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It’s Official: “Adoption Merger” Between Chapelwood Houston UMC and Fair Haven UMC is Underway

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00
Truth be told, the process of shaping the partnership between Fair Haven and Chapelwood Houston began early this year when members of both congregations began discussing the “what ifs” and the opportunities to double their ministry impact as a team. Central South District Superintendent Andy Noel describes it this way: "Following votes by both congregations, the adoption merger between Fair Haven and Chapelwood is made possible by a shared love of the Spring Branch mission field. United by the Holy Spirit and a sense of excitement, these congregations are coming together to serve as a vibrant witness to the love of Jesus Christ. Spring Branch is a microcosm of Houston . . . diverse, growing, and dynamic. I envision this type of ministry merger model will someday help other churches to more effectively serve God's people along the highways and byways of our great city – and conference."
Fair Haven UMC Pastor Paul Thomasson has rallied behind this idea from the start, calling this a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for Fair Haven to have the financial and staff support of Chapelwood to continue and expand their continued ministry impact for generations to come. Lay Leader Lisa Johnson has been in the center of the action on the Study Team and now serves as a member of the Communications Team and Co-chair of the Ministry and Missions Team.
Next Steps
“Now we move to the just do it phase,” reports Lisa. “The transition team, with diverse representatives from both congregations, is planning to meet monthly, and the “Tiger Teams” – or task teams – are in the process of being formed and will do the labor of gathering information and documents, assembling specific strategies, and generally keeping the transition team informed.” The various teams, she says, are working together to make the transition “gentle and joyful” and team members know to expect the unexpected. “We don’t know how long this will take, so we are planning for plenty of prayer as we watch, listen, and move forward.”
Stronger Together
Chapelwood Pastor Dr. John Stephens is excited about Fair Haven’s great history in the Spring Branch neighborhood of Houston. Notes John, “Fair Haven members had the desire and the love for their church and the community, but due to a lot of factors they were not able to accomplish their mission as effectively as they would have liked. Therefore, this merger is a union of two churches who want to do kingdom work in the community of Spring Branch by aggregating resources, aligning strategies, and learning best practices from each other as we work together.”
He is also energized by the model of this merger as a strategy for revitalization in the United Methodist Church. “Churches often focus on a lot of issues that really don’t strike at the heart of our mission – but this merger is laser focused on making disciples of Christ and making the kingdom of God a reality in our communities.”
Pastor John and Transition Team leader Rev. Josef Klam believe the first-year goals are exciting and realistic. For example, Rev. Andy Cunningham will be the community pastor at the Fair Haven campus and will spend much of the summer getting to know the people and the community. Adds John, “We have several consultants coming in to help us think through mission and ministry in the short- and long-term as we work through the changes that will make us stronger. We want to clarify and raise our multi-cultural profile in the community to make sure all feel welcome in this diverse section of Houston.”
Members of Fair Haven UMC will become members of Chapelwood UMC - worshiping and participating in the Fair Haven worship community with the same structure that is in place for all the Chapelwood worship communities, which include Sanctuary, Mercy Street, The Center for Christian Spirituality, Upper Room, The Branch, and Holy Family.
Strategy and Mission
According to Chapelwood Executive Pastor of Discipleship Bob Johnson, “Part of Chapelwood’s vision for reaching Houston for Jesus Christ includes revitalizing its current worship communities and developing new worship communities where God leads. Several years ago, the church made a commitment to be open to partnerships that could advance the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.” Through the merger, Chapelwood welcomes its seventh worship community as the Fair Haven Worship Community of Chapelwood United Methodist Church.

Personal Perspectives
Debbie Eng, a Fair Haven UMC member for 17 years, is using her professional experience on the Transition Team. “I have project management experience with mergers and acquisitions, as well as web experience and data consolidation -- all of which the transition project will use,” she says. ”I am most excited about the opportunity to reach so many more people. The people around me are excited about the changes and can't wait to start. Likewise, Tracy Little, the outgoing Board of Stewards/Administrative Board Chairman at Chapelwood adds, “What excites me about this merger is the potential it brings for expanding the Kingdom and reaching more folks for Christ. How quickly our two congregations adopt changes -- that help us move forward together -- will determine where we are three years from now.”
Transition team member Mark Greek has a membership history with both congregations. He says, “I think both congregations know there will be inevitable bumps in the road, but in my mind, there is no question that God's hand is on this merger and that together we are in a much stronger position to serve the Kingdom than we would be separately!”
Chapelwood has these unique worship communities that maintain their own context and DNA,” adds Josef, “which is particularly important to me in this case, because I grew up at Fair Haven – baptized and confirmed there, and have enjoyed reuniting with longtime members that remember me as a youngster. I know the process from here won’t be easy but I am convinced it will be a great journey.”

New Communication Director: Shannon Martin

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00
After serving the conference for 5 years as Communication Director, Paula Arnold is retiring on June 15, 2017. Bishop Scott Jones has selected Shannon Martin as the new director beginning June 5th. Shannon was the communications director for the conference from 1995 to 2000. At that time, she resigned to be a stay-at-home mom. She did however, stay active in her local church. She was part of a new church plant that has grown into Faithbridge UMC in Spring, Texas.  As is often the case in church plants, Shannon was part of a lay member team that acted as volunteer church staff for the first year.  The success of Faithbridge is known throughout the conference as one of our most vital, growing congregations.

