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Tuesday - September 30, 2014
New ideas for a church fall festival

One of the most-anticipated yearly events for many churches is welcoming the community for the fall festival. Some years, though, you may be stumped on new things to do and ways to promote the event. Try these great ideas from UMCOM contributor Jeremy Steele.

1. The Pumpkin Trebuchet

You may have seen the “Punkin Chunkin” throwing competitions on television and thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be fun to be a kid again?” You can! Making your own trebuchet is easier than you think.  WikiHow has great instructions for building the trebuchet.  VirtualTrebuchet.com will help you tweak the measurements  of your trebuchet to throw whatever size pumpkin you want.  Consider inviting your local scout group to build smaller trebuchets to throw grapes. Voila! You have a new competition for your event.

2. ‘The Great Pumpkin’ Drive-in Movie Night

Set up a video projector and screen or sheet in your parking lot in the evening and have a movie night showing the classic Charlie Brown movie.  Families can stay in their cars or bring blankets and picnics.  Since the movie is only 30 minutes long, it is great for families with small children.  Make sure you have legal coverage to show motion pictures. Check out the CVLI license which is specifically geared for churches.

3. Character Cut-Outs

Go to any theme park and you’ll find spots where you stick your head through a hole and transform yourself into a bunny, mouse or princess. Using clip-art, plywood and a little paint, you can create settings for families to take pictures. From scarecrows to Peter Pumpkin-Eater and his wife, fall offers many ideas for these fun picture centers. Set a couple of crafty and handy volunteers loose on this creative project.

4. Pumpkin Faces

Instead of carving or painting pumpkins, let people make themselves look like pumpkins.  Order black, green and orange face paint. Set up a station with mirrors and plenty of disposable cups and brushes, and watch the fun as people turn themselves or their friends into a fall decoration.  Consider having prizes for some of the funniest and most interesting pumpkin faces.

5. Free Meal Coupons:

Instead of simply distributing flyers to your members and in the neighborhood, turn them into gifts. Make each flyer a coupon redeemable for a free hot plate at the event. Give coupons to each member to pass on to their friends or people in need.  You are getting the word out -- and giving people the ability to bless others. Members could purchase meals or use the coupons themselves if they have need. Members who purchase meals could pay for one or more meals to help cover the cost.

Whatever you do, have fun and be creative. Use your fall festival to share the joy of being children of God with other people in your community.

By Jeremy Steele. Courtesy of United Methodist Communications www.umcom.org. Photo courtesy Bigstock.

 

 

Tuesday - September 30, 2014
Tell Me a Story by Scott McClellan: Book review

Story is such a buzzword lately. It even has its own conference.

But that’s OK. As a writer, I’m partial to the concept of story. I like it. Especially when a book like Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative by Scott McClellan comes along. It looks at life as story and offers inspiration, encouragement and motivation to be worthy storytellers. It’s a great little (only 132 pages) book that condenses and summarizes a lot of the disjointed, buzz worthy and overdone thoughts about story that have floated around in the past few years and shares them in a concise, simple and powerful format.

One of the central ideas is that without conflict, you have no story. Our pain, hardship and suffering is what makes the stories of our lives so engaging. Nobody likes a movie where everything is easy. Even in a superhero story where they have super powers to overcome conflict, they still encounter something beyond their super powers. That’s conflict, and it makes things more interesting.

Here are three quick lessons we can learn from Tell Me a Story as church communicators:

1. Acknowledge brokenness
This is lesson number one for church communicators. It’s tempting to tell an easy story: If we just come to God, everything will work out. But life isn’t like that. Doing away with the conflict makes for an uninteresting, unbelievable and uninspiring story. The redemption is necessary. As McClellan tells us:

“Church culture and our pride may both encourage us to downplay conflict in our stories, but we must resist.” (90)

He even adds no greater an expert on story than J.R.R. Tolkien: “There cannot be any ‘story’ without a fall—all stories are ultimately about the fall.”

As a church we need to be up front about our conflict, our sin, our brokenness. Our communication must acknowledge that brokenness in order for redemption to have any meaning.

2. Tell the story
Dr. Karyn Purvis has a theory that today’s soldiers are suffering from an explosion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in part because of their inability to share their story. In World War II soldiers witnessed many of the same traumatizing events, but before returning home to “normal” life they had weeks to decompress with their fellow soldiers, swapping stories over late-night card games or the like. In contrast, today’s soldiers can go from the front line to the home front in less than 24 hours. They can plug in to iPods and check out from the world, missing the opportunity to tell their story, to decompress, to deal with the horrors they’ve experienced. The result, as Purvis suggests, is greater levels of PTSD.

It’s certainly not the only cause of increased PTSD, but it’s an intriguing theory. Telling stories is healing.  It allows us to understand what happened, good or bad, and come to terms with it. It’s why I have fond memories of my grandpa’s funeral—we sat around telling stories about our dearly departed.

And more than just telling stories, we have the story to tell. The gospel is the greatest story ever told. It’s not a mere logical proposition: accept Jesus, get into heaven. No, it’s more than that (and we lose something when we reduce it to mere proposition). The gospel is a story we enter into, a story we’re a part of, a story we contribute to as we live out our lives. That story is powerful. It’s healing. It’s redemptive. It’s life changing.

As Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.”

3. Story is lived in community
Finally, McClellan tells us that story is to be lived out in community. In church. These are not individual stories that we live alone. They’re interconnected and they find their true power when we come together. Frodo didn’t set out for Mordor by himself. He had the entire fellowship. The story gets better in community.

So as a church, what story are you telling? Is it a small story of events and activities or is it a grand story of redemption? Are you sharing the testimonies, the challenges, the tragedies and the triumphs that are happening every day within your congregation? Those are the stories we need to latch onto, because those are the stories that illuminate the grander story, the gospel story.

Through it all we need to remember that it’s not our job to change the world. And that’s a relief:

“All you’ve been asked to do is be a witness, to tell your story in whatever time and place you find yourself. You’re not responsible for leading an ideological conquest of the West.” (112)

So, as Makoto Fujimura asks and McClellan echoes, “What do you want to make today?”

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

Monday - September 29, 2014
The non-attending faithful

At least once a month, a friend or acquaintance shares his or her story about leaving the church. The stories are filled with frustration, burnout, isolation and disinterest in returning. As I related these stories to a colleague, he quipped, “I think my church is filled with people who are one Sunday brunch away from never returning.”

When we talk about people leaving the church, we frequently address the systemic shrinkage of the predominately white denominations in the U.S. We look to Europe and point to the rapidly approaching future of secularism. We talk about young white millennials’ malaise and disinterest in the church. We grieve that the “spiritual, but not religious” and the “nones” seem to increase in number every year. On our better days, we talk about the renewal of the church and signposts of hope.

But it is more difficult talk about the real people’s stories and experiences, as they live inside these systems and realities. As someone who grew up in the church, studied the church, and works for and with the church, I am surrounded by these stories. They are my friends’ and my peers’ stories. And frankly, my story feels like I’m one Sunday brunch away with them.

Late this winter, Donald Miller, author of “Blue Like Jazz,” a memoir that voiced the anxiety of young white American Christianity in the mid-2000s, confessed his own struggles with attending church. The backlash led him to write a follow-up that was equal parts defense and clarification.

Neither post was a perfect description of why someone doesn’t attend church, but both were honest. In the follow-up, Miller shared a telling story: most of his Christian leader friends who aren’t pastors don’t attend church regularly. This resonated with my observations and experiences: unless required by job, Christian young people find expressing their faith away from church more meaningful and transforming.

Even though I am not a clergy person and I’m not required to attend, I am a regular church attendee. Each week, I go primarily to experience two moments: to hear the stories shared in our testimony time and to receive a piece of bread, the body of Christ, from a friend. Sometimes the sermon pushes me to see differently, but more frequently I have to draw and doodle to pay attention and sit still. I slip in late and try to sneak out early.

I love the people in my church. They are dear friends who are changing their community, themselves and me, but I’m not much into “church” as it happens on a Sunday morning. It’s too loud, too long, too stimulating, too much. Opportunity abounds for someone to unknowingly use an expression that reminds me of harmful words spoken by spiritual leaders in my past. I’m exhausted over finding a place to sit that doesn’t make me look like a lonely loser, but won’t also require me to small talk with a near-stranger.

There are significant cultural reasons why my peers and friends are disenfranchised from their church, but the isolation and exhaustion is felt on the personal level. Unless our concern for the future of the church takes a personal turn towards the real experience of people in our pews, there’s little hope for change.

If the goal is to prompt young adults to return to the traditional church, I worry the effort is futile.

Sure, some young people haven’t left and won’t. Some may return in response to crisis, and others at the birth of their children. But many will continue to stay away or will leave again, protecting their child or themselves from the negative experiences of mean Sunday School teachers, side-eye stares in the sanctuary for vague indiscretions, or being shamed from the pulpit week after week for being fallible and finite or for a mere difference of opinion.

For many of my peers, it’s easier stay off the grid away from the brutal expectations of the traditional church. For many, this is not being “spiritual but not religious” nor is it an avoidance of discipleship. In my observation, it is more about building a life of sustainable faith that is not dependent upon the institutions that seem so prone to inflicting harm.

The most sustainable faith community I’ve belonged to is a group of women committed to gathering once a week and be real over food and drink. Sometimes, the Spirit shows up in prayer and comforting the hurt. Sometimes, the body of Christ feeds hungry bodies and spirits. Sometimes, we ask hard questions and push for deeper understanding of God, others and ourselves. Sometimes, the reign of God is made known through conversations and participating in local social action.

We don’t call ourselves a church and not everyone is sure she is a confessional Christian. And yet, even for me, a person who attends a traditional weekly worship service, this group of women constitutes my primary community of spiritual formation and care.

No one is counting us, but we are counted among the faithful. We aren’t boosting attendance numbers, but we are attending to what matters. We don’t observe an order of worship, but we meet regularly and observe habits of sharing hugs and prayer, food and conversation. We celebrate and lament more honestly than most religious services I’ve attended. We can make a delicious meal out of vegetable drawer scraps.

We aren’t one brunch away from never coming back because at any given moment, we are probably planning brunch together and inviting others to brunch with us.

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

Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Why focus on developing your staff as leaders?

Editor's note: In this reflection, the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity introduces a series on leadership development and explains why cultivating people is a crucial task for today's Christian leaders.

Years ago, several denominational executives summoned me to discuss recruitment for a yearlong leadership development program for young clergy. As the meeting got underway, it became clear that they were particularly concerned by the fact that the program was enlisting youth ministers.

Why, they asked, did I think youth ministers were leaders?

These denominational leaders believed that leadership is limited to people with certain roles and titles, with work that has particular scale and scope. They were -- and are -- not alone.

In the Industrial Age, American Protestant congregations and related institutions all too often adopted a mechanical view of their employees. Leaders could afford to hire more people and push ineffective or inefficient employees to the side. With labor plentiful, it was far easier to bring in someone new than to cultivate talent within the current employee ranks. Everyone was replaceable.

Today, the distinction between leaders and followers is increasingly complicated in most organizations. In many places, nearly all the employees are involved in producing services, managing budgets and developing relationships.

Given the complexity of the challenges most companies face, innovative solutions are needed in every aspect of the work. Improving services, controlling costs and managing multiple priorities is the work of every employee.

These challenges require employees, across levels and roles, to exercise leadership skills to understand the situation, make sense of how to respond and involve others to make things happen. They also require senior leaders to adopt a new mindset about nurturing talent to prepare employees at most levels of responsibility to work in this increasingly complex environment.

The mindset that informs the way many organizations look at developing leaders is more akin to agriculture than to industry. Those with responsibility for guiding the organization cultivate the con ditions for the work to flourish. This means cultivating the people.

In practice, this means considering every assignment as both a project to be accomplished and an opportunity for leadership development. A critical aspect of developing leaders is assigning all employees work that is small enough to do and big enough to matter. In an interview with Faith & Leadership, longtime Reformed Church in America executive Ken Eriks describes executive team meetings in which senior leaders identify staff members who show potential and then look out for assignments that will stretch them, even if such assignments are outside the individuals’ job descriptions.

