user arrives at a destination they can use their Foursquare app on their mobile phone and ‘check in’. Popular with young professionals, Foursquare helps to create connections between individuals, their friends, and the places they like to go.

For businesses, Foursquare offers a unique opportunity for businesses to localize marketing efforts and deepen customer connections. With over 1.6 million businesses using Foursquare’s merchant platform, businesses can create or claim a listing on Foursquare, allowing them to gain recognition and connect with their customer base.

When using Foursquare, consider the following:

  • Foursquare is an effective tool for listening to the tips and feedback that customers are leaving for the businesses they check into.
  • Businesses can support sales and marketing initiatives by sharing or featuring certain products.
  • Businesses can also create ‘specials’ for that will pop up for nearby Foursquare users acting as an incentive to visit one shop over another.

Use Case

Luxury hotels like the Wynn Las Vegas use Foursquare as a tool to help their hotels improve their overall service. Recently they had a promotion on Foursquare that encouraged guests to ‘check in’ to the hotel’s profile on Foursquare. Once checked in, guests were invited to enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne.

To learn more about today’s top social networks, and discover what you need to know for your business to get started and excel with social media, download the Guide to Getting Started on Social Networks today.

Courtesy www.hootsuite.com.

 

Classifieds
Thursday - October 30, 2014
Director of Children's Ministries

Ortega United Methodist Church - a healthy, growing, spiritually-vibrant, 103-year-old congregation, in Jacksonville, Florida - is seeking the right person to lead our Children's Ministry.  This person must love children deeply, love Jesus passionately, and have a clear vision for how to create a dynamic children's ministry, and how to build a team of committed volunteers.  We have big hopes and dreams for our Church's ministry to children, and are seeking someone who can exceed our expectations!  This is a full-time position, with benefits.  If interested, please send cover letter, resume and references to jasonknott@ortegaumc.org.

Wednesday - October 29, 2014
Children & Family Director

Tavares First UMC  is seeking a Children & Family Director, to build and manage a program for ages birth to grade 5, and to develop an integrated program for children and families.  (a part-time position to grow toward full-time within a year).  Candidates should:
-    Be a committed Christian, with a love for children and families, and the ability to relate to all ages
-    Have experience in Children’s ministry – in mentoring and/or consulting with children
-    Possess strong organizational, communication, and leadership skills, with the ability to recruit and train staff/volunteers
-    Demonstrate strong computer/technology skills, and the creativity to develop and advertise programs

For a full Job Description, please contact the church - by email : dlove@fumctavares.com
by fax : 352-742-3270
by mail : P. O. Box 1086; Tavares, FL  32778

Please direct resumes and indication of interest to dlove@fumctavares.com.

Monday - October 27, 2014
Children & Youth Minister

St. Paul's UMC in Ocala, FL has a staff opening for a Children & Youth Minister.  The Children and Youth Minister has overall responsibility for the church’s ministry and outreach to Children (preschool-4th grade) and Youth (5th-12th grades). 
General responsibilities include:
•    Developing and executing a planned, comprehensive program of Children Ministry and Youth Ministry, with primary focus on Children's Ministry, which is our greatest opportunity for growth.
•    Working with volunteers to implement children’s ministry activities, including children’s Church, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and other special events.
•    Working with volunteers to implement youth ministry activities, including weekly youth meetings, Sunday School, and other special events.
•    Volunteer training, education and recruiting to make sure St. Paul’s is 100% compliant with our Child Protection Policy.

This is currently a 3/4 time position, with an expected commitment of 30 hrs/wk on average.  Please send resumes and references to Beth McCall, Staff-Parish Relations Committee Chair at bmccall51@gmail.com.

Monday - October 27, 2014
Part-Time Office Manager

St. Paul's UMC in Ocala, FL is seeking a part time addition to our staff for the position of Office Manager.  The Office Manager’s primary duty is to coordinate and manage the duties of the church office.  In an effort to create a volunteer-based office that is organized and efficient, the Office Manager must recruit, train, organize and supervise volunteers, as well as manage office inventory.  The Office Manager must have a working knowledge of office procedure and tasks so that s/he can train volunteers and, in an emergency, execute the tasks or projects. 

This position is part-time (20-25 hours/wk).  Please send a resume and references to Beth McCall, Staff-Parish Chair at bmccall51@gmail.com.

Friday - October 24, 2014
Principal

First United Methodist Church is seeking a new Principal to lead our pre-school through 8th grade Christian school located in Homestead, Florida.  First United Methodist Christian School is a ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Homestead whose goal is to provide the community a Christian education under Christian leadership and a loving, supportive community for students, staff, and families to enable students to excel intellectually, spiritually, and socially. Our school was established over 50 years ago and continues to be known for its outstanding Christian education in our community. We currently have 275 students with 36 teachers and assistants and 5 office staff.  Our school provides an aftercare program and has summer camp.


Interest and qualified candidates can send resumes to School Board Chairman Tim Horton, shrlhorton@gmail.com or 2450 SE 5th Ct, Homestead, Fl 33033
Position Title:  Principal - First United Methodist Christian School

Position Category:  Administrative – 12 months

Responsible For:  Managing the daily operation of the pre-school to 8th grade and the supervision of all staff of First United Methodist Christian School (FUMCS).  He or She is appointed by the School Board to implement the mission and education operating policies of FUMCS.  Accountable to the SPPRC and SB, the Principal is the spiritual and educational director who provides day-to-day direction and operational practices that represent a consistent and effective model of integrity, efficiency and accountability.  The principal reports to:  First United Methodist Church of Homestead, Pastor, Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee (SPPRC) and School Board (SB).

SPIRITUAL QUALIFICATIONS:

•    Publicly profess to be a believer in Jesus Christ and have a lifestyle that reflects a maturity and intimacy with God.
•    Be a member of a Church, preferably a United Methodist Church.
•    Has an authentic and growing relationship with Jesus Christ as evidenced by a strong, clear personal testimony.
•    Possess personal humility.
•    A servant-leader whose conduct exemplifies Biblical principles.
•    Committed to the mission of achieving excellence by educating students spiritually, morally, and academically through cultivating Christian values and promoting Christian service.
•    A genuine excitement and passion about Christian leadership.
•    Able to lead in a Godly manner.

