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Updated: 27 min 21 sec ago

Prayer and Share Group: Hurricane Harvey

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00

A Facebook group has been set up to share Hurricane Harvey related news and information among our churches
and communities. Please join and share any prayer requests, needs, information or photos from your area regarding the storm.
The group is available at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1419850644736724/?source_id=136677901714

Collegiate Connection Launches

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
There’s an easy new way for churches to stay in touch with their college students and seamlessly connect them with Wesley Foundation leaders.
The famous “Who’s on first?” comedy routine finds humor in the confusion of keeping up with baseball players. In a similar fashion, Wesley Foundations struggle every year to know, “Who’s attending our college and what churches are they from?”
With the launch of a new tool known as the Collegiate Connection, that age old dilemma of keeping track of college students once they leave their home church is much simpler. The Collegiate Connection captures contact information on students and provides it in a centralized spot for college campus ministries to access. According to Rev. Elizabeth Duffin, Associate Director of the TAC Center for Clergy Excellence, there have been long-running conversations within the conference office and at the local churches about how to best keep in touch with students coming out of youth groups as they go to college. “This format allows the contact information for graduating seniors to be entered electronically and sent directly to the campus pastor at the school they’ll be attending,” shares Elizabeth. “I’m excited to see how it works this year, and excited to provide students with someone nearby to talk with if they feel called into ministry.”
Clint Wyllie, youth director for Kingwood UMC, knows the benefits of this new system firsthand, as he sees 30+ students graduate out of his youth group in an average year. “I have made an investment in the lives of my students over the years and feel a deep connection, almost like a parent seeing a child leave the nest,” he says. “I love the idea of them flying right into the loving arms of a Wesley Foundation campus pastor who will continue to nurture them in their next steps.” Clint knows that the college world will be bombarding the students with options ranging from parties to fraternities to other distractions, making this connection all the more important.  “I love setting our students and Wesley Foundations up for success,” he adds. “There is a huge benefit in our connectional system that we have underutilized in previous years.”
 Wesley campus ministers are particularly enthusiastic about this new process. “Every year, all of us in campus ministry are anxious to learn who will be coming to our colleges from United Methodist churches,” shares Dr. Sunny Farley, director of Wesley House Tyler. In the past, she says it has been difficult for campus ministers to get this information in a reliable and timely manner due to a decentralized process that would vary from church to church. Notes Sunny, “The exciting thing is that the Collegiate Connection will allow us to connect with these incoming students quickly and invite them to all we have to offer at our campus ministries - from fellowship events to worship services to Bible studies to the ever-popular free lunches!”
“Local congregations sometimes spend close to two decades investing in our youth. Sending them off to college is such a pivotal time in their life.  This tool will allow youth workers, parents, pastors, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, and most essentially, the students a quick and effective connection to the campus ministries,” says Eddie Erwin, TAC Young Adult Ministries Director.


Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
In 2010 Lynn Brown, principal at McDougle Elementary School in Houston, approached Pastor Dan Slagle of Faithbridge UMC with a shocking need. There were children at a Title 1 school in Faithbridge’s backdoor who were desperately hungry.
On the last day before each school holiday, the children went through the lunch line and stuffed their pockets full of food because they knew they wouldn’t eat lunch again until school was back in session. Faithbridge quickly responded to the need by providing bags of food for the children to take home over each school break. Seven years later, that simple feeding ministry has grown into Bridging for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization dedicated to not only providing relief for hungry kids but resources to empower them to escape the cycle of poverty.
A Community in Crisis
Bridging for Tomorrow is committed to bring long term solutions to a community in crisis.
And the need is great. An average of 25 percent of Bridging for Tomorrow’s neighbors, many of them children, are living below the poverty level. 18 percent of the adults have less than a 9th grade education, and 60 percent speak a language other than English at home. Bridging for Tomorrow Executive Director, Maria Belusar, knows these numbers represent daunting challenges for the people she serves.
“The cycle of poverty, lack of education, and risk factors repeat all over again if there is no intervention for the families who fall into these categories,” Maria said. “Bridging for Tomorrow is here to empower families to break the poverty cycle.”

Handmade “Compassion City”

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
Most families spend their summer relaxing by the pool, vacationing with friends or finding new adventures. The Damman family, members of Friendswood UMC, did something unique instead. They researched life in other cultures and built a small village of homes typical of Haiti, Angola, Bolivia, Viet Nam, Fiji and several others. The grass hut typical of Angola also featured a bow and arrow in the scenario.

Each rustic building has its own story, with pictures and real life details. Inspired by the humanitarian aid organization of Compassion International, the Dammans named their village “Compassion City.” FUMC member Ivo Damman says, “Compassion City was built by our family in the backyard over a period of almost three months. Before moving the village to be displayed on the Friendswood UMC campus, we spent the night in one of the buildings so my kids could experience what other, less fortunate children go through.”

Compassion City was relocated to Friendswood UMC in time for 1BigCamp, where it made a tremendous impression on many visitors of all ages. It took a full day to move it and then another day to put the sand in the street and add the accessories.

According to Ivo, the units were built on 4x8 sheets of plywood in order to make them transportable. Additionally, all homes have different floors in them to match the conditions in the corresponding countries. “Inside the buildings we also added components of missions our church has supported over the last years,” adds Compassion City creator Cindy Damman, “such as Operation Christmas Child and Soles4Souls.”
This “barefoot experience” enriched visitors’ understanding of the cultural realities as they walked through the city, and reinforced the need for international mission organizations to solicit shoes. One of the buildings challenged visitors to guess what scenario it represented. “Most were surprised to learn the plywood house was typical to families that worked the fields of California,” adds Cindy. “In this type of residence, a family would struggle with having very few clothes, very little food to eat, and would rarely stay warm at night.”
As camp coordinator, Cindy knew that the students attending Friendswood’s 1BigCamp would enjoy the hands-on opportunity to tour the village. Adds Ivo, “Compassion City left a tremendous impression on the 1BigCamp kids as well as many people in our congregation. It has been heartwarming how children and adults alike have reached out and sponsored a child through Compassion International.” The Dammans know their hard work was not in vain when they hear touching stories that have resulted from the Compassion City experience.  “One little girl brought a can of food to camp the day after walking through Compassion City,” shares Cindy, “because she assumed the compassion children must be hungry. It was also rewarding to see kids that dragged their parents through the city insisting they HAD to sponsor a child. This project has been a great blessing to us all!”
When Friendswood UMC shared the news of Compassion City with local media outlets, the Houston Chronicle shared the story and video online, and Channel 13 covered this touching story as well.  

Experiencing Authentic Worship

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
As Minister of Music & Fine Arts at Strawbridge UMC-Humble, Laurie Purcell believes everything from the first hello until the benediction should be a part of the authentic worship experience. Laurie’s volunteer position as chair of the TAC’s Committee on Authentic Worship gives her the opportunity to link arms with her other team members to offer insight, training, suggested resources and a listening ear to local churches of all sizes. “We’re putting together a tool kit with helpful ideas, workshops and worship planning tips to help churches create an environment where authentic worship can be experienced,” notes Laurie.
Laurie’s team recently changed the name of the committee from Passionate Worship to the Committee on Authentic Worship, to better define their work. “Having interviewed millennials and others,” she said, “we know people are seeking to worship God in a spirit of honest, open, vulnerability.  This involves everything from music selection and style to the physical setting and the delivery and choices of liturgy and prayer.”  With team members from small and larger congregations in urban and suburban locations, the committee wants to consider ideas that will transfer to a variety of settings. “We know that all of our churches do not have orchestras, for example, and large choirs or praise teams.  Nor do they have the option to modify their worship spaces with such things as intricate altar designs and special lighting,” Laurie shares.
The definition of authentic worship can be personal. Team member Rev. Curtis Matthys, First UMC Sealy uses words such as alive and creative. “I believe authentic worship should involve all of our God-given senses, with excellence, to allow the Spirit o God to work through all we do,” Curtis says. Asbury seminary student Adrian Morgan sums it up saying, “It is all about encountering the presence of God.”
Rev. Roger Clayton Jr., associate pastor at FUMC Livingston sees the Authentic Worship team as a place to collectively discuss new ideas brainstorm new ways to unify God’s people. “Authentic worship does not have to be in a sanctuary, or even involve a lot of people,” Clayton shares, “it only requires the inclusion, infusion and surrender to the Holy Spirit.”
Coming Soon
The worship team is already prepping for a worship-themed workshop for the district trainings that will be held in early 2018. “We would love to hear about some ways our committee can be of help to churches across the conference,” says Laurie. “It would be helpful to get calls or emails with any questions or ideas we can incorporate in the training.”
As schedules allow, team members will make themselves available to provide one-on-one assistance for churches, and will also provide recommendations for specialists and consultants that could come alongside a local church and share ideas. The committee is also researching digital resources that might enrich the worship experience.
Other Ideas Being Discussed
Committee member Paula Harrison, the organist and children’s music director at Atascocita UMC-Humble hopes the committee can leverage the Vibrant Church Initiative process to find: 1) churches that are strong in the area of worship, to serve as best practice examples, and 2) those congregations that are focusing on worship as one of their VCI “prescriptions” that might benefit from available expertise. “Our committee represents congregations of most every size,” adds Laurie, “and someday I hope it will have a representative from each district.”
At the suggestion of Russell Martin, director of student ministries at Williams Memorial UMC- Texarkana, a youth worship class was offered for the first time in June at the Texas Conference Choir Clinic at Lakeview. “Maybe we can host virtual field trips to churches with innovative worship styles,” adds Rev. Cary Wilkins, FUMC Fulshear. The committee will also benefit from the input of Rev. Ben Bagley of St. Luke’s UMC- Kilgore and Rev. Kenneth Green of Mt. Vernon UMC, Houston.
Although the planning of worship for Annual Conference is performed by a separate committee, members of the Authentic Worship team have been involved in that process and they have a special appreciation for this dynamic worship gathering. “It was incredible to have this in an actual sanctuary this year,” Roger shares, “It is extra special to give clergy and laity the chance to simply be a participant for a change, and enjoy the time of unification and strengthening.”
To contribute ideas or make a request of this committee, contact Laurie
laurie.purcell@strawbridge-umc.org or 281-360-4500, Ext. 111.

Meet Rachel Roark

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
Rachel Roark’s journey to – and through -- the Texas Conference College Pastoral Internship Program has taken several God-shaped turns. “I grew up in a nondenominational church and stumbled upon Klein UMC by accident during high school when I was looking for a youth group to join,” shares Rachel. “I grew in my faith, community, and relationship with God, and I felt called to ministry shortly after graduation.”

Learning about the TAC College Pastoral Internship Program, Rachel felt this opportunity would be a great next step. She was matched with Rev. Karen Jones of Center FUMC for 10 weeks that ended up being inspirational – for both of them.

Notes Rachel, “This internship has given me the opportunity to find God in new and different areas of my life. I’ve also seen God through the sweet faces in the congregation and through various ministries and worship styles.”
This is the second time that Center FUMC has hosted an intern via the TAC Emerging Leaders program. “Our first intern went on to become our youth director,” Karen says,” so it’s a win-win for all involved. Honestly, I wish I’d had someone to pour into my life during my college years and I might have gone into ministry in my 20s instead of my 40s. We have been blessed this summer to know God is using our church to bring clarity to Rachel’s faith journey and call to ministry.”
Rachel admits her excitement at how much she is seeing God at work in rural East Texas. “This internship has truly helped me discern my calling to ministry and has stretched and grown me in ways I could never have imagined,” she says. Rachel can sense her confidence and faith getting stronger. “Pastoral ministry is like a million ministries in one and I’ve loved every part of it,” she says. “I see God at work in myself. “During my personal quiet time I feel God’s presence in new ways.”
 While Rachel grew up in a big city and a contemporary church environment, she has embraced the rural setting and traditional worship environment at Center FUMC. “Building on her home church experiences, Rachel recently planned a special contemporary service as a special gift to the church and the community,” Pastor Karen shares. “She did an excellent job getting musicians, decorating the space, getting the word out and preaching.” While attendance at Center FUMC averages 120 on a Sunday morning, the evening event drew 87 people from three denominations, and was the highlight of her summer. Adds Karen, “It was her idea and she took care of everything. It was a good way to put into practice what she had been learning through the internship, and people are still talking about it.”
The internship has given Center FUMC the chance to be a teaching church, and Rachel the chance to be a learner and take risks in a safe environment. “I thought preaching would be my least favorite part,” shares Rachel, “but once I got up in front of the congregation for the first time, I could feel God speaking through me.” To prepare her four sermons, Rachel has drawn from topics that have impacted her own life. “I try to bring a message that I would love to hear myself,” she says.
Rachel plans to continue studying at Lone Star College but fully expects to share her leadership skills in a church again someday. “I am realizing how excited I am for the next chapter of my life,” she says. 

Power of Storytelling

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
Whether a story captures your attention or heart has a lot to do with how it is presented. More than a dozen lay and clergy leaders from the TAC recently learned this firsthand at the 2017 Festival Gathering of Biblical Storytelling in Washington, DC. Attendee Rev. Michelle Hall, ChristChurch Sugarland, was fascinated to hear the differences when keynote presenters read the text of one story with several different styles. “In the story of Mary and Joseph finding young Jesus had lingered at the temple, we heard a version where Mary was sad and frustrated, we heard a version where the emphasis was on Jesus assuming his parents knew where he was, and yet another with the emphasis of Jesus being remorseful about them having to look for him,” shares Michelle. “This demonstration showed how people engage and connect with the story has much to do with where the storyteller puts the emphasis.”
The TAC group shared four days interacting with master storytellers and others intent on honing this skill to invigorate their ministry impact.  Attendees were intensely blessed by a unique worship experience that stretched over three hours. Rev. Eleanor Colvin, First UMC College Station, says, “The highlight for me was hearing 50 storytellers convey the entire gospel of Luke from the announcement of Christ’s birth until the announcement of his resurrection. We typically hear Luke in small pieces, but to hear the entire gospel at once was powerful.” Cassandra Nunez, church, enjoyed learning about this skill because storytelling is part of her Latino culture. “Storytelling lets both the storyteller and audience connect to the individuals in the Bible in a very real and deep way,” she says. “You turn the story into a testimony.”
How will this insight be applied?
Rev. Stephanie Snyder, associate pastor of Bering UMC enjoyed learning more about how to bring the familiar Bible stories back to life by using detail to set the scene and by engaging with emotions. “We live in ordinary times, and tend to hear these stories in an ordinary way. However, the Bible stories are often extraordinary and amazing stories that we do not want to take for granted,” Stephanie shares.
Impacted by the content of this workshop, Michelle knows she will study and present scripture differently in the future. Michelle explains, “I think I don't always digest the fullness of God’s word. Sometimes I forget to allow the scripture to stand alone rather than working so hard to tell others what I think it says or what I want it to say.”
Eleanor has already incorporated more storytelling in her sermons and plans to extend this technique to Bible study and small group interaction in the coming weeks. “The Sunday we got back, I crafted my sermon around a story in Revelation that we experienced at the conference, and I want to do more of that in my ministry going forward.”
Rev. Evis Serrano, associate pastor at Texas City UMC, compares the storytelling training to a recital of the scriptures. “The keynote speakers lived the scriptures out with drama in a way that you felt like it was happening in the moment,” Evis shares. She has already been practicing these new techniques in her weekly devotional with the children in the apartments across the street from the church. “Twice a week, I go spend time with 10-15 children, who come running when they see me,” adds Evis. She knows the kids will particularly like a story about the young Jesus. “Since I come twice a week, the children know they have a church that loves them and their parents come to story time as well, happy that someone is teaching their kids something good.”


Thu, 08/24/2017 - 00:00
With three boys of her own, Nicole Miller, takes children’s’ ministry at United Methodist Temple to heart, often pondering new ideas late into the night, in spite of her often-hectic schedule. When asked to serve as Day School Director as well as Children’s Ministry Director, she prayed for the courage and confirmation to serve two jobs in one. “I was ready for God to shut the doors on that idea, but He didn’t,” she admits. “I wanted to be obedient, and God has now blessed me with my assistant director, Lori LaBove, who compliments my weaknesses, and He provided faithful parent volunteers and teachers that make this combination of positions work.”
Rev. Guy Williams and former pastor Dr. Jesse Brannen recognized Nicole’s passion for children and have encouraged her to stretch outside her comfort zone on occasion.  Guy says, “Our vision for this dual-ministry position was to tighten the ministry aspect between the church and school and make it much more than just a school meeting at a church.” This double-director duty has had several clear benefits for the church and the children. “I’ve been able to add more Bible to the day school curriculum, and add chapel to their weekday schedule,” shares Nicole, “which is great for the 63 preschoolers and it ministers to the teachers as well.” Additionally, she provides a natural bridge from the preschool and community back to the church by encouraging the weekday students and their families to attend the Temple on the weekends. The day school, a strong beacon for the church, has a strong reputation in the community as evidenced by an ongoing waiting list.
Adds Nicole, “I would not be in ministry today were it not for Jesse seeing something in me that I had not seen at the time, and I would not have taken on the day school role without the encouragement from Guy and the school board seeing it working as a good fit.” She can see God’s hand in Lori’s role in the ministry, as well. “Since she and her husband have their own business,” adds Nicole, “Lori wasn't looking to work in the day school either, so it is pretty neat how God brought us together. I think that is important to look for people who have gifts that you don't have.”
Popular Programming
To publicize the Temple’s outreach events, Nicole sends flyers to area schools, places posters on community bulletin boards and uses Facebook and Facebook “boosts” to get the word out. “When we survey people after an event, we learn that 90 percent hear about us on social media, and that is an effective, budget friendly way to invite the community.”
  • Some 200 people show up for Breakfast with the Bunny and experience the youth reenacting the Easter story followed by an egg hunt. “
  • The VBS season is Nicole’s favorite, as volunteers and kids just appear. “Our volunteer, Charles Morgan, is a big kid at heart and does story time with puppets and makes it extra fun by doing magic tricks, creating cannons with confetti or a balloon drop on top of the kids. The kids are ecstatic when he is around, so we are blessed to have him in our ministry.”
  • As school gets underway for the fall, the annual Backpack Blessing event brings people from near and far back to church and a routine. “In addition to providing a full breakfast, we will do some fun things in Sunday school and give backpack tags to our children and students of all ages that remind them they have been prayed over,” says Nicole.
  • The Temple’s Jingle Jam event last Christmas was a church-wide production featuring adults acting in skits, youth dancing and singing and children telling the gospel story. “More than entertaining our members, we offered this variety show to brighten the holidays of our community and enrich their lives with a meal and gifts.” With wide participation, Nicole also celebrated this outreach for helping church families to be active in their child’s spiritual journey.
Puppeteer Charles Morgan can often be heard saying, “I’ve got the two best jobs at the church; I get to play the bass in the praise band and I get to work with kids. In fact, I could qualify for senior discounts but, in reality, I’m just a 55-yr-old kid myself.” He has invested in the young for well over a decade because he knows he is planting seeds. “It was heartwarming this summer,” he says, “to hear one of the high school graduates mention Mr. Charles and the puppet Bubba are among the highlights of her childhood at the Temple.”

Following Jesus: Church or No Church?

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 00:00
Hearn Lecture Series - Following Jesus: Church or No Church?  Presented by Bishop Scott Jones September 24 and 25, 2017 at Moody Methodist Church.
The shape of religion in American culture is changing rapidly for a variety of reasons. Yet, the gospel is unchanging, and Jesus Christ is the same “yesterday and today and forever.” Bishop Jones will deliver the Hearn lectures to share how people can best follow Jesus today and what that means for God’s church in general and the United Methodist Church in particular. All clergy and Lay Leaders from Texas Annual Conference churches are encouraged to attend. There is no cost to attend.
See Brochure       Registration

The Hearn Lecture Series is made possible through the generosity of the Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church Permanent Endowment Fund (PEF).

Disaster Ministries Alert: Potential Tropical Storm/Hurricane Harvey

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 00:00

Friends of the Texas Annual Conference,

The remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey are reforming and entering the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico. The National Weather Service predicts that Harvey is likely to reform into a Tropical Storm or possibly even Hurricane and make landfall somewhere along the Texas Gulf Coast on Friday. Please take precautions now to protect your family and property. It is vital that you prepare now.

If you need assistance or learn of any storm-related damage, please forward that information to your local church or district office to be relayed to TAC Disaster Ministries. We are standing by to deploy resources as necessary.

FEMA: How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Harvey Likely to Become Tropical Storm/Hurricane & Make Landfall in Texas on Friday



Developing a Church Communication Plan

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 00:00

Do you have a communication plan for your church? It's a way to outline what means of communication will be used to disseminate information to specific audiences. UMCOM has put together a list of resources to help churches develop a plan for their own community. 

Learn More

Prayer Vigil for Our Immigrant Neighbors

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 00:00
On Tuesday, August 29th from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM, Bering Memorial UMC, in partnership with Texas Impact, will be hosting an interfaith prayer vigil and information session as SB4 goes into effect. They will gather to pray for immigrant neighbors and law enforcement and offer information for congregations.

Church Videos Engage

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
Forty-five percent of people surveyed are watching over an hour of video each week on Facebook or YouTube, and viewers are watching over 100 million hours of Facebook video each day. This positions the churches of the Texas Annual Conference to use video in new ways to connect and promote the work they are engaged in to help others glorify Christ.
Brant Mills, Associate Director of Media of the Texas Annual Conference shares a few ways that churches can begin to use video to get their message out.
“Videos tell the churches story in such a captivating way,” says Mills. “And with all the free and low-cost resources available today, practically anyone can share informative videos about their ministry online to a wide variety of audiences in a myriad of ways.”
Sermons Online
The primary way a church can begin to use video is through ‘sermons on demand’ or through live streaming sermons. This is a great way for people in your congregation to watch sermons when they are traveling or sick or to just catch up on a series. Some churches even have ex-pat followers.
“Posting these videos as an archive on the church website is always a good idea,” Mills says. “But some churches are going a step further and cutting short snippets of dynamic, poignant moments each week and sharing short sound bites of the message through social media channels.”
Full Sermon (More Examples at http://www.txcumc.org/sermonarchives)

Sermon Snippet:

Another great idea for churches is to host a Post Script video after the sermon. This would give church members a chance to ask questions about the sermon by texting their questions to the church. The pastor would answer these questions in an interview format and post the video to the website. “I really love the Post Script video idea. It allows leaders to cultivate great conversations and dive deeper into the theological questions about Sunday’s sermon,” Mills says.

Post Script Entry Form / Follow Up

Q&A Format:

Get to Know Us
Another way churches use video is to promote the church either internally (during the worship service) or externally (on the web site).
One great option is to give a church tour and display it on the church website. “The new narthex design may be really nice, but you don’t just want to display empty facilities. Show off your ministries and the work you are doing in the community with video of people occupying those areas actively,” says Mills. Mills explains that it is important to show kids playing on the playground and people talking at your welcome center or coffee area to display who you are. These promotional videos can also highlight staff and volunteer roles, testimonials and community needs. Mills says it is important to discuss milestones as well as community needs and offer ways for viewers to connect and get involved.
More and more ministry leaders are developing promotional videos to tell the story of what is happening in the lives of their church. They are teasing sermon series, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Mills recommends keeping these videos short -- one to two minutes max. “Focus on the best elements and always leave the audience wanting more” he says. There is an opportunity here to highlight who you are as a church and bare your soul, Mills explains. One way a church can set itself apart is by discussing events in the news and offering perspective on local or national issues. “This shows you care and are engaged,” says Mills.
Promotional Video Examples:

We would love to hear from you if your church is using video in interesting ways. We are always looking for blogs at http://www.txcumctoolbox.com/