In the midst of a massive realignment and reorganization, the RCA invested in sending many of its staff to a single leadership conference. Employees also took the same leadership inventory so that they could help each other understand strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Suzii Paynter, the chief executive of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, describes similar efforts with a feedback tool and seminars for the entire staff. When she came into office a year ago, she tripled the number of staff members who report to her and made a plan to encourage individual and team development. Paynter now has a “senior” staff of old hands and younger people. She is creating the conditions for them to help each other as they experiment, learn and experiment again.

Eriks and Paynter have been shaped themselves by the processes they describe. They are receiving feedback and figuring out their own work in the midst of developing others. Cultivating others and cultivating oneself are interrelated.

The phrase “leadership development” often conjures images of a classroom, a ropes course or a psychological test -- and indeed these are valuable exercises. Many initiatives (including Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, which publishes Faith & Leadership) offer such carefully designed learning experiences.

These experiences are part of Leadership Education’s work, which is to encourage leadership development efforts within the larger, theological vision of cultivating thriving communities that are signs of God’s reign.

In five years of offering such educational programs, we have discovered that congregations and institutions need to encourage particular practices to prepare leaders to navigate current challenges.

Those practices are:

  • Making developmentally appropriate assignments
  • Adopting a common language to describe the vision for the ministry and the current conditions in the world
  • Structuring meetings to reflect the most important aspects of the work

One strategy that does not move the needle very far in developing leaders is performance evaluation. I have been approached many times to share the “best” performance evaluation tool with a congregation or denomination. The fact is that a conversation is the best tool.

Institutions need a simple, fair system for evaluation and goal setting. It is important to solicit feedback from members or constituents. But the most helpful feedback focuses on needs and opportunities, not the performance of an individual for the purpose of determining the person’s pay. No amount of effort devoted to developing an elaborate performance system will be worth as much as what groups like the Reformed Church in America and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are doing.

Meeting the challenges congregations and institutions face today requires a strategy that is more basic, radical and ongoing than annual performance reviews. It requires a mindset that can be cultivated by considering what you are learning in the midst of the challenging assignments you face. How can you encourage others to take on challenging assignments and learn from their experiences?

Those denominational executives that I met years ago did not stop my training for youth ministers and all sorts of other staff people in the denomination. Today, that denomination has a host of leaders now assigned to developing programs and addressing challenges. Leadership development is ultimately about preparing future generations for the work.

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

Annual Conference
Annual Conference Event Logos
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Download links for 2014 Annual Conference logo:
 

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Large black & white 2014 Annual Conference logo
 

Small color 2014 Annual Conference logo

 

Hotel Information
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Click Here for Annual Conference hotel list.

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
Wednesday - October 1, 2014
Take inviting photos of your church
Diverse group of people greeting one another at First UMC, Miami
In addition to technical aspects, photos that reveal the personality and fellowship of a church, like the one above from First UMC, Miami, or photos that help online visitors picture themselves in worship, like the one below from Trinity UMC, Tallahassee, are good choices for church websites. Home page teaser photo from First UMC, Coral Gables.
Worship service at Trinity UMC, Tallahassee

According to the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in today's image-driven culture, a photograph might be what brings visitors to your church.

If you have shopped for a house online, you probably have noticed the difference between a house advertisement with great photos and one without. Most likely, a house advertised with bad photos will not initially make your list. A house with great photos will get your second and third look and, perhaps eventually, a visit.

A church is the same. People will likely envision themselves within a church, imagining themselves in various church settings. They want to see how they might fit into a congregation's culture. Photos of a church taken without care or consideration of who might look at them could convey a negative message.

For tips and techniques to take the best photos of your church, click here.

 

 

 



-- Gavin Richardson is a writer for United Methodist Communications.

Tuesday - September 30, 2014
'Light the Fire' event set for Naples

NORTH NAPLES – For the first time in its five-year history, the annual church renewal event known as “Light the Fire!” will move out of Ohio and onto the campus of one of the largest churches in the Florida Conference.

Sponsored by United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio, the event will be held Jan. 22-23 at North Naples Church, where Rev. Ted Sauter, a United alumnus, is the longtime pastor.

Sauter said he learned from the seminary’s president, Dr. Wendy Deichmann, that event organizers were eager to have a presence in the South, so he volunteered the spacious North Naples campus. He predicted that South Florida weather in January would add a desirable element to the gathering.

Light the Fire logo with Jan. 22-23 datesHe also said the slate of guest speakers, including leading theologians, counselors, biblical scholars, pastors and two United Methodist bishops -- James Swanson of the Mississippi Conference and Florida’s Ken Carter -- will make for powerful  presentations. The theme for the event is “Divine Healing.”

“There will be great teaching, great preaching, great weather and great food,” Sauter said.

Carter is scheduled to discuss “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer” on Friday, Jan. 23. His most recent book, “Pray for Me: The Power in Praying for Others,” lays a scriptural foundation for intercessory prayer and provides practical suggestions to help Christians pray for others facing various challenges in life.

Sauter is scheduled to lead morning worship that day. He said the conference will offer attendees guidance on how to be a source of healing in the lives of people, in the church, in their local communities and throughout the world. He said this type of teaching will allow a “mature theological way” to approach healing of souls and community.

Jason Vickers, the president’s associate for mission advancement at United, said past events were held at nearby Ginghamsburg UMC of Tipp City, Ohio. But United’s prior relationship with Carter, who was on the program two years ago, contributed to the idea for a Florida event.

Each year, “Light the Fire” focuses on a different topic. Last year the event explored disabilities in relation to church renewal. This year, Vickers said, the exploration of healing leads from the growth of Pentecostal and Charismatic global Christians all around the world.

Topics will include:
• divine healing in global Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity;
• healing for physical, emotional and social ailments and disease;
• the role of intercessory prayer and divine healing in Scripture;
• the theological and spiritual challenges that emerge when sought-after healing doesn’t occur. 

"Basically, we’ll be looking at brokenness of any kind."

 -- Jason Vickers, United Theological Seminary

Each day will conclude with a special worship service for divine healing. Speakers include William J. Abraham, professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and a United Methodist elder; Candy Gunther Brown, associate professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, an historian and authority on the practice of healing in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches; Craig S. Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary;  Mike Slaughter, lead pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, and an advocate for the people of Darfur, Sudan; and Swanson, known for his charismatic preaching and teaching on healing.

Vickers said the event’s attendance varies from year to year, from 200 to about 500. Because the conference previously has been held in the Midwest, many of the attendees came from that area, but people have come from the West Coast and New York as well.

Pastors, church staff and laity are all invited, Vickers said. In the past, clergy have outnumbered laity by about 3 to 1. The same ratio has applied to Methodists and non-Methodists, but Vickers emphasized that the invitation is for anyone who feels called to minister to, in the words of the brochure, “the sick and the wounded, the disabled and the poor, to the lonely and the troubled.”

Vickers said the focus on healing will be broad.

“Many Christians self-identify as Pentecostal and Charismatic,” he said. “It is more common than we may think, and we seek to learn what healing means. … Is it physical, such as laying hands on someone with cancer?  Or economic, or agricultural?  Basically, we’ll be looking at brokenness of any kind.”

He added, “At this event, we will be recovering the practice of healing and the way it can foster the renewal of local churches. And there will be a service for divine healing, which will have a participatory, experiential dimension.”

For more information or to register for the event, go to www.LightTheFire.org.

-- Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.
 

Monday - September 29, 2014
Mental illness rarely addressed
by churches

Protestant clergy rarely preach about mental illness to their congregations and only one-quarter of congregations have a plan in place to assist families of the mentally ill, a new LifeWay Research survey found.

The findings, in a nation where one in four Americans have suffered with mental illness, demonstrate a need for greater communication, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the evangelical research firm, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources, which is an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

When it comes to mental illness, researchers found: 

  • 66 percent mention it rarely, once a year or never;
  • 26 percent speak about it several times a year;
  • 4 percent mention it about once a month;
  • 3 percent talk about it several times a month.

“When we look at what we know statistically — the prevalence of mental illness and the lack of preaching on the subject — I think that’s a disconnect,” said Stetzer. 

A recent survey indicates many American families are struggling to cope with mental illness but few churches are stepping in to help. Photo from Bigstock.com.

The survey taken among evangelical and mainline churches was funded by Colorado-based Focus on the Family and an anonymous donor whose family member suffered from schizophrenia. It included the perspectives of pastors, churchgoers who have suffered from mental illness — depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — and family members of the mentally ill.

Author Kay Warren commended the survey’s findings and said she and her husband, megachurch pastor Rick Warren, have been vocal about the “terrible scourge.” Their 27-year-old son, Matthew, suffered from mental illness and killed himself last year.

She urged church leaders to not only preach about it but allow those struggling with mental illness to give testimonies to their congregations.

“I would encourage any pastor or church leader, yes, preach a message, but put in front of your people those who are living with mental illness so they can share their stories and become human in that process,” she said in a conference call Monday (Sept. 22) about the survey.

In contrast to the findings about the relative scant attention the pastors give to the subject, almost seven in 10 mentally ill people said churches should help families discover local resources for support.

While 68 percent of pastors said their church maintains a list of local mental health resources for church members, just 28 percent of families are aware of such resources.

Jared Pingleton, director of counseling services at Focus on the Family, said pastors are often turned to for help, but they may not have had any seminary or Bible school training to help them meet parishioners’ mental health needs.

The survey found that less than half of pastors — 41 percent — said they had taken seminary courses on caring for the mentally ill.

Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, said about 35 of his association’s 270 member schools offer master’s degrees in counseling or in marriage and family therapy. A recent study by Baylor University scholars found that of 70 seminaries with Master of Divinity programs, a majority offer elective counseling courses but few students take them.

Despite LifeWay’s finding overall reticence, almost a quarter of pastors surveyed — 23 percent — said they had personally struggled with mental illness.

“I think it helps us to understand why some pastors have a sense of empathy, not just sympathy,” Stetzer said. “It surprised me in the sense that people were very forthright about it.”

LifeWay found that slightly more than a quarter of pastors — 27 percent — said their church has a plan for supporting families with a mentally ill member.

Focus on the Family has developed resources for pastors based on the research, including “practical tools and tips about how to make a referral to a trusted Christian colleague,” said Pingleton, a minister and clinical psychologist who was on the conference call with Kay Warren.

He said shared worldviews are “vital” in the referral process “so that the pastor knows that they can refer a member of their flock, one of their sheep, to someone who will not, as it were, fleece them.”

But Kay Warren disagreed.

“If I’m going to get my heart worked on, I don’t really care if the cardiac surgeon is a believer or not,” she said. “I want the best.”

The LifeWay survey did not specifically address the issue of the faith of mental health professionals.

The survey results are based on a May 7-31 survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Smaller random samples of mentally ill and family members were drawn from a pre-screened national panel.

-- Adelle M. Banks writes for Religion News Service. Copyright 2014 Religion News Service, posted to Florida Conference Connection with RNS permission.  

Thursday - September 25, 2014
Children's Home celebrates milestone at Madison

PINETTA – More than 750 people celebrated the opening of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home’s newest expansion at a dedication service and ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

Florida Conference clergy and lay members involved in developing Madison Youth Ranch, a new residential center for children in need, joined Children’s Home trustees and staff and local community leaders at the site for tours, prayers and fellowship. 

Joan Ricks of Trinity UMC, Gainesville, poses with commemorative picture frame
Joan Ricks of Trinity UMC, Gainesville, is among guests welcomed to the dedication of Madison Youth Ranch. Photos from the Florida United Methodist Children's Home.
Rev. Bob Laidlaw of First UMC, Madison, speaks at youth ranch dedication
Rev. Bob Laidlaw of First UMC, Madison, addresses a crowd at the dedication service for Madison Youth Ranch.

“This will help to cover more of Florida … for children who just need to be away from their families and have a safe environment in which to grow up,” said Dr. Bob Gibbs, superintendent of the North West District, who opened the dedication with an invocation. “It’s a beautiful site.”

In a prepared statement, Becky Dotson, chief executive officer of the Children’s Home, hailed the celebration as a “special day in the life of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home ministry.”

