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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we can rest.

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

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

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

RNS: It is understandable that some people don’t want to wake up on Sunday mornings and listen to a preacher talk past them. But Christians are still called to be a part of the church, so is going lone wolf really an option?
 
KB: Let me push back a bit. It is one thing to state a warning about the lone wolf syndrome as a statement of fact, and it is another to use it as a response or a rebuke to people who may be feeling for a variety of reasons that they have no alternative but to leave church as they have known it. I hope that those who read my book will hear me loud and clear when I say, “Please, DO NOT GO IT ALONE.”
 
Click here to read the entire interview. Courtesy of Religion News Service. Photo courtesy of Bigstock.com.
Tuesday - October 14, 2014
Florida Conference Connection has news for you

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

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

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

Annual Conference
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Download links for 2014 Annual Conference logo:
 

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Hotel Information
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Annual Conference 5K Run
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Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 6:30 am - Lake Hollingsworth - Lakeland, FL

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

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

CLICK HERE to register

      

 

 

 

Group Meals Alphabetical
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Click Here for Group Meals by Day and Time

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To register click here:

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

News
Monday - October 20, 2014
Ministries build relationships before churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Targeting the outsider

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


-- Rev. Dan Jackson,
 New Church Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- From freshexpressionsus.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to learn more?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for more ideas from United Methodist Communications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The older adults are scared of it.”

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

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

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

For Mission Impact Florida information and registration, click here.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

Monday - October 6, 2014
Singles mingles, a ministry idea
for the ages

Christy Hayashi recently kicked off a singles ministry at First UMC, Port Orange, with a dance-off contest that rocked the house to a Christian beat.

Nearly 170 single adults 18 and older came together for a good time. Hayashi hopes to give singles a place to mingle in a safe environment each month. The ministry is an idea she began thinking about nearly two years ago. 

Senior woman and younger woman close together giving thumbs-up sign
A singles ministry can target a particular age or interest group or offer activities appealing to people of all ages and walks of life. Photo from Bigstock.com.

"I want it to bring people off the streets and into the church community so they see there is more to it," says Hayashi, who is First UMC's church secretary and the singles ministry's director.

"You can unite and talk more about God, and also there is actually fun at church."

She has a passion for reaching out to single adults who might feel alone or disconnected from church life. It is something she knows firsthand.

Hayashi is a single mom who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago.

"I have come through a lot, but it has brought me closer to God," she says. "If you can stay strong and go through things and stick together you can get things done."

That is the message of First UMC's ministry, "Singles Helping Singles."

Singles ministries are something the General Board of Discipleship would like to spread to more churches. The UMC agency serves as a leadership and training resource for all church ministries and new church development.

Hayashi's efforts are one example. At Sun City Center UMC, church member Ellie Passino is heading up a singles ministry for senior women who live on their own and sometimes face limited options for transportation. 

Young people turn out for dance contest at Port Orange singles ministry
People of all ages turn out for a dance contest sponsored by Singles Helping Singles at First UMC, Port Orange. Photo from Christy Hayashi.

It can hold them back not only in church attendance, but in getting out and being with friends.

So on every third Tuesday of the month, the members of SWAG, or Single Women Always Going, make a special effort to venture outside their southern Hillsborough County retirement community for lunch.

Out of necessity, Passino and a friend, Ann McMullen, are designated drivers.

"There is hardly anyone else who will drive out of this area," says 88-year-old Passino.

Some never drive at all, unless it's in a golf cart. Sun City Center is known for its cart traffic that zips along the streets and beats a path of convenience to nearby golf courses, shops, grocery stores, pools and any of dozens of on-site activities.

The women mix it up among restaurant choices. Brandon, about 20 miles to the north, is about a far as the group usually ventures. 

"We have a good time talking," Passino says.

Passino puts a notice in the church's monthly bulletin as a reminder of the date and time.

Fun and companionship are the ministry’s purpose, but church officials -- and Passino -- see a broader mission of making singles welcome at church and opening doors to friendships.

