Saturday, March 21, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mission Specialist

Well, I'm 6 months into the new "appointment." That's the historic Methodist way of speaking about the way a bishop appoints clergy to a task and location to serve Christ and Church. I've got half a year into this circuit riding mission job.

Some of you ask what I do- especially after you see my title/s. I work for both North Georgia Conference and for the UMC's mission agency called Global Ministries (or if you prefer the full title it is The General Board of Global Ministries or GBGM). With North Georgia I'm an Associate Director of Connectional Ministries with focus on mission. With GBGM I'm a consultant emphasizing Mission Celebrations as a strategy and event for churches, districts, and conferences across the United States (note this isn't about your grandma's "mission fair" approach). Either way it's a mouthful of title. And the bottom line really is serving as a resource, strategist, equipper, networker, coach related to helping Methodists become more effective in mission.

It's really a fascinating, exciting sort of everyday experience as I work with churches, districts, an annual conference, an agency, and United Methodists and Methodists all over the United States and world.

Here's a perspective from the North GA side of the job if you want to know more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Premiere Children and Mission Training

Too often children's ministry does "its thing" and the mission folk do "their thing" and we don't work together in this "shared thing" of being the church in God's mission.

Imagine a church where children's ministry and mission has a strong intersection.

Now, let's create that community of faith!

If you want to help this new reality come to life in your church, and bridge that gap in your congregation, we've got a phenomenal event coming up. I hope folks in children's ministry and in mission will take note of this and us get the word out in your church and district.

Look over the Children and Mission training and see for yourself. Every North GA church serious about children's ministry and mission should send a representative to attend. Even better if you send a team once you see the incredible line-up of workshop leaders.

I'll be there wearing some of my colorful international clothing and hope you'll join the fun!
*Workshop 1 - 11:30 - 12:30 Choose One
 Community Ministry - Led by Cindy Campbell
 Connecting Children Around The World - Led by Rev. Scott Parrish
 Deep Blue - Led by Flo Sapp Martin
 Doing Mission Together: Intergenerational Mission Experience - Led by Delia Halverson
 Kids Helping Kids - Led by Sharon Brewer
 Ministry with the Whole Child - Led by Becca McConnell
 Mission Impossible! - Led by Pamela Perkins Carns
 Mission Me: Caring for Yourself - Led by Dr. Teresa Angle-Young
 Praying On the Go - Led DeDe Reilly
 Age Level Workshop - Two years - Pre - Kindergarten - Led by Ally Hall
 Age Level Workshop - Kindergarten - Second Grade - Led by Michele May
 Age Level Workshop Third Grade - Fifth/Sixth Grade - Led by Leslie Rogers
*Workshop 2 - 1:30 - 2:30 Choose One
 Community Ministry - Led by Cindy Campbell
 Connecting Children Around the World - Led by Rev. Scott Parrish
 Deep Blue - Led by Flo Sapp Martin
 Doing Mission Together: Intergenerational Mission Experiences - Led by Delia Halverson
 Kids Helping Kids - Led by Sharon Brewer
 Ministry with the Whole Child - Led by Becca McConnell
 Mission Me: Caring for Yourself - Led by Rev. Dr. Teresa Angle-Young
 Mission Possible! - Led by Pamela Perkins Carns
 Praying On the Go - Led by DeDe Reilly
 Age Level Workshop - Two Years - Pre-Kindergarten - Led by Ally Hall
 Age Level Workshop - Kindergarten - Second Grade - Led by Michelle May
 Age Level Workshop - Third Grade - Fifth/Sixth Grade - Led by Leslie Rogers

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Serve Your Community

What does it look like when your church mobilizes for practical action in the community?

This is happening this morning with Advent UMC in Simpsonville SC as they helpfully redefine March Madness with incarnational service.

"Our March Mission Madness team is set to head out and share the love of Christ all over Greenville! #AdventMMM"

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mission as Movement

As I get more active beyond the congregation in church leadership I'm curious how the various parts of the whole function. I'm especially intrigued by how we engage in the assessment, planning, and implementation of our sense of the mission of God at the various levels of a denomination. So, for The United Methodist Church, what does it look like for us to be a mission movement at the various levels of the organization? This seems to have different answers in various parts of the world.

How does your UMC congregation do annual mission planning?