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS:

•    Any 4 year degree from an accredited college with a least nine (9) college credits in Early Childhood.
•    A CDA and a minimum of five (5) years of teaching or directing experience.
•    A Staff and Directors Credential Certificate issued by the Department of Children and Families.
•    Preferably a Graduate level degree in Administration.
•    Preferably be certified to teach and/or administrate in the State of Florida.
•    Pass a Level 2 FDLE Screening and background investigation.
•    FUMCS reserves the right to have an individual to submit to drug testing if needed.
•    Experience in Christian school administration desirable, but not required.
•    Demonstrated supervisor leadership.

PERSONAL AND GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS:

•    Ability to create and lead effectively in a team environment.
•    Ability to mentor other leaders builds teams and creates a supportive work environment.
•    Confident – an inclusive decision-maker when confronted with challenging issues and concerns.
•    Enthusiasm, appreciation and commitment for the school’s mission.
•    Proven strength in interpersonal skills and human resource management.
•    Natural talent to meet people easily and cordially; comfortable with people representing diverse backgrounds.
•    A professional demeanor, while at the same time, developing close relationships with parents, staff and community.
•    Has a healthy level of self-confidence combined with Biblical humility.
•    Ability to think strategically and to analyze complex situations.
•    A problem-solver who can engage appropriate parties in the development and implementation of solutions.
•    Possess insight into contemporary culture and the challenges facing children, youth and Christian education.
•    An innovative practitioner of ways to invoke educational programs and administrative processes that engage parent and staff support while fostering desired student outcomes.
•    Ability to extend beyond philosophy and theory to invoke practical application.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND SCHOOL MANAGEMENT:

•    Provide leadership to a planning process designed and intended to assure the school’s readiness and ability to provide a sound, relevant and spiritual educational experience for students.
•    Lead the Staff and School Board in planning for the school’s continuing educational growth and spiritual maturity as highly respected Christian institution.
•    Oversee all academic, extra curricula and student programs to achieve a complete Christian education experience.
•    Establish and promote goals for Staff that results in every student achieving to his/her fullest academic and personal potential.
•    Recruit Staff whose philosophies match those of the school.
•    Develop and apply strategies to continuously improve Staff professional development, salaries and benefits.
•    Develop and implement appositive reinforcing system for evaluating effective teaching, strengthening the curriculum and encouraging professional development.
•    Provide the leadership and management skills necessary to maximize the efforts of Staff and students in an environment conducive to spiritual and educational enhancement, growth, and achievement.
•    Evaluate virtual and technological education as a tool for enhancing the academic offering of FUMCS.
•    Remain abreast of educational trends.

COMMUNICATION:

•    Serves as the primary spokesperson for First United Methodist Christian School.
•    Be committed to maintaining excellent relationships with parents, staff, and students, First UMC Homestead, SPPRC, School Board and the Parent Teacher Fellowship.
•    Promote a warm Christ-centered atmosphere within the school.
•    Maintain a high profile by being visible and attending school events to build awareness, strengthen parent relations and encourage support of the school.
•    Provides leadership in promoting development and implementation of curriculum.
•    Provides strong, collaborative leadership to ensure consensus on future direction.
•    Involvement in the daily life and activities of students by personally recognizing their achievements and sharing in their successes as well as their problems and concerns.

ORGANIZATIONAL SETTING:

•    Ensure compliance with accrediting and school membership agencies.
•    Establish objectives and procedures to ensure operational efficiency.
•    Ensure compliance with local, state, and federal agencies and guidelines.
•    Ensure that the school’s staff adheres to all personnel policies, procedures and guidelines.
•    Ensure that the classrooms, building and playgrounds are safe for our students and staff.
•    Ensure that all necessary repairs are performed to keep the school and grounds in good repair. Major building repairs/concern – Trustee Committee.  Ordinary wear and tear issues – School maintenance staff.
•    Develop, maintain, and update as required, a School Safety Plan.

OTHER DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

•    Implement established school  policies and collaboratively review and make recommendations for change to the School Board.
•    Keep the School Board fully informed of needs as they affect educational operations.
•    Review and support the activities of the Parent Teacher Fellowship and parent volunteer groups.
 

Wednesday - October 22, 2014
Director of Children/Family Ministries

Seeking FT Director of Children/Family Ministries in Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas area. 

Qualifications:
Experienced director, professional, degreed, familiar with workings of UMC

Expertise:
Children
-years of experience
-public education/church
-curriculum creation, planning, implementing
-event planning
-drama, music, dance
-teaching

Support
-volunteer training
-team training
-parent interaction
-creation of new programs
-completes projects
-organized
-creative
-computer proficient

General
-devoted follower of Christ
-passionate about children and family ministry
-team player
-easy to work with

Information
-Resume
-Letters of recommendation
-References

Tuesday - October 21, 2014
Part-Time Office Receptionist

Fulford United Methodist Church

Job description – Office Receptionist – Part Time

The office receptionist is responsible to welcome visitors/church members in a positive and courteous manner that reflects the Christian principles of the Church.