She added, “Now there will be one more place for children who desperately need a Christian environment, a place where they can grow up into the healthy, productive men and women God created them to be.”

Rev. Bob Laidlaw, pastor of First UMC, Madison, and a Children’s Home board member, also spoke at the service. His church will provide youth ministry services to children at the ranch.

Donors Billy and Dianne Sullivan and John and Bunny Maultsby also participated, along with Mike Galloway, former chief executive officer of the Children’s Home, and Scott Davidson, a Children’s Home trustee and now interim president of the Florida United Methodist Foundation. Davidson is a former interim president of the Children’s Home who supervised the expansion site’s design and construction.

Guests also were treated to a performance by the Madison Boys Choir, a community-based group of young African-Americans.

Madison Youth Ranch occupies more than 400 acres of donated land near the Florida-Georgia state line. With its parent campus, based in Volusia County, the new facility will serve children from across the Sunshine State, according to a Children’s Home news release.

Referrals to Madison come from local community-based care agencies out of Gainesville, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, as well as from local churches and community groups. Children may also be placed there by their families due to economic hardships, behavioral issues or other problems.

The campus began welcoming its first young residents about two months ago and currently houses 12 children, plus house parents. The first phase, now opened, includes two residential buildings that can accept up to 24 children, along with a recreation area and administrative offices.

Large crowd seated under a big tent with heads turned toward speaker
Hundreds gather under a big tent at Madison Youth Ranch as the facility is dedicated to God's service.
Crowd gathered on porch of new group home as two prepare to cut ribbon
Key supporters and well-wishers get ready to cut the ribbon on one of the new residential buildings at Madison Youth Ranch.

“I am extremely excited about today’s dedication,” Dr. Charles Lever, Children’s Home board chairman, said Tuesday. “The Madison Youth Ranch will be a place where boys and girls can explore things like canoeing, gardening, swimming, horsemanship and more — all while developing spiritual growth, teamwork, communication skills and loads of self-confidence.”

Future growth will be determined by the funds raised to support additional projects, which include more residential homes for children, a horse stable, campus life center, chapel and more.

Gibbs said surrounding United Methodist congregations have made fundraising for a chapel there a district priority.

“Our district, because (the ranch) is located in the North West District, has really taken it to heart,” Gibbs said. Nearly $300,000, or about two-thirds of the estimated amount needed for a chapel, has been raised, he said.

The Children’s Home goal is eventually to serve more than 100 youths ages 6 to 17 in the Madison residential program, with future inclusion of an independent living program and foster care services to the surrounding area.

At the ranch, each child has his or her own bedroom and bathroom. Youngsters eat together, share in chores and attend local public schools. Some stay a few weeks, others several years, depending on their family situation.

The staff strives for a family-like atmosphere, while also providing therapeutic opportunities. Among goals is to add equine-assisted therapy, which experts say can help children renew self-esteem, learn the value of teamwork and develop healthy relationships and a sense of responsibility.

Ruth Moore, community relations director at the ranch, said children housed there got a sneak peek at what that program could be like when some supporters brought horses to the dedication and lingered to let the children have an equine encounter when they returned from school.

Though much of the ceremony took place during school hours, the children participated by guiding board members on tours of the new digs the night before, Moore said. They also partook of the same barbecue and refreshments menu served to guests.

“We are just very thankful,” Moore said. “We had a great day.”

For more information, visit www.allchildrenfirst.org or contact Mark Nelson, vice president of development at the Children’s Home, at (407) 222-1040 or mark.nelson@fumch.org.

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

 

Wednesday - September 24, 2014
Cabinet, SLT approve statement of purpose

LAKELAND – Florida Conference leaders say a document adopted last week by the Cabinet and Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) clearly steers United Methodists – from individual worshipers to those who shepherd congregations, districts and conference-level ministries – on a path to mission. 

Bishop Ken Carter speaking
Bishop Ken Carter

The statement, “Connecting to Purpose,” was unanimously adopted Sept. 16 at a joint meeting of the Cabinet and SLT. It also has been endorsed by the Committee on Episcopacy.

Dr. E. Dale Locke, pastor of Community of Hope, Loxahatchee, who has been on the SLT since its inception in 2010, said the document provides a much-needed missing piece to previous statements.

“I think it’s a fantastic revision because we needed a missional connection,” Locke said. “The (previous) statement was strong but was missing that component. ... This tightened it up in a powerful way.”

Locke said conference leaders at the meeting were moved by Florida Bishop Ken Carter’s thoughtful work and heartfelt support of the document.

Carter said the statement had been in an extended process of discernment and revision. He described it as more a missional "playbook" than a legislative document and said he hoped the new statement of purpose would be helpful to the conference, especially in defining the particular callings of individual lay and clergy leaders, congregations, teaching churches and districts and in clarifying the unique role of the annual conference.

Rev. Tim Smiley, superintendent of the North East District, found it to be exactly that.

“For so long, our conversations around the United Methodist connection have focused on institutional structures,” he said in an email to Florida Conference Connection.

“‘Connecting to Purpose’ invites us to consider our connection as a ‘kingdom ecology,’ each person and community having a unique role and all of us together living out the mission of God.”

Carter said the document also invites the conference to begin the process of reflection on a revised mission statement: “Together we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the Wesleyan tradition who participate in the mission of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Alice Williams, an SLT member and associate lay leader for leadership development for the conference, said the adopted statement provides the groundwork for lay members as well as clergy to follow the biblical admonition to find and reach people “where they are.”

“I believe this statement gives us the freedom to do that within the structure of the Florida Conference,” she said.

As a church pastor, Locke said the statement serves as a call to renew work together as a conference and in local communities.

“I think there’s a challenge in that for every local church,” he said. “I think we could kind of forget who is not yet reached in the community. It’s sort of a reminder that it’s not just about those of us gathered but those who are not at the table.”

Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, superintendent for the North Central District, sees the document as a blueprint that describes how each part of the conference contributes to the whole.

"For too long, we have been working from different blueprints, with differing agendas and what seemed to be 'program of the month' clubs," she said in an email. "This document should help us get on the same page, and I'm grateful for that."

Intentionally brief and focused, the Cabinet and Strategic Leadership Team commend this statement, “Connecting to Purpose,” to leaders across the conference. The statement can be found here.

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

Tuesday - September 23, 2014
A dream come true
for Russo Ministries

BRADENTON – Most of the men who walk through the doorway of the old house are just relieved to have a place to stay.

They share a single bathroom, living room and small kitchen and pile into bunk beds at the end of a day spent working or looking for work, activities they’ve had little practice with for years. 

Old house seen from porch of new center
A new development center for Jim Russo Prison Ministries will replace an old house, pictured in the background, that the ministry has outgrown. Photos by Susan Green.
 Laura Russo stands in front of newly constructed Russo Ministries center
Laura Russo stands in front of the new Russo Ministries center that is receiving finishing touches inside.
 Laura Russo in new spacious kitchen at Russo development center
A spacious new kitchen and eating area with all new appliances are among the improvements offered by the new development center getting ready to open at Jim Russo Prison Ministries in Bradenton.
The house is nothing fancy, and Chris is OK with that. After three years in prison, he applied for shelter from five different organizations that help former inmates get back on their feet.

Without that grace, “I probably would be on the streets homeless,” said Chris, 29, who chose not to share his full name for this article. “I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.”

Even so, he’s excited that he and other former prison inmates will soon be moving into spanking-new digs, complete with two spacious common areas, a roomy kitchen with a pantry the size of a den, and five bedrooms, each with an adjoining bathroom.

“I picked my room already,” he said. “Everything is going to be brand-new.”

The ministry’s new $400,000 residential and development center was funded mostly through a federal Community Development Block Grant administered by Manatee County, but $50,000 came from the Florida United Methodist Foundation to meet grant requirements, said Laura Russo, daughter of the ministry’s founder, the late Rev. Jim Russo.

“It was a long time coming,” she said. “It was my daddy’s dream.”

The men are hoping to move in by next week. A formal dedication is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1.

Neither Rev. Jim Russo, whose experience of finding redemption through Christ while behind bars led to the ministry, nor his first wife, Betty, lived to see the milestone. Russo’s second wife, Jean, a Florida United Methodist elder who continued the ministry after her husband’s death in 2000, initiated the project but died late last year shortly after posting a joyful announcement of the anticipated groundbreaking. Her opening statement: “Dreams do come true!”

Laura Russo and her daughter, Nicole Mattox, are carrying on the legacy.

Laura, who remembers visiting her father in prison when she was a child, said she wants to extend the same kind of support the church provided to the Russo family.

“I think about my dad and what would have happened to our family if my dad didn’t have a family and a faith-based family,” she said. 

When inmates are released, the state provides a bus ticket to a Florida destination for those without transportation, Laura said. Men accepted to Russo Ministries typically need not only a place to stay but help with local transportation, re-establishing government identification to be employable, acquiring new job skills and dealing with substance abuse issues. Five men are housed at the site this month, with four more expected by the end of October. 

The new center will allow 16 to 20 men to seek shelter and assistance, Laura said. For the first time, there will be space for a media center equipped with computers.

“A lot of these guys, when they come out of prison, they don’t know how to use the computer,” Laura said, “and so much of Job Services is online now.” 
 

A dedication service for the new Jim Russo Prison Ministries development center is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1. For information, visit www.jimrussoministry.com
or email jministri24@tampabay.rr.com.

To donate to this ministry through the Florida Conference, send payment to the Florida Conference Treasurer, 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Lakeland, FL 33815 and write Advance #510003 in the memo line of the check.

The 14-month structured program includes Bible study, church attendance, and Alcoholic/Narcotics Anonymous and house meetings to foster fellowship and social skills. After an initial 30-day period to get their bearings, the men are expected to seek employment and start saving money so they can find housing when the program ends.

The program not only helps former inmates overcome the stigma of a prison record but also internal issues lingering from their incarceration, such as loss of dignity, she added.

Experts say the first three months after release are critical to keeping former inmates from stepping back on the path to prison. Laura said Russo Ministries usually discourages men from the Bradenton area from returning there because family or social influences may lead them back to their old ways. For many, breaking ties or at least distancing themselves from their old lives is key to building new ones, experts say.

Those accepted to the program must fill out an application and write a statement. Russo staff members then talk with the prison chaplain and conduct a background check before accepting anyone to the program.

“We do a lot of background before we take them in,” Laura said. “We want men who are ready to change their life, who are willing to become upstanding Christians.” 

The tree-shaded Russo property is within walking distance of downtown Bradenton and offers easy access to bus service, Laura said. Her father acquired the site in 1980 with the help of a connection in United Methodist Men, which has long supported the ministry. Someone donated the house, and her father had it moved to the property by tractor-trailer. The center has been accepting inmates since 1986.
 
Chalkboard showing Bible guidance and prayer meeting time
Bible-based guidance and prayer will continue to be a part of Jim Russo Prison Ministries, founded in 1976 by a former prison inmate who was later ordained in the Florida Conference.
Rev. Bob Green, pastor of Oneco UMC and a longtime board member of the ministry, said Russo operated out of downtown Bradenton even before that. His church and other congregations, including St. James UMC, Sarasota, support the ministry, which includes providing toys to prison inmates at Christmas so that they have gifts for their children during holiday visits. Local churches also collect nonperishable food to supply the men with nutritious meals as they try to rebuild their lives.

The ministry’s founder was known for his ability to connect with people, said Green, who attended classes with Russo at Emory University.

“He would talk to anybody, on anybody’s level,” Green recalled. “He could talk to a bishop … just like he was talking to a prisoner. There was no difference.”

That’s a characteristic of the ministry that carries on, said Chris and another Russo resident, Jeremy Walton.

“I can sit down with them and ask a question and get advice,” Chris said. “I’m not used to people who actually care about me so much.”

For Walton, 40, a self-described drug addict from Polk County who said he served six years for bank robbery, the ministry has offered the ideal place to play out a commitment he made while still behind bars.

The date of that commitment is etched in his mind – Jan. 25, 2013 – the day he was ambushed by four other inmates in a knife fight. He received serious head injuries and is convinced he escaped death.