These ministries can help strengthen ties to the church and to their faith.

"We have a good time," Passino says. "It's been a chance for me to meet these ladies, which I would never have done going to church. We've formed a nice friendship." 

Hispanic dad on an outing with preschool-age son
Some singles ministries target the needs of single parents, while others may focus on seniors who find themselves without a companion in late life. Photo from Bigstock.com.

Passino says SWAG's members, around 10 to 20, increase as Sun City's "snowbird" residents settle in to enjoy Florida during fall and winter.

United Methodist Communications offers a how-to guide on creating singles ministries, and the denomination's General Board of Discipleship provides some resources at its website, www.gbod.org. Click here for the adult ministries page, and then click in the box for "adult singles."

One requisite for a successful ministry is finding a leader with communication and organizational skills. Social activities should be age-appropriate, whether for young, old or a blend of generations. And sensitivity may be needed for singles who are coping with a recent divorce or death of a loved one.

Matchmaking is something the board cautions against. If friendships should deepen into love, they should happen naturally, the board advises.

Hayashi is very clear about her church's ministry. "It is not a dating site or dating group," she says.

The dance-off drew a mixed crowd ranging from late teens to the 40-somethings who enjoyed pizza and a band. The top three dancers won cash prizes. Child care was provided for single parents.

The ministry’s next outreach will be an Oct. 10 get-together at Jakob's Well in Daytona Beach, a Christian-based coffee shop and bookstore with live music on weekends. Anyone age 18 and older is welcome.

The idea is to find places where singles can enjoy themselves in a Christian atmosphere, Hayashi says, adding that people want someone to talk to and a place to go.

"People are in need. Some people get lonely. They want to fill the void," she says. "I've seen it all the time. I want to reach out to people. I was there once."

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

Friday - October 3, 2014
It's back! Giving Tuesday set for Dec. 2

Logo for When Methodists Are United with date Dec. 2NEW YORK -- The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries has announced that on Dec. 2, 2014, it will match up to $1 million in gifts made online to any project through The Advance as part of UMC #GivingTuesday.

Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, who chairs the communication and development committee of Global Ministries’ board of directors, expressed enthusiasm about last year’s record $6.5 million raised online through The Advance on UMC #GivingTuesday.

“It was a wonderful sign of commitment and extravagant generosity, maximizing the impact of thousands of United Methodists coming together on one day to transform the world.”

Directors approved allocating matching funds dollar for dollar up to the first $1 million in gifts to Advance projects received online on Dec. 2, between 12 a.m. EST and 11:59 p.m. Kuch-Stanovsky explained that to stretch the matching funds, a maximum of $2,500 per individual gift to a project will be dispersed as matching funds and a project may receive a maximum of $25,000 in matching funds.

The board president, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the North Carolina Conference, also announced that in the spirit of “healthy competition,” Global Ministries is “preparing a special Advance award to be given to the annual conference that raises the most funds online through The Advance on UMC #GivingTuesday 2014.”

'When Methodists Are United' campaign

Ellen Knudsen, director of Advance projects for Global Ministries, said that while people give through The Advance throughout the year, “having one day when Methodists are united in supporting The Advance reinforces the spirit of cheerful Christian giving.”

UMC #GivingTuesday is part of an international movement that builds on the recent U.S. shopping traditions of Black Friday, Local Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. It offers an opportunity to start off the holiday season by giving instead of getting through supporting organizations that have been researched and approved by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. And 100 percent of all gifts made through The Advance are given directly to the designated project.

For example, thanks in part to gifts made last year on UMC #GivingTuesday, the Tanzania Provisional Conference of the North Katanga and Tanzania Episcopal Area purchased of 15 acres of property in Dar es Salaam. The property will be home to a new United Methodist Church mission center for the conference that will support ministry projects in Tanzania.

