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Features
Tuesday - March 3, 2015
Why technology didn't (and won't) destroy the church

It’s been nearly four years since former Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller warned that advances in technology could demolish the 2000-year-old Christian Church. The advent of Bible apps for tablets and smartphones, Miller argued, amounted to a “new crisis for organized religion” whereby “believers can bypass constraining religious structures – otherwise known as “church” – in favor of a more individual connection with God.”

Prophetic predictions of the demise of the Christian Church have almost become a tradition among religion writers. As with the others, Miller’s has amounted to naught.
 
Instead of having a completely negative affect on the Christian religion, technology has become an empowerment tool for both pastors and parishioners. Online versions of the Bible are one factor people point to when citing reasons for increased engagement with the Good Book. But on the other side of the pulpit, technology is now empowering pastors to minister more effectively.
 
According to a Barna Group survey, 97 percent of pastors now use the Internet to find information compared with 78 percent in 2000. Thirty-nine percent of pastors said they had a spiritual or religious experience via the Internet while only 15 percent said the same in 2000. The only surveyed function of technology that did not grow among pastors over the same period was using the Internet to play video games.  As it turns out, your pastor isn’t playing Minecraft when he or she should be preparing a sermon.
 
Click here to read the rest of Jonathan Merritt's blog at Religion News Service. Photo courtesy Bigstock.
Thursday - February 26, 2015
15 Martin Luther quotes that still ring true
A lot has been written about Martin Luther's legacy.
 
The father of the reformation, he's known for many things—defying the Catholic Church of his day, laying some of the groundwork for protestant theology, forming the Lutheran tradition. He was a complex and controversial figure, and his legacy is complicated one. But almost 470 years after his death, he still has an important influence on the Church.
 
In honor of the anniversary of the reformer's death this week, here are a few of his most influential quotes.
 
On Prayer
 
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
 
“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
 
On Speaking Out
 
“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”
 
On Faith
 
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
 
“I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.”
 
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.”
 
On Sin
 
“I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.”
 
“Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.”
 
On Idolatry
 
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”
 
On Scripture
 
“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
 
“If you want to interpret well and confidently, set Christ before you, for He is the man to whom it all applies, every bit of it.”
 
“The Gospel cannot be truly preached without offense and tumult.” ―The Table Talk of Martin Luther
 
On Serving Others
 
“To find Christ in such poverty, and what his swaddling clothes and manger signify, are explained … that his poverty teaches how we should find him in our neighbors, the lowliest and the most needy; and his swaddling clothes are the holy Scriptures; that in actual life we should incline to the needy; and in our studies and contemplative life only to the Scriptures; in order that Christ alone may become the man of both lives and that he may everywhere stand before us.”
 
“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” ―On Christian Liberty
 
On the Church
 
“Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?”
 
On Love
 
“Therefore we conclude that all law, divine and human, treating of outward conduct, should not bind any further than love goes. Love is to be the interpreter of law.”  
 
On Gifting
 
“We are nothing with all our gifts be they ever so great, except God assist us.” ― Commentary on Galatians
 
On Hardship
 
“Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.”
 
Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. 
 
Thursday - February 26, 2015
"Peace Like A River" music video by CXVI

Click here for the music video.

From the artists:

Page CXVI is a project started with the idea of making hymns accessible and known again. They are some of the richest, most meaningful, and moving pieces of music every written.

The name comes from a reference to page 116 in our copy of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. It is a poignant passage where Aslan begins to sing Narnia into creation out of a black void.
 
It starts, “In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.”
 
~ C.S. Lewis
 
Courtesy www.relevantmagazine.com. Photo courtesy Bigstock.
Friday - February 20, 2015
Lockmiller grant applications due March 15

A year ago, the cupboard at Sarah's Kitchen at First UMC, Port St. Lucie, was nearly bare. But a $2,000 Lockmiller grant to the church filled the shelves with food to feed dozens of needy families.

The timely grant also aided two more missions at First UMC: Sarah's Closet and an emergency food pantry. The efforts are named for Abraham’s wife, Sarah, in the Bible.

Volunteers in aprons in a kitchen setting preparing food
A $2,000 Lockmiller grant to First UMC, Port St. Lucie, and its ministry at Sarah's Kitchen helped ensure that volunteers had plenty of food to serve to families in need last year. Photo from Sarah's Kitchen.

"It helped us greatly in a time of money-crunching budgets to be able to continue the program," says Rev. Josias Andujar, a pastor at First UMC's Hispanic ministry. "It just came at the perfect time."

Each year, churches such as First UMC rely on Lockmiller awards to enhance the outreach of missions that focus on at-risk children and families. Cash incentives up to $2,000 are awarded from a charitable trust established to honor the legacy of businesswoman and philanthropist Alice W. Lockmiller. The Florida Conference Global Missions and Justice Committee oversees the program.

The deadline this year to apply for a Lockmiller grant is March 15. The four-member committee will have $25,000 to award, and grant recipients are expected to be announced in April.

The principal focus of the grants is on aiding children in poverty, says Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, the conference Missional Engagement director.

Committee members will review applications based on "the scope of the program, the number of people served and how closely the program matches the vision for the Lockmiller grants," he says.

Lockmiller was a lifelong Methodist who gave generously to many causes and missions. She died in 2007. One of her charitable recipients was the Florida Partnership to End Childhood Hunger.

Campbell-Evans is in his second year as missional director for the conference but has been involved in anti-poverty missions for many years. He serves on the board of the nonprofit Florida Impact, a lead partner of the Florida Partnership. 

Alice W. Lockmiller headshotLockmiller grants

What: Mini-grants for church ministry

When: Applications due
by March 15

How: Click here for information and an application. Submit the completed application to Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans at ccampbellevans@flumc.org or mail to Campbell-Evans at the Florida United Methodist Center, 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Lakeland 33815.

"I'm just grateful that Dr. Lockmiller had the vision to try and reach out to enable churches to make a significant difference for children who live in food deserts," Campbell-Evans says.

"The fact that these church programs provide a nutritional bridge to children has been an inspiration to me."

Last year, grants of $2,000 were given to each of 10 churches for summer feeding programs, backpack programs, day care supplies, education enrichment, parenting skills education and physical recreation.

Among recipients were First UMC, Bonita Springs, for summer camp supplies and transportation, and Joining Hands Mission Church, Holiday, for family transportation.

The committee set a goal of trying to give financial help to each church that applied.

"I don't know that that will happen every year," Campbell-Evans says. "But we welcome any application and depending on how many we get, we'll have to make some decisions then."

Andujar says the Lockmiller grant was a lifeline to all three of the Port St. Lucie church's missions, including its emergency food pantry.

"It really is an important program for the community," he says. "We're the only food pantry within a 10-mile radius. We've got a lot of need."

And, without the funds from last year, people who counted on a hot meal at the church's soup kitchen could not have been fed, Andujar says.

"The funds helped us get back to the numbers we had."

First UMC, Port St. Lucie, is one of six interfaith churches serving daily meals as part of the nonprofit Sarah's Kitchen Inc. Sarah's Kitchen at First UMC works in partnership with Sarah's Closet.

About five years ago, a youth ministry group traveled to Alabama to help at a clothes closet that served adults and children.

Back home, the group decided to operate Sarah's Closet to help the children who are fed at the soup kitchen.

The mission began with seed money from a $1,000 grant from Youthworks, says Pam  Szymczyk, First UMC's youth director. Children can pick out five outfits once a month and also receive clothes at Christmas and before the start of school.

Schools in the area require uniforms, and Szymczyk says many families struggle to buy what is needed. About 50 students also received backpacks filled with school supplies.

Grants such as those from the Lockmiller trust make all the difference to the church and the community, she says. "Everyone is struggling now."

For guidelines and application information, visit www.flumc2.org/pages/detail/1422 or email ccampbellevans@flumc.org.

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

Annual Conference
Hotel Information

Hotels for 2015 Annual Conference**

Courtyard by Marriott                
1605 Richard Petty Boulevard 
Daytona Beach, FL 32114  
(386) 255-3388  
Rate: $129

Homewood Suites Daytona Speedway
165 Bill France Boulevard
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
(386) 258-2828
Rate: $98
Hampton Inn Daytona Beachfront
1024 North Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
(386) 944-2570
Rate: $129
Hyatt Place Ocean Front
3161 South Atlantic Avenue   
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
(386) 944-2010   
Rate: $129
Hilton Daytona Beach/Ocean Walk Village
100 North Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
1-800-HILTONS
Rate: $129
Residence Inn Daytona Beach Speedway
1725 Richard Petty Boulevard
Daytona Beach, FL 32114   
(386) 252-3949
Rate: $139
Holiday Inn Resort Daytona
1615 South Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
1-866-889-0970
Rate: $129

The Shores Resort & Spa
2637 South Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
(866) 934-7467
Rate: $139

 
**Please mention your reservation is for the Florida Annual Conference event for the rates negotiated by ConferenceDirect.

 

 

Annual Conference Event Logos

Download links for 2015 Annual Conference logo:
 

Large color 2015 Annual Conference logo
 

Large black & white 2015 Annual Conference logo
 

Small color 2015 Annual Conference logo

 

Group Meal Agreement

ANNUAL CONFERENCE GROUP MEALS
PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

We are looking forward to 2015 Annual Conference Group Meal opportunities this year. Annual Conference will be held at Bethune Cookman University, 640 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL  32114.  Registration will begin at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, June 9.  The Annual Conference will begin with the Clergy and Laity Sessions at 10:00 AM on June 10, and will end around noon on Saturday, June 13. We invite you to plan your group meals beginning with dinner on Tuesday, June 9.

All Seminaries are asked to host their alumni meal on Wednesday, June 10, during the lunch break.  This will help your attendees avoid scheduling conflicts with other FLUMC groups.

For your group meal to be listed on the FLUMC web-site, you must complete a Group Meal Agreement Form and return it to Sherri Lingle (slingle@flumc.org) by March 16.  The Group Meal Agreement form is attached and will also be posted on our website by February 2, 2015.

Registration and Payments

It is required that all group meal registrations be managed online through the FLUMC office.  Submission of the Group Meal Agreement Form will provide us the necessary information to set-up your registration. For questions about your registration, please contact Heidi Leab at 863-688-5563, ext. 192 (hleab@flumc.org). Registration will close on June 1, 2015.  All group meals will be included in one online registration form, and participants will register for all of their group meals using this single form.

We will require attendees to pay in full when they register.  The FLUMC will cover the Pay-Pal fees; you will not be responsible for the Pay-Pal fees.  Each group will be responsible for any short falls in the amount of money received.

We are looking forward to our group meal fellowship time at our 2015 Annual Conference.  If you have any questions, please give me a call.

Sherri Lingle
Program Coordinator
Florida Conference, The United Methodist Church
863-688-5563, Ext. 132
slingle@flumc.org

 

Go to Group Meal Agreement Form.

Expo Information

The 2015 Florida Annual Conference will be held June 10-13th at Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach. Due to the unique venue and space limitations, it has been decided to limit the number of Expo vendors to ministries only. All vendor displays should be focused on the theme of the Conference, “Next Generations.” Previous participants will receive an email/letter with further details and more information will be posted when available.