“God was with me,” Walton said. “He never turned His back on me even though I turned my back on Him ... I got down on my hands and my knees and asked God to get this hard heart out of my chest.”

He has been at Russo Ministries for six months and has taken a leadership role with the group. He has a job paying more than $500 a week and is making plans to go to trade school to get a better one.

“I’ve changed,” Walton said. “I’m a humble man. I have patience. … I live for Him. He changed me.”

Walton gives a lot of credit to Russo Ministries.

“They’ve got a heart. They have compassion,” he said. “They love us guys. There’s never a time that their phones are off and we can’t call.”
 
-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Friday - September 19, 2014
Give me that old-time religion, or maybe not

James Merritt spent years as senior pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch that featured a mighty choir.

Then he changed his tune.

At 50, he left First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., to plant a new church — 200 people in a rented space at a high school 12 miles away — focused on reaching a young generation.

There was and is no choir. And that puts Merritt’s current congregation, Cross Pointe Church, right on trend.
 
Stock photo of casual dress women's choir in a church sanctuary
A national study shows many Protestant churches are shedding the tradition of choir-led worship services. Photos used by permission from Bigstock.com.
The newly released National Congregations Study finds church choirs are on the downbeat in white Protestant churches across the theological spectrum.

Choirs stand strong in black Protestant congregations, where 90 percent of regular attendees say there’s a choir at the main service. The same is true for three out of four, or 76 percent, of Catholic worshipers.

But among white conservative evangelicals, only 40 percent of worshipers say they hear a choir at services, down from 63 percent 14 years ago.

For those who attend liberal or moderate Protestant congregations, there’s a similar slide to 50 percent in 2012, down from 78 percent in 1998.

Sales for the music for choral anthems slipped so deeply four years ago that The United Methodist Church’s publishing arm, Abingdon Press, stopped buying new anthem music, said Mary Catherine Dean, associate publisher.

Merritt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is quick to say, “I’m not knocking choirs.”

A lot of thought went into eliminating the choir at Cross Pointe.

“Practically, if a choir is going to be top shelf, people have to come at least one night a week and rehearse at least two hours. Then, a top-shelf choir is going to want to sing every service and do Christmas cantatas and special events,” Merritt said.

“That takes staff, an orchestra, a big enough stage. That costs money. When we were starting up in 2003, we decided we would be better stewards not to invest in that.”

Philosophically, he said, “We saw where the culture was headed. The younger generation doesn’t gravitate toward choirs.”

Today, Cross Pointe, with nearly 2,800 people in weekend worship, is “a very contemporary, very band-driven church,” serving a multiethnic, multigenerational congregation at two campuses.

Merritt’s reasoning mirrors that of experts who see choirs shrinking, if not falling silent.
 
A singer with a guitar performs with keyboardist in background
Praise bands playing contemporary music not only appeal to young audiences but often require fewer resources.
People are reluctant to perform.

Mary Preus, choir director at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, blames “our culture of performance and expertise. We don’t sing anywhere else in our lives the way we once did. I grew up singing in home, in school and church every week. Now, people think they are not good enough to sing,” she said.

People move.

Alan Purdum, minister of music for Howland Community Church near Youngstown, Ohio, said, “Our choir survives because some of my friends and my wife are in it.”

On Sunday mornings, eight to 12 people and a hired soprano sing for about 80 people at services where, 40 years ago, a choir of 30 voices sang to hundreds in the pews.

The recession was a blow.

“Music is an area that can be cut when dollars are scarce in the (offering) plate,” painful as that may be, said Terre Johnson, national chairman for music in worship for the American Choral Directors Association.

Thirteen years ago, when Joey Lott became director of worship arts for Maples Memorial UMC in Olive Branch, Miss., there were 55 voices in the choir.

“In 2008 when the recession hit, I lost 15 members of my choir in six months. They had to move elsewhere for work. That started the descent. From there, I am now down to about 25 people,” Lott said.

Yet choir leaders adapt and sing.

Preus has spent decades working to “revive the joy of singing” at Our Saviour’s. She does it with creative choices for music and staging. Choir members don’t sit or stand in a special spot. They don’t wear special clothes or robes, said Preus. “They just stand up wherever they are in the pews and sing.”

And because traditional choral music can be challenging for even the most talented of singers, she takes time to hunt down more accessible music, often drawing on music from Africa and Latin America.

Don’t count choirs out, said Eileen Guenther, professor of church music at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and former president of the American Guild of Organists.

“Churches are struggling to find the style that is most engaging. But there’s a reason choral music is called ‘traditional.’ It’s been around a while. Contemporary music may not have as much staying power,” Guenther said.

It may be that what is fading away is the “performance choir,” replaced by choirs that lead the whole congregation in song, said Charles Billingsley, worship pastor for Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and artist in residence at Liberty University.

“We are in the age of church planting, and a lot of these startups are small. But I see even some of these churches will throw up some risers and have 20, 30, 40 people sing,” he said.

Thomas Road, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, has “a loft full of singers, 300 people in the choir," he said. "But their main function ... (is to) be an army of worship voices leading the people of God into the presence of God.”
 
* Cathy Lynn Grossman writes for Religion News Service. Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. Used with permission.
Thursday - September 18, 2014
A preview of heaven? Tampa Korean models diversity

WESLEY CHAPEL -- The miracle that members of Crossroads Community UMC prayed for never happened the way they hoped it would.

But faith can be tested in many ways.

In April, Crossroads Community and Tampa Korean UMC joined together as "one in Christ.” Crossroads’ former pastor, Jeff Smith, passed the ceremonial stole to Tampa Korean's pastor, Seung Lin Baik.

It had been an amazing journey for both congregations. Crossroads made the painful decision to close. Tampa Korean, which stepped in to buy the church's Wesley Chapel campus on County Line Road, extended an invitation for Crossroads to continue its legacy by joining Tampa Korean.

About 100 worshipers gathered that first Sunday. About 30 or so of Crossroads' displaced members - a melting pot of whites, African-Americans and Hispanics - were welcomed by their Korean brethren with prayers, fellowship and a luncheon. Members of the Florida Conference also attended and offered prayers for the church's future.

"There certainly was a lot of sadness (for Crossroads) but good hope for the future," says Rev. Dan Jackson. He became the conference's director of New Church Development in September 2013.

For Ralph Hayes, who served on Crossroads’ leadership team, that first Sunday was a day of reflection and joy.

"I'm excited to see where it goes," he says, "and where God is going to take us." 

Members of Tampa Korean UMC form a serving line for a feed-the-hungry mission
Members of Tampa Korean UMC band together on a mission to serve the hungry in Tampa. Photos from tampaenglishministry.org.

Tampa Korean, then almost 40 years old, also had made a difficult choice. For many years, the church was nestled in a tree-shaded campus in a part of Tampa known as South Seminole Heights, serving a diverse congregation that came from Sarasota, Citrus County and, in large numbers, from Wesley Chapel. But worshipers had outgrown the location.

"It's a really neat ministry," says Andy Craske, loan vice president with the Florida United Methodist Foundation. "It is unique in that it’s regional and ethnic. They have a highly active core in Wesley Chapel, but they were thinking as a regional ministry."

At the same time, Crossroads was struggling to hold onto its church building following the real estate collapse in 2008.

More than 15 years ago, the church began with a Bible study group of about a dozen members. As Tampa commuters began to fill new housing developments springing up on the Hillsborough-Pasco County line, the group blossomed into a church holding services at make-do locations, including Clark Elementary School in New Tampa and Wharton High School in Tampa. Crossroads was chartered in 2002 and moved into the Creative Times Academy in Wesley Chapel.

By 2005, church members began thinking about building a church and took out loans from the conference's Committee for New Church Development and the foundation. 

"One day in heaven, this is the way it's going to be. ... You really feel the presence of the Lord there."

-- Ralph Hayes, on the cultural diversity of his new church,Tampa Korean UMC

A year later, Crossroads celebrated a bright future in a new building and a membership of about 300. But as economic recession took hold, the church struggled to meet monthly mortgage payments and membership began to decline.

The foundation mapped out an 18-month financial recovery plan, but the numbers never headed in the right direction.

"They weren't reviving and strengthening as we hoped," Craske says. "The loans weren't even close to the value of the property."

But, he adds, "God works in mysterious ways."

Crossroads’ needs and Tampa Korean's search for a new home offered unexpected opportunities as the conference reached out to help, including Rev. Sharon Davis, who was then a transitional specialist in the South Central District.

"She played Realtor, negotiator, the whole bit," Craske says.

The decision to close Crossroads came in March. "The foundation worked with us and tried to make it happen. We were praying for a miracle but also trying to figure out what we could do," Hayes recalls. "It just never came to fruition."

Not all Crossroads' members chose to join Tampa Korean UMC.

"There are many who are still searching," Hayes says.  

Sanctuary of Tampa Korean, built in 2006
Tampa Korean UMC now worships in the former Crossroads Community UMC on the county line between Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

Pastor James Kim says the transition at times has seemed overwhelming. He joined as the English pastor for Tampa Korean on the second Sunday after the two churches united.

Baik is minister for the Korean services, which are held at 11 a.m. English services are at 9:30 a.m. There are opportunities also for shared events.

Kim was born in Korea but as an infant moved with his parents to Africa and later to Brazil, Texas and California. His dream was to pastor a multicultural church. He had been disappointed when that didn't happen while he lived in Los Angeles for several years.

"I realized it wasn't by my effort but that God had been doing this thing," Kim says of his first sermon at Tampa Korean.

"I was very touched at seeing 100 faces and all those faces looking up at me. It was like standing on holy ground. My vision has always been to do something multicultural, and I believe God has been preparing me for this all my life."

There have been challenges in blending two congregations and bridging cultural divides.

"One of the things we need to emphasize is cultural awareness and remind people that God loves and cherishes people wherever they come from," Kim says. "We don't have to lose our differences."

The congregation newsletter recently announced upcoming plans for a Korean Culture Night at the church, with support from the Tampa Korean Culture Center. Food, Korean drumming and dancing and a subtitled Korean movie are on the agenda.

The opportunities for multicultural fellowship and worship led Hayes to join Tampa Korean.

"One day in heaven, this is the way it's going to be," he says. "You really feel the presence of the Lord there."

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

 

 

 

 

Tuesday - September 16, 2014
Called (back) to Zambia:
Susan Imes of Ocala

"He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God." -- Micah 6:8 

Susan Imes ministers to Zambian people outdoors
Susan Imes of First UMC, Ocala, ministers to people in Zambia, Africa, through her work with the New Life Center, operated by missionaries Delbert and Sandy Groves.

Susan Imes teaching with cross and flame behind her

In summer 2013, I came to Zambia with a group from First UMC, Ocala, my home church. I didn’t know what to expect; all I knew was that I had some sort of calling to Africa, so I was going to go.
 
In the two weeks we were there, I encountered God in a way that made the summer I’d just spent as a church camp counselor look like a trip to Walmart. I came back to Zambia this summer because Sandy (Groves) had mentioned that sometimes young adults come spend a few months with them...and that I was welcome to do that. I don’t know how serious she was; I do know that, deep down, I knew then and there what I’d be doing this summer.

I ended up flying across the world with a badly sprained ankle and a pair of crutches (thanks, trampoline). The trip last year was a nightmare; but this year, I have never had a stronger sense of being in God’s arms than on the plane from London to Johannesburg. Throughout the trip I was able to get extra seats, extra seat room, and I can’t even describe how patient and kind everyone was to me. Once in Zambia, the ankle healed quickly and I was able to get around without any trouble. God is good!

In Kitwe, I had the chance to do some teaching. In the mornings, there’s “tutoring” for students who aren’t in school and didn’t pass their ninth-grade exam (most students fail the exam their first time taking it). While I don’t know how effective I was with the reading, I was really surprised at how much I liked teaching math. It could be slow at times, and frustrating, and my students ranged from kids who couldn’t really add to those who had started fractions...but it’s an amazing thing to see them improve, and get excited when they do.
 
