Church leaders to take the field with Tools for Ministry

By John W. Coleman

While Philadelphia’s Super Bowl-champion Eagles are nesting, and the 76ers and Flyers are in mid-season, the Phillies are enjoying baseball’s spring training. Hundreds of Eastern PA Conference church leaders will also be in spring training March 10, when they attend Tools for Ministry classes at four district sites around the region.

Both fledgling and seasoned church leaders will rise from their nests early on Saturday, March 10, and flock to half-day Tools for Ministry academies at three churches and Innabah Camp and Retreat Center.

After welcoming plenaries, they will disperse to various classrooms to stretch their mental muscles and sharpen their skills in various forms and aspects of ministry. An impressive lineup of instructors and coaches will field both easy and hard-hitting questions to help their students minimize errors and score successes on the field of ministry.

For both new and continuing leaders, these teachers will offer wisdom from their own playbooks in church administration classes to help: church councils and leadership teams; trustees and finance committees; Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations committees; church stewardship and mission leaders; coordinators of ministries for children, youth, young adults and families; persons interested in Christ Servant Ministry, and so on.

But districts will also offer an assortment of equally useful classes on other interesting topics, including:

Southeast District:
  • Making Disciples Rather Than Members
  • Emotional Mechanics: Committing to Self-Care
  • Reaching Your Community with Facebook
  • Prayer Vigils and Toward a Praying Church (two classes)
East District:
  • Addiction Recovery through the Power of Prayer
  • Helping Our Neighbors in Disaster Response
  • Preparing for an Armed Intruder
  • More Hope! Talks for Small Congregations
  • Legal Smorgasbord, a class on church legal concerns and relationships, taught by our new Conference Chancellor, Matthew Morley, , who will also teach a Real Property and Related Organizations class on liabilities, leases and other related matters.
West District:
  • Adaptive Leadership(taught in English and Spanish), on being adaptive and proactive toward facing changes in one’s church and community.
  • Station of Hope—Healing Communities, a class on restorative justice and supporting citizens returning from incarceration and their families.
  • Power Packs in Lancaster and Lebanon, abouta nutrition program that feeds schoolchildren.
  • Kingdom Rules: Leading through Church Conflict
  • Behind Closed Doors, aboutchurch relationships with clergy spouses.
  • The Different Faces of Addiction, which will focus onthe current opioid abuse epidemic.
  • Environmental Holiness: What does our tradition say? aboutenvironmental stewardship from conservation to “creation care.”
North District:
  • Can Churches Grow in the 21st Century? a class on reaching people the way Jesus did.
  • Fundamental Security Guidelines for Houses of Worship
  • Preparing for Guests: Setting Up for Your Neighbors, a class to share ideas on making children’s and multi-generational ministries more inviting and welcoming.

All four districts will offer classes to enhance ministry relationships with people who face minority status and often mistreatment in our churches and communities.

The Southeast will feature classes titled How to Have Meaningful Conversations in Your Local Church about Race and Reading the Scripture Through Native American Eyes. The latter will introduce the Doctrine of Discovery that has led to “five centuries of subjugation and systematic oppression carried out by the Christian church and based on Christian Scripture.” It will teach attendees how to re-read familiar biblical passages through the eyes of Native Americans and help them understand how America was “discovered” by taking land from its original inhabitants.

The East will offer PRIME Immigration Ministries, an overview of Immigration law, including: DACA; pathways towards asylum and citizenship; remedies for Central Americans, Syrians and Liberians; and how churches can offer sanctuary or other protections to the “stranger in need.”

With the theme “To Whom Am I A Neighbor?” the North will invite attendees to “look for the Good Samaritan in each of us,” as the Rev. Christopher Fisher, host pastor of First UMC Schuylkill Haven, will preach in the opening plenary session. Among the classes will be Invisible Fences–Visible Bridges, which will explore how we often define and distance ourselves from our neighbors, but also how we can build bridges across diversities and even embrace Bishop Peggy Johnson’s call for churches to observe “The Year of the Migrant.”

Meanwhile, Knowing Our Neighbors, Meeting Their Needs will explore how to know our neighbors, discover their needs, partner with others to meet those needs and use today’s communication tools to build awareness and response in the community.

And A Place for ALL of God’s Children: Effectively Including Those with Disabilities will help equip students to reach out and offer programming for children with different types of disabilities and their families.

The West Tools session will feature an opening plenary message on evangelism by educator and Christ Servant Minister Brenda J. Ingram-Wallace. A variety of its 26 classes will focus on sharing in relational ministry with those who, to many, may be the “stranger in need”:

  • Mental Illness Ministry: Responding in Christian Love, a discussion of common mental illnesses and grace-filled ways of loving, accepting and assisting persons who experience mental illness.
  • Autism Workshop,where participants will hear about experiences, needs and effective practices from parents and people who care for autistic children in the community and in church.
  • Conversations toward Reconciliationwill prepare church leaders to engage in open dialogue about racial and ethnic diversity in their local contexts and how to remove barriers and develop relationships and reconciliation with peoples of different cultures.
  • Open and Affirming Ministry: Learning from the Journey,about committing to being in ministry with all people, including “LGBTQIA+ persons” and facing the “risks and opportunities for grace” such openness can provide.   

While three districts will end their sessions by 12:30 PM, the East will go into extra innings, lasting until 2:30 PM. The four Tools academy sites are: