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In the Shadows – Human Trafficking Panel Discussion

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00
A panel discussion entitled “In the Shadows ... Human Sex Trafficking and Child Slavery", will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2017 in Houston. The event will be presented by AOC Global Marketing.  
Event Location:
Houston Community College
West Loop South Center
5106 West Loop South
Registration: 8:30 am - 9:45 am
Event Time: 10 am – 1 pm
For registration information or additional questions, e-mail aocglobalmarketing@gmail.com  or call 713-489-7262 ext. 700. 

Third Sunday Native American Worship July 16:  James Stephenson

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 00:00
We welcome you at St. Mark's UMC, Houston (Patterson) on July 16 at 4 pm to listen to James Stephenson preach and sing about God's love.  He will be talking about a topic we all need to hear about - "Blessed Hope."  If you have ever heard James sing, you know that you want to be there. If you haven't, you won't want to miss this chance.  We will also be blessed to hear Chance Landry sing her new Veteran's Song that she sang on Memorial Day this last month for the first time.  
After that, please stay with us for potluck.  
DATE:  July 16 2017
TIME: 4:00pm
St. Marks United Methodist Church
1615 Patterson St., Houston, Tx.
(One block south of I-10 & west of I-45
Close to I-10 and Shepherd Dr.)
Potluck and fellowship follow the service
Third Sunday Speakers – 2017
  • August 20 - Pastor Bryan Jacobs (Seminole, Creek)
  • September 17 - Jim Cochran, Christian Lay Minister (Cherokee)
  • October 15 - Pastor Melody Jacobs, Christian Speaker (Mescalero Apache)
  • November 19 - Sayani, NAMA Award Winning Music Ministry(Cherokee/Creek/Choctaw)
  • December 17 - Rev. David Wilson, Supt of OK Indian Missionary Conference (Choctaw)

Nominations Open For 2017 Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/A Award

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 00:00
Perkins School of Theology is accepting nominations for its 2017 Distinguished Alumnus/a Award through Aug. 1, 2017.
Each year, Perkins School of Theology recognizes Perkins graduates who have demonstrated effectiveness and integrity in service to the church, continuing support and involvement in the goals of Perkins School of Theology and SMU, distinguished service in the wider community and exemplary character.
The 2016 DAA recipients were Rev. John McKellar (M.Div. ’90), Pastor of White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, and Rev. Linda Roby (M.R.E. ’00), Associate Minister of Local and Global Missions at First United Methodist Church Dallas. Previous recipients include Rev. Ted J. Dotts Jr. and Dr. James V. Lyles (2015), Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship from 2001-2013 (2014), Dr. Roberto Escamilla and Dr. William K. McElvaney (2013), Dr. Mouzon Biggs Jr. (2012) and Bishop Minerva Carcaño (2011). See complete list of former recipients here.
Nominations must be made in writing, with a letter detailing the nominee's career highlights and other accomplishments. Letters or statements from at least two additional persons must be submitted in support of the nomination as well. 
The award will be presented during the Distinguished Alumnus/a Award Banquet on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall.
The person submitting the nomination should compile all materials and mail as one package to:
Office of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations
Perkins School of Theology 
PO Box 750133
Dallas, TX 75275-0133
Alternatively, letters may be sent together as attachments via e-mail to:
Rev. Connie L. Nelson, clnelson@smu.edu
Director of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations

More Information about Distinguished Alumnus/a Award Criteria (PDF)
Read about the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipients
List of all Perkins School of Theology Distinguished Alumnus/a Award Recipients 
Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Pastoral Music as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Being One: A Marriage Seminar for Engaged and Newly-Wed Couples

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 00:00
St. Paul’s, UMC, Houston will be hosting Being One: A Marriage Seminar for Engaged and Newly-Wed Couples on Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 9 am–2 pm
The focus will be on equipping couples with skills for married life.

There is a $100 fee. Register at www.stpaulshouston.org/being-one

St. Paul’s, UMC
5501 Main Street 
Houston, TX 77004

July 2017 Singles Events

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 00:00
There are several churches around the conference with ministries focused on single adults. See what's going on this month or learn how to add your events at: http://www.txcumc.org/singlesevents 

Abundant Life UMC Facilitating New Multi-Ethnic Connections

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
The revitalization of a community garden is resulting in a fruitful outreach and harvest of new relationships.
Some of the most important discoveries have started with a sketch on a napkin over lunch. The latest mission field initiative of one church in Lufkin started with a conversation over lunch as well. The music director and a choir member of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church and Rev. David Briggs of Abundant Life UMC connected one day to get to know one another better. “Music Director Greg Simmons was very candid in stating that the Episcopal Church was very white and he wanted the church to fellowship with a church of a different race,” shares David. “Since our membership is primarily African American, I quickly agreed to plan a get-together.”
He adds, “We scheduled a Wednesday fellowship between the two churches the following month at St. Cyprian’s. Both congregations were excited to be with one another and the turnout exceeded each of our expectations. After two fellowship gatherings, we decided to deepen our relationship through a shared community mission project. After thoughtful consideration, we decided to partner to revive our community garden located in the heart of a predominantly African American and Hispanic community.”
To bring the two congregations on board, church leaders held the third fellowship outdoors next to a freshly tilled, two-acre garden. “Amidst a backdrop of fertile soil,” David shares, “we announced our desire to cultivate the largest community garden in Lufkin and share its produce with the surrounding community. Both congregations were excited and eager to get started.”
Greg and David decided to appoint two people from each church as the steering team to maintain the garden on a day-to-day basis. “We chose experienced gardeners that know how to drive a tractor,” he adds. The team let Greg and David know when to plant, what to plant, and when to harvest. Likewise, Greg and David shared the information with their respective congregations.
“We framed the goal of our work around growing closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ and to be a witness of God’s love and grace in the community,” he says, adding, “and as a result, we agreed to do everything together.”
Table Talk
The first challenge the organizers faced was figuring out how to get the surrounding community involved. Admits David, “After all, it was a community garden but it felt more like a church garden. After another brainstorm meeting over lunch, we decided the practical thing to do was to organize a community walk-through. We went from house to house, inviting our neighbors to help us maintain and harvest the garden. In return, they would be entitled to as much produce as they wanted. If they were not physically able to help, we would bring the produce to them.”
Pastor David connected with a kind woman who had lived across from the community garden for 40 years. She was enthusiastic about what the churches were doing. “Since she knew almost everyone on every block. When I asked her to put together a list of addresses of people she thought would benefit from the garden, she gave me a list of over 200 addresses,” he shares
Leaders took this plan back to their respective congregations where it was received with excitement. Over 65 people from Abundant Life UMC and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church were soon walking throughout the neighborhood and recruiting another 60 volunteers and recipients to be a part of the garden.
“For me, the community garden is a means to reconnect with the community. Everyone appreciates fresh food, and I know God is pleased with the work we are doing to show the love and grace of Jesus Christ,” says Abundant Life member Vincent James. St. Cyprian’s member Lynell Stover adds, “Working in the community garden is rewarding because we are working together as a family to harvest fresh food for those in need, as well as ourselves. God is definitely at work here.”
David reports that the garden is growing quickly and the harvest is done together “with the community by our side.” The churches are planning additional fellowships and growing closer together as believers in Christ. Adds David, “The community garden has brightened our witness in the community and has made others curious about how we live, serve, and fellowship together.”
An Added Bonus
This exciting community development brought the church great publicity on the local news:
Members of two Lufkin churches harvest community garden crop to give to people in need

 “I enjoy working in the Community garden because it helps to provide nutritious food to people who need it, but more than that, because we are bringing together people from different parts of the community and building new friendships. There is no better way to do that than by working together in a field, picking vegetables in the heat of the day,” says Bernard Hylands, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, one of the project initiators. Martha Williams is an appreciative beneficiary of this new endeavor. “I’m not physically able to work in the garden but I greatly appreciate my Abundant Life church family for what they are doing. I thank God for them.”
Abundant Life leaders are happy to help other churches start a similar outreach. The church shares its heartwarming story of a multi-ethnic, multi-denomination partnership on video here.



Bishop Jones Confirms 59 students

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
Kingwood UMC’s thriving confirmation ceremony featuring a record number of confirmands.
At Kingwood UMC, confirmation is much more than a topic of conversation. As a vital congregation, Kingwood UMC Invests in the Young by hosting a nine-month program that helps youth claim for themselves the name Christian and United Methodist. Recently some 59 sixth graders took this significant step in their journey of faith, and Bishop Scott Jones was there to encourage and pray over them.
“We typically confirm about 35-45 students each year,” says youth director Stacey Sweet. “Although our numbers have been steadily going up, this was an unusually big group. I believe that is because we strive to come alongside students and their families to provide opportunities to understand what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ and live that out in their daily lives. My prayer is that confirmation is a transformational year for these students.”
Since sixth grade is a big transition year to middle school, Kingwood UMC’s Student Ministry department strives to help families navigate those transitions by offering programs that boost success at each new level of school. “We kicked off the year with an overnight retreat to get acquainted, worship and learn together, and to write our class covenant,” explains Stacey. Throughout the year, sixth graders participate in many missions outside of their learning time. For example, they worked in two community gardens, served the local church at outreach events and the Society of St. Stephen. “Each student also creates their own family mission project and shared the love of Christ with their neighbors,” says Stacey. Student Jessica MacIntosh completed her family mission project by planting new plants at the church.
Confirmands and other students often participate in worship by serving as acolytes and serving communion. Among other activities, students worshiped at Central UMC in Galveston and helped at the Seeding Galveston event, visited Temple Beth Torah in Humble, and participated in a food drive to benefit Mission Northeast.
 “Our 12-year old daughter, Maggie, has looked forward to her year since 2012 when she admired the confirmation program through the words and emotions of one of her brothers,” shares Paige Carrigan. Maggie describes her confirmation experience as “learning the role of a church member, the history of the Methodist Church and a greater appreciation for Jesus with new and old friends.” Maggie says, “Our class of 59 sixth graders enjoyed mission work, Bible study, Sunday mornings with our pastors, retreats and reading our Bibles at Chick-fil-a, and so much more. All of this taught us to take the love of Christ forward to others. One of my favorite confirmation activities was visiting a local Jewish Temple.”
“As a parent, it was incredible to see our daughter grow from a child in the church to feeling more like a confident member -- through her profession of faith and being showered by the love of Christ and His followers,” Maggie explains.
Confirmation is a priority at Kingwood UMC, as evidenced by a district wide discussion hosted there this spring. Explains Stacey, “We invited pastors, church staff and volunteers to join us for an idea exchange regarding confirmation. The session also allowed participants to brainstorm solutions to challenges and gave all an opportunity to look at the new curriculum and discuss implementation.”  
Confirmation Covenant 2016-2017
We promise to grow in our faith through worship and prayer to strengthen our relationship with God.  By focusing on God and His word, we will strive to demonstrate love and respect to all God's children.  We will spread God's love by sharing God's word, inviting people to learn about God and serving others when our help is needed.  Through prayer, we will follow the path God has set out for us.  We will grow by surrounding ourselves with the prayers, love and support of our family, classmates and church members.  We will anchor ourselves to the Trinity so we can be firm and secure in our faith.

Church Tech Tips

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
The Center for Congregational Excellence has specialists offering free technology consultation to churches across the district.
Neil Connelly is a resourceful member of Atascosita UMC (AUMC) with a knack for technology who learned to live stream the worship services using only his smart phone. Neil’s technology world brightened recently when he heard about Toby Dagenhart, a member of the TAC Communications Advisory Committee with a passion to share his technology expertise with other congregations.
At AUMC’s Vibrant Church Initiative Communications workshop, Neil learned that Toby is the managing director of creative arts and production at Chapelwood UMC Houston, and serves as one of the church resource “specialists” that the Center for Congregational Excellence offers, at no charge.
To improve the audio and live streaming process, AUMC invited Toby to the campus recently to make recommendations. “Toby quickly identified areas for improvement. He was a fantastic resource -- very accessible, knowledgeable and thorough,” Neil says.
Toby, Joe Montes and other members of the Chapelwood technology team consider it part of their job to use their talents not only at their home church – but beyond. “I love helping others leverage technology on behalf of the kingdom,” Toby shares. “We are blessed to have equipment, employees and experience and we want to share those blessings with others, as time allows.”
Specialists “To Go”
Rev. Dr. Jesse Brannen, Director of the TAC Center for Congregational Excellence is thrilled to have a team of technology specialists to offer churches of all sizes. “Subject experts are among our best resources for congregations,” he explains, “and we also have experts in stewardship, communications, leadership, finance and worship planning. We are happy to assist churches go from good to great in any way we can.”
In addition to consulting churches on live streaming techniques and options, Toby’s tech team can also assess and make recommendations on projectors, video screens, sound systems, and other technology related to audiovisual and IT needs. “We truly enjoy working alongside other churches to find new ways to build the kingdom,” he adds. “It is always a collaborative partnership where we learn from others while we share our knowledge.”
AUMC’s Rev. Deborah Proctor says, “We are still in the implementation phase but it’s already clear that Toby and Joe are exceedingly helpful in bringing impartial advice. They met with our volunteer team and helped take the conversation to a new level.” Adds Deborah, “We appreciate these specialists helping expand the audio to include our congregational singing. Our worship team is putting their advice into action to consistently guarantee a quality broadcast.”
Toby’s Tip: Churches Qualify for Google Ad Grants
Church leaders may be excited to learn that Google offers tools to help nonprofits be more efficient, more collaborative and to share their story with a wider audience. Toby has experienced the benefits of Google Ad Grants and he is pleased to share this resource with churches seeking in-kind advertising through Google Search.
Q- How do you get started?
A Step one is to register with Tech Soup, Google’s authentication partner, and once they verify the 501c3 status, churches can bid on key words with their grant money and then create text ads. These words act as search engine magnets and can be targeted to geographical areas or broader terms that might draw an international audience.