Later in the summer, I also got the chance to read with a smaller group of students. We had a lot of fun reading through stories and then having me explain/act them out. We even traded a little Bemba for American “slang.”

To read more about Susan Imes' experience at the New Life Center in Zambia, click here.

Cross and flame Africa logo for New Life ZambiaMissionaries Delbert and Sandy Groves will be itinerating Nov. 1 to
April 1 in Florida. To learn more about their ministry, visit www.NewLifeZambia.com. To arrange a presentation at your church, email Groves@NewLifeZambia.com or call (727) 546-7763 or (407) 257-6604.


 

Blogs
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.

 

Tuesday - September 2, 2014
17 reasons to rethink your Facebook strategy

By Olsy Sorokina | Courtesy Hootsuite

 

Have you been slacking off when it comes to updating your brand’s Facebook Strategy? Have you been working with the same strategy since before the introduction of Timelines? You’re not alone.

Facebook is constantly adding and optimizing new features to keep up with the fickle desires of its audiences and keep its spot as a leader in the world of social media. Some of these additions, such as the introduction of the cover photo, are obvious from the start. Other changes take a while to register, and can work against your brand’s social media presence without you realizing it. In order to avoid this, and to make sure your social media strategy is up to date, here are several Facebook features introduced over the past 3 years that you need to understand to keep your Facebook strategy fresh.

1. Profiles are personal, and Pages are professional
Keeping a Facebook profile for your business is not only outdated, it violates Facebook’s Terms of Services. There are countless advantages to a Page for your business; it makes building a relationship with a fan or a customer effortless, as they are only required to ‘Like’ a page to start receiving updates from your brand. Pages also get the perk of Facebook Insights, a free analytics feature that track the results of your Page on the network.

2. Facebook now has verified accounts
Following the example of Twitter and Google+, Facebook now allows you to sport the prestigious blue checkmark that verifies your brand’s account. It’s recommended that your brand’s Page goes through the verification process, which often only involves putting a link to the official website in the description, and making sure the “About” section is completed. Verified accounts are more likely to appear in the Suggested Content field on the users’ News Feeds, which is helpful for your Facebook strategy as it means your Page is more likely to be seen by potential fans.

3. Over 50% of Facebook users are mobile
Facebook boasts over one billion users and more than half of these use the mobile platform. Facebook Mobile app has a permanent spot on top of the free app charts for both iTunes Store and Google Play. Make sure to optimize your updates for mobile, and make sure all your shared external links lead to mobile-friendly pages—so you don’t scare off half of your potential audience!

4. Users do judge the Page by its cover
There is no excuse for disregarding your Facebook Page’s cover photo in 2014. Introduced in 2011 along with Facebook’s Timeline, a cover photo is a great way for customers to get to know your brand: you can use it to encourage link visits, advertise an upcoming event, or simply get new visitors to ‘Like’ your page. Some tips to keep in mind: make it colourful, center- or right-align your cover photos for better mobile optimization, and try to keep it light on the text.

5. Younger users have larger audiences
Despite all the talk about teenagers abandoning Facebook for greener social media pastures, recent research confirms that users in the 18-29 age group still make up a large part of the social media audience. They also generally have bigger circles: the median number of Facebook friends for this age group is 300, the largest among other groups. If you want to expand your audience, find out what the kids are up to these days—they are a tough crowd to crack, but once you reach them, they will be your biggest fans.

6. ‘Passion pages’ are a gold mine for referral traffic
Facebook users often express their interests through Page Likes, instead of explicitly including their passions in profile descriptions. Enter passion pages: Facebook Pages that include the words “I Love” or “I Like” in their names. Create one for something your customers are bound to love—for example, if your brand specializes in outdoor gear and you’re based out of British Columbia, “I Love BC Outdoors” could be a great passion page for you. How does it benefit your brand? If you include a link to your brand’s page or website, this is a great way to refer potential customers and create new fans.

7. People use Facebook for the lulz
Multiple studies released around Facebook’s tenth anniversary agreed on this as the most common reason to use the social network: users log in to get some laughs. Sure, people share facts about their lives, but those also get more ‘Likes’ if the update happens to be funny. Don’t be afraid to incorporate a little humour into your Facebook strategy: make your updates informative and entertaining (like this post, for example).

8. Content related to current events is more visible
Facebook is one of the leading tools for sharing news, and it has developed a lot of features to take advantage of this fact: (mostly) spoiler-free ‘Trending’ sidebar, suggested content, and related links. The latter is especially useful for social media managers: if you share content related to the news of the day, it is likely to get more audience engagement. Don’t be afraid to connect your content to the big news of the day, and then share it with your Facebook fans.

9. #Hashtagged posts reach bigger audiences
So you’re a pro at using hashtags in tweets, but feel weird about doing the same for Facebook updates? Facebook has officially introduced clickable hashtags last June to make it easier to track discussions online, so if you haven’t done so already—join the trending conversations.

10. Explicitly shared app content is more visible on News Feeds
It’s a great idea to link all your social accounts, but make sure you don’t get complacent with your posting habits. Your audience is more engaged with explicitly shared content (i.e. third-party app content intentionally cross-posted to Facebook)—and Facebook modifies the News Feed to include more explicitly shared third-party app posts. This means that if you manage your brand’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, instead of automatically having all your Tweets copy to Facebook updates, you should manually select which ones you share. This also prevents you from the pitfall of overwhelming your fans with too much content.

11. A picture’s worth a hundred text updates—photos increase engagement and reach
One of the modifications for Facebook’s News Feed includes fewer “text-based updates” from Pages. This means that your posts are more likely to reach a wider audience if you illustrate them with photos. If your brand is design-savvy, you can include original visual content to accompany your updates, to follow Kraft Dinner’s example.

12. Instagram + Facebook = Social Media Success
If your brand also has an Instagram account (and it really should!), you can take advantage of the modifications by including photos from your brand’s Instagram in Facebook updates. Now that the popular image-sharing app lives under the Facebook umbrella, it should be a seamless inclusion into your Facebook strategy. Instagram is a great visual tool to engage your audience on their smartphones—as we’ve just mentioned in #3, half of your fans are probably using the mobile Facebook app already, so the switch between the two is very likely.

13. Video posts can reach a larger audience—if users find them interesting
Facebook recently made changes to its News Feed to reflect users’ video-watching habits: those who watch more videos will see more video material on their feed, which means frequently watched videos will have a significantly larger reach. If we haven’t stressed video use for audience engagement enough, this is yet another reason to do it—especially on Facebook.

14. Slingshot is Facebook’s newest video app
Since videos are a great way to engage your social media audience, why not try Facebook’s answer to Snapchat, a newly introduced instant video app Slingshot? It works similarly to the popular ephemeral video apps, but has a bonus reciprocal feature: the users can’t see your video until they share something in return. Slingshot has the potential for a great two-way conversation between you and your brand’s fans.

15. Like Ads help promote your Page
A ‘Like Ad’ is Facebook’s non-invasive way to promote Pages on users’ News Feeds. It functions the same way as tagging one’s friends in photos or updates: similar to this, a Like Ad shows up in the News Feed of the person whose friends liked a page or a post. There are a few ways to build your Facebook audience using Like Ads, with some requiring an investment of as little as $20 or less to boost posts to hundreds of users.

16. Storytelling ads result in more page visits
A recent study sponsored by the social media giant discovered that Facebook users are more likely to visit the page if the advertisement tells a story. Storytelling means ‘sequencing’ the ad, which entails a series of separate ads that tell the story of the brand, explain the product, and only then invite the user to visit the page. We have always encouraged making storytelling a part of your social media strategy, and the latest research provides more support for our call.

17. Hiring? Facebook is full of educated job seekers
Research shows that graduates in search of their first post-college jobs are incredibly active on Facebook. Graduates are almost twice as active on Facebook after they walk across the stage as they were during their studies, and they discuss their job hunts and interviews extensively. Consider dipping into this large pool of educated young minds if your company is hiring, or wants to find out what happens in young graduates’ lives.

More at www.hootsuite.com.

 

Sunday - August 31, 2014
Mission Accomplished!

Paul writes in First Corinthians 12: 4-6, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working but the same God works all of them in all men."

God has blessed each of us with a gift to share with others, and perhaps you are looking for an opportunity to share your gift and serve God. If so, Henderson Settlement offers a number of ways to volunteer. They are always looking for more work teams throughout the year, especially during winter, spring, and fall months.

You might be asking yourself what the Henderson Settlement is.  It is part of the Red Bird Missionary Conference, located in a beautiful valley in Frakes, KY.  A valley where a stream runs thru and cattle graze.  A valley where you can lookout, be still, and hear God’s voice.

I recently took a merry band of 22 missioners, from 12 to 65 years of age, to this place. Several had never been on a mission trip before.  We accomplished many things while there, from painting, to pressure washing, to putting epoxy on the floor, to putting a library and thrift store in order, to putting in new flooring, and to screening a porch. 

Besides the manual labor, we also had the opportunity to listen and be in communion with God.  We saw God in so many faces and places. Have you ever taken the time to look at the dew drops on a leaf or spider web?  Have you ever held a hand of a stranger and felt a warmth beyond explaining?  Have you ever looked deep in a friend’s eyes and seen tears of love and understanding?  Well, we did.

Mission Accomplished!

To request information about the volunteer opportunities at Henderson Settlement, e-mail Jerry Lambdin or DeJuana York at workcamp@hsumc.org.

Greg Harford, UMVIM FL Conference coordinator

 

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.”

 

Classifieds
Tuesday - September 30, 2014
Director of Student Ministries

POSITION DESCRIPTION: Director of Student Ministries
Date Prepared: 09/15/14  
Date Approved by SPRC: 09/02/14


STATUS: Full-time, Salaried

HOURS: 40 Hours per week

BENEFITS: Health Insurance, Pension, Continuing Education Funds

General Purpose of Position:
To build young disciples for Christ by developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to youth ministry (in the areas of worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach) while serving as a spiritual leader and role model.

Organizational Relationship and Supervision:
The Director of Student Ministries (DSM) reports to the Associate Pastor for spiritual and ministry guidance. The DSM will be responsible and subject to United Methodist polity and doctrine, informed by the United Methodist Guidelines for Youth Ministries, local church policy as determined by the Charge Conference, Senior Pastor, and Staff Parish Relations Committee.

The Primary Task:
There shall be a comprehensive approach to the development and implementation of the youth ministry at all levels in the connectional system of the United Methodist Church and in all ministry areas of the local church. This comprehensive approach is based on the understanding of the primary task of youth ministry to:
    -love youth where they are
    -encourage youth in developing their relationship to God
    -provide them with opportunities for nurture and growth
    -challenge them to respond to God’s call to serve in their communities and world

Responsibilities:
1.    Be an advocate for youth and educate the congregation about the hopes, concerns and needs of youth in the local church and community.
2.    Collaborate with all Student Ministry Staff including Assistant Director of Student Ministries and Worship Leader to give vision to programs and ensure that all aspects of Student Ministry (Sunday nights, Sunday school, Bible Studies, etc) are carried out according to the vision of this church.
3.    Help plan, develop, and implement all aspects of a balanced youth ministry in the areas of worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach.
4.    Empower youth in developing their leadership skills.
5.    Be aware of resources for developing the youth ministry programming and participate in continuing education events and training opportunities.
6.    Recruit and train volunteers who work with youth in all aspects of youth ministry and ensure adequate volunteer support and adult to youth ratios.
7.    Coordinate and teach Confirmation classes in partnership with the pastor(s) and provide leadership for confirmands, mentors, and parents beyond the classroom.
8.    Keep records of youth participation and manage the youth ministry budget.
9.    Communicate in a timely manner and as effectively as possible using all available resources (email, website, newsletter, social media, etc.). Ensure communication with church staff and leadership, parents, and the congregation as a whole.
10.    Make yourself available to youth in a variety of ways (i.e. lunch at school, attendance at extracurricular activities, visitation, times of crisis, etc.)
11.    Work in collaboration with the gifts and talents of other staff members and maintain a teamwork mentality.
12.    Ensure that the Child Protection Policy is observed in all youth ministry settings.