Key Responsibilities:
-    Develop and coordinate volunteer ministries for the office/church ministries
-    Identify and respond to the specific needs expressed by visitors/church members
-    Process all phone calls, maintain supply rooms in an orderly manner
-    Attend staff meetings

Duties:
-    Proof, edit, process, and sometimes compose office publications and correspondence in a professional manner
-    Maintain attendance records in computer and process all weekly prayer requests and related material
-    Prepare baptismal certificates
-    Assist and/or prepare weekly bulletins when necessary
-    Compose, record, and process all phone tree messages including maintenance of all phone records
-    Prepare and update all leadership and staff directories
-    Place, unpack, and distribute all orders for the office, janitorial needs, and copy machine supplies
-    Contact various contractors for repairs or new services
-    Order flowers for services as needed
-    Assist committee chairs with copying, composing, and printing
-    Prepare pick up list for bus and distribute to driver for Sunday bus ride program
-    Any other duties deemed necessary by the Pastor of Staff Parish Committee

Qualifications:
-    A minimum of a high school diploma or equivalency
-    Strong organizational and communication skills
-    The ability to speak and write professionally
-    A working knowledge of Microsoft Office and the ability to learn other related software
-    Long term commitment to the position
-    Spiritual maturity in the Christian faith and supportive of the United Methodist Church
-    Pass the United Methodist Church Child Protection Policy and background check/finger print that the church will pay for and conduct
 

Tuesday - October 21, 2014
President - The Florida United Methodist Foundation

Foundation Begins Presidential Search

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Florida United Methodist Foundation has officially begun a search for a new president. To assist prospective candidates in the application process, the Foundation has prepared a recruitment announcement, which describes the position, the requirements and expectations, and the process for filing an application.

The new president will lead the Foundation in implementing its strategic plan, adopted in 2013, and in fulfilling its mission of strengthening the ministries of United Methodist churches and agencies by promoting comprehensive Christian stewardship through education, consulting, development and financial services.

Prospective candidates should possess a bachelor’s degree and 10 or more years in senior leadership. Preferred qualifications include an advanced degree in a relevant profession, such as business, law or religion and experience in the areas of marketing, finance, church administration, strategic and long range planning, volunteer coordination and theology.

To access a recruitment announcement or to submit an application electronically please contact The Novak Consulting Group at thenovakconsultinggroup.com/jobs. Applications must include a cover letter, resume, five-year salary history, and a list of three to five professional references. The deadline for applications is Nov. 17, 2014.

Tuesday - October 21, 2014
Wooden Paper File

Wooden paper file for wall mounting. Great for 8.5x11 documents.

Conversations
Wednesday - October 29, 2014
Protect your church and family on the web

Unlocking the World Wide Web for your church and children can also open a whole Pandora’s box of videos, images and information that you do not want them to see.

You can purchase internet security software to protect church and family, but you can also implement free security measures.

Eight do-it-yourself security hacks

1. Talk about it: When your children begin to engage the world of technology, be open and honest about what is there and what you are doing to keep them safe. Teaching kids online security and social media basics is as important today as teaching them to look both ways before crossing a street. Predators will use social-media platforms, discussion boards, chat rooms, online gaming and phone apps to interact with children and teens. Talk about the dangers, what safety measures you have set up and why it is important to follow these rules. Together, develop a plan of what to do if they accidentally stumble upon suspicious content.

2. Create user profiles: With every operating system, you can create profiles to customize for a more secure user setting. Use your master account to manage all other profiles on the computer. Then create a profile for each person or group of people (younger kids, teens, etc.). Many systems have built-in settings for children. Windows 8 has a child profile setting you can select while setting up a new profile. Mac OS will have “parental controls” for new or existing profiles in their system preferences.

3. Use passwords: Strong passwords provide a solid defense for keeping your family’s information secure. Many applications can be set to open only with a password. If you have an iPad, you probably have the general login code to access the device. You can, however, go one step further and put passcodes on specific apps through general settings (General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions). Similar protection can be set for the iPhone. This can prevent a child from making in-app purchases.

If you host a website, you can password protect your web pages to prevent someone from tinkering with your content. If it is a Wordpress website, you can choose to password protect the page with the “publish” settings on the right. Each page can have its own password so you can share the page with only people you want. Do not allow your browser to hold onto passwords. It is easy for anyone to reach sensitive information on your computer when the password is automatically plugged in.

4. Lockdown your browser: If you use the computer profile restriction settings, the browser(s) will be fairly secure within those profiles. However, most browsers have their own security or privacy settings that you can adjust for extra protection. Your browser’s security settings can also help protect against the newest malware sites.

If you work from a home Internet connection, many routers can be set up to block sites and certain keywords. If you do not want to lock down your browsers beyond the profile settings, you can monitor online activity through the browser history. Some savvy teens delete their browsing history, which makes it tough to track their activity. If you find missing periods of Internet history, that is a red flag signalling it is time for a talk.

5. Social-media lockdown: Contrary to many perceptions, social media sites can be quite safe for people to use. Facebook and Google Plus have put great effort into  creating settings options to regulate what gets through to you (and what people see of you). Check the settings on individual social media sites to make sure they are safe for everyone.

On the other hand, chat rooms, online gaming environments and even private texting apps can provide an open environment for dangerous content or people. There will always be new apps and social media options that need policing. Common Sense Media and iparent.tv are great resource for parents and church leaders to keep up-to-date on the trending technology that children and teenagers are using.

6. Keep up-to-date: Your computer systems will frequently prompt you to make security and other software patch updates. Pay attention to them. While sometimes annoying, these patches and updates will help to keep out unwanted hackers and/or provide new features to increase security.

7. Keep informed: You will find many sites with great information on keeping families safe online. Microsoft’s Family Safety Center is a good place to start diving into best practices and news about safety practices. Google has a Safety Center that has great information for individual and family safety. Their information is especially helpful if you use a number of Google products (search, YouTube, Android, etc.).

8. Monitor mobile devices: To prevent mishandling of a church- or family-owned device, you can install free or paid apps to help you monitor activities, such as call or browsing history, SMS, email, GPS, pictures, video and calendar updates. Some paid apps can create time limits or time slots during which designated phone features/apps are usable. They can also restrict or block browsers, websites and contacts. Some apps will send you alerts if certain keywords are used.   Many paid apps require a yearly fee, however Highster Mobile has a one-time fee ($70 for one device) and has all the features needed to be proactive. If monitoring multiple devices is needed, My Mobile Watchdog ($45 yearly for five devices) is an excellent choice. If you suspect that abuse has already occurred, you may want a more robust app like PhoneSheriff ($87 yearly for one device).

Determine all the features you require. However, keep in mind that if you use every feature, you risk moving from monitoring into spying. Establish transparent rules and boundaries for both the monitor and the individual(s) being monitored. You may choose not to monitor activities daily, but to adjust settings so you receive alerts when suspicious behavior occurs. You may choose a more cost-efficient option that offers great security filters for the web.

Regardless of the security precautions you put into place, there will always be websites or viruses that are able to slip through the cracks. Some types of adult content may filter through your security settings. The best line of defense is to teach your child about the dangers of the web and give them the tools needed to practice safe habits.

When you see something

In most cases, shaming a young person for finding something objectionable will only harm future communication and possibly spark curiosity. Be assertive in taking appropriate actions and beefing up security as needed. Contact various platforms (Facebook, YouTube) when abusive content is found. If things escalate, you may want to call legal authorities.

The bad news: Dangerous web content is increasing exponentially. The good news: So are the tools to help protect your church and family. Take the time to discover and put these safety measures into practice and keep everyone safe.

Related Resources

Courtesy UMCOM.org. Photo courtesy Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.

Monday - October 27, 2014
Intergenerational worship is like Thanksgiving dinner table

Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone seated at the table.

That’s the image that popped into Steve Jones’ head five years ago when a search committee at First Presbyterian Church in San Mateo, California, asked him what intergenerational worship should look like.

“It occurred to me that it should be like Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house,” Jones said. “There may be a dish that you may not like, but there will be something that everyone will like. The point is not whether everyone likes all the food. The point is that everybody experiences the dinner together.”

Jones got the job, director of music and worship. Ever since, he’s worked with the church’s pastor and other congregation leaders to serve the needs of everyone at their table. That includes worshippers “of all ages and at all stages,” he said -- children, teens, young adults, middle-agers and seniors.

The goal, Jones said, is to help everyone pray, sing, study the Bible, receive the sacraments and enjoy fellowship in a way that “all are drawn into a fulfilling experience of God’s presence.” To do that, he said, everyone has to show up willing “to give up a little of what they prefer in order to worship together.”

Not every day -- not even every Sunday -- is “grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner” yet at First Presbyterian, but the church has made great strides toward intergenerational worship. Fueled in part by a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, they’ve boosted the participation of all ages at the Sunday service, launched a weeklong children’s camp on worship, started a church-band mentoring program, published a pew booklet on worship and held a churchwide worship workshop.

Together, these and other measures are creating not just a culture of intergenerational worship at First Presbyterian San Mateo but an intergenerational church, said the Rev. Shannon Pappas, the pastor and head of staff.

“We’re trying to be a congregation that loves and appreciates across generations,” Pappas said. “We encourage everyone to meet people of different ages, develop relationships, and to do that in intentional ways outside of worship as well.”

The efforts are starting to pay off, Jones said. Friendships and mutual accountability are developing between young and old. Members of the adult choir have been “adopting” youth choir members, becoming prayer partners and, in turn, modeling intergenerational ministry for the rest of the congregation.

Where generations can mingle

Sure, members still often seek out their contemporaries at services and other events. But more intergenerational mingling is evident, for example, at youth worship nights, worship conferences, picnics and the church’s ministry at a local nursing home, where children, teens and adults sing and visit the patients together, Jones said.

To Annette Tornborg, the congregation’s elder for worship, church is a natural place where generations can mingle.

“A community of Christ is unique in our culture, because it’s the only place where five generations regularly get together,” she said.

Not long ago, some of those generations -- the younger ones -- were starting to disappear from First Presbyterian. When Pappas came to the church in 2008, it was a graying congregation, with membership heavily weighted toward people in their 70s and older.

The focus on intergenerational worship wasn’t so much a choice as a necessity, Pappas said.

“We could have become a church of only older people, but that’s a road to a long, slow passing away,” he said.

Faced with similar demographics, many congregations add a contemporary service to draw in young people. But First Presbyterian took a different path. Instead of offering separate traditional and contemporary services, they sought a middle ground, a single service that drew from both approaches.

“We decided to seek a third path, something between not changing and changing radically,” Pappas said. “We wanted something creative, something faithful, something good that met a variety of perspectives and needs, something relevant to many people across five generations.”

What they got was a blend of traditional and contemporary worship, a mix of stained glass, sacraments and creeds, hands-in-the-air praise songs, videos and a worship band. A typical service might begin with a traditional hymn, followed by a classical choir anthem or a black gospel number, then a choral version of the Newsboys’ latest hit, then back to Bach or Beethoven.

What really sets the service apart

“We’re not trying to prove a point,” Jones said. “We’re trying to illustrate that just as all people have a place in the kingdom, so do different musical styles when presented well.”

But what really sets the service apart are the people leading and participating in it.

“Every Sunday we balance the leadership on the platform to include members of different ages,” Pappas said.

Many are musicians or singers, members of the youth and adult bands and choirs. Others have speaking parts, leading prayers and reading Scripture. On any given Sunday, people on the platform range in age from 12 to 80, Jones said.

“We’re making a special effort not only to have people of all ages attend together but also be represented on the platform,” Jones said. “The children are not there to be cute or the seniors as a token. All are valid, and all are accepted.”

About 500 people, including 320 members, participate in the life of the church. Leaders attribute some recent growth to “a terrific children’s department,” but new families seem to be attracted to a church that tries to integrate all generations.

A combined service has its challenges, Jones said. Separate traditional and contemporary services are much easier to plan and execute.

“The most obvious challenge is the fact that younger people and older people enjoy very different music styles,” he said. “Selecting music is a constant balancing act.”

But the congregation may have the biggest challenge.

“The congregation has to approach it with the mindset that they aren’t there to get their own recipe,” he said. “They are there to be with the family and wait until their favorite food comes along. It’s a different mindset and a different paradigm.”

With young people participating in the service, the congregation must also understand the difference between performance and worship. Worship is not the school play or a recital.

“When someone small and cute recites Scripture or sings, people want to applaud, as though it were a performance,” Jones said. “Yet applause can pull people away from the focus of why we are here -- so some teaching goes along with this.”

