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Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

Volunteers: How to Gain, Train and Retain Them

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
Building a culture of volunteerism involves recruiting others to be a part of an environment promoting changed lives.
In the midst of overbooked calendars and record setting stress levels, relationships become the currency of life. In similar fashion, relationships are the currency of a congregation’s successful volunteer program.
Experts from Vanderbloemen Search Group, consultants working with churches across the globe on a daily basis, recently shared insight on this critical aspect of building a vibrant congregation. Ana Robles, of the Texas Conference Center for Missional Excellence, enjoyed hearing these inspiring thoughts and sharing them with Cross Connection readers. “I learned that the way we recruit volunteers may not be the most efficient,” she shares. “Instead of using words like need and help we need to invite them into specific areas to be life changers.” Vanderbloemen experts have discovered that when volunteers truly see what they are a part of, they realize they can have a forever-impact because they are assisting a forever-focused church do its work more effectively.
What Former Volunteers are Thinking
If departing volunteers were quizzed about their experiences, many would say, “I had more to offer,” indicating their skills and passions were not engaged in their volunteer assignment. Others might say, “I would have served sooner – if asked.” Others could mention, “I would have stayed longer if I had been trained to feel more confident in my area of service.” And, sadly, some of them would introduce themselves, because leaders did not take the time to get to know them and provide a personal touch of building a relationship with them and pouring into their lives as they poured into others.
In his personal experience with children’s ministry, church blogger Jared Hogue has had great success in building formidable volunteer bases by offering a series of “next steps” meetings that help individuals see the big picture, vision and ‘heart’ of the church – and then discover where their passions and gifts are needed. “In kids ministry, for example, when prospective volunteers learn that 70% of young people leave the church when they are 18, but that number is cut in half if the young people have made a connection with a youth worker, they often want to be involved in impacting the future generation,” he says. “We’ve even had a Bring a friend to work day emphasis where volunteers invite others to shadow them and get a preview of that area of service.”
Ana agrees. “We need to empower our current volunteers to do the same, invite people to serve and once we have new volunteers signed-up to do what they're called to do; leaders need to make the time to train, inspire, motivate and encourage them.  Adds Ana, “Most importantly, leaders should thank them for their contribution—individually and church wide.”
Resources for Retention
Seasoned leaders know that it is easiest to recruit high capacity leaders when you give them high capacity roles. “Consider starting a master teacher class and train folks to sharpen their teaching skills,” suggests Jared. “Have one of your existing master teachers lead it and ‘own’ it.” He also welcomes churches to seek free and reasonably priced resources he provides via www.creativesheep.com.
Other retention tips relate to honoring volunteers’ time:
  • Provide clear schedules
  • Give routine reminders
  • Inform volunteers of any last minute changes
  • Get to know them (keep them happy and ‘invested’)
  • Be accessible to them
  • Provide a wide range of volunteer opportunities listed by day of the week needed, one-time opportunities, jobs listed by skill needed, including prominent roles and behind the scenes jobs for those more comfortable in a supportive role – and even family-friendly opportunities where all of the family can participate.
“Your best volunteers know others like themselves, and are a church’s best recruiting tool, so empower them to do that,” he says. “Maybe you have a member that could lead a fitness class and give your church an added layer of community, or perhaps be an ESL instructor, or help with home visits to the sick.”
Volunteer encouragement can aid in retention, whether that be a quick thank you note, text, acknowledgment of a birthday, a shout out from the pulpit, a nametag with special ribbon or free food. “It is a win/win for a church when they spotlight a volunteer’s work on social media,” adds Jared, “in that it provides a pat on the back as well as a glimpse into the ministry life of the church for those inside and outside the congregation.”
Bottom line: churches can facilitate a greater level of involvement beyond just attending services in many impactful ways.