A- “For Chapelwood UMC, we’ve used our Google Ad Words campaign to promote Easter and Vacation Bible School activities to our local community, and we’ve used this free resource to promote live worship to a much more global audience,” Toby reports. “This is a measurable tool to expand your outreach efforts. We have received many clicks on all of our ads, and we have more and more people telling us that they found us through Google.”
Q- What about the payment information section on the application?
A- Toby explains, “When registering for the grant program, it is important to ignore the payment information section on the application. Skip over it and you will be able to access your ad word credits later in the process.”
Q- How do you select the best “ad words”?
A- There are tutorials that take a little time but are worth. Google Grants allow nonprofits to bid up to $2 max for keywords.
Q- What is Google Grant Ad Words Express?
A- For nonprofits without volunteers or staff to handle this, Ad Words Express is a simpler, quicker resource to leverage keywords. There is a trade off with expediency and effectiveness, but it is still a good tool to boost Internet exposure.
Q- Are there any requirements?
A- Google requires grantees to log in at least every 30 days and modify something. It’s best to set a reminder on the calendar for this. Churches spend a lot of money optimizing their website, but this is a no-cost and low-maintenance option to grow web traffic.”
To pursue technology help or Google Grant advice from this talented volunteer team, email Toby Dagenhart at tdagenhart@chapelwood.org or call the church at 713-354-4464. The Tech Team will consult with other churches, at no charge, as time allows.

Fun Raising While Fund Raising

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
The Crossing Student Ministry used ingenuity to raise $572 for summer camp during their first-ever “Gnarly Necktie” fundraiser this May at Grace Crossing UMC in Longview. Teams of students created several outlandish neckties, then encouraged the congregation to vote with their dollars on the tie Dr. John Whitehurst would model for his sermon message. Although Pastor John does not typically wear a tie to church, he was not surprised the congregation chose an outlandish creation to make the fundraiser a success.
“It is a joy to serve a congregation with such a good sense of humor,” says Dr. Whitehurst. “They made sure that the first time I ever wore a tie on a Sunday morning at Grace Crossing, it was a pretty gnarly one indeed.”
Funds for Fun
 “Many of our students who come on Wednesday nights to The Crossing are not involved with Grace Crossing,” explains Kristen Ray, director of student ministries, “and many of them couldn't afford to go to UM ARMY or Lakeview without some help from the church. So, we have fundraisers throughout the year to help with the camp fund.”
The youth group’s creativity is also evident in the “Undie 500” and “Mystery Ramble” activities. Notes Kristen, “We just wrapped up our annual Undie 500 where we collect underwear for an agency that puts these in a welcome bag when they place children with a foster family. We collected over 500 pair of underwear in a Little Tykes plastic race car bed in our church lobby.”
Next month, students will partner with the Buckner Foundation this year for the annual Summer Feeding Program. Students will provide food, a Bible lesson and an activity/craft for children who live at one of the local low-income apartment complexes.
Last summer The Crossing students went on their first Mystery Ramble to San Antonio. The students are given just enough information to know what to pack, but they don't know where they are going until arriving at their destination. Students are looking forward to the 2017 Mystery Ramble August 3-6th.
The Grace Crossing youth group also has several Mission Mix-Ups throughout the year. These service opportunities involving The Crossing and the Goodness Graces Women’s Ministry are held to intentionally develop intergenerational relationships through mission work. “Our Mission Mix-Ups are a great way for the youth to get to know other adults outside of their family,” shares Kristin. “These events have been a highlight for both the students and the adults.”
Kyleigh Campbell, 16, agrees, saying, “The friendliness of the staff and other adults at the church -- and the mission work that we do together – are some of the reasons that I keep coming back each week!”
Joey Egbe, 13, agrees that their special brand of support is one of his favorite things about The Crossing Student Ministry. “The adults are great examples as servant leaders,” he adds.
“Grace Crossing is full of generous people who enjoy all the wacky, creative and fun ideas we come up with,” says Kristen. “It’s great for the youth to feel the support of the whole congregation, and our church does that so well.”
Communication Director Stephanie Adams adds, “It helps that Pastor John is always the biggest, goofiest ‘kid’ in the room.”