In Haiti, Advance project HAPI built the Feilsane Health Center with gifts made through The Advance on UMC #GivingTuesday. HAPI hired local people for construction and electricity. Funds also equipped the delivery room with Hil-Rom birthing beds. Deaconess Valerie Mossman-Celestin says that “Felisane Health Center not only benefits health but economics, as people in a mountainous, rural community find access to care without incurring costly transportation.”

Through The Advance, United Methodists can give to more than 850 United Methodist-related projects worldwide. Donors can also provide support for any of more than 300 missionaries. Together, the projects meet a range of needs, from helping survivors cope with natural or civil disasters to helping communities build churches, feed and educate children, and equip hospitals and clinics.

Since its founding in 1948, The Advance has helped channel more than 3 million gifts totaling more than $1 billion to thousands of projects and ministries.

Global Ministries offers resources to promote and share the UMC #GivingTuesday campaign at www.umcmission.org/givingtuesday.

To make a contribution, donors will go to www.umcmission.org/give on UMC #GivingTuesday, Dec. 2, and donate online to any of the hundreds of projects and missionaries listed there. To search for projects, click here.
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 -- Jason Vickers, United Theological Seminary

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

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

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

Vickers said the focus on healing will be broad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday - October 7, 2014
Timing is everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Evan LePage

 

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

Download The Guide

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

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

Pinterest

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

When using Pinterest, consider the following:

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

Use Case

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

Tumblr

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

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

When using Tumblr, consider the following:

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

Use Case

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

Foursquare

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

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

When using Foursquare, consider the following:

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

Use Case

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

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

Courtesy www.hootsuite.com.

 

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

By Olsy Sorokina | Courtesy Hootsuite

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at www.hootsuite.com.

 

Classifieds
Tuesday - October 21, 2014
Part-Time Office Receptionist

Fulford United Methodist Church

Job description – Office Receptionist – Part Time

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

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

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

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

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

Foundation Begins Presidential Search

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

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

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

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

Tuesday - October 21, 2014
Wooden Paper File

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

Wednesday - October 15, 2014
Director of Children's Ministry - Cordele, GA

Cordele First United Methodist Church, the largest church in our multi-county region, is an 1100 member church with a worship attendance averaging 550+ up from 250+ in the last two years. We anticipate having a worship attendance averaging 750+ within two more years. Cordele is a growing community that is located in southwest Georgia. It is the largest city in a thirty-mile radius. We are located two hours south of Atlanta and 90 minutes north of the Florida border. Our unique geographic placement provides for some truly exciting ministry opportunities in a very hurt and broken world. We are a multi-congregation church with four worship services: traditional, contemporary, Spanish-language contemporary, and Soul Food. The church has sixteen staff including three pastors (lead, Hispanic, and discipleship), three ministry staff (youth, children, and music), four support staff (administrative, communications, financial, and facilities), accompanists, nursery workers, and janitorial staff who all form a team. We are currently seeking a Director of Children's Ministry. If you would like to be a part of a ministry team that is making a difference in a non-homogenous community please send us your resume’ along with salary requirements. The successful candidate will:
-be passionately in love with Jesus and his Church
-have a clear call and commitment to evangelizing and discipling children
-want to work in an intentionally diverse multi-cultural context
- be an outside-the-box thinker with desire to see youth and their families transformed by Christ
-be a team player with proven track record