Workbook, Welcome Packet Guidelines

AC 2015 WORKBOOK AND WELCOME PACKET INSTRUCTIONS

SEND ALL WORKBOOK AND WELCOME PACKET INFORMATION TO:

ACWorkbook@flumc.org

WORKBOOK DEADLINE: MARCH 20, 2015

These instructions are for those who are responsible for a Workbook report and/or those who wish to submit an item for the Welcome Packet.

Click here for a spreadsheet with your Workbook assignment.

The Florida Annual Conference event will be held at the Bethune-Cookman University’s Performing Arts Center, located at the intersection of International Speedway Blvd. and Lincoln Street in Daytona Beach, June 10-13, 2015. Our theme this year is “Next Generations.”

If you are a staff person, it is your responsibility to contact the chairperson(s) of the agencies you work with and ask them to submit their report to you. If you represent an agency, you may have a business report or promotional item (non-business item) for inclusion in the Annual Conference Workbook or Welcome Packet.

Make sure the Workbook report is formatted correctly and that it is proofed for errors, grammar, spelling, etc., before submitting the report to ACWorkbook@flumc.org, by Friday, March 20, 2015. The conference WILL NOT edit or proofread Workbook reports, so proofread your report carefully.

 If your report must be reviewed by your supervisor, you must deliver it to them
NO LATER THAN MARCH 10, 2015

 

2015 WORKBOOK AND WELCOME PACKET DEADLINE INFORMATION

All items must be submitted by the appropriate deadlines. The Conference Workbook will contain all official conference business and approved non-business items. If you have questions about the report, you may e-mail your question(s) to ACWorkbook@flumc.org.

WORKBOOK

  • Deadline for official Annual Conference reports is Friday, March 20, and the cost is covered in the Annual Conference Budget.
  • Deadline for submitting non-business items for approval is Tuesday, March 3. Non-business items are limited to one page at the cost to the submitting party of $250.00. Items must be camera-ready and in black and white only. Once your item has been approved, please send your check to Florida Annual Conference, attention: Workbook, Non-business item, 450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33815-1522.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR WORKBOOK REPORT
Submit your report as e-mail attachments, both as a MS Word document and a PDF document and send to: ACWorkbook@flumc.org. On the subject line put “Workbook Business” or “Workbook Non-business.” It is assumed that all material submitted for inclusion in the Workbook or Welcome Packet has been proofed and edited by you for content and errors, including spelling, grammar and all math. Your report will be printed as submitted.

The conference will not edit or proofread your report.

MANDATORY FORMAT FOR ALL REPORTS
Questions regarding submitting a report should be emailed to ACWorkbook@flumc.org. Text reports should be in Microsoft Word and should be concise and to-the-point. Budgets and charts should be in Microsoft Excel so that columns and rows of numbers transfer correctly. If budgets or columns of numbers are in Microsoft Word, a decimal tab or right tab should be used when formatting the document so that columns and rows of numbers line up correctly.

Margins and Fonts: Use one-inch margins top, bottom, left and right, with an Arial 12-point font, limiting the use of bold or italics whenever possible, as this creates formatting problems when compiling the Workbook.

Informational Reports: We request that informational reports not requiring the action of the Annual Conference be limited to no more than 750 words. Informational reports are subject to editing later by the Conference Secretary and may or may not be included in the Conference Journal.

WELCOME PACKET DEADLINE IS MAY 18

There will be no pre-assembled welcome packet for AC 2015

Promotion Options

  • All digital items will be posted on the Annual Conference website.
  • Printed items will be made available for members to pick up after check-in.

Welcome Packet items contain official Annual Conference business, as well as non-business items.

  • Deadline for approval of items to be posted and distributed is Monday, May 18.
  • Deadline for delivery of printed, approved items to the United Methodist Conference Center is Friday, May 29. Items may be delivered as early as Friday, May 22 through Friday, May 29.

Pre-approval is required to post and distribute your item. To request approval for a non-business item to be included, you may do one of the following:

  • E-mail an electronic version of the item to ACWorkbook@flumc.org with “Welcome Packet” in the subject line.
  • Mail a copy of the item to Florida United Methodist Conference Center, Attention: Welcome Packet, 450 Martin Luther King, Jr, Ave, Lakeland, FL 33815-1522.

Once your item has been approved, deliver printed copies to the United Methodist Conference Center (in quantities of 1,000) no later than Friday, May 29 for distribution. Printing costs for reports, non-business items, brochures and flyers are the responsibility of the submitting party. There will be no fees for posting the electronic version on the AC website or for distribution in the registration area. Items should be clearly marked as follows: Florida Annual Conference Welcome Packet, 450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33815-1522.

DATES TO REMEMBER:
Deadline for submissions to the Workbook:

  • Business items by Friday, March 20.
  • Submit non-business items for approval by Tuesday, March 3.

Deadline for submissions for the Welcome Packet:

  • Submit items forapproval by Monday, May 18.
  • Deliver approved items to United Methodist Conference Center by Friday, May 29.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. For more information about all Annual Conference matters, please visit the conference website a www.flumc.org often. Information will be posted as it becomes available.

General questions about the Annual Conference event may be e-mailed to ACQuestions@flumc.org.

News
Tuesday - March 3, 2015
Field of delegate nominees takes shape

LAKELAND – At least 78 clergy and lay members of Florida Conference churches will vie for a total of 50 slots for delegates to the 2016 General Conference and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

That’s the number of people who sent in self-nomination materials and qualified for election by the Feb. 15 deadline, said Rev. Dr. Ken Minton, Florida Conference secretary. Election of delegates will take place at Annual Conference 2015, slated for June 10-13 at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. (Click here to read the announcement from the secretary.)

Stock photo of a digital voting deviceInformation about those nominees is available on the Annual Conference 2015 Web page. Click here to see the list and information about the clergy candidates and here for laity candidate profiles. The lists also will be published in the Annual Conference workbook.

Florida Conference members will use a series of ballots to elect a total of nine clergy and nine laity delegates to General Conference, the policy-making body of The United Methodist Church that will meet May 10-20, 2016, in Portland, Ore. The same number will be elected to represent Florida at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July 2016. An additional seven clergy and seven lay members will be elected to serve as reserve delegates.

Elections take place through a series of balloting that will begin Wednesday afternoon, June 10, alternating between clergy and laity elections, Minton said.

The pool of 38 lay candidates and 40 clergy nominees reflects a somewhat lower number of elders and deacons making a bid for election than in years past, said Minton, who has been conference secretary for 11 years and served 13 years on the secretary’s staff before that.

He expects more clergy, in particular, to take advantage of a new rule that allows self-nomination during a three-hour window at the start of Annual Conference on Wednesday, June 10.

“If folks missed the deadline or felt called to be a nominee after the deadline, then they still have an opportunity,” Minton said.

“We just want to give room for discernment and movement of the Spirit.”

Qualified nominees will have a chance to mingle with voting members at Annual Conference during the morning hours of June 10. The Elections Procedures Committee will have tables set up to accept self-nomination forms between 8 and 11 a.m.

With voting starting only a few hours after the nomination window closes, it will be important for on-site nominees to get their materials in as early as possible, Minton said. Particularly in the case of laity, for whom the rules require at least two years of membership in a Florida United Methodist Church, as well as four years of active association in The United Methodist Church, it could take some time for the elections committee to verify nominees’ eligibility, he said.

A signed letter from their church pastor would be helpful, Minton said. Nominees will be asked to submit the same application that prequalified candidates submitted, which includes an essay. Minton suggested that typing the essay in advance rather than trying to write it at the nomination table will speed up the process.

Those who submit their materials and can be qualified early that morning will be invited to attend the meet-and-greet gathering along with other candidates, he said.

A demographic breakdown of the candidates who self-nominated online shows United Methodists 50 and older continue to dominate the field of candidates in both clergy and laity categories, as in years past. The nominee list also shows a clear majority of candidates identifying themselves as “white/Caucasian.” Here are more details:

• Thirty of the 38 lay nominees, or nearly 80 percent, are white, as are 30 of the 40 clergy nominees.

• Among prequalified lay nominees, 25 are age 50 and older (65 percent), compared with 27 in the clergy category, or 68 percent.

• The number of women laity nominees, 17, approaches the number of men, 21. Among clergy nominees, however, men still outnumber women by a wide margin: 25 men, or 63 percent of the candidate pool, compared with 15 women, or 37 percent.

• Elders dominate the field of would-be clergy delegates, with only three deacons in the running.
 

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

 

Friday - February 27, 2015
Lockmiller grant applications due by March 15

A year ago, the cupboard at Sarah's Kitchen at First UMC, Port St. Lucie, was nearly bare. But a $2,000 Lockmiller grant to the church filled the shelves with food to feed dozens of needy families.

The timely grant also aided two more missions at First UMC: Sarah's Closet and an emergency food pantry. The efforts are named for Abraham’s wife, Sarah, in the Bible.

Volunteers in aprons in a kitchen setting preparing food
A $2,000 Lockmiller grant to First UMC, Port St. Lucie, and its ministry at Sarah's Kitchen helped ensure that volunteers had plenty of food to serve to families in need last year. Photo from Sarah's Kitchen.

"It helped us greatly in a time of money-crunching budgets to be able to continue the program," says Rev. Josias Andujar, a pastor at First UMC's Hispanic ministry. "It just came at the perfect time."

Each year, churches such as First UMC rely on Lockmiller awards to enhance the outreach of missions that focus on at-risk children and families. Cash incentives up to $2,000 are awarded from a charitable trust established to honor the legacy of businesswoman and philanthropist Alice W. Lockmiller. The Florida Conference Global Missions and Justice Committee oversees the program.

The deadline this year to apply for a Lockmiller grant is March 15. The four-member committee will have $25,000 to award, and grant recipients are expected to be announced in April.

The principal focus of the grants is on aiding children in poverty, says Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, the conference Missional Engagement director.

Committee members will review applications based on "the scope of the program, the number of people served and how closely the program matches the vision for the Lockmiller grants," he says.

Lockmiller was a lifelong Methodist who gave generously to many causes and missions. She died in 2007. One of her charitable recipients was the Florida Partnership to End Childhood Hunger.

Campbell-Evans is in his second year as missional director for the conference but has been involved in anti-poverty missions for many years. He serves on the board of the nonprofit Florida Impact, a lead partner of the Florida Partnership. 

Alice W. Lockmiller headshotLockmiller grants

What: Mini-grants for church ministry

When: Applications due
by March 15

How: Click here for information and an application. Submit the completed application to Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans at ccampbellevans@flumc.org or mail to Campbell-Evans at the Florida United Methodist Center, 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Lakeland 33815.

"I'm just grateful that Dr. Lockmiller had the vision to try and reach out to enable churches to make a significant difference for children who live in food deserts," Campbell-Evans says.

"The fact that these church programs provide a nutritional bridge to children has been an inspiration to me."

Last year, grants of $2,000 were given to each of 10 churches for summer feeding programs, backpack programs, day care supplies, education enrichment, parenting skills education and physical recreation.