September Vision Days

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
The ministry landscape is changing on a global scale, and many believers – and churches may not be ready. Instead of trying to get people in the pews on Sunday, what if the Church got creative about venturing out to wherever people gather? One such church in Florida has launched a Burritos and Bible ministry in the corner of a Mexican food restaurant. Others are starting spiritual discussions anywhere from parks to tattoo parlors.
Clergy and laity across the Texas conference will have the opportunity to be re-energized in the Wesleyan tradition of relational evangelism this September. Christ Church UMC in The Woodlands is hosting a Fresh Expressions Vision Day from 9am-3:30pm on September 28 and Longview FUMC is hosting the same type of event on September 30.
Many who have experienced this type one-day interactive workshop are raving fans. Anna Rohde, administrative assistant for the North District says, “It really helps to hear inspiring examples of how we can be more like John Wesley by going where the people are.” After a Fresh Expressions ministry representative held a brief training at the North District training this spring, attendees wanted more. “The Introduction to Fresh Expressions was by far our most popular workshop and greatly helped attendees begin to think about the church in ways other than organized religion on Sunday morning,” notes District Superintendent Rev. Chuck Huffman. Thus the idea was born to offer a full Vision Day in two locations as a catalyst to help participants see creative new mission fields in their own regional contexts.
“This style of interpersonal outreach addresses the people that may never darken the doors of a church,” adds Rev. Morris Matthis, Director of the Center of New Faith Communities for the TAC. “Vision Day will teach us how to do that, and be a unique workshop for pastors, evangelism chairpersons, leaders and laity alike.” Invitations also have been extended to the Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma Conferences.
 Chuck is intrigued with the idea of a kayak ministry. “I could see something where folks meet on weekends for a devotional and share time before they head out on the water,” adds Chuck. “I can also think of so many opportunities in our area with regard to select ball teams that travel and play various places year round. We pastors may gripe that this takes people out of traditional church instead of seeing this is a fresh expression opportunity to offer a worship service to hundreds of people gathered for competitive events.” He is encouraged to hear about ministries cropping up in coffee houses to microbreweries.
Dr. Marc Donaldson, associate pastor of Christ Church UMC in The Woodlands finds it interesting that Fresh Expressions is an international movement gaining momentum in the United States. “I’m excited to partner with Fresh Expressions and host this Vision Day,” he says,because it seems like people are less inclined to come to church and less interested in a traditional church model. God has given a vision to some of our people here at Christ Church for doing church differently to reach unique people groups. Fresh Expressions will help us clarify that vision. If you feel the same way about your mission field you should come to The Woodlands Vision Day at Christ Church on September 28.”
Chuck believes the September Vision days will help identify the ‘pioneers’ that are gifted to lead these types of new faith community efforts. “How exciting that these grassroots efforts can percolate up through the laity,” he adds, “and if our job is to make disciples, this Vision Day will open up interesting and exciting possibilities to do that -- with more impact.”

Save By Registering Now
The early bird price (available before September 15) is $25 for the day and $35 thereafter.
To attend September 28 go to http://freshexpressions.org/event/woodlands-vision-day/
To attend the September 30th event, register online at http://freshexpressionsus.org/event/vision-day-longview.
*Childcare at the Longview event is available with a reservation.

Additional information at http://www.txcumc.org/fresh

Meet A.J. Dallas

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
Truth be told, TAC College Pastoral Intern Aaron Dallas, Jr. (A. J.) started actively serving in church ministries at the young age of seven. He now finds himself serving as an intern at Foundry UMC in Cypress and enjoys reflecting on his journey to this point.
With parents who both balanced dual careers including pastoral roles, he recognizes his childhood was sculpted and molded in faith. Additionally, a variety of roles built his leadership skills along the way. A.J. knows that faith permeated his athletic and academic life in high school where he served his varsity teammates as prayer captain. “As I grew older I began to serve in children's ministry, as an usher and greeter,” A.J. shares. “I always sensed that my vocation was to preach but it took time to gain clarity in my daily journey.”
He continued his family’s legacy by attending Texas Southern University, and getting involved in a Christian organization called Intervarsity. There he served as the Evangelism and Discipleship Coordinator and facilitated Bible Studies on campus. Adds A.J., “All of these roles helped clarify my calling. I accepted my call to preach my freshman year with guidance from my Intervarsity leader. Looking back, I see how each of these various steps played a huge role in my becoming a pastoral intern.”
This summer, A.J. is experiencing hands-on ministry opportunities while serving at Foundry UMC under Rev. Ray Hughes. “The best part so far has been preaching my first sermon,” he says. “After the services, two tearful ladies told me how my message spoke directly to them, which left me completely speechless at first. That same day, I learned that a young man accepted his calling to preach.”
He has enjoyed debriefing and reflecting with Pastor Ray, and feels privileged for this unique training. Adds A.J., “Pastor Ray has given me the opportunity to take a front row seat to observe counseling sessions, sermon preparation, and talking to companies that visit the church for business-oriented matters. I have definitely learned that the role of the pastor extends way outside of the pulpit.”
Providing time for intentional discernment and observation, the pastoral internship has reaffirmed A.J.’s commitment to pursue pastoral ministry. “I have seen God at work through me as I share his word, mentor youth at the church, and through a number of our outreach initiatives,” he shares. I definitely want to seek other college students who feel like they have a call to ministry, and share my experience in this program. Hopefully I can get some of my college friends to understand what an awesome opportunity it is to serve a church for 10 weeks as a pastoral intern.” 

Mentoring Toward Ministry

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
Thanks to a Young Clergy Initiative grant from the Global Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Lakeview Methodist Conference Center will receive $64,700 over the next four years to expand and strengthen The Andrews Program (TAP). Created in 2012 through a generous gift from Dr. Duane and Patty Andrews of Tyler, TAP seeks to identify and encourage young persons who feel God is "tapping" them to serve. According to Lakeview President Rev. Matt Idom, TAP’s mission is to help assist each student as they discern their specific paths to ministry.