The Director of Children’s Ministry will provide staff support to shepherd, evangelize, and equip the children (birth-5th grade) of Cordele First United Methodist Church to train them as Kingdom citizens to be light in a dark world. He/she will oversee all ministries for children and give leadership to the development, planning, publicity and oversight of the education ministries for the life stage. They will lead, train, and recruit an entire network of adult volunteers in the Children’s Ministry from nursery through 5th grade.. They will serve other ministries as needs and interests arise. They will also be responsible for assisting the Lead Pastor with pastoral care concerns for the congregation.
QUALIFICATIONS
1. Must be a passionate follower of Jesus Christ and a member of a church in good standing.
2. Must live an exemplary life before those served. Humility, teachability, loyalty and personal holiness are of utmost importance.
3. Must understand and support the church purpose, priorities, vision, and guiding principles. As a staff member, heart and mind must be committed to serving others, supporting the staff and cultivating team ministry.
4. Must demonstrate leadership, effective people skills and a consistent desire and ability to train and liberate others to minister.
5. Must be a self-starter with motivation to follow through with limited supervision.
6. Must be continually pursuing personal growth in Christ and exercise of personal gifts and abilities.
7. Must be able to support the Lead Pastor and complement his or her ministry with enthusiasm and wisdom.
8. Must be a real team player who thrives on interaction and works well with both staff and church members.
9. Must have a heart for outreach and a passion to see that both the people and the structures under oversight reflect this passion in practical ways. The primary calling must be to make disciples.
10. Preference will be given to college and/or seminary-trained individuals.
WORK SCHEDULE
Full-time staff are expected to serve the needs of the ministry without compulsion
and with joy. As a guide, at least 50 hours per week should be customary. A regular plan of office time and “off” time will be made with the Lead Pastor.
PROSPECTIVE RESPONSIBILITIES
1. The Director of Children’s Ministry will provide leadership for major discipling ministries to children (birth through 5th grade: nursery, children’s Sunday school, mid-week and Sunday children’s programming. This person will focus on giving guidance, providing accountability, and recruiting & developing leaders for these ministries.
a. This position will help leadership of these ministries focus on the kind of disciples being produced, not simply on the kind of inputs they are giving in their ministries.
b. This position will help leadership of these ministries in providing appropriate curriculum, planning, purchasing, advertising, and communication strategies.
2. The Director of Children’s Ministry will provide strategic and hands on leadership for all children’s ministries by:
a. continually developing and equipping a ministry team to oversee all ministries related to this life stage and will have a strong presence with them in the ministry. This position will view their ministry position as a people developer, both in discovering/leading the ministry team and in the ways that they lead children and their parents.
b. making outreach a high priority in the ministry structures and encouraging it in the lives of those who are already involved at CFUMC.
3. The Director of Children’s Ministry will provide overall leadership and support for children’s Sunday School ministries, giving direct oversight and encouragement to the teachers and leaders within the Sunday school ministry through training, development, and recruitment.
4. The Director of Children’s Ministry will provide overall leadership and support for our nursery and pre-school aged ministries giving direct oversight and encouragement to the nursery staff and all volunteers, their training, development, and recruitment.
5. The Director of Children’s Ministry will coordinate any and all aspects of our Safe Sanctuaries child protection policy and make sure it is properly administered and followed. This position will giving leadership to planning and programming for training and recruiting volunteers and taking them through the Safe Sanctuaries training and clearance process for all ministries within the congregation.
6. The Director of Children’s Ministry will provide overall leadership for all programming for children including VBS, Wednesday nights, monthly events, outreach programs, Sunday school, and others areas as needed and assigned. Additionally, the administrative details of the Wednesday night family night supper program will be their responsibility as well as planning for Family-wide and Church-wide fellowship events
 

Monday - October 13, 2014
Assistant to the Director

Assistant to the Director
Trinity Learning Center of Trinity UMC, Lighthouse Point has an opening for an Assistant to the Director.
This person would work with the Director ensuring the day to day operations of the center.  This person must be a team player and have agenuine love for the ministry of children, and a love for the Lord.
•    Leadership qualities
•    Personable and outgoing
•    Flexible and dependable
•    Knowledge of DCF documents and requirements
•    Must have a CDA or FCCPC and experience working in a childcare setting.
•    Effective clerical and computer skills


Please email your resume to info@trinitylearningcenteronline.com or fax to 954-941-3240
P.O.C. Mrs. Storm Suydam, Director of Trinity Learning Center
 

Monday - October 13, 2014
Director of Youth Minitries

Waukeenah United Methodist Church of Monticello FL is seeking a passionate and committed Christian for the position of Director of Youth Ministries. This is a part time position (approximately 20hrs a week) and will lead 5 – 10 youth (6th – 12th grade).