Shannon has taught a course title “Don’t Panic, It’s Just the Media” to seminaries, and other non-profit organizations. She has also offered her talents to numerous entities including Providence Classical School and National Charity League.  Shannon is a semi-professional photographer as well as public relations and marketing professional.

She lives in Spring, Texas with her husband David, daughter, Zoe, (18) and son, Wyatt (16). Shannon shares, "I am delighted to be returning to the Texas Conference and look forward to helping our conference and churches tell its story through every Communications means possible."

Tips for Pastors and Congregations in Transition

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 00:00

It is that time again - time for boxes, packing tape, moving trucks, and parsonage workdays. The Bible has wisdom to offer for those moving appointments, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) And for those that seem to have nothing to hang on to in the midst of change - “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). In addition to the wisdom from scripture here is a tip, a trick, and a resource for you to use no matter where you are in the constellation of change.

Transition Tip: Watch for the End of the Honeymoon
Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming, and performing" in his 1965 article, "Developmental Sequence in Small Groups." He used it to describe the path that most teams follow on their way to high performance. Later, he added a fifth stage, "adjourning" (which is sometimes known as “mourning").  Pastors who are moving and churches who are welcoming new clergy can take a tip from Dr. Tuckman.  The first stage in creating a team is ‘forming.’  We’ve all experienced the polite, positive atmosphere that permeates the first few months after the pastor arrives. There is an excitement in the air about what new things might be possible.  We sometimes refer to it as the ‘Honeymoon Stage.’  We may not notice it in the moment, but we all know, as with other relationships, it will eventually move into the second stage, which the author calls ‘storming.’ Storming happens as people test the boundaries. It may be a challenge to the vision or mission of the church.  It might be a challenge to the pastor’s authority. More often than not it is a conflict or simple misunderstanding between team members' natural working styles. Here is the tip: Watch for the change from forming to storming. Instead of deciding that the ‘thrill is gone,’ remind yourself that you, the church you serve, and the leadership you share is normal. And, know that experience of ‘storming’ only means you are moving towards high performance.

Transition Trick: Prepare a (Professional) Description of Your Leadership Style to Share
While you are enjoying the ‘forming’ stage, begin to build trust with your leaders by sharing about yourself and your leadership style. A great resource for clergy in knowing your style and sharing it is your Birkman Personality Report Binder. Most Texas Annual Conference clergy have a Birkman Binder through either the Refresh Renewal Program of the Center for Clergy Excellence or through the Residency Program provided through the Board of Ordained Ministry.  The report binder contains pages and pages that describe you: your interests, you at your best, the environment that you thrive in, and what it looks like when you burnout, blowup or fizzle out.    To help your new staff and leaders better understand you, consider pulling a few highlights from your Lifestyle Grid. Take the last sentence of each of the paragraphs and combine them to make a short blurb about your leadership style.  For example if I were to do that with my report binder and substitute my name, I would have a blurb that says:

Peter enjoys very people-centered activities. When Peter is working effectively, he is generally direct and commanding. To be most effective, Peter responds best to people who are objective and decisive. When other people don't deal with Peter the way his needs suggest (by being objective and decisive), he may become impatient and demanding.

Now you have a ready-made statement to use to help others understand your style.  The statement could be a helpful trick to avoiding some of the obstacles that can turn a time of ‘forming’ into a time of ‘storming.’

Resource for Those in Transition
For those interested in a resource to use in light of the above discussion about leadership transitions consider using a coach or consultant.  For those who are welcoming a new pastor, or a new associate pastor, or for pastors who are taking their first ‘pastor in charge’ appointment I would encourage you to take advantage of a structured coaching arrangement with one of the Texas Conference Birkman Team Coaches. The structured program could include a preview phone call with a coach to orient leaders to the program and to establish a timeline.  Then the welcoming key leader (Senior Pastor, Chair of PPRC, etc) and the new leader (Associate Pastor, Senior Pastor, etc.) receives a Birkman Report that compares their similarities and differences. The report highlights only the most significant differences and the strongest similarities. The report also has phrases to help each leader understand the other leader’s differences in terms that make sense. The program could include one-on-one phone coaching for both the welcoming leader and the new leader.  Some programs also include check-in phone calls for the new leader at 1, 3, and 6 months into the new appointment. These check-ins can be expanded to include coaching around an action plan, or goal setting, etc.

An Example
When Rev. Guy Williams learned of his appointment two years ago to The United Methodist Temple in Port Arthur, TX he called a member of the Texas Conference Birkman Coaching Team and asked about resources that might help speed up his orientation and joining of the team. As the Texas Conference Birkman Team Coordinator, I suggested utilizing a program of paired reports and coaching phone calls to help Rev. Williams lead the current intact staff and leadership team into the next chapter of ministry along with a team of lay staff and a full-time ordained associate pastor.  Rev. Williams said, “I was excited about having a clergy colleague as a partner in ministry, in particular one who was familiar with the congregation from having served here the previous year.”