Pastor Makes History

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
The pastor of First UMC Brazoria is serving in a new ministry role for the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.
This May, Rev. Don Brown, FUMC Brazoria, became one of the first six clergypersons in the country to serve in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary’s “Clergy Support” (ACS) program. The ACS program designates qualified clergypersons to assist as unpaid volunteers to supplement the work of the US Navy Chaplains serving the Coast Guard. “It is an exciting honor to provide support to the real heroes of the Coast Guard,” Don shares. “Chaplain, LT, Ken Espinosa of the Houston-Galveston/Corpus Christi sectors is one busy man. It is my privilege to help him out in any way I can,” says Don.
Ken says, “Don is the first UMC pastor to fill this role in Texas.” Adds Ken, “My territory stretches from Lake Charles to South Padre so, if there is an emergency in one area while I am in another area, it will be very helpful to have Don to assist with ministry needs when I cannot be there.” He is thankful to have an auxiliary chaplain resource through this new program, knowing each of the six appointed clergy have been vetted and are trustworthy and ready for service. “Don is a force multiplier,” he adds, “because he will be helping us virtually double our strength to handle ministry needs much more effectively.”
Somewhat unexpectedly, Don became involved with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) ACS program before the program was officially finalized. “While traveling home from Lakeview last year, I received a call from a friend asking for help in providing a funeral location for a mutual friend who was killed in a civilian aircraft crash,” Don explains. “I offered to have the funeral at FUMC Brazoria. Several senior USCG officers were in attendance who mentioned that an effort was underway to add clergy support to the Auxiliary program.”
“Since then, I have been privileged to assist Chaplain Espinosa in conducting a funeral at the USCG base in Galveston for another Auxiliarist,” he adds. “I have also filled in for him at the ceremony recognizing the 47th Master Cutterman, which is the award recognizing an accrued 20 years of sea duty.”
The thorough application process involved a special background investigation, getting recommendations from a USCG Chaplain, a USCG officer and/or commander, verification of academic training, and approval from his District Superintendent, and the United Methodist Endorsing Agency. “I interviewed with the Commander of Sector Houston-Galveston,” Don adds, “and in May I was officially appointed.”
He describes his first “official” task as exciting and humbling. “I offered the invocation at the Coast Guard Foundation's Houston Gala on May 24th. I was honored to meet Commander of District Eight of the USCG, Rear Admiral David Callahan, USCG, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, USCG.” Following the event he received a Commandant's challenge coin as a thank you. “I already have it in a special case,” he adds.
Adds Don, “The next I provided the invocation for the change of command for USCG Cutter ‘Hatchet’ at the Sector Field Office in Galveston.”
Don has been a member of the USCG Auxiliary (Flotilla 6-10 at Air Station-Houston, Ellington Field) since 2008 and served from 1997-1999 before leaving to focus on his seminary education. “Currently, I serve as the Member Training Officer in Flotilla 6-10 along with my recent appointment to the Auxiliary Clergy Support program.”

Summer Bible Challenge: There’s an App for That

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
St. Luke’s Houston launched a Scripture+Shared app that is engaging families, small groups and individuals of all ages in summer Bible reading, study, videos and more. Members and others are joining the 2017 summer challenge. Get started.  