Waukeenah UMC is dedicated to provide the best for the youth ministries of the church and the community. A job description will be provided to each applicant for review. Waukeenah UMC is located 20 miles East of Tallahassee and 12 miles South of Monticello, on Hwy 27.  The Youth meet every Wednesday from 6:00 – 7:30pm and every Sunday evening at 5:00 until 6:30. Waukeenah UMC is offering a competitive salary and educational benefits for the right person.
 

Friday - October 10, 2014
Christian Preschool in Tampa Seeking Afterschool Teacher

We are looking for a qualified Afterschool teacher to join the team. Applicants should enjoy teaching children in a Christian environment. Must have 45 hours Child Care certification or be willing to complete the hours during the first 90 days of employment. Please email resume to resume507@aol.com or fax to (813)236-5932

Thursday - October 9, 2014
Church Choir Accompanist

Tallahassee Heights United Methodist Church is accepting applications for an accompanist for our Chancel Choir. This is a part-time position and is available immediately.  Our current schedule would require musician to be available Sunday mornings at the 11 a.m. service, special services and Wednesday evening rehearsals with the choir.  This position reports to the Director of Music Ministries. Salary is negotiable depending upon experience.

Please send resume (including references) to thumc@comcast.net or mail to THUMC, 3004 mahan Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32308
 

Thursday - October 9, 2014
Director of Music Ministries

Tallahassee Heights United Methodist Church is accepting applications for the position of Director of Music Ministries.  This position is available immediately and is part-time.  Primary responsibilities include:

 

  • Leading music during the 11 a.m. Sunday services and special services.
  • Leading rehearsals and directing the 25+ member traditional chancel choir.


Additional areas of responsibility in music ministries are also available.
 
Salary is negotiable depending upon range of responsibilities and experience.  Applicants should have a music degree and/or equivalent experience and a deep personal faith and understanding of the meaning, use and place of music in Christian worship. The position reports to the Senior Pastor. 

Please send resume (including references) to thumc@comcast.net or mail to THUMC, 3004 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32308.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we can rest.

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

Friday - October 17, 2014
And that is grace...

It’s interesting how the word “grace” gets used a lot, even by those who don’t necessarily consider themselves religious. It’s a favorite name for a character that represents someone who is a gift to us — I’m thinking about Bruce’s girlfriend Grace in Bruce Almighty, or Eli’s reassuring encounter with a woman named Grace in the second season of the TV series Eli Stone.

You can probably cite many more examples of characters named Grace in different movies, television shows, and books.

We like to put flesh-and-blood on the notion that we are recipients of some great gift that arrives unexpectedly and is given freely. Someone or something that comes into our life and significantly changes it for the better in some ways.

But what is grace? Who is grace to us?

You get hurt. You get a great disappointment. You find someone there ready to hold your hand in your lowest moment. And when someone else is in the same spot, you hold their hand.

That is grace.

You make a bad decision and suffer the consequences (we‘ve all been there). You make what seems to be a good decision and it has unintended consequences (we‘ve all been there, too). Some people are there with you through it all, no matter what it costs them. They think that you are worth whatever price has to be paid to be with you. And you are willing to pay the price to be there for them, too.

That is grace.

You feel lost and alone. You begin to despair about whether you can get your life together. You feel trapped. You feel inadequate. And yet you find others who remind you that you are amazing. They make you see the possibilities of each day. And you end up doing the same for them.

That is grace.

You think that if anyone knew the real you, they wouldn’t like you. You hide parts of yourself from others. And then you find that there are those who want to get to know those parts of you and appreciate them and celebrate them with you. And you want to do the same with them.

That is grace.

You realize that life is limited. You lose sleep over the realization that you’ll never achieve all of your dreams. Someone comes along to remind you that you’re never alone in your worries and concerns. They tell you that you are perfect just as you are. And you are inspired to remind others of it, too.

That is grace.