Rev. Williams and Rev. Adam Muckleroy both had previously taken the Birkman Method Assessment. I scheduled a pre-consult with both pastors individually then shared paired reports with both of them at once.  In addition to the reports, both pastors were given some suggested actions to help build trust, and collaboration between their working styles.

When asked what it was like to receive the comparative reports Rev. Williams said, “Having the comparative reports was an exercise in humility, in a good way. Adam and I used this exercise only a month or so into our relationship, so I was able to operate with much better self-understanding and understanding of him from the very beginning. I gained insights that would have taken at least six to nine months to come by otherwise.”

Rev. Williams saw the benefit of the structured program. He says, “The most direct outcome of using the comparative reports and a structured discussion was taking into account insights into our relationship immediately in our weekly one-on-one meetings. I was able to give Adam the sort of feedback that is more effective for him. Also, I found it helpful for him to have permission to ask more clearly for what he needed from me on a project. I better understood where he was coming from because of our comparative reports and conversation.”

Rev. Williams also reflected on how previous transitions could have benefited from a similar program by saying, “I would have loved having this experience when I was an associate pastor. I worked for some wonderful senior pastors, but our ministry partnership would have been greatly enhanced with the deeper and more relevant understanding that comes through this process.”

Adam admits that this time of pastoral change brought a mixture of excitement and apprehension. “Comparing our Birkman reports gave us a good starting place to get to know each other. This gave me trust in Guy that he cares enough to work through the comparative report with me. Since I am highly detail oriented, it was helpful to learn that Guy had a natural optimism and confidence in seeing the big picture which helped me to wait on the detail questions and to enjoy and dream about the ‘what if’ questions with him.”

If you are interested in learning more about how the Birkman test can help you during a transition and beyond, or would like to arrange for your leaders to benefit from a structured program to help establish trust and collaboration among new leaders, call Dr. Peter Cammarano at 979/665-7096 or email petercammarano@gmail.com or Nancy Slade at Center for Clergy Excellence.




Third Ward Community Cloth

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 00:00
The Church and Society Committee of Trinity UMC Will Host the Third Ward Community Cloth June 6. 2017 from 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. at 
Trinity United Methodist Church 2600 Holman, Houston, Texas.

Thread Focus:  Mental Health Awareness and Services in the Houston Community
Guest Speakers:  Dr. Clemelia Richardson, LCSW Administration Manager, Mental Health, City of Houston
Tiffanie Williams- Brooks-MA, LPC- Practice Manager 
The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD
Miguel Navarro- MA, LPC - Clinical Team Leader- The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD
Houston Police Department- Mental Health Division
Information tables and resources will be provided by the following agencies and organizations:  The Golden Care Initiative – The United Methodist Church and The Methodist Hospital- Texas Annual Conference
My Brother’s  Keeper Program, City of Houston  - DBSA of Houston- NAMI Services of Houston—The Faith, Family and Health Collaborative, MD Anderson Hospital -Houston ISD Student Support Services

Charis Spiritual Director Training

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 00:00
Charis Spiritual Director Training Class 5 begins with a Lakeview retreat at the end of August. 
Application deadline has been extended to July 15!

For more information about spiritual direction, the training program, or to begin the application process, visit http://charis-txcumc.org/


Blueridge UMC to Host "Freedom School" this Summer

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 00:00
Members are bridging to the community by hosting a learning enrichment program for elementary children this summer.
For six weeks of summer, 30 underserved elementary students will enjoy affirmation and attention while sharpening their reading skills at Blueridge UMC near downtown Houston. “In partnership with HYPE Freedom School and support from The Moody Methodist Permanent Fund, we will host the national Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School™ for the first time,” explains Rev. Romonica Wardley, “This will allow us to offer 30 students from Reynold’s Elementary the opportunity to avoid the summer learning loss, and thus joining with the school in their goal of increasing and improving reading skills of their students.” It is also likely that the Blueridge UMC youth will be involved in various ways with students who visit their church campus.
This special opportunity started with a Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) prescription encouraging church leaders to meet with community leaders and learn more about specific needs within their immediate community. “The goal was to help us refine our vision by connecting the needs of the community with the gifts, passions and skills of the congregation,” she shares, “and those meetings eventually led us to partner with Reynold’s Elementary School where I now serve on the Shared Decision Making Committee with Houston Area Urban League, and HYPE.” Though these conversations happened separately with no real agenda on the part of the church – other than listening, they led to a golden opportunity to be a blessing and accomplish the conference-wide goal to Invest in the Young. “What seemed like silo conversations converged as aligned opportunities to serve students in our area, all because we listened to discern where our church was called to assist.”
The CDF Freedom School program will be geared to not only K-5th graders in the Sunnyside community, but also those students who were chronically absent and tardy due to lack of adequate transportation. “When this concern was discussed in a community leadership meeting,” adds Romonica, “I took it as a signal that Blueridge UMC should volunteer our van and drivers to pick up four elementary students and two middle school students for the remainder of May to make sure they got there. We desire to keep these students engaged as the school year comes to a close, so offering these extended opportunities align well with our vision to share the love of Jesus within our community and beyond.”
HYPE provides parents and their children with access to educational enrichment activities outside normal school hours  -- specifically including children who need summer literacy opportunities the most, but can afford it the least. The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools provide summer enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading, increase their self-esteem, and will ideally generate more positive attitudes toward learning. 
HYPE will offer the program in June and July at Blueridge UMC and four other locations throughout the city.
Members are ready and enthusiastic. New member Carolyn Richardson, serving as the school liaison. “I tutor children from all types of backgrounds and see firsthand the difference between the educational level of children based on their family income community,” notes Carolyn. “Continuing to engage students during the summer is vital if we are to bridge that gap and that is exactly what we are working together to do this summer.”
Arlinda Turner, who works with Christian Education and Family Ministries at Blueridge says, “I am so excited, about the Freedom School being hosted at my church! We have an opportunity to meet new youngsters and share the love of Christ with them as they have fun learning in this program. What better way to bless and be blessed?”
Chanica Brown, who also works at the church with the family ministry says, “One aspect of BUMC hosting the Freedom School that is great is the potential to make the connection between meeting an educational need in the community, as well as making it more comfortable and inviting for participants and their families to explore their spirituality and relationships with God. Freedom School can potentially help bridge that gap for some families.” Adds Arlinda, "Summer is a time of growing in many ways through fun activities, new adventure, learning, meeting new people, rest and relaxation.  I pray this Freedom School provides our bright, lively and inquisitive young neighbors all of these opportunities!"
Member Stephanie Wilkins adds, “We look forward to being in partnership with everyone and thank God for an opportunity to serve." 
“We are truly blessed to launch the CDF Freedom School program at BUMC,” shares Brandi Brown, executive director of HYPE Freedom School, Inc. “This experience gives the families a community of believers who also believe in children so they can believe in themselves.”

Creating a Discipleship Pathway: A Series of Next Steps

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 00:00
Guest columnist Marilyn Wadkins, an ordained deacon and certified executive coach, consults with churches on ways to help individuals deepen their spiritual journeys.
The importance of growing as a disciple, and facilitating discipleship in a church setting, has become more and more confusing because of the growing number of choices, resources, opinions and distractions. In our search for significance, the lure of the internet, 24-hour TV with hundreds of channels, and social media can create a time famine. Although everyone still has the same amount of time in a day – the increasing number of disruptions seem to impact our personal growth in a negative way. 
Creating a Discipleship Pathway so people will know the “next steps” in their spiritual growth has become a critical concern for churches that seek to grow their congregations and facilitate spiritual growth at the individual level. Some of the challenges being faced:
* Each church must decide and define what a “disciple” looks like in their setting (location and make-up of their membership).
* Churches are discovering that a “one-size fits all” doesn’t fit everyone’s learning styles or temperaments (their “God language”).
* Participation in church activities does not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth.   
Then there are missed opportunities in mapping and casting the vision for an individual’s spiritual journey due to:
* Lack of advanced planning
* Lack of leadership
* Lack of resources (budget)
* Life crisis (death, divorce)
* Knowledge of available opportunities, and
* Spiritual burnout.
A friend of mine who is a certified spiritual director believes discipleship is mostly a relationship issue. With the churches I work with through VCI, the struggle I see most often is that people are looking for a program or a process instead of focusing on their relationship to God. This relationship is a choice, not so much about behavior or even about learning more. It is a choice that is related to the source of all love – a loving God. It is a choice about knowing you are loved and loving others. We need a passionate love for our Creator, the One in Whom we "live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28a). Only then does our desire to live in love with Him create a path and a discipline for our lives -- of living as a beloved child who never wants to break their creator’s heart.
So, where do we go from here? Several suggestions are made in Get Their Name: Grow Your Church by Building New Relationships (by Farr, Anderson, and Kotan):
  • Meet people where THEY are, not where WE are.
  • Since a discipleship pathway often begins by attending church as step one, churches can facilitate success by creating a culture of invitation. That might involve encouragement from the pulpit that members bring a friend to church, or it might be to provide a small invitation card members can hand out to friends, neighbors and coworkers.
  • Why God? Why church? And why my church? Share God-stories with each other on a regular basis -- not just your personal conversion story. Get comfortable with this by sharing the stories of your experience with God on an everyday basis and at every age level.
  • Additionally, it helps to realize that a crisis, spiritual boredom and/or a deep longing for more in life can be a positive driver by leading individuals to fill that need for spiritual growth.
While there is no formula for spiritual growth, churches can define the concept of a disciple in their individual context by providing next steps that move people along a journey to deeper and stronger faith. We are likely to grow most when our hearts are overflowing with the reality of God’s love to the point we want to please him in all that we say and do.