Building bridges with music

Ironically, music -- the very thing that can so divide young and old -- has been the key to First Presbyterian’s efforts to create intergenerational worship, building bridges across generations.

Members of the adult and youth choirs and bands take part in the weekly service, as do guest musicians from the community. For the past five years, the youth band has also led a weekly Thursday service.

“Music has been a draw for a lot of people,” said Kelley Evans, who attends the church with her family. Jones, she said, does a fabulous job blending classical, traditional and contemporary music, offering “something for everyone.”

Tornborg echoes the importance of music in intergenerational worship.

“Music helps kids understand lots of things we do in worship,” Tornborg said. “It teaches them about liturgy and about how a worship service is put together.”

By participating in the youth choirs and bands and attending the summer Kids’ Worship Adventure camp -- a weeklong camp that teaches children in grades K-6 the principles of worship -- the church’s young people learn by doing. By middle school or high school, they are skilled enough to be on the platform on Sunday morning.

Evans’ daughters Katie, 15, and Megan, 13, have participated in Sunday worship at First Presbyterian. Both play in the youth and adult bands and have attended and taught music at Kids’ Worship Adventure.

Megan, who plays guitar and ukulele, especially enjoys taking part in the Sunday service. Katie, who plays guitar, said that a highlight of her week is being with band members of all ages.

“It’s good to use my talent to please God and to teach younger students,” she said. “And it’s also good to have teens play music with adults, because we learn from them.”

The young musicians don’t just learn how to play better when they are taught and mentored by older members. During rehearsals, the older musicians share techniques and discuss equipment, but they also share stories about their lives.

“We foster mentoring among members of our bands and vocal groups and our worship team,” Tornborg said. “They are listening and hearing each other, praying for each other and helping each other.”

Worship farm team

Programs such Kids’ Worship Adventure and the music mentoring are like a minor-league “farm team,” cultivating and nurturing a new generation of talent, Tornborg said.

“You have to build a farm team, not leave it to chance that young people will be an active part of the church community,” Tornborg said. “If you want to get youth involved in Sunday morning worship, make them stakeholders.”

Many are already moving up to the big leagues. As members of the youth band have grown up, many have joined the adult band. Jones also mentors young people who stay in the band past high school and feel called to full-time worship ministry.

Recruitment begins early. During the Kids’ Worship Adventure, the youngest campers -- Wee Worshippers -- are introduced to music in the Instrumental Petting Zoo, where they can sample a variety of instruments. The youngsters also learn worship songs and how to play recorders, handbells and ukuleles. Older students study drums, keyboards and guitars.

The musical instruction helps train the children as worship leaders and teaches them “to glorify God with their gifts and talent,” Jones said. Each day at camp, the youngsters lead a 30-minute worship gathering, and the week closes with a 45-minute worship service led by children for families and friends.

The church has also worked to educate members and visitors about intergenerational worship, publishing a booklet called “How We Worship Together.” Available in every pew, the booklet explains the importance of having children in worship and describes in simple language each element of the service.

“This book says, ‘Welcome, this is what we believe and this is what we value,’” Tornborg said.

Funding for the booklet came from a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The church received the award, for almost $13,000, in mid-2013 and completed the one-year grant cycle a few months ago. Tornborg and Jones served as project directors for the grant.

The money also funded a weeklong visit from Friends of the Groom, a Christian theater company that did a residency at last summer’s Kids’ Worship Adventure. The troupe taught campers -- and later, participants in a churchwide workshop -- how to present Scripture through drama, mime and recitation.

Vital and engaging worship

The Calvin Institute has awarded some 700 Vital Worship Grants to congregations, universities, hospitals, nursing homes and seminaries since 2000. Last year, it awarded $300,000 to nearly 30 organizations. Recipients are not required to use the money for intergenerational worship, though the program does encourage such efforts.

“For worship to be vital and engaging and significant in a healthy church, it’s best that it be inclusive of all generations,” said the Rev. Kathy Smith, the associate director and program manager for grants programs at the Calvin Institute.

Church has always included people of all ages with a wide variety of gifts, Smith said. Intergenerational worship is about including the gifts of all in leading and participating in worship.

Beyond the programs that the Vital Worship Grants make possible, there is another benefit that many recipients don’t anticipate, Smith said.

“We’re told all the time that the money helps but that it was the accountability that made a difference,” she said. The grants force recipients to think deeply about their projects and what they are trying to achieve.

Tornborg agreed, saying that the grant gave First Presbyterian vision and focus:

“It gave us intentionality for our vision of intergenerational worship and why it had to be, not a stand-alone effort, but part of a trajectory.”

Those benefits became even clearer last February, when the church held an all-church worship workshop to evaluate how the grant has impacted services and the congregation’s understanding of worship.

Robert Nordling, a former music director at the church and a former professor at Calvin College, led the workshop. About 60 people, from age 11 to 82, attended. If feedback from the participants is any indication, members have learned much about both worship and themselves.

As one participant noted, “We are more alike generationally than we think.”

Even so, much work remains to be done, Jones said.

“First Pres hasn’t ‘arrived’ -- we’re on an ongoing adventure,” he said. “But the overarching lesson is that it is possible for some churches to have a shared family worship experience.”

Just like at Thanksgiving dinner.

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

 

 

Friday - October 24, 2014
Steps for attracting people in your community

A marketing and web design veteran offers eight steps to attract people in your community in a compelling way:

1. Identify people groups in your community based on their passions.
Most people in your community are not thinking about going to church. But what are they thinking about? What are they passionate about? What are they excited to pour their time into when they get home from work? Get a diverse group of people in your church to brainstorm…you will quickly come up with a dozen or more groups of people.