Rev. Patricia Lund, associate pastor at FUMC Athens, is excited to oversee the grant because she felt a nudge toward ministry at Lakeview camp years ago, and has been helping Matt with students and this program since the summer of 2015.  “Students that sign up to be in TAP are letting their families, pastors, District Superintendents and Lakeview know they are discerning their next steps,” explains Patricia. “As their call reshapes them, we will be here to answer questions about ordination and connect them to other programs.”
Nicholas Trainer, a member at Wesley Beaumont and a freshman at McNeese State University, is already stretching his ministry leadership muscles. He says, “The thing that excites me most is the TAP program gives all of us a chance to meet other students with the same values. I am already volunteering to lead in new ways at my home church, Wesley Beaumont.”
The TAP grant will also help fund three scholarships for TAP students to attend Texas Youth Academy and help two college students to attend the Texas Annual Conference.

This summer, 83 students signed up for the TAP Program during camps at Lakeview, bringing the total number to 205. These students, under the TAP expansion, will receive birthday cards, and other personalized mail and an invitation to the upcoming TAP retreat in 2018. “I’m excited to send our 30 college students care packages and get them excited about getting mail,” says Patricia.
College aged TAP students also have the opportunity to apply and work at Lakeview as part of summer staff. Katie Gage, a sophomore at John Brown University and from Lanes Chapel UMC, was on staff this summer. “TAP is a great way for young people to connect with others experiencing the same call to ministry,” shares Katie, adding, “I am proud to be a member.”

Caroline Collins, Friendswood UMC, a sophomore at Southwestern University signed up this summer and knows she wants to be an elder. “What excites me the most is learning about the ordination process and those I will meet walking this path of life with me,” she says. “I am currently in the exploring candidacy stage of ordination in the UMC so my next step is attending Candidacy Summit 2017.”
As TAP grows, Lakeview expects to see more pastors for The Texas Annual Conference develop out of the program. “I heard my call to ministry when I was 14 years-old, right here at Lakeview,” Matt shares. “With so many people receiving a call to ministry at camp, I am glad we have a program to help follow up with and encourage young persons on their journeys of discernment. Indeed, Lakeview is the Cradle of the Call.”

Miracles in Mission

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
Serving God by Serving the Needy
When the pastor of FUMC, Bullard approached Hazel to lead the church mission program, she knew right away that she wanted to begin close to home. With a passion for the suffering, and a meager $200.00 annual budget, Mission House was born. Hazel quickly realized that $200.00 per year was insufficient to meet her neighbors’ many needs, so she shared her vision with her community. Miracles followed as volunteers joined her in service, and donations poured in to help bridge the gap in funding.
For the first few years, Mission House’s ministry was small- a feeding program that met the needs of seven or eight families each month and a food pantry. But Hazel soon discovered that God wanted Mission House to be more.
God’s Direction in His Miraculous Provision
One cold winter day, a man stopped by the church to ask if Mission House might have coats to fit his four sons. At first, Hazel wasn’t optimistic. After all, Mission House ran a feeding program, not a clothing closet.
Then Hazel remembered some bags of donated clothing that had been in the floor of the food pantry for months. She brought the bags out, and placed them on a table in front of her visitor.
“Here,” she said, “you can look through these to see if you can find anything.”
One after another, the gentleman pulled four coats from the bags…each a perfect fit for one of his sons.
Hazel saw God’s direction in the midst of His miraculous provision. She began a clothes closet ministry that day, and asked Katherine Bunce to lead it. 
The miracles didn’t end there for the clothing ministry. One day in the middle of winter, the inventory of clothing dropped dangerously low. Katherine stepped into the closet, and bowed her head in prayer.
“Father, this is your closet. Please fill it.”
Within an hour several people arrived with large bags of clothing donations. God had miraculously provided again, but He was far from finished. In fact, His plans for Mission House were bigger than Hazel and her army of volunteers could have ever imagined.
God Goes Before Us- The Mission House Clinic
In 2006, God grew Mission House through the establishment of the Mission House Clinic in the former FUMB church parsonage. “We created makeshift room dividers by hanging bedsheets on wires,” Hazel said. “We had a donated exam table, one doctor, and one nurse practitioner.”

Today, four doctor and several nurses are joined by other volunteers to provide medical care to more than 1,400 patients each year. Local dentist, Dr. Brandon Allen, has offered his services at the clinic as well. Each week patients have access to psychiatric under the care of Dr. David Self. This fall Mission House and Clinic will host an official grand opening for their beautiful new facility that will house all three ministries- food pantry, clothing closet, and clinic under one roof. It is beyond anything Hazel could have imagined.
“When I walked in the doors of our new building for the first time I just kept repeating, ‘This is all God,’ Hazel said. “This ministry has taught me that God truly goes before us. He knows what we need before we do.”