LEAD Student Retreat Fosters Leadership Skills

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 00:00
Youth workers left the April retreat with new ideas and a new sense of enthusiasm for their various ministries.
Several dozen youth and adult leaders sharing ideas, games, and worship makes for an inspiring combination, according to Eddie Erwin, Director of Youth/Young Adults for the Texas Conference. “I was really excited that we had students interested in spending time learning leadership qualities at the LEAD conference at the end of April,” he shares, “that they can take back to their local churches.  We were able to introduce them to other student leaders and connectional opportunities. There were student ministries from larger and smaller churches and ones that are in rural and suburban settings. It was great to see them come together, share, learn, worship and lead when they hadn’t met each other before showing up on Friday evening.” 
The retreat provided a forum where all could share in worship, led by several Texas Youth Academy alumni. Additionally, each group took turns contributing some best practices from their ministries.
For example, one ministry hosts a “Tacky” prom while another offers a “Senior” prom to their church community that is designed for members over 50 years old.  Other groups enjoy a game called “grog”, a different ministry offers “Chuber” or “church uber” as a ride share for other students who don’t have transportation to their gatherings. Another shared their experience with “Whataburger Wednesday” where they leave the walls of the church for a student-led Bible study. 
When asked what leadership quality they learned during the event, participant answers included:
  • “being prepared to fail”
  • “working together as a unit”
  • “passion and innovation”
  • “not to be fearful to try new things”
  • “inclusiveness” and
  • “the best leaders have the most love for everyone”
Student leaders mentioned they grew in their faith with regard to positivity and integrity, realizing God wants his children to change and grow, and trusting God to help in leadership situations. The most enjoyable aspects ranged from the team building time to the meeting of new friends. “I think it would be great if we do this again to have youth directors bring copies of applications, policies and such to share with others in attendance,” suggests one of the adult leaders.
The late April kickball tournament is another “team building” event within the conference to generate friendships and fun within the South District. “Youth Directors meet monthly to create and foster community among our churches,” shares J.T. Larue of Seabrook UMC.  Leaders decided to host the first annual kickball tournament which drew about 130 students from UMC’s including  St. Mark’s-Baytown, LaPorte, Cedar Bayou Grace, League City, Clear Lake, The Watershed, Crosby and youth from the host church of Seabrook UMC. “St. Mark’s took home the first place trophy, with Seabrook placing second and League City UMC in third. In addition, our district hosts collaborative youth events such as Engage and Holiday Hoopla since many of our churches are just 10 miles apart,” he says.

Small-Membership Church Retreat Inspires Many

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 00:00
At the fourth annual spring retreat, Bishop Scott Jones talked with laity and clergy about faith sharing in the small-membership church environment.
“It was like having John Wesley in blue jeans,” said a participant of this year’s small membership retreat. Organizer Dr. Dick White, pastor of First UMC Quitman agrees. “Bishop Jones is a master teacher, particularly regarding the Wesleyan Way.”
With over 80 attendees, the 2017 retreat was one of the largest to date, thanks in part to churches like Kelty’s UMC of Lufkin for bringing a group of laity and clergy – and youth. Rev. Cindy Doran says, “From the two churches that I pastor, we had five adults and three of our youth members attend, and it was great to see the different generations of our churches interact and serve together as they sought ways to generate growth in the churches and for the Kingdom.”
“During the discussion periods, and the trip home, conversation between our members focused on Bishop Jones' statement concerning the number of un-churched and non-believers within a five mile radius of our churches. That, along with the challenge to find the needs of our neighbors and be a visible and viable part in meeting their needs, encouraged us to come up with some means to reach out to our neighbors,” adds Cindy.
As a result of the retreat, the youth decided that everyone is in need of prayer and the church should provide the opportunity for prayer to their neighbors. Shares Cindy, “They have decided we need a prayer box that is accessible 24/7 and are currently designing a covered school bus stop and resting area to house that prayer box. We are also scheduling prayer walks for our neighborhoods, a study night at the youth building of the Hudson church and cards with information about our services and ministries for members to have when inviting people to church.”
Youth attendee Kade Lee says, "It was important to me to go to the retreat because I feel like I'm in church because God has a plan for me. Pretty much everything in my life would cause me to never end up in church, but I did. I think God just has a special plan for me, so He worked things out in my life and let me meet my friend Dylon so that I could hear about Jesus. Now that I'm in church, I want to be the one who helps other people find Christ. Mrs. Cindy let us talk about ideas and ways we can reach out to people in the church, and now we are making plans to make some of those happen."
Youth participant Kia Diwalt agrees. "Church is important because it teaches you things that you won't learn anywhere else,” she says. “Since I'm in church it is up to me to make sure other people, especially ones my age, know about church and have the chance to learn about God too. So the Saturday we went to hear the Bishop, he taught us ways to help do that."
Adds Cindy, “Attending this workshop was a wonderful experience for everyone involved and an excellent introduction to some of the things the church and community face every day for our young people. I know they enjoyed the extra attention from the Bishop, who was eager to acknowledge their willingness to get up early on a Saturday! It was a great ‘eye-opener’ for us on behalf of those around us and the duty we have as Christians and as the church to reach out to them in the name of Jesus Christ.”
“We had to relocate the retreat from Lakeview to Perrite Memorial UMC at the last minute,” shares Dick, “but it was a blessing in disguise because the new location landed us more folks from the East District and even as far away as Houston, since it is easy to get to Nacogdoches from many locations.”
Rev. Rick Tate, pastor, FUMC Onalaska enjoyed his experience at the retreat. ”I am an Associate Member/Deacon who has been serving as a pastor of small churches in east Texas for over 27 years. I have been emphasizing some of what was shared including the fact that the members themselves are the evangelists, and it is their role to befriend and invite the unchurched so that they too may hear the gospel and come to know Jesus Christ. We have included the unchurched in our community on our prayer list in our bulletin.” Adds Rick, “It has been my experience that the key to making of disciples is found in relationships formed through having open hearts and minds and doors."
Following the nominations process and vote at Annual Conference, Dick will pass the retreat baton over to the successor elected next to the Small Church Membership Committee at Annual Conference. “As I recall, the earliest retreats for small membership churches took place mid-week and included only clergy, but four years ago we expanded them to include laity and moved them to a Saturday and that has been a winning combination,” Dick adds. “I look forward to hearing what will be planned for 2018.”