2. Who can your church most effectively reach?
Let’s be realistic. You can’t effectively reach all of these groups. The way you reach a Harley-Davidson fan is typically different from the way you reach a gardener. Your church is uniquely equipped to reach some of these groups very effectively. This has a lot to do with the personality of your church. Pick a few of these people groups that overlap with the people already attending your church, and/or the people you as a leader are passionate about attracting. Before we continue, many churches have tried steps one and two, and then built outreach events accordingly. That’s why we often see church softball leagues, motorcycle rallies and Super Bowl parties. These activities are good, but they don’t usually speak to people at a deeply emotional level. As a result, you end up with the second best softball league, motorcycle rally, or Super Bowl party in town.
 
That’s why step three is so important. I don’t see churches doing this:
 
3. Learn what keeps these people up at night.
Do you want to reach your community at a deep level? Identify what keeps them up at night. What are those deeper emotions that drive them to obsess over their motorcycle, climbing a corporate ladder, or never-ending home improvement projects? What chronic problems do they deal with in their lives? These fears & problems will vary a bit from each group you identified in steps one and two. Sometimes it relates to the passion (e.g., parents worrying about their kids) but usually the thing they pour their time and passion into is just a facade for what keeps them up at night. Step three may make you uncomfortable. I understand. But advertisers are capturing the hearts of consumers by speaking to them at a deeply emotional level. They tell them that the thing they are selling will make them happy. Advertisers do it in a manipulative and deceitful way way, but you can do it without manipulating or deceiving. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are sharing the Gospel! You have something to share that will actually transform their lives!
 
4. Develop practical biblical teaching.
In step three you identified a chronic problem or fear that these groups of people face. What does the Bible say about this topic? If you’ve listed a problem or fear in step three that you don’t think the Bible addresses in a practical way, then you probably are still listing symptoms instead of root problems.
 
Pick one of these fears or problems. Prepare a multi-week teaching series, and make sure that each week offers its own practical action steps, as well as benefits for attending. Each part of the series should include specific action steps that will help them with the thing that keeps them up at night.
 
5. Don’t water it down.
It may be tempting to dilute your teaching to make it more more seeker-friendly. But if you hit on a problem that speaks to them at an emotional level, they want all the information they can get. Consider showing them the tip of the iceberg and point them toward additional resources through scripture, and trusted Christian authors. People who think scripture is irrelevant have probably never discovered that there are practical answers to the specific problem they face.
 
Now that the teaching is developed, it’s time to re-engage your advertising campaign! But your ads will no longer talk about your church. You are about to earn their attention in a compelling way.
 
6. Design advertising that speaks to these people at an emotional level.
Focus on what keeps them up at night, and the practical outcomes of your teaching. Make a promise about what practical benefits they’ll get for taking action. By the way, your call to action should probably not start with visiting your church. We all know that’s a risky proposition for some. This leads to step seven.
 
7. Create a marketing funnel.
You need to create “baby steps” that people can take before they step foot in your church. Don’t require people to visit your church to start learning about solutions to their specific problem. Instead, earn their trust with some practical teaching on your website that will help them even if they never visit your church. This will help earn their trust and prove that you are a credible source of information. Yes, effective baby steps will get more people in the pews for your teaching series. But it will also get many more people interacting with you through your website, even if you don’t know who they are there. I will write more about how churches can use marketing funnels in a future article.
 
8. Make your advertising more targeted.
Billboards and direct mail are fine, but you should supplement them with more targeted forms of marketing. In steps one and two, you identified groups of people who have specific interests and passions.
 
Did you know that using Facebook you can advertise to these folks in a targeted way? For example, there are more than one million people in the U.S. who “like” Harley- Davidson on Facebook. And despite the rural community where I live, 1,540 of them are within driving distance of my church! You can run targeted, local Facebook ads that tie your message to their passions, and you only pay when someone clicks.
 
Thousands of ads are running at this very moment that suggest random products or activities will fill the void in consumers’ lives. The ads get results because they speak at a deeply emotional level. When we begin to understand this, it suddenly seems silly to run ads that differentiate your church from other churches.

Article courtesy www.churchmarketingsucks.com. Billboard photo on home page via Wikimedia Commons, click here for the source. The opinions are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

 
Wednesday - October 22, 2014
Renewing community in a networked society

A large-church pastor is worried about the health of his church. Small groups seem to be working fine, and the overall worship is fine. What is missing, though, is the sense that the congregation is a community capable of moral and spiritual formation.

The pastor’s worry reflects far more than the circumstances of one congregation, or even of congregational life more generally. It reflects the disappearance of the crucial “middle rings” that are central to healthy communities that nurture and sustain vibrant personal life.

Middle rings are what Marc J. Dunkelman describes in his book “The Vanishing Neighbor” as the heart of community in American life. Inner rings describe our most intimate relationships, with families and close friends; outer rings describe casual acquaintances. Middle-ring relationships are the people with whom a person “is familiar but not intimate, friendly but not close.” They are central to fostering a sense of vitality as well as nurturing those “meaningful disagreements” that shape a healthy body politic.

Typically, this middle ring comprises no more than 150 people, because of the limits of our brains. For much of American history, our middle-ring relationships have been formed through a “townshipped” model. This was as true for congregations as it was for our broader civic ecology.

Dunkelman notes, though, that profound changes in American life have transformed the ways we navigate and imagine the rings of our lives. Dunkelman highlights three broad categories of changes that are upending American community: the technological and economic revolutions of the last 60 years, the explosion in American mobility and the evolution of our lives at home.

These changes have affected the inner and outer rings, in many ways actually enhancing them. For example, social mobility has made people more reliant on intimate relationships, whether family members or close friends. Indeed, studies of cellphone usage show that the majority of our calls are to three to five people in our most intimate, inner rings.

The digital revolution makes it easier for us to maintain connections to casual acquaintances in our outer ring of relationships. It also makes it easier for us to establish new acquaintances through affinity groups and to connect even more broadly via social media. These outer-ring relationships can mobilize significant movements, such as the tea party on the right or the Occupy movement on the left.

Yet Dunkelman argues that such movements are not capable of addressing our yearning for the sustainable community found in middle-ring relationships. Those relationships have receded in the new social patterns of American life, leaving us feeling fragmented and isolated, even with healthy inner- and outer-ring relationships. We are missing a sense of community; in Dunkelman’s memorable image, the middle rings have become missing rings.