Qualifications and Aptitudes:
1.    Must embrace Christian discipline and United Methodist doctrine and theology.
2.    A bachelor’s degree in a related field is minimum requirement. Professional Certification in Youth Ministry in the United Methodist Church is desired.
3.    Must have at a minimum, 5 years experience as a director in Student Ministry.
4.    Must have vision and a demonstrated ability to plan, develop, coordinate, manage and implement a youth ministry within the parameters of the United Methodist Church.
5.    Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, conflict management skills, and computer skills.
6.    Must possess a proven ability to work effectively with youth, diverse individuals, and teams of volunteers.
 

Thursday - September 25, 2014
Baldwin Organ

 Baldwin Organ and bench. Plays well.

Thursday - September 25, 2014
Church Executive Director/Business Manager

Seeking Church Executive Director/Business Manager position (PT/FT/Contract) in West Hillsborough/Pinellas/South Pasco area.

 
Qualifications:
Christian, professional, friendly, executive leader familiar with UM Church structure, polity and doctrine.
 
Expertise:
FINANCIAL
-bookkeeping
-budgeting
-investments
-endowment and planned gifts management
-payroll
-financial reporting
 
PROPERTY PLANT & EQUIPMENT
-maintenance cycle planning and implementation
-project management
capital improvement cost/benefit
 
HR
-policy: critical areas, generation, implementation
-staff supervision
-volunteer recruitment
 
FINANCIAL SUPPORT ACTIVITIES
-seasoned major gift/planned gift fundraiser
-annual gifts campaign
-capital campaign
 
GENERAL
-seasoned executive who believes in "ministry of order" and chain of command
-able to work with diverse populations
-excellent communicator
-"computer friendly"
-LinkedIn for complete resume
Tuesday - September 23, 2014
After School Coordinator

Trinity Christian School is seeking a qualified after school program coordinator.  Candidates must posses the 40 hour child care training certification, be a self-starter, energetic, and have excellent supervisory as well as communication skills with students and adults.  This is a part-time position from 12 noon to 6:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.  Salary negotiable.  

Please email your resume to dennisredstone@bellsouth.net or fax to 954-941-3240.

Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Childcare Worker

First United Methodist Church of Homosassa is seeking a part-time child-care worker.   Must be at least 18 years old, and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Approximately 8-10 hours per week.

 
Please no phone calls.
Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Director of Preschool & Childrens Ministry

First United Methodist Church Boynton Beach is seeking an experienced Director of Preschool and Church Children's Director. The Director would build on the ongoing program as well as be creative in children's ministry ot the Church. The Church currently has a vpk program for 4 year olds with the potential to have more children in the pre-school program. The Director would work under the direction of the Pastor and Staff Parish committee of the Church.

Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Director of Youth Ministries

Saint Paul's United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, is seeking a full-time Director of Youth Ministries. This person will lead the church's youth ministry (grades 6 - 12) in keeping with our mission to "Follow Jesus, grow in community and transform the world."

 
Saint Paul's is a well-established, traditional church of about 1600 members. We have two traditional worship services and one contemporary service each Sunday, a robust Sunday School program, and a variety of programs for all age levels. Our theological environment offers a foundation on the Bible while valuing theological diversity.  We strive to be accepting,, open and tolerant.
 
Florida's capital city, Tallahassee is home to 187,000 residents, with a median age of 26. Home to Florida A&M University and Florida State University, Tallahassee has a highly educated population, with 45% of adults possessing a Bachelor's degree or higher. The cost of living is below state and national averages.  Sometimes described as "Florida with a southern accent", Tallahassee is known for its many trees and rolling hills. Tallahasseans enjoy, in addition to bountiful cultural, educational and athletic activities, being within two hours of some of Florida's most beautiful beaches.
 
Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Elementary Ministries Coordinator

Elementary Ministries Coordinator, First Church Melbourne

 
Part-time (17 hrs/week) 
Reports to Minister to Children & Families
 
JOB SUMMARY: This person is responsible for providing a safe, fun, and engaging faith formation environment for elementary children, grades K-6. The position includes creating a weekly large group and small group Sunday morning ministry using 252 Basics curriculum. The person must be willing and able to invite, train, and empower volunteers to lead the weekly Sunday morning ministry. In addition, this person will work closely with Children’s Ministry staff to create creative outreach strategies that meet the felt needs of elementary aged children and their families who live in the community. 
 
Please send in your resume to jobs.firstchurchmelbourne@gmail.com
Application Deadline:  October 10, 2014.  
 
QUALIFICATIONS:
 
Demonstrates a strong faith in Jesus Christ and a clear call to minister to children and their families
 
Demonstrates a passion for facilitating the spiritual growth of children
 
Demonstrates a passion for equipping families to facilitate the spiritual growth of their children
 
Team-player, works well with others
 
Ability to personally invite others to volunteer within the ministry
 
Ability to teach children in a large group setting 
 
Connects well to K-6th grade children
 
Special talents in the fields of music, drama, art, or dance are a plus
 
Possesses prior experience working with children 
 
Must pass a background screening and complete a the required Child/Youth Protection Training yearly
 
DUTIES:
 
Coordinate Sunday morning ministry to K-5th grade children during the 9:30am and 11am worship services. 
 
Invite, train, schedule and rehearse (as needed) volunteers to do the following jobs: large group leaders,Small group leaders, Materials prep, check-in/out, 
 
Prepare and distribute weekly curriculum to volunteers
 
Use the provided curriculum to create the engaging and fun large group piece of Sunday mornings (your first job will be to recruit a team of people to work with you on this)
 
Work on the Children’s Ministry Team to create and execute purposeful events (including 5th Sunday family worship) that equip families to facilitate the spiritual growth of their children and introduce/teach a piece of God’s story
 
Basic administrative tasks: shopping for materials, communicating with volunteers & staff, scheduling volunteers, basic budgeting, and administration of the child protection policy
 
Attend staff meetings and other ministry team meetings as required; any other tasks as assigned by supervisor.
 
Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Part Time Development Assistant

Part Time Assistant (20 hours per week) working for the Office of Development. Included but not limited to: support fundraising mission, maintain schedule, ensure confidentiality, proficient database management - organize, enter, maintain and update donor information. Must have excellent organizational skills, be able to multi-task, knowledge of Outlook, Microsoft Office, Word and Excel. Development experience preferred, marketing, communications or education background desired. Please send resume to mfmadera@vsnaples.org.

Conversations
Tuesday - September 30, 2014
Tell Me a Story by Scott McClellan: Book review

Story is such a buzzword lately. It even has its own conference.

But that’s OK. As a writer, I’m partial to the concept of story. I like it. Especially when a book like Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative by Scott McClellan comes along. It looks at life as story and offers inspiration, encouragement and motivation to be worthy storytellers. It’s a great little (only 132 pages) book that condenses and summarizes a lot of the disjointed, buzz worthy and overdone thoughts about story that have floated around in the past few years and shares them in a concise, simple and powerful format.

One of the central ideas is that without conflict, you have no story. Our pain, hardship and suffering is what makes the stories of our lives so engaging. Nobody likes a movie where everything is easy. Even in a superhero story where they have super powers to overcome conflict, they still encounter something beyond their super powers. That’s conflict, and it makes things more interesting.

Here are three quick lessons we can learn from Tell Me a Story as church communicators:

1. Acknowledge brokenness
This is lesson number one for church communicators. It’s tempting to tell an easy story: If we just come to God, everything will work out. But life isn’t like that. Doing away with the conflict makes for an uninteresting, unbelievable and uninspiring story. The redemption is necessary. As McClellan tells us:

“Church culture and our pride may both encourage us to downplay conflict in our stories, but we must resist.” (90)

He even adds no greater an expert on story than J.R.R. Tolkien: “There cannot be any ‘story’ without a fall—all stories are ultimately about the fall.”

As a church we need to be up front about our conflict, our sin, our brokenness. Our communication must acknowledge that brokenness in order for redemption to have any meaning.

2. Tell the story
Dr. Karyn Purvis has a theory that today’s soldiers are suffering from an explosion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in part because of their inability to share their story. In World War II soldiers witnessed many of the same traumatizing events, but before returning home to “normal” life they had weeks to decompress with their fellow soldiers, swapping stories over late-night card games or the like. In contrast, today’s soldiers can go from the front line to the home front in less than 24 hours. They can plug in to iPods and check out from the world, missing the opportunity to tell their story, to decompress, to deal with the horrors they’ve experienced. The result, as Purvis suggests, is greater levels of PTSD.

It’s certainly not the only cause of increased PTSD, but it’s an intriguing theory. Telling stories is healing.  It allows us to understand what happened, good or bad, and come to terms with it. It’s why I have fond memories of my grandpa’s funeral—we sat around telling stories about our dearly departed.

And more than just telling stories, we have the story to tell. The gospel is the greatest story ever told. It’s not a mere logical proposition: accept Jesus, get into heaven. No, it’s more than that (and we lose something when we reduce it to mere proposition). The gospel is a story we enter into, a story we’re a part of, a story we contribute to as we live out our lives. That story is powerful. It’s healing. It’s redemptive. It’s life changing.

As Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.”

3. Story is lived in community
Finally, McClellan tells us that story is to be lived out in community. In church. These are not individual stories that we live alone. They’re interconnected and they find their true power when we come together. Frodo didn’t set out for Mordor by himself. He had the entire fellowship. The story gets better in community.

So as a church, what story are you telling? Is it a small story of events and activities or is it a grand story of redemption? Are you sharing the testimonies, the challenges, the tragedies and the triumphs that are happening every day within your congregation? Those are the stories we need to latch onto, because those are the stories that illuminate the grander story, the gospel story.

Through it all we need to remember that it’s not our job to change the world. And that’s a relief:

“All you’ve been asked to do is be a witness, to tell your story in whatever time and place you find yourself. You’re not responsible for leading an ideological conquest of the West.” (112)

So, as Makoto Fujimura asks and McClellan echoes, “What do you want to make today?”

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

Monday - September 29, 2014
The non-attending faithful

At least once a month, a friend or acquaintance shares his or her story about leaving the church. The stories are filled with frustration, burnout, isolation and disinterest in returning. As I related these stories to a colleague, he quipped, “I think my church is filled with people who are one Sunday brunch away from never returning.”

When we talk about people leaving the church, we frequently address the systemic shrinkage of the predominately white denominations in the U.S. We look to Europe and point to the rapidly approaching future of secularism. We talk about young white millennials’ malaise and disinterest in the church. We grieve that the “spiritual, but not religious” and the “nones” seem to increase in number every year. On our better days, we talk about the renewal of the church and signposts of hope.

But it is more difficult talk about the real people’s stories and experiences, as they live inside these systems and realities. As someone who grew up in the church, studied the church, and works for and with the church, I am surrounded by these stories. They are my friends’ and my peers’ stories. And frankly, my story feels like I’m one Sunday brunch away with them.

Late this winter, Donald Miller, author of “Blue Like Jazz,” a memoir that voiced the anxiety of young white American Christianity in the mid-2000s, confessed his own struggles with attending church. The backlash led him to write a follow-up that was equal parts defense and clarification.

Neither post was a perfect description of why someone doesn’t attend church, but both were honest. In the follow-up, Miller shared a telling story: most of his Christian leader friends who aren’t pastors don’t attend church regularly. This resonated with my observations and experiences: unless required by job, Christian young people find expressing their faith away from church more meaningful and transforming.

Even though I am not a clergy person and I’m not required to attend, I am a regular church attendee. Each week, I go primarily to experience two moments: to hear the stories shared in our testimony time and to receive a piece of bread, the body of Christ, from a friend. Sometimes the sermon pushes me to see differently, but more frequently I have to draw and doodle to pay attention and sit still. I slip in late and try to sneak out early.

I love the people in my church. They are dear friends who are changing their community, themselves and me, but I’m not much into “church” as it happens on a Sunday morning. It’s too loud, too long, too stimulating, too much. Opportunity abounds for someone to unknowingly use an expression that reminds me of harmful words spoken by spiritual leaders in my past. I’m exhausted over finding a place to sit that doesn’t make me look like a lonely loser, but won’t also require me to small talk with a near-stranger.