Special Event: Preaching Hope in a Culture of Violence

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 00:00
Plan now to attend an ecumenical event featuring social activist and preacher Tony Campolo this fall in Texarkana.
"Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in America as Rev. Dr. King noted two generations ago," notes Rev. Brad Morgan, Williams Memorial UMC, Texarkana. “It is my hope that churches can move beyond that reality in society and deal with poverty and race in a way that the whole body of Christ is represented.” To that end, the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence of Southern Methodist University (PCPE) and Williams Memorial UMC are sponsoring the First Annual ARKLATEX Lecture, featuring the dynamic Dr. Tony Campolo as the featured speaker October 8-9. TAC Bishop Scott Jones will also be one of the presenters.
Tony Campolo is a speaker, author, sociologist, pastor, social activist and passionate follower of Jesus.  Dr. Tony Campolo will be speaking on the topic of “Preaching Hope in a Culture of Violence.” According to Brad, “No topic is off limits in this series. We want to invite clergy and laity from across the country to attend and get fired up about challenging topics and preaching that matters. I’m grateful for the generosity of Williams members for funding this forward leaning program that I pray is the first of many.” More information on Tony Campolo is available at: http://tonycampolo.org. See Event Flier
“The Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence ARKLATEX Lectures are devoted to enhancing the quality of preaching in local congregations in the region,” notes Perkins professor Dr. Alyce McKenzie. “This event is designed to appeal to clergy and laity in all conferences and all denominations.”
Sunday, October 8th
Morning - Dr. Campolo will be the featured preacher at the 8:15 and 10:30am Sanctuary worship services of Williams Memorial UMC
Evening - 6 p.m. Open Lecture Event with Dinner followed by a Q & A Session led by Dr. Campolo in Wesley Hall of Williams Memorial.

Monday, October 9th
9 a.m. - Noon – Lecture/ Workshop led by Dr. Campolo
Noon - 1 p.m. - Lunch Break
From 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., preaching workshops will be led by Dr. Alyce M. McKenzie and Dr. O. Wesley Allen, Jr., professors of preaching and worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Vincent Harris, Lead Pastor at Journey of Faith UMC (who becomes a District Superintendent July 1) will also lead a breakout session that draws on his passion for partnerships, education, poverty prevention and being the church by ‘doing.’
Preaching Peer Group Forming
Clergy seeking a deeper experience through peer learning and discussions can apply to become a Perkins Preaching Fellow. As an outgrowth of this this event, a preaching peer group of 6-8 pastors will meet periodically (see schedule below) to discuss themes from the lectures and workshops and offer constructive feedback on one another’s sermons. The group will be selected from the pool of those who apply by the leadership team of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence. The Perkins Preaching Fellows will have an additional session with Tony Campolo on Monday, October 9th from 1-3 p.m., followed by a session with Drs. Allen and McKenzie Monday evening. They will meet from 9-12 Tuesday morning with Rev. Dr. Brad Morgan, senior pastor of Williams Memorial UMC, who will facilitate the group.
Following this initial experience October 9-10 (Monday/Tuesday), Perkins preaching fellows will have three retreat events in 2018: February 9-10, April 13-14, and June 8-9.  These events include two additional sessions via Skype with Tony Campolo and a peer review of sermons.  Fellows chosen will pay $50 to participate and have all accommodations, meals, and event expenses beyond the initial fee covered.
Applications to be a Perkins Preaching Fellow can be made by contacting the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence’s Administrative Assistant Sabina Hulem: shulem@smu.edu  or 214-768-2124. A group of 6-8 Fellows will be selected from the applicants by The Center for Preaching Excellence. 

TAC Representatives Visit Texas Border as Part of Mexico Border Partnership Initiative

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 00:00
Travelers explored the concept of shared discipleship and training, worship, a youth camp, as well as assistance with construction of sanctuaries, education buildings, and parsonages.

In years past, the temptation in mission engagement was to go somewhere and do something for someone else.  “Now we are moving to a model of being in ministry with another community,” explains Rev. Scott Moore, who directs the TAC Mission Center and will head the Center for Missional Excellence beginning this July. The 50/50 ‘In Mission Together’ model, conceived by the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), looks at both partners as equals and allows both communities to share their gifts and graces together for the Kingdom of God.