Something joyful happens. You realize how incredibly fortunate you are just to be alive, to be part of this amazing creation. You recognize that others want to be there to celebrate with you and to be happy with you. And you want to smile and celebrate with them.

That is grace.

You love others for who they are, and you are loved for who you are.

That is grace. For them and for you.

You can add your own examples of how grace touches our lives. You probably know many, many more.

Grace leads you to the source of grace. It reminds you that every day is another opportunity to be touched and changed by love in some way. A love that’s a gift, pure and simple, given without any condition whatsoever. No requirements, no strings attached. Because that‘s how love works.

Simply because you are worth it.

Grace is a reminder that you are worth it.

Period. No qualifiers.

It also reminds you that you are grace for others, too. You are that hand that is ready to hold another’s hand, that hug that the other person needs, that reassuring presence when their life seems to be falling apart.

And they are that for you, too.

That is grace.

Courtesy of Sojourners Magazine www.sojo.net. The opinions are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.

Friday - October 17, 2014
Pastor says leaving traditional churches might be a good thing

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

RNS: It is understandable that some people don’t want to wake up on Sunday mornings and listen to a preacher talk past them. But Christians are still called to be a part of the church, so is going lone wolf really an option?
 
KB: Let me push back a bit. It is one thing to state a warning about the lone wolf syndrome as a statement of fact, and it is another to use it as a response or a rebuke to people who may be feeling for a variety of reasons that they have no alternative but to leave church as they have known it. I hope that those who read my book will hear me loud and clear when I say, “Please, DO NOT GO IT ALONE.”
 
Click here to read the entire interview. Courtesy of Religion News Service. Photo courtesy of Bigstock.com.
Friday - October 10, 2014
How could games be part of church?

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series exploring how the field of game theory can help church leaders navigate conflict effectively. Part two considered how to escape from a bad game, and part three looked at responding to criticism in the church’s culture of niceness. Part four considered the role of church culture in congregational growth and decline.

Ken Evers-Hood

Perhaps the greatest conflict that leaders face is with ourselves. Paul describes this inner conflict in Romans: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:18b-19 NRSV).

For the last 10 years of my ministry, I’ve been part of an incredible small group of pastors that meets every Tuesday. We call ourselves a lectionary group, but honestly, most of our time is spent talking through challenges we’re facing, the greatest one being finding the motivation to persevere. I have often said I wouldn’t still be doing ministry were it not for this group.

The claim isn’t hyperbole. There are days when being a pastor can feel more like being an activity director on a sinking cruise ship full of angry monkeys than being a shepherd of souls or a student of Scripture. In our small group, we often discuss how isolated we feel and question what impact our actions really have. Sometimes we believe it would be easier to have a “normal” job and serve the church as a volunteer.

Our small group is not alone.

One study conducted by the Schaeffer Institute found that 90 percent of pastors surveyed felt inadequately trained. The same percentage said the practice of ministry was entirely different from what they had expected. Seventy percent of pastors fight depression on an ongoing basis. Fifty percent say they would leave ministry tomorrow if they had a viable alternative.

Duke’s Clergy Health Initiative has brought to light significant health risks associated with the profession of pastor. The rates of obesity, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, angina and asthma among Methodist clergy in North Carolina are significantly higher than rates in the general population.

In general, a disturbing number of pastors believe that their work isn’t satisfying, rarely experience a sense of competency, feel isolated and question whether they are making a meaningful contribution to something greater. Pastors live with a painful inner conflict: the good we want to do, and feel called to do, we often aren’t doing.

How can playing games address such a serious problem? If you asked game designer Jane McGonigal, the New York Times best-selling author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” she might turn this question around to say we can’t really address these problems seriously without talking about playing games.

McGonigal is one of the leaders of a movement known as “gamification.” Gamification, the application of game design principles to nongame settings, pervades contemporary culture. While distinct from game theory, gamification furthers the game theory perspective that behavior is affected more by context than by personality. Plus, gamification improves upon game theory by reintroducing the element of playful creativity that is largely absent from the cerebral strategists of game theory.