Among recipients were First UMC, Bonita Springs, for summer camp supplies and transportation, and Joining Hands Mission Church, Holiday, for family transportation.

The committee set a goal of trying to give financial help to each church that applied.

"I don't know that that will happen every year," Campbell-Evans says. "But we welcome any application and depending on how many we get, we'll have to make some decisions then."

Andujar says the Lockmiller grant was a lifeline to all three of the Port St. Lucie church's missions, including its emergency food pantry.

"It really is an important program for the community," he says. "We're the only food pantry within a 10-mile radius. We've got a lot of need."

And, without the funds from last year, people who counted on a hot meal at the church's soup kitchen could not have been fed, Andujar says.

"The funds helped us get back to the numbers we had."

First UMC, Port St. Lucie, is one of six interfaith churches serving daily meals as part of the nonprofit Sarah's Kitchen Inc. Sarah's Kitchen at First UMC works in partnership with Sarah's Closet.

About five years ago, a youth ministry group traveled to Alabama to help at a clothes closet that served adults and children.

Back home, the group decided to operate Sarah's Closet to help the children who are fed at the soup kitchen.

The mission began with seed money from a $1,000 grant from Youthworks, says Pam  Szymczyk, First UMC's youth director. Children can pick out five outfits once a month and also receive clothes at Christmas and before the start of school.

Schools in the area require uniforms, and Szymczyk says many families struggle to buy what is needed. About 50 students also received backpacks filled with school supplies.

Grants such as those from the Lockmiller trust make all the difference to the church and the community, she says. "Everyone is struggling now."

For guidelines and application information, visit www.flumc2.org/pages/detail/1422 or email ccampbellevans@flumc.org.

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

Thursday - February 26, 2015
Open for witness: Special needs ministries model Jesus' teachings

A playground at one church and an arts program at another are simple lessons in how to invite everyone to share in the faith-based life of a church.

Children on a slide and play apparatus with Jesus quote on a sign in front
"Let the children come to me," reads one of the signs bearing scripture scattered across a new playground built to accommodate youngsters of all abilities at Trinity UMC, Gainesville. For playground information and a list of needed items, click here. Photo by Kelly Ping. 

In February, Trinity UMC, Gainesville, celebrated the opening of a new playground that is accessible to children with and without disabilities. The congregation has invited the community – not just Trinity churchgoers – to use it.

About 150 miles north, another church, Good Samaritan UMC, Tallahassee, is reaching out to children with special needs in the community through an inclusive arts program. Leaders of both ministries say personal experience has driven home the importance of churches becoming welcoming places for everyone.

At Trinity, the playground is one more step in an evolving mission to find ways to welcome and include people in church activities, says Rev. Dan Johnson, the church’s senior pastor. The congregation has a Friendship Disabilities Ministry Group and annually observes Disability Sunday services.

"That's been an important part of our mission: to make sure we're accessible in every way, for play and for the emotional and spiritual," Johnson says.

About two years ago, church members began collecting donations for the $150,000 needed to build the playground. Among its special features are a spinning bowl that promotes sensory stimulation for children with autism and a gondola-style swing wide enough for wheelchairs.

A special wood chip surface makes it easy for wheelchairs to roll from one play area to another, and children can wheel right up to picnic tables specially built to accommodate them.

Johnson has a personal connection to the challenges confronting people with disabilities.

His adult daughter sustained life-threatening injuries in a car accident nearly 14 years ago. She survived but has vision and balance challenges and uses a wheelchair. 

A girl pulls a rabbit from a hat held by a boy in magician's costume
Arts programs that accommodate special needs can bring out hidden talents. Above, Billy, right, who has autism teams up with Willow for a magic show at Good Samaritan UMC, Tallahassee. Below, a young cast of performers takes a bow after staging a play. Photos from Good Sam Arts program. Click here to see a video of children peforming the song "Be Our Guest." For information about Good Sam Arts, click here.
Children in costume take a bow on stage after a performance

Johnson understands the frustrations of parents who bring their disabled children to a typical playground. Other children would head for the swings, “but how about kids who come in wheelchairs who want to swing?” he says.

Artist Jenn Garrett – his daughter’s friend –designed the playground and served on the building committee.

“I just wish every day (that) churches would do this,” Johnson says. “This is a way to communicate what we think of the faith of Jesus. It's not an isolated or compartmentalized access. The church wants to be open in all ways to people.”

Amanda “Mandi” Broadfoot, arts and communications executive director at Good Samaritan UMC, also knows from personal experience how often children with special needs feel isolated and left out.

Her 8-year-old son, Billy, has autism. 

School officials said he was “severely affected” and didn’t offer much encouragement for his future, Broadfoot recalls. He did not speak until age 4.

Finding a church that welcomed her son was a challenge. Often, Broadfoot says, there were complaints that he was too disruptive and would have to be separated from Sunday school classmates.

Then, by happenstance, the family came to Good Samaritan UMC.

“I was really skittish,” Broadfoot says. “But they just opened their arms. … I was so happy.”

Her son began participating in the church’s arts and music program.

“We found out he had an amazing voice,” Broadfoot says. “He is an example of someone people didn’t know what his potential was. They wouldn’t have suspected what he’d be today.”

Her son sings in the show choir, performs in musicals and has served as an acolyte during church services.

"He has slowly evolved and enjoys showing off his God-given talent," Broadfoot says. "He is a beacon of light."

Broadfoot quit an advertising job to join the staff about two years ago and focus her attention on Good Sam Arts ministry, which includes dance, arts, music and theater. Curriculum choices are made with all children in mind, including those who have trouble moving or vocalizing in their lessons.

Last year, more than 300 children enrolled in the church's Good Sam Arts classes, which are open to the community. Children of all abilities are welcome, Broadfoot says.

The congregation has made a special effort to get that message out. 

A boy prays during the opening ceremony for accessible playground at Trinity UMC
A boy participates in prayer at the opening of a new playground designed to accommodate people of all abilities, the only one in the community around Trinity UMC, Gainesville. Photo by Kelly Ping.

"Let's over-communicate with people and make sure they understand," Broadfoot says. "If you're a parent and concerned about the challenges, come and talk with us about it."

Every situation is taken on a case-by-case basis, she says.

One 10-year-old girl with autism had a beautiful voice and was cast as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast."

But she was uncomfortable with dancing. "It stressed her out to do that," Broadfoot says.

The solution was easy. She played Belle, seated at a table, as other children, dressed in costumes danced around her while singing "Be Our Guest."

She is now in the show choir and is taking piano lessons at home.

"We celebrate every milestone, whatever it may be," Broadfoot says.

It is important for churches to reach out to children and their families no matter what the challenges, she says.

“They need to know that kids can go to church and their families can go to church,” Broadfoot says. “They need that more, sometimes, than the typical kid.”

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

Tuesday - February 24, 2015
Inexpensive solutions for church training needs

One of the best ways to get people to buy into your ministry as a volunteer is to equip them to do the ministry they sense God calling them to do. While plenty of conferences do just that, such events can be pricey. With the cost of a conference itself, plus hotel, food and transportation, you can be looking at $500 to $1,000 even for the most frugal individuals.

Don’t worry. You can get the same quality content for several volunteers and may interact with the same people for a fraction of the cost of a single person attending the next big conference. Here are three solutions, ranging from free to a couple hundred dollars, that will make your volunteers feel appreciated and equipped. 

Ethnically mixed group of students looking at laptop computer
Free and low-cost online courses can make training more affordable than sending staff or volunteers to conferences. Photo from Bigstock.com.


1. Go to class virtually.

The Internet has made many online learning options available to everyone. Universities and seminaries all over the world have begun to make their courses and special lectures available online for free. From computer programming to an introduction to biblical Greek, it’s all there. 

The path you choose will depend on how involved you want your course to be. If you’re just looking to watch a couple of lectures, iTunes U is just right. Just open the iTunes store, scroll to the bottom and click iTunes U under “Explore.” Or launch directly into iTunes U if you already have iTunes installed. Listed below are some courses we’ve found:



Jesus and Culture (Candler)
The Wesley Lectures (Seattle Pacific)
Fundamentals of Public Speaking (Missouri State)
Writing for Magazines (Ohio State)
 
If you want something closer to a full online course, check out the list of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), complete with course materials at the MOOC List. If you want an even more typical course, EdX and Coursera offer semester-long courses with exams and professors that are free to audit and affordable to get a certificate.

Some relevant courses we’ve found on these sites include the following:

• Digital Marketing
• Project Management
• Content Strategy
• Business Finances and Operations
• Virtual Teacher Program
• Reasoning, Data Analysis and Writing
 
One of the best and most affordable paid options for e-learning is Lynda.com. The variety in classes and expertise is unmatched, and the video tutorials make it easy to learn just about any major application or program.

2. Skype in a keynote speaker.

What if you have a specific speaker in mind for your seminar but know he or she is way out of your league price-wise? Try Skyping.

Many well-known speakers don’t think twice about firing up their webcam for an hour for a drastically reduced rate. It is far more convenient for them to sit at a desk than to spend a day or two traveling.

You get the same speaker without the airfare and hefty honorarium and likely have much more personal interaction than you would get at a big conference.

3. Get training from boards and agencies.

The United Methodist Church consistently invites some of the top thinkers from around the globe to offer the best from their areas of expertise online via webinar. You might look ahead and plan your volunteer training to happen at the same time as a live webinar broadcast, but you need not do that. Each webinar or video is archived so you can call it up at your own convenience.

Custom-design a training day with content on communications, children, youth and adults. Check out the following resources:
 

Are you looking for something more formal? United Methodist Communications offers instructor-facilitated courses on everything from church vitality to hospitality ministry. Some courses are free and others are offered at affordable prices. For details and schedules, check out UMCom’s online training portal.

Now that you have these free or very affordable options, just pick the date of your stay-at-home conference and order a sandwich platter for your volunteers. Why stop there? With such great content, why not invite your whole district to join you and encourage connections among congregations?

-- Jeremy Steele writes for United Methodist Communications. To see more tips for churches at MyCom, click here.
 

 

Monday - February 23, 2015
Family Christian Stores seeks bankruptcy protection

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) -- Family Christian Stores, the largest Christian retail chain, filed for bankruptcy, seeking to restructure so it can keep its more than 260 stores open.

Chuck Bengochea, president and chief executive officer, said the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company “took on too much debt” due to declining sales and was hit by the 2008-09 recession and the digital revolution that has changed the sales of books, movies and music.

Piles of books in foreground and shoppers in background browsing shelves
Brick-and-mortar bookstores across the U.S. struggle to remain open in a world of digital media and online shopping. Photo from Bigstock.com.

“I wish that we had alternatives, but we do not,” said Bengochea in a video released last week to explain the restructuring plans.

On Feb. 17, Bankruptcy Court Judge John T. Gregg in Grand Rapids ruled that the company could continue to function during the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process using money it receives from its operations, said the corporation's senior vice president, Steve Biondo.

MLive Media Group reported that the chain, which has stores in 36 states, had $230 million in sales in 2014, down from $305 million in 2008. The company's website lists 24 stores in Florida. A question-and-answer page on the site indicates there are no plans to close any stores or lay off any of the more than 3,200 full- and part-time employees at Family Christian during the restructuring.