The most recent example of this model in action took place at the end of March when representatives from six TAC churches, Lakeview Methodist Conference Center, and the Center for Missional Excellence visited the Texas/Mexico border to meet with representatives from the Rio Texas Conference and the Mexican Methodist Church as part of a new Border Partnership Initiative. 

The trip, explains Scott, “is part of a new mission initiative birthed through the TAC Center for Missional Excellence, the El Valle District of the Rio Texas Conference and General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) Missionary Willie Berman. The group is beginning this partnership from an asset-based approach rather than a needs-based approach.” 

Adds Scott, “We are looking to this mission field and asking ‘what do we have to share with that community, and what do they have to share with us?’” Using 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (many members of one body of Christ) as a guide, partner churches share their unique talents and callings for ministry. 
Notes Scott, “During this trip we discussed ideas for partnership in the area of shared discipleship and training sessions, shared worship experiences, a shared youth camp experience, as well as assistance with construction of sanctuaries, education buildings, and parsonages.”

Churches represented from the Texas Annual Conference included Kirbyville UMC, Faith UMC – Orange, Livingston FUMC, FUMC-Conroe, FUMC-Humble, and Christ Church UMC – Sugar Land.  Representatives from the Center for Missional Excellence and Lakeview Methodist Conference Center attended to explore conference-wide partnership possibilities. 

Participant Rev. Matt Idom says, “Lakeview Methodist Conference Center is excited to begin a partnership with the Methodists of Mexico with the ambition of helping create a camping ministry for children and youth. We have already begun work to begin a ministry together.”
As a first step, he has extended an invitation for a number of older Mexican teens and adult youth leaders to attend camp this summer at Lakeview. “Not only will they get to experience camp, “ he says, “we will train them for leadership when they return home. Funding is available for this to happen this summer!”
Likewise, camping leaders are discussing the possibilities of their summer staff of college leaders traveling to Mexico in 2018 to help conduct either a week of residential camp or a week of day camp. Adds Matt, “There is a facility available at the border that would house close to 100 campers including a dining hall and worship center, so we are particularly excited to be part of this ministry partnership.”
Rev. Janet Stilwell, associate pastor of FUMC Conroe, attended the 50/50 border partnership trip looking at ways for her church to participate in a mission trip that would be accessible to a larger number of people in the congregation. “The border presents a great opportunity to do international missions closer to home,” she shares.

“When I was able to meet around the table with pastors from both sides of the border, my focus for the trip shifted. Instead of seeing churches that needed our help, I saw churches working toward discipling their members and new believers in unique and powerful ways. It was inspiring to hear their enthusiasm toward their ministries. I could see how TAC and my church would be called to not simply help, but participate alongside the efforts already taking place. We also imagined how these creative congregations could be a part of what we are doing in our conference and community through video links and other possible collaborations.”
Janet sees great possibilities for smaller churches to join together by forming relationships with churches at the border. She explains, “The first and most important step is getting to know one another. This doesn’t take a lot of training, just a willingness to be open to a new kind of relationship. The training really consists of recognizing that we are not being sent there because they need our resources, but we are being called there to find Christ and Christ’s work.”
For information on the next 50/50 In Mission Together training contact Christine Riggle at criggle@txcumc.org or call the Mission Center at 936-788-6650.
Adds Janet, “We are in the very preliminary steps at this point, but I can see great possibilities ahead. I like that churches can participate individually, in collaboration with other churches, or even as districts. The key thing for me is the relationship component that enables God’s Kingdom to be so readily evident.”

Cokesbury Unveils Resource Center

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00
Cokesbury announced today that it is bringing a new consultative retail experience to Annual Conferences this year with the new Cokesbury Ministry Resource Center.
Focused on equipping leaders to build disciples, the Ministry Resource Center will offer the opportunity for more personalized consultations with church leaders in order to match products with their specific ministry needs.

Features of the Ministry Resource Center include:
• Showcases highlighting new and classic resources ranging from adult and children’s curriculum to
church-wide stewardship and Bible studies – all available for review and ordering.

• A robust selection of additional new titles and best sellers available on-site for immediate
purchase featuring the Bishop’s “picks,” speaker’s books, and UMC official resources, new titles
and best sellers.

• Consultation areas where church leaders can meet with trained consultants regarding ministry
needs including studies, curriculum, robes, signs, sanctuary furnishings and much more.

• An ordering kiosk with access to titles unique to each conference as well as resources not included
in the Ministry Resource Center.

• Free shipping on all orders placed at Annual Conferences on regularly stocked merchandise.

“We are excited to bring this new approach to each annual conference,” said the Rev. Brian K. Milford, president and publisher of The United Methodist Publishing House. “In previous years, up to 80% of purchases were from only 20% of the titles displayed. The new approach will showcase products that are intentionally selected for each location and focused on equipping your church leaders for ministry.”

See Flyer                See Press Release

About Cokesbury
Cokesbury is the retail and customer service arm of The United Methodist Publishing House, which serves more than 11 million United Methodists worldwide as well as a broad ecumenical audience representing many denominations and independent churches, with books, Bibles, curriculum, worship resources, and church supplies. Cokesbury offers more than 200,000 products to congregations through www.Cokesbury.com and the Cokesbury Customer Care Center 1-800-672-1789.