Chances are, you experience gamification on a daily basis. If you participate in a frequent-flyer program, for instance, you are familiar with accumulating points to earn real travel rewards. If you use a Fitbit or a Nike+, you know all about badges for accomplishments and leveling up, all in an attempt to make exercise seem less like work and more like fun.

Those tempted to dismiss the power of games and gamification, McGonigal warns, are likely to be severely marginalized in the coming years. If you think of gamers as young boys playing shoot’em-ups alone in their rooms, you need to think again.

At the time McGonigal published her 2011 book, 40 percent of gamers were women. The average age of a gamer was 35, and 25 percent of gamers were older than 50. Some sites, with names like GeezerGamers and 2old2play, even cater to “old” gamers. Given that 97 percent of young people consider themselves gamers, these trends are sure to increase.

The church faces both an opportunity and a threat: if we find faithful ways to integrate gamification into church practices, we will have an opportunity to communicate in the lingua franca of current and future generations. If, however, we ignore gamification, we risk relegating ourselves even further to the margins.

The church certainly shouldn’t chase after every cultural fad, no matter how popular. In the case of gamification, though, there are contemporary scholars who point us to ancient voices within our tradition that resonate with this innovation.

Dan Migliore, professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, urges us to see the act of creation as the “‘play’ of God.” William Brown of Columbia Theological Seminary lifts up God’s playful nature in Psalm 104, even when God encounters Leviathan. Brown quotes Jon Levenson suggesting that God treats the terrifying symbol of chaos as “God’s ‘rubber ducky.’” In his “Theology of Play,” Jurgen Moltmann even ties Christ’s resurrection to play; he notes that the risus paschalis, the Easter laughter, revives all of creation. Since God plays, Moltmann argues, so too should we.

The apostle Paul provides the strongest connection between our theological tradition and gamification.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul employs the metaphor of the Isthmian games, held in Corinth every two years, to describe his apostleship and encourage excellence in the community. Just as the athletes practice discipline and run to win, so too should disciples of Christ practice the way they intend to follow. Nor is this analogy to the Isthmian games unique.

In Galatians 2:2, Paul describes meeting with the other apostles to ensure that he is not running his race in vain. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul frames living into his call as a goal and a prize. The Pauline community continued using this gaming metaphor even after Paul’s death. Second Timothy 2:5 compares faithful teachers to athletes who play by the rules. Paul and the Pauline community are not only unafraid to draw from the world of games; they lift games up as a way to understand discipleship in the real world.

The Fun Theory, an initiative of Volkswagen, seeks to use gamification to make the world a better place.

One Fun Theory video opens with herds of people mindlessly riding up an escalator next to empty stairs. To see what difference a playful innovation might make, a team transformed the stairs into a life-size piano keyboard that played a note and lit up with each step. They transformed walking up the stairs from a chore into a game. As a result, 66 percent more people began to use the stairs. The video shows some individuals jumping up and down the piano stairs in pure joy. Fun and games turned out to be good for the community’s fitness.

In World Without Oil, a 2007 game created by McGonigal and others, players experienced a world in crisis from an oil shortage. Players employed different strategies to survive the shortage, their actions affecting themselves as well as the other players.

What particularly struck McGonigal was how nearly all the players -- despite spending hours in difficult and bleak landscapes -- reported feeling more optimistic about changing the world at the end of the game. She believes that playing the game helped create what futurist Jamais Cascio calls SEHIs (super-empowered hopeful individuals, pronounced SEH-hees).

The church needs to be in conversation with anyone in the hope business.

Game design theorists believe that games help us in four major ways:

  • They improve our sense of making a difference.
  • They give us a sense of competence.
  • They connect us with others.
  • They give us a feeling of being connected to something larger than ourselves.

 

These are precisely the areas where pastors struggle.

What if there were an app similar to Fitbit or Nike+ in which pastors could connect, track their work, set goals, watch themselves level up, thrive on a little friendly competition and feel connected to a larger community of pastors?