“We made the decision after much prayerful consideration and only after working to cut costs and taking other steps,” company officials said on the website.

Added Bengochea in the video: “What we’re trying to do is get through the process quickly and make sure that we maximize the payment to our creditors.”

In 2012, Family Christian Stores was purchased by three businessmen and donated to the nonprofit Family Christian Ministries. Comparing the bankruptcy process to one used by airline and auto industries, the company hopes Gregg will approve its plan so a new subsidiary of Family Christian Ministries can acquire its stores and e-commerce site within 60 days.

Founded in the 1930s, Family Christian Stores owns two other companies: iDisciple, an app with sermons and music, and the Christian movie production company Giving Films. Those two companies operate independently of the chain of stores and are not part of the restructuring plans.

The closest competitor to Family Christian Stores is LifeWay Christian Stores, with more than 180 stores.

-- Adelle M. Banks writes for Religion News Service. © 2015 Religion News LLC. All rights reserved. Posted here with permission. Florida Conference Connection managing editor Susan Green contributed to this story.

 

Wednesday - February 18, 2015
Lake Junaluska facelift shifts to The Terrace Hotel
Terrace Hotel in autumn overlooking Lake Junaluska
The Terrace Hotel at Lake Junaluska is closed this winter to allow renovations to meeting spaces and its 105 guest rooms. It will reopen in April. Photos from Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. 

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. – The Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, tucked away in a scenic corner of the Western North Carolina mountains, has embarked on one of the most ambitious renovation projects in its history.

The Terrace Hotel will be closed this winter to allow for a $3.2 million upgrade to its 105 guest rooms and front desk, as well as new carpet and paint in the hotel’s meeting spaces. It is scheduled to reopen in April, in time for the retreat center’s biggest season that starts in May and runs through the fall. 

The renovation is among early steps toward realizing a $40 million revitalization plan for Lake Junaluska, which celebrated its centennial anniversary last year. Earlier projects in the plan included construction of a new fishing pier and boat launch, as well as renovations to the playground and youth dining hall.

The hotel’s closing will not affect winter programming for youth groups, said the retreat’s marketing manager, Stephanie Drum, in an email to Florida Conference Connection. 

Rendering of upgraded guest room at The Terrace Hotel
Guest rooms at The Terrace Hotel will sport a refurbished look inside to complement the mountain lake vista outside.

Perched on the edge of Lake Junaluska, The Terrace is a popular choice because of the view and its full-service amenities, including Internet, a fitness center and an aquatic center, Drum said.

However, other lodging options remain, including the historic Lambuth Inn, Lakeside Lodge, apartments with kitchenettes and dormitory-style lodges. The center also has an RV campground, but that is traditionally closed in the winter, Drum said.

Fundraising for a $14 million refurbishment and upgrade to the Lambuth Inn is underway. The inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Lake Junaluska was founded by Methodists in 1913 and remains a Christian retreat center with ties to The United Methodist Church. For information, visit www.lakejunaluska.com.

 

Monday - February 16, 2015
Gospel's light shines from Colombia to Argentina

LAKELAND -- Three years ago, Rev. William Llanos and his wife, Rev. Rocio Barcenas, were called into transcultural missions work from their home in Colombia to help the people of Entre Ríos, Argentina.

Since then, they have worked with churches to develop leadership in a part of the world where making a living and nurturing young people present major challenges. Through an interpreter, Llanos and Barcenas, who speak Spanish, shared their ministry in the Entre Ríos province with listeners gathered last week at the Florida United Methodist Center.

Together, the pastors serve four churches in four different cities. Additionally, Llanos has been appointed superintendent of seven churches throughout the province. Some of the congregations don’t have a church building, and worshipers meet in the street or under a tree for prayer and service. 

Rev. Rocio Barcenas diplaying Argentinian artifact, the mate
Rev. Rocio Barcenas, part of a husband-and-wife missionary team in Argentina, talks about the cultural significance of drinking maté, or tea, from the same goblet in the region where she works. Photos by Tim Turner. 
Rev. William Llanos with a map of South America behind him
Rev. William Llanos talks about his mission work in Argentina, where he and his wife pastor several churches and organize outreach ministries. Argentina is shaded in blue on the map behind him, and their mission base of Colón is in the northeast section of the country.

“The farthest church is an hour and a half drive from Colón,” where the missionaries live, Llanos said.

The couple’s ministry is spread thin because Argentina has a continuing need for more pastors.
 
“Most pastors in Argentina must take on secular jobs to make an income,” Barcenas said.

The result of this financial struggle leads those called to ministry to seek a living outside the church, leaving many Argentinian churches without leadership. The need for church leaders remains, as the people of Entre Ríos struggle to make ends meet in a high-risk environment.

“Our youth are in danger of drugs, prostitution, suicide and poor graduation rates,” said Llanos. “We must teach children of opportunity granted by a God of life and hope.”

At their church in Concordia, the couple reaches out to high-risk kids and teens by leading groups in camping trips and baptismal services. They also organize outreaches to Concordia’s low-income communities in the heart of the drug circuit.

In Concepción, where graduation rates are low, the focus is on students.

“We help guide them to opportunity under the light of the gospel,” Barcenas said.

In Colón, the suicide rates are high among the 16- to 50-year-old population. Outreach from the church in Colón focuses on helping children develop into healthy adults as a preventative measure.

“Our doors are always open, but we must also go out into the community,” Llanos said. “We lead home groups and meetings to plan how we can reach people directly.”

Reaching people within the community requires a level of cultural bonding. Barcenas demonstrated her experience with a traditional tea called maté. The drink is served from a community goblet or gourd, and each individual takes sips from the same metal straw. Because of the way it is shared, the drink provides an opportunity for communion and socializing.

The missionaries feel blessed that they can help those in need in Argentina. Said Barcenas: “Perhaps one day we will return to Colombia with this grand experience, and we will use it to strengthen the church there.”

For more information about Llanos and Barcenas, the missionaries and their work, visit www.umcmission.org/Explore-Our-Work/Missionaries-in-Service.

-- Tim Turner is digital media coordinator for the Florida Conference.
 

Thursday - February 12, 2015
Real Ideas to offer practical pointers and hope

LUTZ — When people attend the annual Real Ideas Conference, they arrive with expectations, said Bill Hoopes, conference director.

Lightbulb icon   Real Ideas Conference


When:  March 5-6, 2015

Where: Van Dyke Church
             17030 Lakeshore Road
             Lutz, FL 33558

What:    Preconference & lunch, $49
             General sessions, workshops, two meals,
             $139

Details:
RealIdeasConference.com

 

They either have been to the conference before or they have heard about it, and they expect to pick up practical suggestions to address challenges facing their church, Hoopes said.

“Really, what we’re about is the nuts and bolts,” he said.

Initiated nine years ago by Rev. Matthew Hartsfield, lead pastor at Van Dyke Church, Lutz, and Rev. Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church, Cape Coral, Real Ideas aims to blend inspiring messages and practical advice to help pastors, leaders, volunteers and church staff take steps forward to help strengthen their congregations.

This year’s conference, scheduled for March 5-6 at Van Dyke Church near Tampa, features a preconference slate of workshops featuring eight choices, messages from six keynote speakers and more than 50 workshops.

The preconference event allows participants a chance to go deep on a topic, while the conference workshops cover a broad range of issues.

Participants can select workshops that follow a particular track or sample a broad array of subjects.

“Some people want to come and specifically learn more about missions or outreach,” Hoopes said. “Some people are very interested in children’s ministry or technology.”

Rev. Dennis Blackwell headshot
Dennis Blackwell

Real Ideas covers everything from preaching to recruiting volunteers to using social media to connect with a new generation.

One breakout session, led by Taylor Foley of Grace Church, Cape Coral, focuses on “Engaging Unchurched Youth.”

It’s an issue that Foley, director of youth ministries, is passionate about. He has watched young people leave the church when they grow up. It’s a national trend and one that churches cannot ignore, Foley said.

There are two basic ways to combat the problem, Foley said. One method is to find ways to stay connected with youths, so they don’t leave the church.

The other is to reach out to youths who do not belong to a church and take an interest in them through programs in local schools, clubs and organizations and by developing relationships, so that they’ll want to visit the church.

Churches “can’t just focus on people within their walls,” Foley said.

When youths decide to visit, he added, the church must be ready.

“The No. 1 way (to attract unchurched youth) is to just create an environment where everyone is welcome,” he said.

Corey Wolloff, director of high school ministry at Van Dyke, will lead sessions on reaching the post-millennial generation in a social media age and on avoiding burnout.

“We are dealing with a group of students for whom social media is not only the norm, but the expectation,” Wolloff said, via email.

“Communicating biblical truth to this generation will have very unique challenges and struggles. … Now could be the time to leverage the influence of social media for the cause of the gospel.”

Jim and Jennifer Cowart portrait shot
Jim & Jennifer Cowart

On the issue of burnout, he plans to remind those attending, “As ministers of the gospel, we are designed and called to pour ourselves out deeply for the people of God, yet we should never forget that in order to be poured out we must be filled up.” And he plans to offer strategies to address that.

Like the workshop presenters, the keynote speakers also will provide diverse perspectives, Hoopes said.

Rev. Dennis Blackwell, senior pastor at Asbury UMC in Woodlynne, N.J., will speak on “The Power of the Gospel to Change Lives.”

Blackwell’s church was designated 15 years ago as a Congregational Resource Center for Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.

The pastor was scheduled to speak at Real Ideas before incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, heightened racial tensions nationwide.

The timing of Blackwell’s appearance was not related to that national discussion, Hoopes said, but he believes the conference will benefit.

“We feel that Rev. Blackwell can really speak to some of these issues and help us,” Hoopes said.

“Rev. Blackwell is very involved in coalition within The United Methodist Church, of trying to reach out and bridge different areas,” Hoopes said. “He’s a dynamic preacher also, so we also anticipate that he’s going to bring a fiery message that’s really going to get us stirred up and charged up.”

Jessica LaGrone headshot
Jessica LaGrone

Another keynote speaker is Jessica LaGrone, the first woman dean of the chapel at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

“She’s involved with a lot of younger, future leaders within the church, so she brings that perspective into our conference,” Hoopes said.

Jim and Jennifer Cowart, who lead Harvest UMC in Byron, Georgia -- one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches -- will talk about making church relevant and attractive in today’s society.

Hartsfield and Acevedo, the other keynote speakers, will talk about “Spiritual Friendship.”

“It’s easy to be in the ministry and just kind of be out there doing your own thing,” Hoopes said. “But how do we hold ourselves accountable? Who are we in relationship with?”

The conference attracts participants from across the southeastern U.S., with the majority coming from Florida.

While it is hosted by Van Dyke, a United Methodist church, the conference welcomes other denominations, Hoopes said.

“This really is meant to be an interdenominational conference. We’re really trying to connect with other churches,” he said.

Last year, the conference featured nationally known speakers Ken Davis and Bill Hybels and drew a record crowd of more than 600. But this year, event organizers are going back to basics, targeting the practical needs of typical congregations.