Transforming Men’s Ministry

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
Leaders in United Methodist Men (UMM) across the globe are working to implement a new model and vision for men’s ministry. Dan Ramsey, who has served as UMM president from the local church to the national level, recently stepped in as Interim UMM President for the Conference and is leading this charge. He has seen men’s ministry done well and is excited to share ideas, make new connections and restart this powerful discipleship tool within the local church. He’s currently focused on 1) rebranding, 2) recruiting and 3) resourcing. “Bishop Jones is very supportive of our efforts to reboot men’s ministry in the Texas Conference and beyond,” Dan shares.
  • Rebranding:  Dan believes UMM can benefit from a fresh identity and new energy. “It feels like I’ve been involved in UMM since the beginning of time,” says this 30-yr veteran of the Houston police force, “but that’s because I’ve seen and been a part of so many activities that have impacted lives in a powerful way. UMM leaders are starting to refer to it simply as men’s ministry to help revitalize this great aspect of the local church.” He says another recent initiative is breathing life into this impactful area of ministry. Three years ago UMM started a national contest to create competition among local men’s groups. “Our national Top 5 competition is giving us the opportunity to find amazing stories of men’s ministry at the local and district and conference levels that we can then share what a solid men’s ministry looks like and inspire others with new ideas,” he says. He gives a shout out to Wiley FUMC in north Texas for placing in the Top 5 two years in a row, and number four in the country.”
  • Recruiting: “Developing principled Christian leaders is the primary mission of our denominational men’s ministry,” adds Dan, “which is reinforced by the TAC goal of training lay and clergy leaders. As Interim President, I want to spark leaders at the local church and district level to share what’s going on in men’s ministry across the conference.” He knows there are men in the conference that would consider stepping up to be leaders that would encourage men’s groups and scouting chapters to be more effective at making disciples for Christ. “The men’s ministry at Jones Memorial UMC is to be commended for their strong hunger advocacy and round-the-clock Upper Room prayer line commitment,” adds Dan. To help rebuild men’s ministry in the TAC at the local, district or conference level, contact Dan.
  • Resourcing: I am also very excited to remind our local churches of the resources available to strengthen their leadership development efforts.” Dan recommends the Advanced Lay Speaking course to UMM leaders seeking to have an impact on others, and points to the online training available to help youth to be effective leaders through scouting.
Rich Rewards
As a leader in men’s ministry since the 1960s, Dan has built an amazing network of friends across the country, and served in countless other rewarding activities. “When I was the national UMM president,” he shares, “we did a mission project at a local school during annual meeting week. We suspected many of the children in this underprivileged elementary school would go hungry over spring break, so we bagged rice and beans for the entire school.” His heart was warmed at their response. “The kids drew pictures and sent us notes of how much they appreciated this -- and that -- along with knowing that might have been all they had to eat that week, is one of the highlights of my long involvement in men’s ministry.”
Additionally, another ministry moment from Dan’s leadership highlight reel is more recent and more personal. “As a former Houston policeman, I knew what the officers in Beaumont and Baton Rouge experienced when they lost fellow officers in recent years,” recalls Dan. He was able to take several cases of the devotional, Strength for Service, which was initially created by an Eagle Scout and printed by the United Methodist publishing house, at their tough time of loss. “I have been through similar shocks like this and really wish a devotional had been around when I was a policeman. So, it is always a special opportunity for me to make an impact on the lives of first responders and help ease their burden.”
Dr. Jesse Brannen, director of the TAC Center for Congregational Excellence applauds Dan as a longtime UMM leader, knowing this is one of the keys to the health and vitality of the local church. “I can already see that Dan is giving this program a new energy that will translate into more active men’s ministry across our connection.”

Trinity UMC Hosts Free Health Fair Planning Event

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
FREE TRAINING Saturday September 16, 2017 10:00 am Trinity United Methodist Church 2600 Holman Houston, TX 77004.

A health fair can be easy to organize if you allow enough time to plan and promote, use a step-by-step approach, and invite a variety of health- and wellness focused organizations to offer their expertise.

MD Anderson Cancer Center is offering a free training with an easy-to use evidence based guide on how to plan a health fair that could benefit your congregation and community. Join us and learn more about this curriculum that can help make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Event Flyer

Trinity UMC Hosts Mental Health First Aid Training

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00
Written By Dianne Akins Iglehart, Trinity United Methodist Church
On Saturday, August 5th several congregants and congregations received an 8 hour Mental Health First Aid Training held at Sat. James Episcopal Church and conducted by NAMI of The Greater Houston Area, and Eagleton Consultants Firm of Houston. The captive audience was led by Mrs. Angelina Hudson, the Education Director of NAMI, and Mr. Gary Eagleton of Eagleton Consultants.
They were a dynamic team of experts that gave all participants a strategic applicable toolkit of strategies to use to help individuals and families that need resources and appropriate actions to take to get professional assistance, heal and reconcile.  The training was a great start and example of ecumenical sharing of ideas, information, needs, and collective resources to better serve our families, congregations, neighboring communities and mission fields. It only takes a spark to get a fire going!
We are fired up and ready to serve. We hope to keep this momentum going in the Third Ward Community.