Want to make more pastoral calls? Set a goal. Log them in. Level up. Want to spend more time reading Scripture devotionally? Make it happen. Have you stopped spending time in prayer? Join a group of others online for encouragement. Run in such a way that you may win, Paul tells us.

Will this solve the internal conflict pastors feel between who we are called to be and who we actually are? Of course not. But just as thousands have benefited from gamified health tracking environments, legions of pastors might rediscover the joy of ministry through such a platform.

Feeling stuck and alone as a pastor? Maybe soon we’ll be able to say, “There’s an app for that.”

Courtesy Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. Game photo courtesy Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author's and do no necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

Events
Thursday - October 23, 2014
East Central District Clergy Meeting - October 23, 2014

East Central Clergy Meeting - Thursday, October 23, 2014  

We are looking forward to seeing all of our Clergy on Thursday, October 23rd at The Florida United Methodist Children's Home in Enterprise.  We will meet in the gym.  51 Main Street, Enterprise, FL  32725.

Our schedule is 9:30am - 1:00pm with fellowship and morning refreshments beginning at 9am.

Worship Leaders will also gather at this meeting. 

Thursday - October 23, 2014
NE District PT Pastor Peer Group #3 with Facilitator Sue Corley

NE District PT Local & SY Pastor Peer Learning Group #3 will meet with Facilitator Sue Corley at Lakewood UMC.

Thursday - October 23, 2014
NW District Imagine No Malaria Information & Training

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

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

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

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

Registration coming soon!

Friday - October 24, 2014
Early Response Training - October 2014 - Warren Willis

 Early Response Team Training

October 24 & 25, 2014 

Warren Willis Camp

4991 Picciola Rd. 

Fruitland Park, FL

 

Early Response Teams (ERT) are self-contained teams who enter a disaster zone at the invitation of local emergency management officials. ERT's offer a Christian presence and are trained to provide various types of physical, emotional and spiritual assistance to disaster survivors. ERT's are registered with the Disaster Recovery Ministry of The Florida Annual Conference, and Disaster Recovery coordinates team placement with emergency management to get help where it is needed most after a disaster. 

The two-day ERT training focuses on types, phases and levels of a disaster and explains what is meant by early response. Participants learn the importance of spiritual and emotional care, how to tarp, flood clean-up, chainsaw safety, team requirements and much more. 

Participants receive a disaster response manual, t-shirt and badges identifying them as early responders for The Florida Annual Conference and UMCOR. 

 

COST: $40 per person/ $60 per couple, which includes: housing, three meals, T-Shirt, background check, ERT badges, and manual. PARTICIPANTS MUST BE 18 OR OLDER!

Check-in begins at 4:30, dinner starts at 5:30 and training starts at 6:30.

NOTE: Basic Disaster Ministry Training is required before taking ERT Training.

Friday - October 24, 2014
United Methodist Men Spiritual Retreat

UNITED METHODIST MEN SPIRITUAL RETREAT WITH

Asbury Seminary President

Dr Timothy Tennent

Florida's own Rev. Harold Lewis

Worship Leader

Ryan Hughes

 

Monday - October 27, 2014
New Church Start Academy

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

Tuesday - October 28, 2014
NE District Imagine No Malaria Information & Training

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

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

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

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

Click here to register today!

Tuesday - October 28, 2014
NE Imagine No Malaria Information & Training

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

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

 

  www.imagineflorida.org

Thursday - October 30, 2014
NE District Clergy Team Meeting

 

NE District Clergy Team Meeting
                     Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 9:00AM
Riverside Park UMC
819 Park Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204
 
We are looking forward to seeing all Clergy under appointment on Thursday, October 30th at Riverside Park UMC. Your attendance is required. If you are unable to attend, please contact the District Superintendent at ds-ne@flumc.org
We will begin at 9:00AM with morning refreshments, fellowship and worship.  Please register your attendance.
 
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