“There are a lot of churches that are struggling,” Hoopes said. “The average church in America is still 100 people or less. The majority of churches might have one paid position and the rest are volunteers.”

For information, visit realideasconference.com, email conference@vandyke.org or call (813) 968-3983.

-- B.C. Manion is a freelance writer based in Tampa.
 

Wednesday - February 11, 2015
A season of repentance, a season of hope

Easter and the season leading up to it represent much more than colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. In the seasons of Lent and Easter, the church focuses on remembering, retelling and participating in the story of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Saturday, the evening before Easter.

Keystone UMC's large outdoor cross draped in purple
United Methodist churches like Keystone UMC, Keystone Heights, find ways to remind passers-by of the Lenten season. 2013 photo by Susan Green.

During Lent, we enter into a season of preparation, self-reflection and repentance when we seek to literally “turn around” and realign our lives and focus toward God. It is a time to give up things as well as take on new life-giving practices, helping us rid ourselves of distractions and our own selfish desires. By doing so, we seek to live and love as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Easter Season, also known as Eastertide or the Great Fifty Days, begins on Easter Day and ends on Pentecost. Focusing on Christ's resurrection and ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), Eastertide is the most joyous and celebrative season of the Christian year. We celebrate the good news that in Christ’s death and resurrection we, and all creation, are continually being made new by God’s love and saving grace.

Click here for local church resources, including new Lenten studies from United Methodist agencies.

The Rethink Church campaign of United Methodist Communications is offering free resources for congregations that want to reach outside their walls with the message of the season. Click here to see options. Customized direct-mail cards must be ordered March 9. Videos that can be customized for your church website or social media platforms must be ordered by March 23.

Blogs
Tuesday - March 31, 2015
3 ways Instagram can strengthen bonds in your church community

Instagram is a different social animal than Facebook. Its simplicity and focused purpose as a bare-bones social image sharing app make it a very powerful tool for telling visual stories quickly and getting them seen BIG TIME.

Your church community is already socially driven. Consider doing one of these 3 simple steps to give your congregants a new method for making meaningful connections.

1. Put your church on the map
Instagram uses a photomap that remembers nearby locations based on latitude and longitude. Technical jargon aside, if you simply want to be added to the photomap, start tagging your location and it will begin to pop up on people’s photomaps when they’re nearby.

Read this walkthrough to see how easy it is to do.

2. Hashtag your #ChurchName
Or just create a unique hashtag to represent you on Instagram. Get the word out and people will start to use it whenever possible. Instagram users are obsessed with hashtagging.

This is an especially good option if you don’t want to use Instagram but still want Instagram users to know about you.

3. Start an account for sharing church-based activities
Creating a focused campaign based on what’s important to your church. You might do a short survey of your members to find out how many people are already on Instagram and what kind of photos they’d like to see the church sharing. That will at least give you a starting point.

If your church community is already interacting, then you already have the content. It’s waiting to be shared.

Don’t forget to get photo permissions before posting images of people, especially children!

Tuesday - March 17, 2015
Treat your followers like family

Your followers take time out of their lives to stay in contact with you. Show them they’re appreciated.

We already talked about making a human connection with your followers here, but there’s more to be said about what that means when managing a church page.

Whenever possible, take the time to address the needs and requests of your audience. A social media page for a church should feel like an extension of your church community. Speak to those who reach out to you with the mentality that these individuals have walked into God’s house looking for other people to connect with.

Even something as simple as a thank you post every month could help show your social media family that you really do care and it will encourage them to engage in healthy conversation on your pages.

Just like in a real conversation with other people, how you choose to connect with your audience depends on who they are and what they are interested in. What are some other ways that you could reach out to your audience in an authentic way?

Tuesday - March 3, 2015
Running the right way with feedback

Lightning never strikes twice, or so the saying goes.

The same could be said about specific feedback on social media. If it’s just a fluke, you won’t be seeing the same criticisms repeated from your followers. If the negative comments persist, they might be calling your attention to a kind of lightning rod in your social media strategy.

Repeat negative comments often point out a change that needs to be made in the way you do things online.

Before deleting negative comments or writing them off as someone trolling you online, make a record of them so that you can compare trends in this kind of feedback.

Over time you will have documented support for building a healthier and more welcoming experience for your audience. That is, after all, what we really want to create for our home audience.

Monday - February 23, 2015
Student Michael Hatfield receives scholarship for Nicaragua mission
Michael Hatfield receiving check from Mary Lou Short
Michael Hatfield, left, receives a scholarship from Mary Lou Short, missions coordinator at St. George Island UMC. Photo from Mary Lou Short.

ST. GEORGE ISLAND -- Michael Hatfield, a junior at Franklin County High School, will join a mission team to Leon, Nicaragua, this summer with help from a $350 scholarship from the Florida Conference.

Hatfield, son of Michele Provenzano of Eastpoint, is active in the youth group of First UMC, Eastpoint, and the ReAction Youth group of the Apalachicola-St. George Island Cooperative Parish.

He has a busy summer ahead. The teenager will join a team of 20 heading to Nicaragua in June, where the cooperative parish will partner with 12 churches to conduct daily prayer walks, work with youth, help with Vacation Bible School and participate in programs that feed the hungry, said Mary Lou Short, missions coordinator at St. George Island UMC.

Also this summer, Hatfield plans to volunteer at United Methodist-operated Centenary Camp in Quincy and participate with other youth groups in South Georgia building a house.

Congratulations, Michael!

Tuesday - February 17, 2015
Use old content to keep your content fresh

Always revisit your most successful posts in building a strong social media strategy.

When content does well on your pages that means you’ve delivered the kind of content that your followers want to see. Keeping your successes in mind will help you determine what your audience wants, needs and expects from you.

Do your followers enjoy inspirational quotes? Do they like open-ended questions? Do they engage with other users in the comments? Do they tag their friends? Are they most interested in updates on upcoming events?

Friday - February 13, 2015
Beyond Rhetoric to Relationships in a Multi-Religious World

Our daughter's best friend at UNC-Chapel Hill was a very bright young Muslim woman named Uzma Panjwani. Liz, our daughter, went to Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, Uzma to Parkland High School. They began taking Advanced Placement classes together in high school and were roommates in college. They were roommates again as they got started in their professional lives in Washington, D.C. Uzma spent a number of Christmas holidays with us, and Liz observed Ramadan with Uzma.

In the aftermath of the shooting deaths of three young Muslim students at UNC, I have thought about Uzma and our friendship with her family. Across our planet, I am praying that the best, and not the worst of our respective traditions will somehow bring us into relationships with each other. I have seen it happen. And so I have been praying for the community in that university, and for the Muslim families in the deaths of their children.

The deaths of the Muslim students came in close proximity to another event that captured the attention of the news media, the intention to have Muslim prayers from the tower of the Duke University Chapel. Since my young adult years I have been a participant in interfaith dialogue. I have crossed boundaries in Israel and Palestine, moderated dialogues between Muslims and Jews, led Holocaust services and preached in synagogues. As a pastor, district superintendent and bishop I have also been a participant in the consecration of space set apart for Christian worship. These are important activities, even essential. But they are different. I believe that Duke Chapel was constructed, consecrated and set apart for Christian worship. This is its purpose. I respect the sacred spaces of Jews and Muslims, and honor their own purposes. Jews and Muslims are right to retain the identity of their holy places, and they are not bigots if they choose not to allow other religious traditions to practice in them. Christians are also not bigots in viewing Duke Chapel as a place set apart for Christian worship.

Here I am coming from a very different place than Franklin Graham, who was often represented as the primary Christian perspective in the general media reporting of this event. I honor the goodness of many Muslims, and I acknowledge the failures of many Christians, myself included. I speak as an advocate for continued interfaith dialogue and for the integrity of consecrated places of worship. From my perspective, the reconsideration was a wise one.

The proximity of these two experiences in time and space has called me to a deeper self-examination of the relationship of rhetoric and relationships in a multi-religious world. I am convinced that it is unhelpful to compare one tradition at its worst with another at its best. I yearn for a moderating reform of global Islam that speaks against Isis and Boko Haram; at the same time, I acknowledge the complicity of my own Christian faith with human enslavement and oppression. And yet it is also true that each of our traditions has produced men and women who are devout, compassionate, generous and sacrificial. Dialogue in a multi-religious world cannot proceed when any faith is treated in a stereotypical and superficial manner.

Interfaith dialogue is an essential practice in the present moment, for we live in a dangerous and divisive climate. And thus our rhetoric as Christians can certainly be more attuned to the voice of Jesus who gave the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). As his followers we are called to be peacemakers. One of the most formative books I have read in the last year is The Anatomy of Peace from the Arbinger Institute. The authors speak of "a heart at war, where we treat others as objects" and a "heart at peace, where we see others as people" (124). This way of seeing leads to "organizations filled with people whose energies are largely spent on sustaining conflict--what we call collusion--and who therefore are not fully focused on achieving the productive goals of the organization”(52).

It is clear to me that the seeds of hearts at war manifest themselves in overt and subtle acts of violence. This violence is in contrast to a perspective that I find increasingly compelling: a consistent ethic of life. Rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition, a consistent ethic of life envisions a seamless garment of practices that includes the protection of the unborn, care for God’s creation, objection to torture, resistance to cultural violence, refusal to use the Lord’s name in the justification of warfare and violence and opposition to the death penalty. The recent hashtag #BlackLivesMatter becomes #JewishLivesMatter and then #MuslimLivesMatter, and ultimately, #AllLivesMatter. But to affirm that all lives matter is often a posture that takes us beyond our comfortable political divisions. This is what appeals to me about a consistent ethic of life; it messes with our political dogmas!

The Anatomy of Peace is an extended parable about generational violence and retribution. It is relevant, as we bear witness to the trauma of recent deaths of Christians in the middle East, Jews in Paris and Muslims in the United States. How do we break the cycles of violence? I am convinced that we begin by cultivating relationships across racial, ethnic, religous and partisan political lines. We do so with a confidence that we stand in our own traditions—and thus we acknowledge our differences—while also seeking to honor what is good and sacred about the other. In this way, strangers become friends, and violence may be transformed into the peace that is God’s gift.

Followers of Jesus see his cross as the final and sufficient act of reconciliation in a world that always protests against such a scandal. I am not naive about human nature, cultural tribalism or political complexity. And yet I trust in the power and providence of God, who breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that is between us (Ephesians 2), and unites us as one humanity.

May the Word made Flesh (John 1), in whom all of the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1) be an example to us that relationship—and not rhetoric—is the way that leads to life.

Friday - February 13, 2015
Pops plus pumpkins add up to Patch Appeal for First Port Orange

Pumpkins mix with large cutout lollipopsPORT ORANGE -- Those orange orbs of autumn played their part, but it was a Candy Land theme planned and executed by Roseanna Sorrell and the First UMC decorating committee that caught judges' attention and snagged a prize for having the most patch appeal in 2014.

The honor, bestowed by distributor Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, carried a $500 prize that will go toward decorating next year's pumpkin patch, said First UMC youth minister Tony Sorrell. The congregation's 2014 pumpkin patch raised about $12,000, of which $1,200 was tithed to the church and the balance split among the children's and youth ministries.