Usually this is a committee. Unless the committee died for lack of interest. Too many of our churches don't do this well. Too often a mission committee can devolve into asking for money and writing checks, special events, and maintaining the tradition of mission of previous decades. It's like we keep wearing that same old favorite mission t-shirt from 20 years ago!

Too many of our clergy don't emphasize the overarching mission of God that we are privileged to be a part of, and challenged to step up and find our place in. Too often the redemption story is a distant tale, or perhaps we are beneficiaries but not participants, or maybe it's a job for someone else in the church. So, our theology, our preaching and teaching, and all the ministries of the church lose our very reason for being as we tame mission and outreach into "just another ministry."

The most effective mission committees I've seen have an ongoing curiosity about how to engage every member of the church in a missional lifestyle that follows in the way of Christ and is holistic, authentic, and transformational. This lends itself well to the Methodist understanding of sanctification and holiness. So, outreach is an essential element just as is worship, discipleship, prayer, giving, evangelism, fellowship, etc. The mission of God regains a place of priority for church and individuals as we find ourselves personally engaged in incarnational ministry. And this dynamic changes the practices of church while also involving new and different people who are swept up in the salvation story which we see lived out once again.

But if we don't currently practice the mission of God this way in our local church then how in the world do we talk about it and express mission in those next levels of organization at district, conference, or jurisdiction?

How does your UMC district do annual mission planning? Do all of your churches know "the plan" for this year? Are your churches engaged in a vibrant mission plan for the district? How is your church an active participant with the Kingdom of God beyond your local church? How is your church engaged in connectional mission to that to love God and to love neighbor as yourself finds expression locally, nationally, and internationally?

As we consider assessment, planning, and next steps for a year together in the mission of God there are ways we might break beyond our old ways of doing and being in God's mission and find ourselves in a new place as we follow Christ today.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

UMCOR 75th Celebration Invitation

As we near the 15th of March and the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) we are excited to be celebrating UMCOR's 75th anniversary.  We hope that your congregation also has plans to celebrate with the OGHS offering.   
On March 15th there will be a special service at Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a site very close to where 75 years ago Bishop Herbert Welch called on Methodists, in the name of Christ, to engage in relief efforts and launched what we now know as UMCOR.  The Sunday worship begins at 10:00 a.m. follow by a reception.  All are welcome!
As a part of the worship, a video will be shown which highlights God’s work in the world through UMCOR over these last 75 years. We hope your congregation has plans to view this video.
Knowing that not everyone will be able to attend Asbury UMC this Sunday, we wanted to share that the worship celebration will be live-streamed. The following link is for your reference.
Please keep this special service at Asbury UMC in your prayers along with all congregations who will be celebrating UMCOR’s 75th anniversary and One Great Hour of Sharing offering this Sunday. Global Ministries looks forward to God’s continued leading and the strong part UMCOR will play in that work.     
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Chairperson of UMCOR
Thomas Kemper
General Secretary
J. Denise Honeycutt
Deputy General Secretary of UMCOR

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mission Celebrations: For BOTH District AND Congregation

Effective UMC mission and outreach strategy at many local church and district levels seem to have fallen upon hard times.

How many churches or districts even undertake a mission strategy?

When we do get into strategy such assessment can merely showcase how poorly we are doing and never get to action steps for a way forward. Too often, in recent decades, mission in many congregations has descended to the level of merely writing checks or doing projects, and not engaging in the robust missio Dei which should frame the whole of church life. In my mind there are plenty of opportunities to connect church to community in helpful, transformational ways which bring life.

I believe that through Mission Celebration we have the potential to reclaim outreach as an effective strategy which could transform both local church and district ministry. Now, I'm not talking about a simple "dog and pony show" where you see a missionary, hear a story or two, and then are pushed to have a special Sunday offering. My experience of mission celebrations have been that they offer opportunity for true Methodist conferencing on the calling, purpose, and resources of a church within the context of a community as we consider what it means to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Mission Celebrations offer both preparation and event which might launch a church and district into transformational action and relationships for the Kingdom of God.

In my work with Global Ministries and North Georgia I have quickly realized a big difference in the way churches do mission celebrations. In some places it is only done as a congregational event. In other locales they become more of a district or conference event. Taken together I believe we might find the prescription for a more healthy United Methodist Church.