The danger in such a diagnosis is to become nostalgic and wistful, longing for “the good old days” of townships and community. But there is nothing that accounts for a longing for the good old days quite as much as a bad memory. Those forms of community were far from perfect, and wistfulness is likely to lead us to imagine a time that never was. Nostalgia for “townships” would be as counterproductive as it would be ineffective.

But it would be equally dangerous to ignore the challenges we face or to assume that we can adequately address those challenges through inner- or outer-ring relationships. The large-church pastor rightly senses that something is missing in the congregation he serves. Young adults also rightly sense that current institutions are failing them and us, and that new patterns are needed. But we are unsure what to do next.

Why? Dunkelman points to the pervasiveness and depth of the challenges:

A transformation of American community has come to affect everything from our propensity to innovate to our capacity to care for one another. It has disrupted our social institutions as much as it’s thrown a wrench into our politics. Without notice, a quiet revolution over the course of several decades upended the foundation that girded the very pillars -- government, businesses, banks, schools -- in which the public has lost faith. Its effects, which explain nearly every frustration listed above, run deep and wide.

Can we chart a future that is adaptive to the deep trends of our culture and nurtures middle-ring relationships?

Charting such a future will be challenging. As Dunkelman notes, we need to be honest with ourselves: “Simply reinforcing flailing institutions that have worked for decades, or tinkering at reforms around the edges, won’t fix our problems.” Those institutions aren’t working anymore in the ways we need them to.

Yet Dunkelman is also hopeful: “If we take a fresh look at what a networked society does and doesn’t do well, we can map out a plan to develop institutions that compensate for what we now lack.”

We will need the fresh imaginations of leaders of Christian institutions, and Christian leaders of institutions, in order to map out such a plan. Nurturing such imaginations will require clear-eyed diagnoses like Dunkelman’s, as well as the cultivation of “border crossing” relationships across sectors and across other divides among us.

And here senior pastors might be exceptionally well-positioned to provide vision and leadership -- IF we embrace the realities of a networked society AND offer a “traditioned innovation” approach to community and institutions.

Congregations and other forms of Christian community can and should gather people across divides, focus on forming relationships that bear witness to the fullness of God’s reign, and embrace issues across sectors and institutions that, sadly, currently exist more as silos than as networks (including the church).

The Fresh Expressions movement is one example of a Christian experiment that is helping to renew middle-ring relationships. Some of these fresh expressions have emerged out of larger congregations, addressing the gap between intimate small groups and the rather anonymous outer ring of the whole congregation; other fresh expressions are entrepreneurial startups in which hybrid forms of face-to-face and online gatherings connect people to each other in new ways. And yet others are crossing boundaries to work across sectors to serve and renew neighborhoods, especially in underserved areas.

Diagnosing our challenges without lapsing into nostalgia is critical, as is recognizing that we do not currently have the institutions we need to support and sustain middle-ring community. As we sow seeds of new and renewed forms of community through creative experiments and transformed imagination, let us also develop and renew institutions so those seeds will grow into full blossom.

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

Monday - October 20, 2014
15 lessons from 17 different church bulletins

Recently I emailed some friends and asked them to grab their bulletins from their weekend services at their church and mail them to me. I was overwhelmed when just over 100 that arrived in my mailbox or email! It was so fun looking in at what’s going on at so many churches across the country. I asked for this bulletins because I wanted to learn from what other churches are doing to regularly communicate with their people through this channel. I’ve picked out some of the pieces that stood out to me and provided them here for you to check out as well. How are you leveraging your bulletin (or program … or worship folder … or whatever you call it) to communicate with your people? I hope these inspire you to reconsider how you can make it better … I know it did for me! [You can download all 17 bulletins in one ZIP file.]

Courtesy Rich Birch. Visit his website, UNseminary, at www.unseminary.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

Monday - October 20, 2014
Honoring the Sabbath like a command

It seems that, as Christians, we still take the Ten Commandments seriously. Murder, stealing, adultery, idolatry, lying—all of these are named in that list God gave to Moses on the mountain (Exodus 20), and, by and large, we still acknowledge that to break these commandments is wrong.

But what about the fourth commandment—the commandment about observing the Sabbath?

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)

It’s one of the original Ten Commandments that God gave to his people—an order to remember the day that God rested and obey Him by doing likewise. God didn’t offer this repetitive rest as a suggestion that might be good for us—He gave it as a commandment. It’s something God valued so much that He set it in stone.

We aren’t under the law anymore: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection freed us from the burden of having to fulfill the law. We don’t have to live in perfect alignment with the law in order to have right relationship with God. However, that doesn’t nullify the goodness of the commandments in the first place. Christ came to fulfill the law for us, but not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17). The rules written in stone were good gifts from God to His people—and they still are.

And, let us also remember that our freedom from this burden of having to fulfill the law—a freedom purchased with the costliest price of Christ’s life—doesn’t give us license to live however we please (Romans 6). We live under grace; we live as God’s people. So here’s why, I think, we need a re-imagining of the call of God to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” in our lives—and why we still need to take this commandment seriously.

When we take one day out of every week to rest, we are acknowledging that God is God and we are not. Ultimately, our ability (or our inability) to rest shows us how much we trust (or don’t trust) that God is in control. When we press the pause button on our striving and realize that the world continues spinning just fine without our work, we are tangibly acknowledging that God is the maker and sustainer of our lives. And if we struggle to close the computer or stay away from the office, we can then see more clearly where we have a hard time trusting Him—and where we struggle to recognize that we really aren’t in control of the world, or even in control of our own lives.

I started observing the Sabbath nine years ago, while I was in college. Now, as a wife, mother and teacher, there is always another load of laundry, always another class to prepare for. And certainly, there is always something “productive” that I could choose to do on our Sabbath. But this pattern of working and resting, week after week, has formed in me a sense of trust and peace that I did not experience prior to engaging in the discipline. It has helped me release my death grip on control.