First UMC's patch, which bested hundreds of other efforts competing in the Pumpkin Patch Appeal Contest, featured child-sized cutouts for the "Lollypop Woods" and other icons from the Candy Land board game.

Congratulations, First UMC, Port Orange!

Tuesday - February 3, 2015
Keep the bad words off your social page

When managing church pages, there are good reasons to have a strict level of moderation on what people can discuss publicly on your page.

Having unwieldy and inappropriate debates on your page about relationships or people within the church reflects poorly on your church community and your ability to contain internal issues from leaking into your social media presence.

Fortunately, Facebook has a built-in profanity filter that can save you time and keep your followers safe from negative posters.

It’s easy to access. From your Facebook page check under the settings tab near the top of your page. A two column list will appear that should default to the “General” settings page. From the main column, select “Edit” next to “Page Moderation.” In the text field that appears, you can insert any words you don’t want to see pop up in your pages comments.

Other than profanity, what are some trigger words that you might want to flag? For example, do you want to avoid political debates on your page? If so, try including a list of words to block like “democrat, republican, liberal, teabagger, communist, fascists, etc.”

In this vein of thought, can you predict any other words that could spark unwanted controversy on your Facebook page? Take note whenever an inappropriate comment slips through the filter and try to determine if there were any specific words used that could have prevented the comment from being approved in the first place.
 

Tuesday - January 27, 2015
God is calling us! Are we listening?

Team members at the Luanda airport

I am always amazed as I see God at work through His people.  In October, FUMC of Homestead heard the call to serve our mission in Quessua, Angola just below the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They and others in the UM Conference of Florida responded financially and with loving prayers and encouragement.  Sewing machines, beautiful fabrics, precious Huggable Teddy bears, new shoes, adorable children's dresses, reading glasses, shirts for the boys, sheets for the beds the boys had welded, crayons, art materials, rag dolls for little girls, cars for the boys and personal items for the missionaries were generously provided and transported in donated luggage.  A delicious fish dinner was lovingly prepared by a men's group, UMW had a fabulous yard sale, UMM had a golf tournament and funds were donated to the Angola mission.  Children colored pictures and wrote letters.  My heart was overflowing as I saw people joyfully serving God.  

The night before our small team was leaving, we received word that a storm had caused severe damage to Quessua and the orphanage we were to put the finishing touches on (Click HERE to see images). Through the planning and preparations for our mission, I heard God speaking to me saying, "Trust me".   The members of the small team also heard and they trusted.  

Still, I asked myself, "Will we really make a difference or just make ourselves feel good about what we are doing?"  Six people and a lot of really good stuff arrived in a country that had been ravaged by horrors of many years of war.  "And... I asked, as others had asked of me, "Can we really make a difference?"  

To God be the glory!

Angolans who love Quessua, told others that we had come all the way from America to help, even after the terrible storm.  They told people in the government and they responded.  A government team came to meet with us and evaluate the damage.  They shared meals with us and decided that if we came all the way from America, they should do more! They agreed to replace the roof on the orphanage and the school and to meet many other needs as well, like providing wells for clean water.   They partnered with us...a small Christian mission team.  They kindly embraced us and joined the work God had called us to do.  

It was not about us making a difference or in the success of the work we did.  It was really about us trusting God. "We saw God at work in the lives of people in Angola and in the lives of people on our team".  

I am deeply grateful that, when we hear Gods call to go and serve, our conference provides us with opportunities to answer His call as he did with Wayne Slockbower,  Edwin Castillo, Debbie McLean, Barbara Schaad Rogers, her husband John Rogers and myself.  Note: Barbara is the daughter of Quessua UM missionaries who were serving when the war broke out.  She added life to the stories we had heard.  

God is calling us!  Are we listening?  He can use us to do great things.  We just need to trust Him and be obedient.  If God is speaking to you about serving in missions, please contact Icel Rodriguez at irodriguez@flumc.org or 850-727-4279.

 Members of First UMC, Homestead, gather to prepare gifts for the children of Quessua.

Sandi Goodman, Chair
East Angola/Florida Partnership

 

Classifieds
Monday - March 2, 2015
The Purpose Driven Life By: Rick Warren

54 Hard copy
1 VHS curriculum
1 Soft Cover
2 Daily Inspirations (softcover)
1 Meditation Book
6 Journals

Friday - February 27, 2015
Church Bookkeeper

Community of Faith United Methodist Church (www.communityoffaith.org) is looking for a part time Bookkeeper.  The role is responsible for all business transactions at Community of Faith.  This includes keeping accurate files, forms, and records and ensuring the Community of Faith is in good standing with its business partners.  Role interacts with church staff, volunteers, committees, and reports directly to the Senior Pastor.

Community of Faith is a United Methodist Church located in the fast growing Four Corners area of Central Florida, near Orlando. Close to local attractions, this area is a magnet for young families, and the church is poised to grow to serve the local community.  This role is ideal for someone who thrives on the details, but enjoys being a part of a larger vision for their community. They will also enjoy a flexible schedule, while still using their professional knowledge, and is perfect for someone trying to balance work and family life, or retired but still wants to utilize their skills but only on a part time basis.

Our Vision
We exist to make disciples of Jesus who are learning and teaching others how to Live By Faith, be Known By Love, and be a Voice of Hope to the world.

Desired Qualifications:
Candidate should have a minimum Associate’s degree in accounting or business administration, plus a minimum of two years of on the job experience, as well as knowledge of bookkeeping and generally accepted accounting principles. Preference will be given to candidates with a background in Church or Non-Profit sectors and/or a working knowledge of Power Church or other accounting software for specific use in a church setting.

This individual will be organized, detail oriented, accurate, and able to consistently meet deadlines. They will also enjoy being a part of a vibrant team, and attend scheduled meetings and events as requested.

Basic Function:
This position conducts and monitors financial transactions and creates financial reports from that information. This includes accurate posting of information to accounting journals or software from such documents as invoices, cash receipts, payroll, and Weekly Giving. The role also reconciles accounts to ensure their accuracy, and prepares reports in regards to budget, etc. for use by various committees and leadership.

Hours and Compensation:
This role is considered part time and will average 17 hours per week. During busy seasons for the Church there is potential to exceed the average hours, but at other times if all duties are completed there is potential for fewer hours as well. The hours required are flexible based on what is needed to complete the work. The position is paid on an hourly basis for actual hours worked, and does not include any additional benefits at this time.

Friday - February 27, 2015
Director of Youth Ministries

University United Methodist Church (UMC), located on the edge of the University of North Carolina campus in downtown Chapel Hill, is seeking a full-time Director of Youth Ministries.  University UMC, (http://www.chapelhilluumc.org/) with an average weekly attendance of 600, considers the youth a priority and seeks a Director to mentor students to grow in Christ-likeness and fulfill the mission of the church, which is to transform lives for loving God, serving people, and building Christian community. 


The Director’s main responsibilities are:
•    Relate to the youth of University UMC, both at church and at other public functions important in their lives.
•    Lead, recruit and train adult volunteers and youth leadership to help guide the youth ministry.
•    Plan and organize youth events and activities that are spiritually meaningful and relevant to youth’s lives working with the Director of Children’s Ministry and pastoral team on intergenerational discipleship efforts as appropriate.
•    Effectively communicate information to youth and parents through a variety of communication media and methods.
•    Provide support to the Youth Council as they implement recommendations outlined in a recent Youth Ministry assessment.
 

Qualifications include:    
•    A minimum of three years of experience in leading a youth ministry program; experience working on a large-church staff preferred
•    A Bachelor’s degree with a preference toward a field related to youth ministry
•    A passion for serving youth and their families
•    Knowledge of sustainable youth ministry systems
•    Ability to plan, implement, and measure the results of the ministry programs and events
•    Membership in or previous work experience in the United Methodist Church preferred
 

For more detailed information and to submit a resume, please contact Kristina Zirschky at KristinaZ@ymarchitects.com

Friday - February 27, 2015
Full-Time Youth Minister

Ocala First United Methodist Church is looking for a full-time youth minister.  Good salary with benefits.
 

On the edge of the Ocala National Forest in the beautiful horse country of North Central Florida, Ocala is an hour north of Orlando and 1.5 hours west of Daytona Beach. Our home is a great place to raise a family.
 

We have a great staff and a great campus including the Renfroe Youth Building.  A good place to start your ministry.  Our last two directors went on to seminary

Friday - February 27, 2015
Pianist/Accompanist

FUMC Auburndale, is seeking a part time pianist/accompanist(approx 6 hrs per week). Responsibilities include playing for Sunday morning service and specials, preparation for rehearsals.  Must be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday - February 25, 2015
Director of Worship

Aloma United Methodist Church, a congregation of about 350 worshipers is seeking a Worship Director to help craft and lead innovative worship experiences.  Primary responsibilities will lie with contemporary worship, but some supervision of traditional forms may also be involved.  The successful candidate will be a worshiper who is able to help teams engage the congregation in dynamic worship experiences.  He or she will have a proven track record in recruiting and leading bands and musical ensembles with excellence.  A bachelor’s degree in music or worship leadership required.  Salary ranges between $32k and $42k (with benefits), depending upon experience and scope of responsibility.  For an opportunity to join our team please email Jim Govatos (jimg@alomazone.org) with resume.

Wednesday - February 25, 2015
Director of Youth Ministries

University United Methodist Church (UMC), located on the edge of the University of North Carolina campus in downtown Chapel Hill, is seeking a full-time Director of Youth Ministries.  University UMC, (http://www.chapelhilluumc.org/) with an average weekly attendance of 600, considers the youth a priority and seeks a Director to mentor students to grow in Christ-likeness and fulfill the mission of the church, which is to transform lives for loving God, serving people, and building Christian community. 


The Director’s main responsibilities are:
•    Relate to the youth of University UMC, both at church and at other public functions important in their lives.
•    Lead, recruit and train adult volunteers and youth leadership to help guide the youth ministry.
•    Plan and organize youth events and activities that are spiritually meaningful and relevant to youth’s lives working with the Director of Children’s Ministry and pastoral team on intergenerational discipleship efforts as appropriate.
•    Effectively communicate information to youth and parents through a variety of communication media and methods.
•    Provide support to the Youth Council as they implement recommendations outlined in a recent Youth Ministry assessment.
 