There are significant cultural reasons why my peers and friends are disenfranchised from their church, but the isolation and exhaustion is felt on the personal level. Unless our concern for the future of the church takes a personal turn towards the real experience of people in our pews, there’s little hope for change.

If the goal is to prompt young adults to return to the traditional church, I worry the effort is futile.

Sure, some young people haven’t left and won’t. Some may return in response to crisis, and others at the birth of their children. But many will continue to stay away or will leave again, protecting their child or themselves from the negative experiences of mean Sunday School teachers, side-eye stares in the sanctuary for vague indiscretions, or being shamed from the pulpit week after week for being fallible and finite or for a mere difference of opinion.

For many of my peers, it’s easier stay off the grid away from the brutal expectations of the traditional church. For many, this is not being “spiritual but not religious” nor is it an avoidance of discipleship. In my observation, it is more about building a life of sustainable faith that is not dependent upon the institutions that seem so prone to inflicting harm.

The most sustainable faith community I’ve belonged to is a group of women committed to gathering once a week and be real over food and drink. Sometimes, the Spirit shows up in prayer and comforting the hurt. Sometimes, the body of Christ feeds hungry bodies and spirits. Sometimes, we ask hard questions and push for deeper understanding of God, others and ourselves. Sometimes, the reign of God is made known through conversations and participating in local social action.

We don’t call ourselves a church and not everyone is sure she is a confessional Christian. And yet, even for me, a person who attends a traditional weekly worship service, this group of women constitutes my primary community of spiritual formation and care.

No one is counting us, but we are counted among the faithful. We aren’t boosting attendance numbers, but we are attending to what matters. We don’t observe an order of worship, but we meet regularly and observe habits of sharing hugs and prayer, food and conversation. We celebrate and lament more honestly than most religious services I’ve attended. We can make a delicious meal out of vegetable drawer scraps.

We aren’t one brunch away from never coming back because at any given moment, we are probably planning brunch together and inviting others to brunch with us.

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

Monday - September 29, 2014
The rise and fall and rise of the National Council of Churches

WASHINGTON (RNS) Like many mainline Protestant institutions, the National Council of Churches has had a rough couple of years. Once the public face of American Protestantism, the NCC is now just another face in the crowd. Yet with new leadership and a retooled mission, the NCC is poised to rebound from its low ebb of influence and carries a great deal of promise into the future.

In its 1950s heyday, the NCC embodied the confident spirit of educated, mainstream religious elites in what was still largely a Protestant nation. The NCC regularly brought bishops and denominational leaders to the White House and boasted significant influence over members of Congress. Mainline theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr were renowned public intellectuals, practically household names.

It was an ecumenical age as well as denominations were merging, not splintering. The baby boom and sustained economic prosperity enabled the historic denominations’ demographic strength. Beautiful churches sprang up along suburban commuter corridors such as Philadelphia’s Main Line (from which the term “mainline” arises). Fundamentalist and other literal-Bible traditions, comprised largely of uneducated pastors and downscale laity, operated beneath the notice of elite media and were still presumed to be in a post-Scopes cultural withdrawal.

For a few mid-century decades, the American norm of partisan political polarization softened. There were progressive Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress, and the NCC lobbied them all. Before ideology, party, and theology became so strongly correlated (especially for Protestants), the NCC claimed to speak for a broad swath of American society.

What happened?

All religious interest groups experience tension between “speaking to” and “speaking for” their constituencies. On an array of issues, from civil rights to Vietnam to sympathy for liberationist movements in Central America, the NCC by most accounts got too far ahead of the center-right laity in mainline pews and perhaps even the center-left men and women in mainline pulpits.

By the 1990s, the NCC was widely seen as a religious arm of the Democratic Party, just as the religious right was little more than the Republican Party at prayer.

Many congressmen had long ago realized that the liberal NCC was not speaking for churchgoers in their districts, and the NCC’s political influence plummeted. Its constituent denominations and communions — mainline, black Protestant, historic peace traditions, and Eastern Orthodox –- faced their own institutional and financial challenges and, of course, unprecedented membership decline.

In recent years, an NCC Task Force on Re-envisioning and Restructuring made several difficult but necessary decisions that would not only enable the council’s survival, but also position it for vital engagement and ministry in the future. The NCC retained and retooled its historic focus on advocacy and ecumenical dialogue, but it significantly reduced staff and expenses. The NCC moved its headquarters from a Manhattan office building known as the “God Box” to a suite of offices on Capitol Hill.

Last year, the NCC elected Jim Winkler, a veteran United Methodist D.C. lobbyist, as general secretary. The council’s top-heavy institutional structure has been pared down to four “convening tables” with two issue emphases: promoting peace and ending mass incarceration.

Winkler has been busy leading the newly restructured organization and re-engaging leaders from NCC member communions in the council’s work.

Even the NCC’s critics have been quiet. The Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in the early 1980s to combat the left-leaning politics that prevailed among many mainline church elites, criticized Winkler relentlessly in his previous position. Yet the IRD, a fierce NCC critic for three decades, seems to be taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Winkler and the NCC face several key challenges and opportunities moving forward.

The NCC’s unity is sometimes fragile and made more so by some member communions’ acceptance of gay clergy and same-sex marriage. Though officially silent on issues that divide its constituent denominations, the NCC will struggle to maintain unity as Christians decide how vigorously to oppose the excesses of the sexual revolution, if not the revolution itself.

Activists who came of age during the Vietnam era have led mainline institutions for several decades, but the dominance of aging white liberals is nearing an end. Whereas white evangelicals have deliberately cultivated young leadership and have many people under 35 in key positions, mainliners lag badly in this area.

Particularly given its emphasis on peace, the NCC will need to deeply and critically plumb the Christian ethical tradition for insight about how to promote peace with justice in a hostile world. The de facto pacifism that permeates much of liberal Protestantism may prove too idealistic to influence defense and counterterrorism policy.

The NCC also needs effective symbolic and substantive advocacy efforts. Issuing press releases about clergy being arrested in protests may have grabbed attention in the 1960s, but that kind of witness is ineffective today.

As the NCC declined, Catholic and evangelical organizations became more sophisticated, professionalized and influential. They bring a great deal of energy and creativity to ecumenical Christian engagement. The NCC must thoughtfully and strategically discern when to support existing ecumenical and interfaith efforts and when to forge new ones.

Perhaps the NCC’s influence was overinflated a half-century ago, but it is a mistake to ignore the National Council of Churches. Its 37 Protestant and Orthodox communions encompass 45 million members. Though imperfect, the NCC has been a faithful, prophetic witness for poor, vulnerable, and dispossessed people, boldly standing for justice when too many others were silent. We should commend the NCC for its corrective actions and wish the council well in its vital mission.

Courtesy of Religion News Service. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.

 

Tuesday - September 23, 2014
We still have to honor our parents when we grow up

When a friend in her 50s began to share a prayer request about her adult children, my ears perked up. After all: I was friends with her children; I had danced at their weddings. I knew, too, that her kids loved her, thought well of her, and appreciated her. So it came as a shock to hear how much she was struggling with feeling forgotten and neglected by them.

“As a mom, it’s been nearly 30 years that I have thought about my children every single day and wondered about their well-being,” she said. “It hurts that it doesn’t even seem to be an afterthought to send me a text message to say hi.”

Her heartfelt admittance raised a significant question: What does it mean to honor your parents when you are an adult?

In the years when parents care for their children at home, a child needs to respect their parents and cooperate in family life. For many caring for very elderly and ill parents with a decreasing capacity to care for themselves, honor very often takes a practical, physical dimension in care-giving. But what of the decade(s) between those, when both the parents and children are adult and independent?

“Honor your father and mother,” were among the first words God spoke to his people (Exodus 20:12). The Apostle Paul points out that this was the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:2). Jesus was quick to upbraid the Pharisees for making excuses: using their time and resources for religious good at the expense of honoring their parents. Anyone who does that, said our Lord, “nullifies the Word of God” (Mark 7:9-13).

Scripture is clear that the command to love our neighbor is not limited to our friendly neighbor, or even our known neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). Husbands are called to love their wives, not only when they are lovable. Wives are to respect their husbands, and not only when they are respectable (Ephesians 5:22-33). Citizens under cruel governments are still called to submit to those in authority (1 Peter 2:13-14). Clearly, the Bible teaches us that our relational commitments are to be unconditional. No matter how nasty they might be, neighbors are to be cared for. Wives, to be loved. Governments, to be respected.

And parents, whether we consider them honorable or not, are to be honored.

The trouble is, there are a great many instances of parents acting in very hurtful and dishonorable ways. In such relationships, the thought of showing such a parent honor brings pain, vulnerability and often terrific anger and deep frustration to the fore.

In such relationships, learning to forgive is a key component in learning to honor. Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom From Hurt and Hate, speaks of how forgiveness has the power to travel back through time: not to airbrush the past, but to tell a truer story about what happened. Learning to re-tell the story of a damaged relationship with parents is crucial. We need to recognize our own failings, and acknowledge that we are all made of dust and stumble in any ways. “Our parents did their best, and they themselves were deeply wounded,” Fields said in an interview with Religion News Service.

Acknowledging our parents’ humanity and their efforts are key components in showing them honor. For those who have suffered in painful relationships with parents, showing honor might begin with seeing parents as wounded rather than wicked, and seeking ways to appreciate the good they tried to do.

For many, though, the question of honoring parents as an adult is not an issue of a lack of desire or of insurmountable wounds, but rather an honest bewilderment as to how to practically do it. How do you show honor when you disagree with the advice they give? When they live far away? Or next door? When their comments seem judgmental? Or when you get married and are dealing with juggling commitments to a spouse and to two (or more) sets of parents? From a parent’s perspective: what made them feel honored? And what left them feeling neglected?

In a series of interviews posing these questions to the parents of adult children, I was amazed to see a constant and significant trend in the answers. More than anything, they just wanted to be acknowledged. Parents with adult children didn’t need their children to take their advice, but just to know they had listened and considered it. They didn’t need their children to be constantly available to them, or to be their “best friends,” but they did want to know they were accepted.

“The worst thing is when your kids treat you as if you have nothing of value to offer,” wrote one parent.

“We aren’t perfect,” wrote another, “but we do have some insight and we really are trying to help. Just to have that acknowledged goes a long way.”

The most often cited source of hurt from parents was feeling disregarded. However, small acts and words of acknowledgement were mentioned by almost all as being the most significant way they felt honored. One mother of three grown sons laughed as she told me: “my son used to set his phone to remind him to call me once a week. He only had five minutes, on his way home from his last class. But he was faithful to call every week, and given that we only had five minutes, we never talked about any hard stuff. But those minutes were precious: they kept the human connection. I felt remembered.”

While relationships between adult parents and children are among the most complex and catalytic of relationships, the question of how to honor our parents as adults ends up reducing to something surprisingly simple: not speaking badly about them, and remembering to speak regularly to them. As it happens, those small acts of honor to our parents are significant acts of honor to God.

Life is busy, and relationships are complex, but Jesus allows none of those as excuses for a failure to honor our parents. The good news is, honoring our parents as adults may not require a terrific expenditure of time and money. Perhaps, it could mean something as simple as a memo in your smartphone reminding you to “Call mom.”

Courtesy Relevant Magazine. Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/we-still-have-honor-our-parents-when-we-grow#ZtHZk8str7twhcqk.99. Photo courtesy of Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Florida Conference.
Tuesday - September 23, 2014
Why focus on developing your staff as leaders?

Editor's note: In this reflection, the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity introduces a series on leadership development and explains why cultivating people is a crucial task for today's Christian leaders.

Years ago, several denominational executives summoned me to discuss recruitment for a yearlong leadership development program for young clergy. As the meeting got underway, it became clear that they were particularly concerned by the fact that the program was enlisting youth ministers.

Why, they asked, did I think youth ministers were leaders?

These denominational leaders believed that leadership is limited to people with certain roles and titles, with work that has particular scale and scope. They were -- and are -- not alone.