I look forward to the Sabbath now—not as a day to play catch-up—but as a day where I can focus on being grateful simply to be alive. I spend time with my family without an agenda. I take a nap. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I read. Mostly, I do things that I love, things that help my soul unwind and attend to God’s presence in my life. And I have experienced a deep freedom in learning to say no to the continual pressure to work and produce.

God’s command to His people to keep the Sabbath holy was given out of the deep love He has for His children. He knows how we are formed (Psalm 103:14), how much work we can handle and how we need time to “be” rather than “do.” The Sabbath is a reminder that my days are ordered by God, not by me. It is a reminder that while there will always be more to do, there will not always be more time on this earth. It is a reminder that I am finite, that I need rest, and that God cares for me enough to help me rest.

There’s a wrong way to go about this, of course. If we make observing the Sabbath all about rules and regulations, as the Pharisees did, we are going to miss God’s heart behind it. Jesus pronounced that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), and so we keep the Sabbath holy because the Sabbath is a gift to us from God, not because we are trying to please Him. Christ has already done that on our behalf. He did the greatest work of reconciling us to God through His sacrifice on the Cross, and therefore we don’t have to work our way to God.

When we cease from working one day a week, it points us to the deeper truth that in Christ, we can cease from our striving. We can trust in all that He has done for us.

And we can rest.

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

Events
Saturday - November 1, 2014
NC Lay Servant Ministries Training Fall 2014

Saturday, November 1 and Saturday, November 8, 2014 (both days required)
9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Forest United Methodist Church
17635 Florida 40
Silver Springs, FL 34488
(352) 625-4004

COURSE FEE AND INFORMATION  

                         
Basic Course $40.00
Advance Course $40.00 (Each One a Minister or The Worship Workshop [1st 20 applicants)

Fee includes: class text and meals for both sessions.
8:30 Registration/continental breakfast
9:00 session begins

*Participant must complete the basic course before enrolling in an advanced course.

* Please register online. Then print your registration and mail it, with your check (payable to North Central District), to the address at the bottom of the registration form. If you do not have computer access, just mail your registration.  

For additional information contact:
Sherri Woodstuff, Director Lay Servant Ministries    or    North Central District Office
352-465-7204                                                                         352-789-6981
woodstuj@bellsouth.net                                                       flumc-nc@flumc.org

Registration form must be mailed by October 22 for participant to receive assignment and book prior to first class.

Thursday - November 6, 2014
34th Annual Clergy Mates Retreat

Friday - November 7, 2014
Spiritual Response Team Training - Florida Conference Center - November 7 & 8, 2014

 Spiritual Response Team Training

Spiritual Response Teams (SRT) are faith-based, on-going teams specially trained to provide spiritual and emotional care following disasters. SRTs reach out from the faith community to help disaster survivors connect with spiritual, emotional and basic life resources. Teams and individuals may serve in a variety of disaster environments depending on the needs of the affected community. Training is provided by UMCOR. There is no cost for this training.

Training will begin at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon and run until 8:30 PM. Dinner will be provided. Training will finish on Saturday, 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM.

If you are in need of overnight accommodations, we will arrange those for you at the conference rate of $40 per person for double occupancy/$80 per person for single occupancy. This includes Friday night accommodations and Saturday breakfast at the Fairfield Inn Plant City, approximately 10-15 minutes from the conference center. Be sure to select that option on your registration form and make your payment. If you need other payment arrangements, please contact Pam Garrison.

NOTE: SRT volunteers must complete Disaster 101: Basic Disaster Ministry Training before they are credentialed. Volunteers may take the SRT training before completing basic; however, credentials will not be issued until both trainings are completed.

You must be 18 years old to participate and a background check is also required and completed by the conference.

If you have questions, please contact Pam Garrison: pgarrison@flumc.org or (800) 282-8011 ext. 148.

Saturday - November 8, 2014
SCD Staff Pastor Parish Chair Training

2014 SCD Staff Pastor Parish Chair Training

Extensive information will be covered in this training and is necessary for every church!  We encourage each SPRC Chair to attend (either the current Chair or the 2014 incoming Chair).  If the Chair is not able to attend, we recommend you send a representative!  Each church should be represented at this training!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Registration closes 11/4/2014

Monday - November 10, 2014
Black Clergy Conversation with Bishop Carter

The Black Clergy Conversation with the Bishop is an invitation to all African-American Clergy serving in the Florida Annual Conference. This time of worship, fellowship and dialogue is being provided as an opportunity to engage and explore the challenges and opportunities for African-American clergy and churches in the conference.

Tuesday - November 11, 2014
UM Center Closed - Veterans Day

Conference office closed for Veterans Day

Thursday - November 13, 2014
East Central District Leadership Team (DLT)
The EC District Leadership Team will meet from 10:30am-12:30pm on Thursday, November 13th at the EC District Office FUMCH.
Friday - November 14, 2014
Imprint Love

Imprint Love is a retreat for youth groups that will focus on our calling to love across obstacles.  We live in a beautifully diverse word full of many different kinds of people.  Our diversity of culture, thoughts, ideas, and ideologies can tear us apart, but Jesus Christ calls for reconciliation and love.  Our faith calls us to seek ways to love each other especially when we disagree.  Imprint Love hopes to challenge our everyday life and bring us to a place where we truly believe that everyone is a beloved child of God.


Saturday - November 15, 2014
Conference Annual Meeting - United Methodist Women

The annual gathering of the United Methodist Women members of the Florida Conference for business, worship and fellowship.  The budget for 2015 will be approved, reports will be heard and presentations of mission will be given.  The theme for this year's meeting is Joyful Heart, Joy-Filled Life, and the speakers will be Steve and Dianne Springer, sharing mission work in the Red Bird Missionary Conference.
     

Registration information with the cost of the meeting will be sent to each unit in September, as well as the organization's newsletter, Genesis. The registration deadline is October 10, with scholarship deadline of October 1.  Either the President, Aggie Reed, or the Vice President, Kay Roach may be contacted for more information. 
 

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