Qualifications include:    
•    A minimum of three years of experience in leading a youth ministry program; experience working on a large-church staff preferred
•    A Bachelor’s degree with a preference toward a field related to youth ministry
•    A passion for serving youth and their families
•    Knowledge of sustainable youth ministry systems
•    Ability to plan, implement, and measure the results of the ministry programs and events
•    Membership in or previous work experience in the United Methodist Church preferred
 

For more detailed information and to submit a resume, please contact Kristina Zirschky at KristinaZ@ymarchitects.com
 

Tuesday - February 24, 2015
Director of Student Faith Formation

Canterbury United Methodist Church (www.canterburyumc.org) located in Birmingham, Alabama, is searching for a full-time Director of Student Faith Formation, a person who will serve more in an “executor” role as part of the student ministry team. This position will build upon and strengthen the spiritual formation of students by establishing relationships with both students and their families.  The main responsibilities are: 
•    Maintain day-to-day management of the spiritual formation of students, in alignment with Canterbury’s mission and values
•    Develop relationships with youth and their families to nurture their relationship with Christ, with a focus on high school students and families
•    Collaborate, support and troubleshoot with volunteers
•    Provide oversight to the programmatic aspects of student ministry
•    Infuse a joyful Christian atmosphere into all Canterbury youth programs


Qualifications include:
•    A minimum of five years of experience in leading a youth ministry program, preferably in a larger church or similar organization
•    A Bachelor’s degree with a preference toward a field related to youth ministry
•    Knowledge of sustainable systems
•    A passion for serving youth and their families
•    Ability to serve as a spiritual role model by demonstrating a commitment to Christian spiritual practices and by articulating a personal faith journey.
•    Ability to plan, implement, and measure the results of ministry programs and events
•    Alignment with the beliefs and practices of the United Methodist Church

Canterbury United Methodist Church is a well-established, traditional church of about # 3000 members in Birmingham, AL  with a history of excellence in music, worship, adult education and mission experiences.  The theological environment of Canterbury United Methodist Church offers a foundation on the Bible while promoting a culture that values theological diversity.  Canterbury United Methodist Church strives to model openness, acceptance, and tolerance.

For more detailed information and to submit a resume, please contact Kristina Zirschky at KristinaZ@ymarchitects.com
 

Monday - February 23, 2015
Director Youth and Family Ministries

Forest Hills United Methodist Church of Tampa, FL is seeking a creative, energetic, enthusiastic person to serve as part-time (10 to 15  hours per week) Director of Youth and Family Ministries.  Applicants should demonstrate a growing faith in Christ, have an understanding of Methodism; and possess a deep love and passion to connect with parents in the spiritual development of their youth.  A college degree along with experience in youth ministry/education is preferred.  This position reports to the Pastor. Email resumes to fh.umc@verizon.net.  Deadline to apply: March 15, 2015.

Conversations
Tuesday - March 3, 2015
Mind boggling images that show your place in creation

No matter what your theological perspective is when it comes to the timeframe and method of creation, it’s hard not to feel a sense of universal awe when experiencing the vastness of outer space. Here’s a collection of six interactive images and videos that will not only blow your mind—they’ll also underscore an appreciation for our place in God’s creation.

Click here to be absolutely awed by where we live. If you end up at the bottom of the page, just scroll up to catch the show.

Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. Photo courtesy NASA.

Tuesday - March 3, 2015
Why technology didn't (and won't) destroy the church

It’s been nearly four years since former Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller warned that advances in technology could demolish the 2000-year-old Christian Church. The advent of Bible apps for tablets and smartphones, Miller argued, amounted to a “new crisis for organized religion” whereby “believers can bypass constraining religious structures – otherwise known as “church” – in favor of a more individual connection with God.”

Prophetic predictions of the demise of the Christian Church have almost become a tradition among religion writers. As with the others, Miller’s has amounted to naught.
 
Instead of having a completely negative affect on the Christian religion, technology has become an empowerment tool for both pastors and parishioners. Online versions of the Bible are one factor people point to when citing reasons for increased engagement with the Good Book. But on the other side of the pulpit, technology is now empowering pastors to minister more effectively.
 
According to a Barna Group survey, 97 percent of pastors now use the Internet to find information compared with 78 percent in 2000. Thirty-nine percent of pastors said they had a spiritual or religious experience via the Internet while only 15 percent said the same in 2000. The only surveyed function of technology that did not grow among pastors over the same period was using the Internet to play video games.  As it turns out, your pastor isn’t playing Minecraft when he or she should be preparing a sermon.
 
Click here to read the rest of Jonathan Merritt's blog at Religion News Service. Photo courtesy Bigstock.
Thursday - February 26, 2015
"Peace Like A River" music video by CXVI

Click here for the music video.

From the artists:

Page CXVI is a project started with the idea of making hymns accessible and known again. They are some of the richest, most meaningful, and moving pieces of music every written.

The name comes from a reference to page 116 in our copy of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. It is a poignant passage where Aslan begins to sing Narnia into creation out of a black void.
 
It starts, “In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.”
 
~ C.S. Lewis
 
Courtesy www.relevantmagazine.com. Photo courtesy Bigstock.
Thursday - February 26, 2015
15 Martin Luther quotes that still ring true
A lot has been written about Martin Luther's legacy.
 
The father of the reformation, he's known for many things—defying the Catholic Church of his day, laying some of the groundwork for protestant theology, forming the Lutheran tradition. He was a complex and controversial figure, and his legacy is complicated one. But almost 470 years after his death, he still has an important influence on the Church.
 
In honor of the anniversary of the reformer's death this week, here are a few of his most influential quotes.
 
On Prayer
 
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
 
“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
 
On Speaking Out
 
“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”
 
On Faith
 
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”
 
“I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.”
 
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.”
 
On Sin
 
“I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.”
 
“Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.”
 
On Idolatry
 
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”
 
On Scripture
 
“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
 
“If you want to interpret well and confidently, set Christ before you, for He is the man to whom it all applies, every bit of it.”
 
“The Gospel cannot be truly preached without offense and tumult.” ―The Table Talk of Martin Luther
 
On Serving Others
 
“To find Christ in such poverty, and what his swaddling clothes and manger signify, are explained … that his poverty teaches how we should find him in our neighbors, the lowliest and the most needy; and his swaddling clothes are the holy Scriptures; that in actual life we should incline to the needy; and in our studies and contemplative life only to the Scriptures; in order that Christ alone may become the man of both lives and that he may everywhere stand before us.”
 
“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” ―On Christian Liberty
 
On the Church
 
“Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?”
 
On Love
 
“Therefore we conclude that all law, divine and human, treating of outward conduct, should not bind any further than love goes. Love is to be the interpreter of law.”  
 
On Gifting
 
“We are nothing with all our gifts be they ever so great, except God assist us.” ― Commentary on Galatians
 
On Hardship
 
“Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.”
 
Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. 
 
Thursday - February 19, 2015
"In the Night" by Andrew Peterson

This performance of "In The Night" is stunning with Andrew Peterson, Buddy Greene, Jeff Taylor, and Andy Gullahorn. Though these musicians aren't in a band together, they are friends, and their performance is staggering.

Click here to check it out.

Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. Photo courtesy Bigstock.

Wednesday - February 18, 2015
How to pray even when you don't feel like it
I didn't know that I was hiding. I've always been good at praying. Or so I thought.
 
My dad left when I was seven. I've always looked to God as my Father, my provider. What I didn't realize is that God wants to be more than just my provider.
 
God longs to be my soul's confidante—deep where I feel lonely, where I struggle to receive and make space for me.
 
Loneliness is something I usually cover up by getting things done. It looks good because I’m well rewarded for checking boxes and being productive. Even in ministry.
 
But at the end of the day, even though I’ve accomplished a lot, I don’t feel like I’ve fully lived. Because what I really want, I didn’t make space for: to be known. I did not nurture my soul with God.
 
I find it easier to take care of others and get things done for God, rather than be vulnerable with my needs.
 
But God is showing me prayer is an intimate soul conversation to be loved and known, rather than a spiritual transaction to be made better.
 
Praying touches the part of me that is in process, uncertain, full of questions and doubts.
 
That is why praying is hard to do. And when I don’t know how to pray, it makes me feel ashamed.
 
Jesus understands and says, “Come to me, weary and heavy-laden. And I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
 
Although this is Scripture, in our Christian culture, our desert prayer times are often met with well-meaning encouragement like, “Relationship with God isn’t a feeling.”
 
Although partially true, this can de-humanize our connection with God. The Psalmist reminds us there are no easy answers. “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
 
Sometimes, it takes more faith to tell God we don’t know how to pray—rather than praying for faith to pray like we used to.
 
This is how I began praying new intimate prayers. As I did, I uncovered a few soulful ways to pray when you don't know how:
 
When You're Overwhelmed, Whisper His Name.
 
Remember receiving a first love note? It didn't have to be long. Yet your heart felt known seeing your handwritten name. It kept you company in the daily grind. Whisper His name and listen for His echoes return in the quiet. God names the stars and He whispers your name.
 
"He heals the broken hearted…He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them" 
(Psalm 147:3-5).
 
When You Don't Have Words to Pray, Rest Knowing Jesus is Praying for You.
 
Your silence will not drive Jesus away. Nothing can separate you from His love. Not even your unrest. He'll never get tired of you. Sometimes, the greatest prayer we can experience is God's complete understanding and compassion. His presence.
 
"Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died … is also interceding for us"
(Romans 8:34).
 
When You are too Stressed to Pray, Take Care of Yourself.
 
We are a generation who doesn’t know how to express our souls to God, even though we drive ourselves to exhaustion, doing for Jesus. As Richard Swenson says, “Chronic overloading is not a spiritual prerequisite for authentic Christianity. Quite the contrary, overloading is often what we do when we forget who God is.”
 
Extend yourself the kindness and comfort you generously give others. Ironically, the times we most need God's comfort are the times we deprive ourselves of soul-nurturing time.
 
We feel selfish. Yet, God says, we can only comfort others with the comfort we first receive ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:4).
 
Instead of layering on guilt, let God love you through your choices to prioritize taking care of you.
 
When You Feel Numb, Invite Jesus into Your World. Journal.
 
Instead of struggling to reach Jesus, invite Jesus to enter your world. Research in a New York Times article shows the power of writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. Even 15 minutes of expressive writing makes a difference.
 
When we journal our stories with God, we give Him space to re-write our stories with us. Don't you get ah-ha moments as you write?
 
"For the word of God is living and active … It penetrates dividing soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:11–12).
 
The “word” is the Greek word logos—translated as living voice. God is not limited to the written word. God uses everything living to speak into our lives. This includes journaling.
 
Have an Honest Conversation. Take a Walk. Find God’s Love Notes.
 
In a recent interview, Max Lucado shared prayer must be an honest conversation with God and not a repetitive act.
 
“I don’t pray for long periods of time … my prayers are relatively brief. The times I really feel blessed through prayer is when my prayers are sincere—when I kind of think through what I’m going through, or I’m going through a hard time and I use that prayer to talk to God about everything.”
 
Take a walk outside and let God touch you. Research shows that just 10 minutes can refresh and help with anxiety, depression in school work, work and everyday life.
 
When You're too Exhausted to Pray, Stop and Rest.
 
"Arise and eat. For the journey is too great for you” (1 Kings 19:7).
 
Elijah had done everything he knew to do—even defeating the prophets of Baal. Yet, his problems did not go away. Stress broke Elijah's spirit. In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water—left just for him.
 
Not only that. God sent an angel—to touch him—twice. God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first—in order to hear His gentle voice, whispering in a gentle breeze.
 
So, when you find it’s hard to pray, don’t be afraid. You’re standing at the very cusp of who God longs to connect with the real you. Take the time to rest. You’re worth it.
 
Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference. Photo courtesy Bigstock.
 