In the Industrial Age, American Protestant congregations and related institutions all too often adopted a mechanical view of their employees. Leaders could afford to hire more people and push ineffective or inefficient employees to the side. With labor plentiful, it was far easier to bring in someone new than to cultivate talent within the current employee ranks. Everyone was replaceable.

Today, the distinction between leaders and followers is increasingly complicated in most organizations. In many places, nearly all the employees are involved in producing services, managing budgets and developing relationships.

Given the complexity of the challenges most companies face, innovative solutions are needed in every aspect of the work. Improving services, controlling costs and managing multiple priorities is the work of every employee.

These challenges require employees, across levels and roles, to exercise leadership skills to understand the situation, make sense of how to respond and involve others to make things happen. They also require senior leaders to adopt a new mindset about nurturing talent to prepare employees at most levels of responsibility to work in this increasingly complex environment.

The mindset that informs the way many organizations look at developing leaders is more akin to agriculture than to industry. Those with responsibility for guiding the organization cultivate the con ditions for the work to flourish. This means cultivating the people.

In practice, this means considering every assignment as both a project to be accomplished and an opportunity for leadership development. A critical aspect of developing leaders is assigning all employees work that is small enough to do and big enough to matter. In an interview with Faith & Leadership, longtime Reformed Church in America executive Ken Eriks describes executive team meetings in which senior leaders identify staff members who show potential and then look out for assignments that will stretch them, even if such assignments are outside the individuals’ job descriptions.

In the midst of a massive realignment and reorganization, the RCA invested in sending many of its staff to a single leadership conference. Employees also took the same leadership inventory so that they could help each other understand strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Suzii Paynter, the chief executive of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, describes similar efforts with a feedback tool and seminars for the entire staff. When she came into office a year ago, she tripled the number of staff members who report to her and made a plan to encourage individual and team development. Paynter now has a “senior” staff of old hands and younger people. She is creating the conditions for them to help each other as they experiment, learn and experiment again.

Eriks and Paynter have been shaped themselves by the processes they describe. They are receiving feedback and figuring out their own work in the midst of developing others. Cultivating others and cultivating oneself are interrelated.

The phrase “leadership development” often conjures images of a classroom, a ropes course or a psychological test -- and indeed these are valuable exercises. Many initiatives (including Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, which publishes Faith & Leadership) offer such carefully designed learning experiences.

These experiences are part of Leadership Education’s work, which is to encourage leadership development efforts within the larger, theological vision of cultivating thriving communities that are signs of God’s reign.

In five years of offering such educational programs, we have discovered that congregations and institutions need to encourage particular practices to prepare leaders to navigate current challenges.

Those practices are:

  • Making developmentally appropriate assignments
  • Adopting a common language to describe the vision for the ministry and the current conditions in the world
  • Structuring meetings to reflect the most important aspects of the work

One strategy that does not move the needle very far in developing leaders is performance evaluation. I have been approached many times to share the “best” performance evaluation tool with a congregation or denomination. The fact is that a conversation is the best tool.

Institutions need a simple, fair system for evaluation and goal setting. It is important to solicit feedback from members or constituents. But the most helpful feedback focuses on needs and opportunities, not the performance of an individual for the purpose of determining the person’s pay. No amount of effort devoted to developing an elaborate performance system will be worth as much as what groups like the Reformed Church in America and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are doing.

Meeting the challenges congregations and institutions face today requires a strategy that is more basic, radical and ongoing than annual performance reviews. It requires a mindset that can be cultivated by considering what you are learning in the midst of the challenging assignments you face. How can you encourage others to take on challenging assignments and learn from their experiences?

Those denominational executives that I met years ago did not stop my training for youth ministers and all sorts of other staff people in the denomination. Today, that denomination has a host of leaders now assigned to developing programs and addressing challenges. Leadership development is ultimately about preparing future generations for the work.

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

Monday - September 22, 2014
Created for More: A book review

I don’t know about you, but about this time each year—as the calendar turns from August to September—I often find myself approaching burnout. The ministry year is around the corner, and it can take a lot of creativity to launch it off the ground.

So I was grateful for the opportunity to review a book that promised to recharge my creative batteries. Created for More: 30 Days to Seeing Your World in a New Way by Jonathan Malm did not disappoint.Jonathan Malm is a multi-talented graphic artist, stage designer, and writer perhaps best known for creating the online Sunday Magazine and Church Stage Design Ideas. This book is intended for creatives—writers, artists, photographers, videographers, problem solvers—both within and outside the church, to help us see the world differently and get out of a creative rut.

The book is set up as a 30-day devotional. Each day contains a passage of Scripture, followed by a commentary particularly applicable to creatives and a short prayer. Then Malm shifts gears with a section called “Change the Way You Think,” which presents a fresh perspective about our work. Finally, each day he issues the reader a challenge.

Some of the challenges are truly brain crunchers. For example:

  • Choose one project you’re working on, then cut your resources or your timeline in half.
  • Trade projects with someone outside your area of expertise.
  • Come up with an intentionally bad idea, then find three ways that bad idea could actually be a good idea.

While the book is structured as a 30-day devotional, it can be a one-month, 6-month, or year-long journey. Malm encourages each reader to choose a schedule that suits their individual situations. I’m planning to use this as a book study for our church’s creative arts team.

“The act of producing things is a very spiritual thing,” says Malm. “Too often we make it about ourselves… when it’s really a chance to commune with and experience the very nature of God. He has given us the chance and the drive to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

This little gem of a book belongs on the shelf of every church creative. It contains a high-impact combination of prayer, God’s Word, and practical ideas, explosive enough when strapped together to break through even the deepest creative rut.

Events
Thursday - October 2, 2014
East Central District Leadership Team (DLT)
The EC District Leadership Team will meet from 10:00am-11:30pm on Thursday,October 2nd at the EC District Office FUMCH. This is the meeting originally scheduled for Sept. 25th that had to be changed.
Friday - October 3, 2014
East Central District Lay Servant Ministries Training Christ Hispanic UMC Orlando

Weekend Schedule

Friday October 3rd 
5 – 5:45 PM     Registration, Dinner, Fellowship
5:45 – 6 PM     Worship, Introduction and Announcements
6 – 8:30 PM     Session I
 
Saturday October 4th
8:30 – 9:00 AM      Continental Breakfast and Announcements
9:00 – 9:15 AM      Devotions
9:15 – 12:15 PM    Session II
12:15 – 1:15 PM     Lunch and Fellowship
1:15 – 3:15 PM       Session III
3:15 – 3:30 PM       Gathering and Recap
3:30 – 4:00 PM       Worship and Dedication of Lay Servants
 
Brochure and Registration Form Click Here
 
Courses and Facilitators:
Basic Lay Servant Ministry - in English                               Lynn Campbell
Advanced in English -  Lead in Stewardship                      Pastor Kevin Evers
Basic Lay Servant Ministry -  in Spanish                            Rev. Miguel Velez
Advanced in Spanish - Lay Speakers Grow Spiritually      Rev. Anna Velez

Cost of all courses will be $45.00 (this includes three meals & snacks)

Friday - October 3, 2014
Fall Confirmation Retreat - Warren Willis Camp

Whether you're just beginning or in the last few weeks of your confirmation class, our retreat is a great chance for your group to gather and focus on the important step of entering the church.

 Our Confirmation Retreats are amazing opportunities for confirmation classes to:

  • Receive sound teaching on the Confirmation Vows they will be asked on Confirmation Sunday during our impactful worship services.
  • Have fun playing games, worshiping, and being at camp with confirmands from around the state.
  • Bond as a class on our Challenge Course's Low Initiatives.
  • Dive into their curriculum during church small group time.
  • A sample schedule is available on the website.
Sunday - October 5, 2014
No More Throw Away Kids Mentor Training - FUMC Brandon - Sunday, October 5, 2014

This training will prepare you to be a “faith friend” (mentor) to a child, ages 9 – 18, currently incarcerated in the Florida Juvenile Justice System. This comprehensive training is based on two national mentoring models and will focus on the particular needs of juvenile offenders as well as gender specific issues. 

Upon completion of the training, you will be connected with a youth in the system based on interviews and evaluations. The goal is to provide the best possible match for both the mentor and your mentee. You are asked to have at least four contacts a month and at least one of those should be a face-to-face meeting. Other contacts can include phone calls, letters, cards, attendance at events, etc. Each facility has multiple opportunities during the week and weekends for you to connect with your mentee. You will receive ongoing support throughout the process.

Currently, 58% of youth will re-offend within the first three months of release. Mentoring is proven to help reduce those numbers and greatly increase the chance of a youth succeeding. Thank you for your willingness to bring hope to these hurting and lost children.

You must be 21 years old and a background clearance is required.  There is no cost for the training or background clearance; however, REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED for planning purposes.

The Jail and Prison Ministry Task Force of the Florida Conference sponsor this event. Training and background clearance are provided by JFJ Ministries, a community ministry of Van Dyke UMC.

For more information, please contact Pam Garrison, Florida Conference Prison Ministry Staff Liaison, at (800) 282-8011 Ext. 148 or pgarrison@flumc.org or Cheryl Jackson, JFJ Ministries, at (813) 766-4146 or cheryl@jfjministries.org.

 

Monday - October 6, 2014
District Work Fund Summit

District Work Fund Summit – District Superintendents and Mickey Wilson, Lakeland, beginning at 11 am on Monday and concluding at 2 pm on Tuesday

 

Monday - October 6, 2014
Residents in Ministry 1st Year Retreat

A retreat for the 1st year Residents in Ministry.

Monday - October 6, 2014
SCD IMAGINE NO MALARIA 10-6-2014

HOW CAN YOU IMAGINE A WORLD WITH NO MALARIA

IF YOU ALREADY BELIEVE YOU LIVE IN ONE?

Here is your chance to find out about how WE as a CONNECTION can make a difference!

It is the Goal of the South Central District to have a representative from EVERY CHURCH join us and Kylie Foley, the Imagine No Malaria Florida Field Coordinator, to learn what we can do and how your church can participate.

Each church is being asked to set a goal at this year's Annual Charge Conference. You are being asked to participate in Imagine No Malaria this next year in some capacity. It may be through a financial pledge, awareness campaign or a focus on prayer. Every local church is encouraged to use their unique creativity to create a powerful campaign that will help end death and suffering by malaria.

Come find out all the exciting things happening and GREAT JOB to those churches who have already started!

SIGN UP NOW!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 9/25, 6:00 pm - Palma Ceia UMC, Tampa -

Click here to register

Monday, 10/6, 6:30 pm - College Heights UMC, Lakeland -

Click here to register

SIGN UP NOW!!!!!!!!!

In Addition, stay tuned for exciting details about a South Central District wide event!

Take the time to learn about Imagine No Malaria before you come by clicking here.

As a Conference we have been active, click here to see what has been happening and at this training we will learn new ways to get involved.

See you there!

Tuesday - October 7, 2014
EC District Imagine No Malaria Information & Training

Imagine No Malaria is the extraordinary effort of the United Methodist Church to combat death and suffering from malaria, a preventable and treatable disease mostly affecting children in sub-Saharan Africa. Florida is joining our denomination with our efforts to save 250,000 lives this next year from malaria. Through prayer, advocacy, and giving we hope to bring our churches and communities together to heal in the name of Christ.

We are looking for "Africates" (Advocates for Africa, where 90% of the malaria burden is) all over the state who are willing to learn about Imagine No Malaria and how we are making a difference in the world in the healing name of Christ. We invite at least one clergy and layperson from each church to attend our training, but please spread the word to anyone interested and passionate about this transformative campaign.

Trainings will be an overview of how Imagine No Malaria works and how you can use INM as a tool to strengthen your church and community relationships as we end death and suffering from malaria. Trainings will be about 1.5 hours long and refreshments will be served. We request that you pre-register, however, walk-ins are also welcome!

For more information on Imagine No Malaria, please visit www.imagineflorida.org or contact INM Coordinator Kylie Foley at kfoley@flumc.org.

Click here to register today!

Tuesday - October 7, 2014
EC Imagine No Malaria Information & Training

East Central District Imagine No Malaria Information & Training
For Local Church Clergy & Laity

How can you imagine a world with no malaria if you already believe you live in one?

www.imagineflorida.org

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