United Methodism in some places tends toward congregational mission celebrations while many areas elsewhere tend toward district mission events. I'm sure this regional variation is some mix of theology, church practice, and "distance"  (in all sorts of ways) from the general church agency. Sometimes the dividing line seems to be built around the size or strength of a congregation.

In my mind, both models offer strong opportunities in mission, and in fact, if both are used I believe we can create a stronger connectional mission that elevates both congregation and district/conference.

The reality is that we want to create a strong mission theology, culture, and involvement in the congregation as this is the base of operation for our everyday work in the Kingdom of God. We also want to create a strong district mission approach so that we offer information, discussion, collaboration, and opportunity for connectional mission which employs historic Methodist ways of being the Church. It's not necessary to choose one or the other, and can yield a win/win scenario when Mission Celebrations are done well and maximized as a way of a shared, partnering strategy.  

If district events are only "sales" pitches for funding mission then we've missed the opportunity. And, if we leave clergy or congregations completely on their own we've merely created greater opportunity for independent, congregational mission with a thin veneer of Methodist identity that is in large part disconnected from the Church. This later situation creates an "every UM clergy and church for themselves" approach.

More than ever we need to reconnect the Methodist missional connection!

Every congregation should dig deep and know their calling to love God and love neighbor in local, national, and international ways. This is more than a mundane exercise, but tied to the purpose of the church and the ways the ministry is exercised at every ministry level- worship, discipleship, prayer, outreach, etc. Further, this must also be tied into the work of the Church, as a particular Methodist congregation does not have all the calling, or all the resources, for the tasks of the Kingdom, but does best to actively be part of the larger Church.

I believe every vital United Methodist congregation should have a mission celebration (could be every year or every other year). And, in like manner, every UMC district should have a mission celebration at least biennially.  It's a great way to know our focus, our assets, and our shared tasks in mission and ministry. The congregation would likely have much more emphasis on the local mission with acknowledgement and participation in the larger world mission.  The district event would wisely have discussion, strategy and resources to engage the churches together in a shared approach of mission which would assist all of the churches in ways to reach the district and region for Christ. This district visioning and division of labor could also assist in our knowing how fruitful a congregation is, how demographics are shifting, and where the larger Church might plant new mission or churches.

Mission Celebrations, in both the congregation and the district, have a lot of potential when paired together as a tool for effective, United Methodist outreach strategy.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mission Celebration: Help All Ages Go Into Service!

At the Roswell UMC mission event Sunday they had a nice feature during worship to emphasize people going into service. Often in a church it can be a challenge to move beyond talk into action! Many churches use a system where they offset the cost of a mission experience so that it is based on more than participant fees and has a certain amount of church "buy in" to the trip. This broadens the engagement and ownership so that it is more than merely an experience for the "away" team.

Roswell added a nice feature to their Sunday morning as they emphasized the "go" nature of outreach and offered incentives for children, youth, and adults to be involved during the week of the mission celebration and to participate in trips during the year.

Here's some of the script that pastors Mike Long and Nancy Lane used Sunday in worship:

"Over the years we’ve learned that those who go are changed.  I am excited to announce today that the global team has designated $_____ to help people from this congregation go on mission experiences. Friday night we gave away three $500 mission experience credits to be used this year. 
Today, our children and youth who participated in Great Day of Service and worship this morning are receiving a $50.00 mission experience credit to be used for our mission camp or mission trips through RUMC this summer. If you are a child or youth who participated Great Day of Service please bring your card forward and exchange it for a your mission credit certificate."

"And now, we are excited to share that three additional people will have the opportunity to GO as we share paid ground expenses to Peru, Kenya and Honduras."

There are some of the many great ideas to help churches launch into exciting, transformational mission!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mission Celebration: Video!

Roswell UMC held their annual mission focus last week and culminated with exciting worship this past Sunday. In addition to sharing their 32 mission partners for the next year they also showcased 4 strategic partners. Check out the video they used on Sunday to share their primary "Jerusalem Partner" (review Acts 1:8 to get an idea of local to "ends of the earth" thinking in this regard). This offered a powerful view of local mission, and the needs of the partner and opportunities for the congregation, during worship. Even better, they posted it online so that church and community members not present on Sunday can be in the know and get involved!

See how Roswell UMC emphasized Family Promise last Sunday and imagine how video might be useful in mission to engage your congregation in service.