Events
Wednesday - March 4, 2015
Prison Ministry Conference 2015

The Episcopal Diocese of Florida is hosting a Prison Ministry Conference March 4 - 6 at St. Peter's Church in Fernandina Beach, FL. This is a practical conference for those involved in Prison and Post-Release Ministries. Attendees will not enjoy worship together, but also hear national speakers who have real world experience making change happen while gaining useful tools to make a positive spiritual difference in the lives of the imprisoned and their families. Registration open until 2/26. Cost is $100. For more information please visit www.diocesefl.org or contact Mary Hamilton at mhamilton@diocesefl.org. Open to the public. All faiths welcomed.

Friday - March 6, 2015
Spring Confirmation Retreat #2

Gather with confirmation classes from across the state of Florida to learn about the important vows involved in joining the United Methodist Church.  This retreat offers powerful worship, time and space to complete your church's curriculum, and awesome team building activities.  Available packages allow for you to stay the whole weekend or leave on Saturday night.

Saturday - March 7, 2015
Atlantic Central District Training - North

Key Note Speaker - Gary Spencer, District Superintendent
"Ministering Together in Our Communities"
Registration begins: 8:30 Opening Worship: 9:00 a.m.
Session 1: 10:15-11:30 Session 2: 11:30-12:45 Session 3: 1:30-2:45
 

Be Blessed to be a Blessing Session 1,2,3 Patti Aupperlee
Discover how you can serve Christ while serving others with a fresh expression.

What to Do About Boomers Session 1,2,3 David Broadbent
Job 1 is making disciples. Baby Boomers are largely un/under churched and represent a group missing in action in the church, who should be tapped as disciples as they age in life. There is a reason Boomers are MIA and it is because they are different. Their differences require new approaches to Older Adult Ministry. This course will help you understand these differences and the transition points of Aging Boomers as opportunities for Disciple making. This course will help motivate church leaders to create targeted programs which will appeal to and administer with Boomers. Finally his course will help participants understand better what to do to get started, pitfalls to avoid, and resources required along the way.

Youth Ministry Relationships Session 1 Joel Lutz
Relationships matter. Come learn how to effectively relate and communicate with you, parents, volunteers and church staff.

Youth Ministry Structure Session 2 Joel Lutz
The structures that support your youth ministry are important and lead to the effectiveness and sustainability of the minstry. This class will help you obtain practical skills, which can be taken home and used immediately in your local church ministry.

Personificando La Transformacion Session 1,2,3 Madeline De Jesus
De acuerdo a Romanos 12, com la trayectoria de nuestra transformacion edifice la vida de la iglesia.

Trustees Session 1,2 LaNita Battles
As servant leaders and the "Keepers of God's House" trustees are charged with a wide variety of responsibilities in managing church property. Join us for an interactive discussion about the top issues and responsibilities faced as you fulfill your call of leadership and provide support to the vision and mission of your church.

Child/Youth Protection Session 3 LaNita Battles
Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to our precious children. The Socal Principles of the United Methodist Church state that "...children must be protected from economic, physical and sexual exploitation, and abuse." This class will review the Conference's comprehensive strategy for providing a safe, nurturing environment for our children and youth.

Disaster Ministry: The Role of the Church Session 1,2,3 Pam Garrison
Effective disaster response is really about knowing your community, accessing resources, developing relationships and gettting connected in the local communiity - before disaster occurs. Do you know what to do when disaster strikes your community? How will you prepare your home, your family, yourself? Do you know how to help in the community without causing additional harm? What will you and your church do to be the light of Christ to disaster survivors?

CANCELLED What Is Lay Servant Ministries Session 1,2,3 Dottie Graves/Debe Gantt
 

Wesley Fellowship Small Groups Session 1,2,3 Russ Graves
Learn how to make disciple believers through Wesley Fellowship Small Groups. Find out about the five essential ingredients that make this such a successful "recipe" for small groups in the local church. See why Bishop Carter and Conference Lay Leader Russ Graves so strongly support this approach to loving, Spirit-led discipleship. This lay movement could help change all of us and all of our churches.

Life and Theology of John Wesley Session 1,2 John Hill
During this session you will discover the origins of the United Methodist Church as we look at the life of our founder, John Wesley.

History of American Methodism Session 3 John Hill
During this session you will discover how Methodism went from a movement within the Church of England to a Denomination.

No More Throw Away Kids Session 1,2,3 Cindy Lane
Behind locked doors, high walls and razor wire are the hearts of desolate and hopeless children, whose very existence goes virtually unknown. Learn how your church can be part of this crucial ministry to incarcerated children and how to be involved when they are released - children as young as 8 or 9 years old, desperate for love, guidance and the hope of Christ Jesus.

Growing Generations of Believers Through Session 1,2,3 Rachel Sumner
Intergenerational Relationships
As the church struggles to reach Next Generations, we are often at a loss. How do we engage young adults? How do we make church meaningful and relevant? While it is important for young adults to interact with other young adults, age specific programming isn't goin to attract and keep them. In fact, reaching next generations isn't about a program at all. It is about building relationships, investing in each others' lives in all sorts of meaningful ways. In this session, we will discuss and explore together how to do just that. Perhaps a good first step would be to bring someone with you and start the conversation now.

Church Finance Session 1,2,3 Mickey Wilson
This class is for new treasurers, financial secretaries, first-time members of local church finance committees and clergy. We will cover W2, 941, 1099, audits and other accounting and finance issues relevant to thos first-timers or for those wanting a refresher course.

Local Church Representative Training Session 1,2,3 Trista Calvin
Florida United Methodist Children's Home
We will explore the important role the Local Church Representative as an advocate for the FUM Children's Home in their local church. Topics will include a job description, printed materials and other tools available for your use, update about the current state and needs of the Children's Home and a time for questions and answers. Come and learn how to be an effective Local Church Representative for the Children's Home.

How to Deal with Difficult Church People    Session 1,2,3         Harold Lewis
What a blessing it would be if church members got along great while in ministry together.  No squabbles.  No conflicts.  No pettiness.  Just peace and harmony.  This class is designed to help Christian believers better understand and engage difficult people in the church.  Persons attending this class will learn the following: 1. How to recognize the types of difficult church people, 2.  Understanding the basics of Emotional Intelligence, 3. Feelings and Messengers 4. What to do and say to difficult church people, 5. Giving and receiving feedback, 6. Giving and receiving strokes, and 7. Understanding Biblical principles for engaging difficult church people.

Hymnody and Worship:         Session 1,2,3                             Megan Mash
Singing our Stories and Praising God
Passionate worshiop is something all churches strive to create.  The words we sing and how they interact with Scripture and sermon is an integral aspect of passionate worship.  Singing a variety of hymns and songs help us grasp a fuller picture of God opening the door to deeper, passionate, Spirit filled worship.

Hertitage Preservation Workshop             Session 1,2,3            Nell Thrift
Do you know where your church's records are?  Do you need to clean out your files and don't know what to save?  Do you know the best way to preserve your records?  Will your church be celebrating an anniversary soon?  Do you need to update your history?  Attend this workshop and learn how to preserve and celebrate your church's heritage.

Donor-Driven Stewardship       Sessions 1,2,3                    Tom Wilkinson
in a Competitive Environment: A Challenge for the Institutional Church
The presentation focuses on generational changes as they apply to stewardship in the local church, along with practical steps congregations can undertake to reach new generations of generous givers.

Keeping the Faith: Creating       Sessions 1,2,3                  Melissa Cooper
a Church for All Ages
We all know that many teenagers - even some of the most active - disappear from churches as soon as they go to college.  There are lots of discussions out there about how to get them back into our churches, but we must also consider how to create churches they don't want to abandon. This workshop will examine how intergenerational ministry is a major part of the answer to helping young adults "keep the faith."  We'll look at how we got here and then you'll have the opportunity to outline some practical steps to apply in your church context and help move your church from multi-generational to inter-generational.


 

Thursday - March 12, 2015
East Central District Leadership Team (DLT)

The EC District Leadership Team will meet from 10:30am-12:30pm on Thursday, March 12th at the EC District Office FUMCH.

Thursday - March 12, 2015
SW District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM)

The South West District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM) will be meeting.

- Renewal of LPs

- dCOM training by Rev. Wayne Wiatt

Friday - March 13, 2015
East Central District - Lay Servant Ministry Weekend

A Weekend of Lay Leadership Learning
Lay Servant training prepares lay people to be in ministry through caring, communication and leadership. The key emphasis of Lay Servant training is to equip people to teach, do visitation, lead committees and leadership teams, lead small group ministry and grow in personal understanding of God’s call on their life.

CLICK HERE for Registration Form
Registration Deadline is March 6th.

The Basic Lay Servant Course focuses on the many ways lay servants are called to be in ministry through such things as leading, teaching, serving, proclaiming the gospel, disciple-making, storytelling, and growing through personal spiritual formation. Find out what it means to be “called” by God and how you can use your calling to work for Him. Learn how you can “Care for, Share with and Lead others” to Christ.. Facilitator Rev. Jeanine Clontz, pastor at Flagler Beach UMC.

Advanced Lay Servant Course:  Lead Like Jesus
March 13th and 14th we are excited to offer, Lead Like Jesus: Servant Leadership Equipping Encounter to help leaders become better equipped to lead in their local ministry setting. This course will be taught by Jim Boesch, the new EC District Lay Servant Ministry Director. Jim has been facilitating workshop and coaching events with this Ken Blanchard founded Lead Like Jesus equipping ministry over the past 4 years with both Clergy and Lay leaders at the local church, district and conference levels of our national Methodist Church community.

We exist to glorify God by inspiring and equipping people to LEAD LIKE JESUS.

“Learn to lead as Jesus led in the home, at work, in church and in the community.”
Agenda:
Transformational Leadership Cycle: 4 Domains

1.The Heart - Your Intentions and Movtivations - "Why you LEAD"
2.The Head - Your beliefs about leadership and influence - "What you BELIEVE"
3.The Hands - Your leadership methods and behaviors - "How you LEAD"
4.The Habits - Your leadership habits and disciplines -
"How you FOCUS"


For additional information contact:  Jim Boesch  jimboesch68@gmail.com   407-721-0416

Friday - March 13, 2015
Spring Confirmation Retreat #3

Gather with confirmation classes from across the state of Florida to learn about the important vows involved in joining the United Methodist Church.  Your group will experience powerful worship, have set aside time to complete your church's confirmation curriculum, and be provided a staffed team-building experience on our low challenge course.  Sign your group up for a partial weekend or spend the whole weekend at camp building relationships and learning about Christ.

Sunday - March 15, 2015
Appointive Cabinet in Atlanta followed by a Candler Event, March 18-20
Sunday - March 15, 2015
Disaster 101: Basic Disaster Ministry Training - FUMC Cape Coral

This training provides an introduction to the unique and important role the faith community plays in disaster mitigation, preparation and response.


You will hear practical suggestions about how you and your church can respond to disaster in your community in cooperation with other churches, emergency management officials and the Disaster Recovery Ministry of the Conference. You will learn the value of communication and collaboration in meeting the needs of disaster survivors and recall the importance of being the church in the midst of crisis.

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

Check in Begins at 12:30 and lunch is provided


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

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

 

 

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