Wharton Youth Group Leads Flood Recovery Effort

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
From evacuation assistance to fundraising and ongoing workdays, the “Rise Youth” of FUMC Wharton have been indispensible to their community during the flooding aftermath that began a year ago.
Youth from FUMC Wharton have been on the news and in the news over the last year for their stellar flood relief work in a community that is no way near normal – even a year later.
According to youth leader Stephanie Konvicka, last April, the Colorado River flooded, affecting a square mile in West Wharton and damaging 350 homes. Barely a month later, the river flooded again, affecting 26 homes. “As if that were not enough,” Stephanie shares, “in June a fire at a nearby apartment complex destroyed 60 units and displaced 81 residents (some for the second or third time in as many months). The affected homes represent a significant amount of the affordable housing in Wharton, our small community of approximately 9,000.”
The flood affected houses that are in a predominantly low-income and African-American neighborhood. Most residents are unable to afford flood insurance, which also renders them ineligible to receive recovery assistance from FEMA.
Adds Stephanie, “Because our youth group (Rise Youth) has a long-standing relationship with this neighborhood, including having family and friends who live there, my youth wanted to help -- from the very beginning. Before the flood hit, they were the first to initiate helping with evacuations. They were the last ones out of the neighborhood the night before the water came. They were also some of the first ones who went back into homes with residents to assess damage and begin muck-outs.”
With the ongoing efforts of about two dozen teens, the Rise Youth group knows the community and community leaders such as the police and emergency personnel know them. Notes Stephanie, “Initially, we easily managed to raise over $21,000 for materials to use during our regular recovery work days. I am proud to say FUMC Wharton has students who have not missed a workday since last April.” The youth are so skilled at this process they are teaching other volunteers how to hang sheetrock and handle other steps.” Student Nick Stransky has learned the value of teamwork in this process.  “Going to church everyday wouldn't mean anything if we did not practice what we preached.,” he shares. “Flood recovery is important to me because these people are our neighbors and our duty as Christians is to love our neighbors as ourselves, by doing this flood recovery work we are proving that. Through this experience, I've learned how to work with others, how to use tools, and how to communicate.”
The Rise Youth eagerly helped a church family with a teen in the youth group, and are currently working on their fourth house. With an April flood, May flood and area fires in the community, there is considerably more to do. Young adults from Ashford UMC and Wharton UMC were on hand recently to clean out a building in the West End community center, Just Do It Now, that had been untouched since the flood. Most recently, the Moody Foundation provided Wharton with a grant to hire a project manager this spring to sustain long-term recovery needs beyond what volunteers can handle.
One of the biggest rewards for their service is being invited to family celebrations and treated as “extended family” by people they have helped. When a resident’s son left for the Navy this year, Rise Youth were a part of the celebration. And youth are destined to have fun even while they are working. Shares Nick, “My favorite workday memory was when we pushed a shed over to clean up the area, and found some tractor tires. After I mentioned flipping tractor tires during athletics, we each tried it. Even after a long day there is enough energy to have some fun.”
The past year has been messy, tiring and frustrating at times,” Stephanie says, “but very much of a grassroots response with beautiful things and new relationships resulting. We seem to be the only church in town doing significant flood work,” shares Stephanie, “and it is sometimes challenging to be the church everyone calls on, but we plan to continue our work as long as there are houses to work on and we have resources to do the work. We say ‘love thy neighbor’, but this work gives us a chance to live that love.”
Student Amos Kemper says, “Working flood recovery is important to me because I believe that as a member of my community I need to give back as much or more than I take from it. I’ve learned many things while working flood recovery, such as how to use certain tools and how to be a team participant. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to be okay and patient with the slow progress of such a big project like flood relief.”
The Next Big Thing
On May 7th, Rise Youth will host “Down to the River” to benefit their flood recovery efforts. Southwest District youth are invited for an evening of dinner, games, and a concert with The Homestead and their special guests, Anthony Rogers and The Source Band. Stephanie hopes it will be an evening of celebration of the work that has already been done and an opportunity to raise awareness about the continued need. She says, “It is so encouraging for The Homestead and The Source Band to offer their time and talent to support us. It feels like they are saying, ‘We see you and you aren’t in this alone.’ I can’t tell you how much this event means to us after a year of hard work.”

UMM to Host Transformational Gathering this Summer

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 00:00
One thousand men are expected to come together for worship, workshops, service projects and fellowship at the National Gathering of United Methodist Men on July 7 and 8. Held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, the event will inspire attendees to embrace new possibilities for ministry and discipleship.

“This is not an event to just have a good time and learn things – it will change your life and change the lives of people around you,” said Gil Hanke, general secretary of the General Commission on United Methodist Men (GCUMM). “This gathering challenges men to change their behavior, encouraging them to become more Christ-like in their daily lives. Men will be transformed into a more disciplined disciple.”
Occurring every four years since the early 1900s, this is the twelfth national gathering. Speakers will include:
  • Bishop Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Annual Conference
  • Bishop James Swanson, president of GCUMM and resident bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference
  • Shan Foster, director of Men End Domestic Violence (MEND)
  • Dr. Kevin Watson, assistant professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology
The event theme, “Discipleship: The Contact Sport,” will encourage community. “We are not a single soul in Christianity. We are connected to people we know and people we don’t know. Without contact, without reaching out and working with and interacting with other people, discipleship doesn’t happen,” explained Hanke.
The national gathering offers nineteen workshops that attendees can choose from, focusing on leadership, ministry development, personal growth and spiritual development. With subjects ranging from cyber bullying and local church visioning to stress management and small group ministries, there are workshops to support men no matter their age or their role in the local church.
During the event, three community service experiences will support people in need both in Indianapolis and around the world. Attendees will build hand-cranked mobility carts distributed internationally through Mobility Worldwide, sort and pack produce for local distribution through the Society of St. Andrew and build handicapped ramps for local homes.
In addition, an extensive ministry fair will greet attendees with a myriad of exhibits, offering ideas to enrich and support outreach and service initiatives.
Further details, including recommended lodging options and an online registration form, are available at UMMGathering.org. Registration is $99 through April 1 and includes a complimentary t-shirt. After April 1, the fee increases to $129.
Watch a video of Gil Hanke discussing the event.

Dr. Olusimbo Ige Named Interim Executive Director of UMCOR

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 00:00
Dr. Olusimbo Ige was named interim executive director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), effective March 31, 2017, by Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. UMCOR is dedicated to alleviating human suffering around the world through disaster response, sustainable agriculture, food security, and relief supply programs. Ige will continue to serve as executive director of Global Ministries' Global Health unit where she provides leadership and technical guidance to health programs in 36 countries. 
See original post at UMCOR.org

Third Sunday Native American Worship March 19: Jay Mule

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 00:00
CONAM invites you to join them on March 19, 2017.
Sunday, March 19, Pastor/Evangelist Jay Mule (Choctaw) will be back from Oklahoma and he will be performing a "Sermon Hoop Dance".  It is based on scripture - John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV
 Rev. Don White will also have a special presentation.  You already know what fine speakers these two men are and that they will be giving us the very best that they have.  
This will be a singular and exceptional evening and I hope you will be able to come to hear our speakers and then stay for the potluck to follow.  
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
DATE: December 18, 2016
TIME: 4:00pm

2017 Speakers
March 19 Evangelist Jay Mule, Oklahoma (Choctaw)
*April 23 Rev. J.B. Jackson, Pastor Dallas Indian UMC (Ancestry)
May 21 Anna Edwards, Veteran's & N.A. Advocate & Speaker (OhkayOwingeh)
**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