Confirmation Ideas Exchange May 24

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00
Kingwood & the Central North District are hosting a Lunch & Learn focusing on Confirmation Conversations.

The event will be on May 24th from 12-2 at Kingwood UMC and anyone who is involved with Confirmation is invited; youth worker, pastors, volunteers, prayer partners, etc.  RSVP here by May 19th and the cost for lunch is $10. 

Leadership Institute 2017

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00
Leadership Institute 2017 in Leawood KS Wednesday-Friday September 27-29 at 8:00 a.m.
Join clergy, church staff and volunteers from across the nation for one of the largest mainline training events in the country.
Come and Experience:
•  Expanded Pre-Institute Sessions, featuring workshops covering a wide variety of ministry topics, led by Resurrection staff and guest speakers
• Inspiring worship
• Connection and fellowship with church leaders serving a variety of church settings and sizes across the nation
• A line-up of well-known General Session speakers bringing a three-day infusion of practical tools, leadership growth strategies and a renewed vision for ministry
The line-up of nationally known General Session speakers includes:
  • Adam Hamilton
  • Adam Weber
  • Nancy Beach
  • Olu Brown
  • Tony Morgan
  • Chris Folmsbee
  • Scott Chrostek
  • Sarah Heath
Invest in your own leadership development and the development of your ministry teams. Clergy, staff and lay leaders will all find valuable takeaways from this year's event.
The Church of the Resurrection
13720 Roe Avenue
Leawood, KS 66224
For details and registration, visit:  http://li.cor.org/

Mission Inspiration: Third Saturday

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00
Come join us for a morning or afternoon session (or both!) as we verify UMCOR health kits and prepare them for shipment to those in need for our 3rd Saturday at the Mission Center in Conroe on May 20th.
Please contact Christine Riggle at the Mission Center for more information or to register at at 936-788-6650 or by email: criggle@txcumc.org.  

Perritte Memorial Crescendo Academy Summer Art Camps

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00
Perritte Memorial UMC is offering two options for Crescendo Academy Summer Art Camps in 2017.

The first camp will be an Art Camp for students in grades K-2. This camp will be taught by Tanya San Nicolas. During the camp, students will use a variety of materials to develop manipulative skills including air dry clay, watercolor, pastels and acrylic paint. 
The second camp will be for students in grades 3-5 and will include Art and Music! During this camp, students will learn about music history, art history, as well as completing projects, playing musical games and learning some basic piano skills! This camp will be taught by Polina Golubkova and Tanya San Nicolas. Both camps will be held at Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church. More information and a registration form are attached.
Pre-Registration is preferred as there are limited spots available for each camp!

See flyer for more details

Pisgah UMC Selected Best of Carthage Awards for Religion

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00

Pisgah United Methodist Church has been selected for the 2017 Best of Carthage Award in the Religion category by the Carthage Award Program.

Each year, the Carthage Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Carthage area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2017 Carthage Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Carthage Award Program and data provided by third parties.

More about the award

Third Sunday Native American Worship May 21: Anna Edwards

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 00:00
Third Sunday Fellowship May 21 will be Anna Edwards, Veteran's & N.A. Advocate & Speaker (OhkayOwingeh) 
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

2017 Speakers
**June 11 Rev. Ross Hyde, Maud UMC, near Texarkana (Mohawk)
July 16 Jim Cochran, Christian Lay Minister (Cherokee)
August 20 Pastor Bryan Jacobs (Seminole, Creek)
September 17 James Stevenson, Lay speaker & Gifted Musician (Lumbee)
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)
 *  - 4th Sunday of April
** -  2nd Sunday of June

2017 Mission Project: Fight Human Trafficking

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 00:00
The Center for Mission Excellence mission project this year is to help raise funds to fight against human trafficking.
The districts of the Texas Annual Conference are raising awareness and funds to support the fight against human trafficking in the state of Texas and around the world. During 2017, through run/walk/bike events and as the Annual Conference Mission Project, each district will raise funds for one local organization and one international organization. The goal for each district is $100,000.
Choose and register for an event at: http://info.reason2race.com/tacteams/  
Monetary donations may be brought during annual conference in the Outler Atrium. A Mission Project table will be there to make it easy to drop off your donation. Or, you may send your donation to the conference office at:
Texas Annual Conference
5215 Main St.
Houston, TX 77002
Please make checks payable to the Texas Annual Conference or TAC and add “TAC Mission Project” in the notation.
See who you are supporting when you raise money in:
The Central North District
The Central South District
The East District
The North District
The Northwest District
The South District
The Southeast District
The Southwest District
The West District
The project donations will be administered by The Texas Annual Conference United Methodist Church.
Contact: Missional Excellence if you have questions at 713-521-9383, ext. 301.

TAC 2017 Information for Laity

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 00:00
In the video below, Texas Conference Lay Leader John Esquivel talks about laity events coming up at Annual Conference 2017 including the laity luncheon and laity session. Check it out: 

Laity Luncheon Brochure
Laity Luncheon Registration
Annual Conference Information is available at: http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017