Glance around any public space – the grocery store, the doctor’s office waiting room and even in most restaurants – and you will notice many of the people looking at their phones. For better or worse, smartphones have become permanent fixtures in our lives. With that in mind, St. Luke’s UMC in Houston decided to develop a smartphone app to deliver its flagship Bible study curriculum.
Unlike most church apps that offer sermon videos, Sunday morning check in, a pastor’s blog, or donation options, St. Luke’s wanted its app to have an interactive Bible study format that would allow users to study scripture in community. “Studying the Bible is one of our five ‘Inside-Out Habits,’” explains Suzi Pitts, SLUMC communication director, “because reading the Bible and discussing it with others is life-changing.” Currently over 2,218 have downloaded the app and almost 1,500 within the church have joined the summer challenge – even people from out of state.
St. Luke’s used the platform, Subsplash, for the Bible study app. It was selected for its attractive pricing and easy-to-use interface that allows customized content. One of the advantages of using an app instead of printed material is that the authors do not have to prepare 12 weeks of material in advance of the study’s launch. New materials were added a week at a time, which also gave time for high-quality video production. Small group leaders had everything they needed and many watched the weekly video together from their phones to a TV via a lightning adapter. “People are also excited that the app offers a way to ask questions,” adds Group Life Coordinator, Katie Montgomery Mears.
The church launched this multi-level campaign to encourage members, attenders and the public to download the app and study the Bible with a friend – to share in community.  “I think some of the genius of this app is the conversational aspect of this technology,” adds Suzi. “You can do this with your toes in the sand, during a lunch break, or in a waiting room. I’m also personally using the app to interact with one of my god-daughters, age 19, who loves it because it’s fresh and fun.”

An app captures the imagination of a broad spectrum of ages, especially in the younger demographic, late teens through 40s. For that reason, St. Luke’s did a broad push on their two social media handles, Facebook (@stlukeshouston) and Instagram (@slumc), since the easiest adapters were likely already active on their smart phones and accustomed to downloading new apps. “We did a few boosts on some of our Facebook posts, increasing views and engagement, and more visits to our website,” adds Suzi. “In addition to the church’s in-house publications, a Google AdWords Pay Per Click campaign advertising “Free Online Bible App Scripture+Shared” resulted in a 4% click-through rate and brought many people to our website to download the app and learn more about St. Luke’s.”

The inaugural study, Journey to Jerusalem, took a look at the arc of Jesus' life, and how Matthew, Mark, and Luke have specific themes and agendas as they tell the story. The 11-week study was comprised of weekly written materials and questions for groups to use in a small-group format, and was enhanced by videos of St. Luke’s senior pastor, Dr. Tom Pace, teaching the material. Daily readings and reflections also reinforced the weekly topic. Dr. Pace, Rev. Thomas Harper, Rev. David Horton, and Katie Montgomery Mears were the key authors. Additionally, the study featured family materials, written by Children’s Director Julie Ellerbrock, which offered activities and memory verses.
Find a ‘Bible Buddy’
This summer, daily Bible readings are available and include Scripture, a brief commentary and a question for conversation with a friend. Users can type into the answer bubble and e-mail their thoughts with their ‘Bible Buddy’ or small group. The next major study, on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, will premier in the fall. “We are taking 20 weeks this summer to read Paul’s letters – not in a piece meal fashion but as a narrative, to better see how the gospel fits together,” explains Katie.

Bringing the entire church together through the Scripture+Shared study is about more than marketing and the coordination of GroupLife lessons. St. Luke’s leaders know that language accessibility is a challenge. To address this, the app has a Spanish portal, as many of the members of St. Luke’s Gethsemane campus are Spanish speakers. The spring study was translated into Spanish, and plans call for Swahili translation to include members who are African refugees.

“As someone who has spent years trying to find software or an app that allows me to use my devices to access scripture, I have been mightily frustrated until Scripture+Shared was recommended to me,” Ken McKay, one of the app’s many users, says. “Its interface is incredibly user-friendly and its capacity to provide access to content, reference materials and specific studies could not suit my needs better. What an amazing experience following that study on a daily and weekly basis, bringing a familiar story to life in ways that reading the scripture or other studies have never done for me before. I will continue to use this app and follow all the new studies on the go. With Scripture+Shared, I am only a ‘power on’ away.”

The ease of access to quality Bible study materials brings a new and unique experience to users, and other churches not affiliated with St. Luke’s have picked up on this. St. Luke’s invites anyone to join them as they study the Bible in community by going to the app store and downloading the Scripture+Shared app. “This has brought a new piece of technology to the church and created some buzz,” adds Katie, “and if that gets people cracking open God’s Word, then yeah!”

Lakeview Conference Center Debuts New Model for Summer Camp

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:00
Campers give two thumbs up to the improved camp features and Wesley-inspired curriculum.

Goodbye homework, hello sleeping bags and sunshine! On arrival day for the first two summer sessions at Lakeview, some 1,400 campers came to the piney woods of Palestine by motor coach and car. Students rekindled old friendships and formed new ones as a key part of this annual tradition. “The summer camp staff finally got to meet the campers they’ve been hearing about for weeks,” shares President Rev. Matt Idom. After checking students in, helping unload luggage and conducting health checks, Lakeview leaders hosted the first-ever Sunday arrival cookout with burgers and all the trimmings. 
“When I dropped off the campers on arrival day, they were able to see the layout of Lakeview and be part of the check-in process,” shares Ruth Ann Person, a parent volunteer from First UMC Conroe.
For the past year, the Lakeview staff has been gearing up for Transformed – the theme for summer camp 2017. To make this summer extra special, Lakeview is introducing new curriculum for all age levels, and in all sessions to create consistency.  The curriculum, a mix of hands-on learning, discussion, journaling and instruction, is tailored for four basic age groupings from elementary to high school.  According to camp leaders and youth directors, the new material is solidly grounded in Wesley’s teachings of sanctifying, prevenient, and justifying grace. 
College aged camp lifeguards, program specialists and coordinators began training and staff orientation ahead of camp.  Summer Program Specialist Kyle Garbs, Texas A&M student, shares, “My counselors had such an impact on my life over the many years I came to to Lakeview. Now I’m getting to impact many children over the four weeks I am on staff. I am also helping build relationships via games and activities, and assist with day-to-day camp operations so volunteer staff can have more time with their campers.”
The summer staff has been adding some new traditions with the campers in mind. “Staff development was an intense week of hard work and relationship building that fostered teamwork. That team spirit helped us lead an unbelievable first two weeks of camp,” states Lori Fowler, Jr. High Program Coordinator, Texas A&M Wesley Foundation.  “We could hardly wait for the kids to get coated in colors during the paintball challenge -- one of our newest traditions, and one that is creating lots of smiles, laughter and memories.”
Some of the newest programs include Lakeview Olympics, a County Fair, Messy Games and Aquafest.  According to Hospitality Director Breezy Lake-Wolfe, the different age groups are also having a blast with new activities such as a jump pillow, a rock throwing range, fowling, and bazooka ball.
“It’s been wonderful to have the college staff help with our evening activities and games,” adds Ruth. “In addition to all the new improvements to Lakeview, the food has been great.” Camp photo accessibility is one of the new camp components created for parents.  Lakeview’s media specialists are taking hundreds of shots each day to give parents a sneak peak at their camper in action.  Parents now have the capability of logging onto an online portal and viewing photos daily. The on-line portal can be accessed at www.lakeviewmcc.org. Additional information
is available in the parent guide.  

“Being a Fish Camp alum and now being part of the Christian camp experience at Lakeview has been a whole new journey for me,” notes Kaylyn Knight, Sr. High Program Coordinator from Texas A&M University.  “Having the opportunity to impact kids in a positive way, introducing them to new relationships, and helping them develop a stronger faith has been an incredible experience so far.”


JFON Receives Grant to Increase Legal Representation for Victims

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 00:00
The Texas Bar Foundation has awarded Justice for our Neighbors (JFON) Houston $15,000 to provide affordable, high quality immigration legal services to low income immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, female genital mutilation and human trafficking and educate the public on these issues and immigrant rights.  Funding is for the period of April 28, 2017 to April 27, 2018.

With support from the Texas Bar Foundation and other resources, JFON Houston will be able to continue to provide monthly legal clinics, outreach and education, and direct legal representation to clients, specifically to those in the Galena Park, East End, and the Sharpstown areas of Houston. These particular areas have growing numbers of immigrants and been largely underserved by immigration legal service providers. 

JFON holds monthly legal clinics in two locations in Houston.  Legal services include representation for a variety of immigration cases such as asylum, naturalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and U visas, which aim to protect victims of violence.  Successful resolution to cases result in immigrants being reunited with families, achieving immigration status, and enjoying the right to work and engage in civic participation.  JFON also educates immigrant communities about their rights and responsibilities under the law.

SCJ Mission Academy: September 10-13

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 00:00
The South Central Jurisdiction Mission Academy is an event of the United Methodist Church, where those who desire to serve others through hands-on mission service can come together to learn, share, and discuss healthy and effective ways to do so.

The 2017 dates are September 10-13th at the Leadership Center in Aurora, Nebraska. Please review each course description carefully. It will help to print the course offerings and mark your selections before you begin registration. You can also download a schedule of events.

Download a flyer to share with your church

Learn more and register

Seeking Stories of Inter Faith Partnerships

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 00:00
Each January, Christian denominations in Houston come together to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by worshipping together in a way that respects each different worship style and recognizes the incredible diversity that is found in God’s Kingdom. This beautiful worship is just one expression of the many ways Christians work together to express God’s love.

“The Committee on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns would like to hear stories that illustrate the multi-faith partnerships that are happening successfully around us in congregations in our conference,” shares Rev. Janet Stilwell, FUMC Conroe.

“What we learn together helps us reach out to one another. Please share your stories with Rev. Janet Stilwell at jstilwell@fumc-conroe.org. “We will add your stories to those we have already compiled and put them in our annual report so other congregations can celebrate this step toward unity and also gain from the experiences of others,” she explains.

Wiley College Awarded Grant to Grow Debate at HBCUs

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 00:00
Wiley College has been awarded an $83,000 grant to help grow and implement a speech and debate league throughout Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across Texas. See full story from Marshall News Messenger

World Refugee Day: June 20

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 00:00
Imagine for a moment violence erupts on the street where you live. You hear gunshots and the sounds of people yelling. In that moment you realize that you and your family must leave your home as fast as possible. There’s no time to pack food, clothing, water, or remnants of the memories you’ve made. Home is no longer a safe place. What would you do? Where would you go? 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines a refugee as a person who is forced to flee their home because of violence, war, or persecution. Today, there are 65 million refugees in the world and over half the world’s refugees are children. 

The time is now to show that the global public stands in solidarity with refugees everywhere.  

Today, World Refugee Day, we commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of the world’s refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee their homes.

The General Board of Global Ministries engages with refugees and other immigrants in the United States, primarily in partnership with Church World Service and/or National Justice for Our Neighbors. Global Ministries’ international work with refugees occurs through the United Methodist Committee on Relief and in collaboration with other humanitarian agencies.

Learn More

Retired Bishop John Wesley Hardt Dies

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 00:00

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church regrets to announce the death of Bishop John Wesley Hardt, who passed away June 18, 2017.  He was born on July 14, 1921.

Bishop Hardt was elected to the episcopacy in 1980 and was assigned to the Oklahoma Episcopal Area. He served Oklahoma until his retirement in 1988. He then became Bishop-in-Residence at Perkins School of Theology, later becoming Bishop-in-Residence Emeritus.  He also served as a Trustee of St. Paul School of Theology, Lon Morris College, Southern Methodist University and Oklahoma City University.

He married Martha Carson on Sept. 13, 1943. They have four children: Betty (Mrs. Ed Lesko), William C., John S., and James J. (known as Joe); eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Memorial Service for Bishop John Wesley Hardt will be on Friday, June 23, 2017, at 11 a.m. at Dallas FUMC, 1928 Ross Ave, Dallas, TX, 75201.  (214) 220-2727.

Condolences may be sent to 4833 W Lawther Drive, Overlook 416, Dallas, TX, 75214.

See Bio for more information

Tropical Storm Watch Issued for SE Texas Coast

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 00:00
Potential Tropical Cyclone 3, expected to become Tropical Storm Cindy Tuesday, June 20, is on track for a possible landfall near the Texas / Louisiana border. Affected areas along the coast can expect light storm surge. Areas inland can expect 5-10 inches of rain with the threat of tornadoes and damaging wind.

Please take precautions and prepare yourselves now with emergency supplies for at least 3 days. If you learn of needs for TAC Disaster Ministries response in your area please communicate those needs to your district office and to the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Rev. Scott Moore, at smoore@txcumc.org.

See Additional Information


Discipleship Ministry Online Training Events

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 00:00
UMC Discipleship Ministries online trainings cover a variety of topics. This is made possible by support given to the World Service Fund.
Upcoming trainings include:
June 28: Sermons that Communicate Good News
July 5: Conference and District Lay Leaders: What Do I Need to Know?
July 11: Nominations Leadership Development – What’s My Role?
July 13: The Annual Campaign Toolbox
August 4: A Good Death: What Church Leaders Need to Know About Death Preparation for Older Adults
August 15: Tuesday Tea with Melanie (August)
September 7: Funding Ministry with Five Loaves and Two Fishes
See additional trainings and dates