800 attend Tools for Ministry despite snow

Shovels and ice scrapers were the first tools many EPA Conference church leaders needed early Saturday morning, March 7. They had to liberate their snow and icebound vehicles for the trek to full-day Tools for Ministry academies across six districts. But those who matched the stubbornness of this winter with their own determined quest for knowledge learned an impressive array of ministry tools and tactics useful to address just about any task in any church.

Having moved the annual church leadership training event from January to March 7 this year to avoid the worry of winter weather, district planners saw another fresh snow fall across the region the day before. “March comes in like a lion,” the old adage starts; but the lion’s roar did not deter more than 800 people who came out to attend more than 70 classes and workshops aimed at helping them to be more innovative, effective and responsive in their ministries.

Opening assemblies warmed attendees with fellowship, praise music and inspiring keynote messages, before they dispersed to their various classrooms. Morning and afternoon classes, some with catchy or curious titles, offered tools and techniques for:

  • assessing spiritual health and life cycles of churches (“Birthing Center or Life Support”);
  • discovering creative, life-changing possibilities for prison ministry and restorative justice;
  • modernizing evangelism, worship media, social media and church communications for the 21st century (“Can They Hear You Now? Getting Your Message to the Masses”);
  • reaching non-religious members of the millennial generation (“The Rise of the Nones”);
  • creating welcoming congregations with radical hospitality (“The Sign Out Front says ‘Everyone Welcome.’  Do You Really Mean It?”); and
  • revitalizing ministries with children, young adults, older adults, and youth (“Youth Ministry: Does Yours Speak To Youth and Their Fears?”).

Other classes focused on stimulating faith-based mission engagement, improving Bible study, mentoring disciples, ensuring Safe Sanctuaries for child protection, and bringing faith-based solutions to violence, drug abuse and poverty. And then there were the usual orientation classes for new church trustees, lay leaders, nominating committee and staff-parish relations committee chairpersons and so on. There was even a class in one district on how to retire a sacred but no longer viable ministry, basically teaching the art of letting go.

Leaders of the Committee on Native American Ministry (CONAM) led sessions in two districts to help church leaders appreciate and prepare for the 2015 Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People.

And in the East District an Urban Ministry workshop treated two dozen participants to a topical video, complete with popcorn and other movie theater snacks, but followed by serious dialogue.

The success of Tools for Ministry classes relies on dedicated district leaders, creative event organizers, faithful teachers who prepare carefully and students who come eager to learn and participate. But one other key hallmark of these gatherings are the offerings received by each district during the opening plenary sessions, primarily to support humanitarian mission causes and ministry development.

Kathy Jenkins and Wayne Wylie of Christ UMC Lansdale’s praise team sing as the Rev. Anita Adams Powell (right), Central District Superintendent, prepares to adjourn the district’s March 7 Tools for Ministry opening plenary session. 

The Northwest District raised $850 for the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria global campaign to halt the deadly but preventable malaria disease that takes the lives of countless African children and adults. The Northeast District raised $423 for camping scholarships to offer more children and youth the mind-expanding, heart-opening excitement of a summer camp experience. Members, including youth and clergy, also prepared survival health kits for UMCOR to distribute in its disaster relief work.

The Southeast District added another $1,379 to its ongoing effort to help expand facilities of the United Methodist-owned Mpasa Pediatric Clinic that serves children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Southwest District collected $984 to divide between LUMINA, which serves poor residents in  the Lancaster area on behalf of UM churches there, and the life-saving Congo Partnership joint mission endeavor in the DRC.

The East District raised more than $300 and donated most of it also to the Imagine No Malaria global campaign. And the Central District received $786 in its offering to support its 2015 district-wide project, the building fund of MidTown Parish UMC in Philadelphia, which hopes to complete and occupy its new church facility this year after a decade of worshipping and meeting faithfully in a community center.

By John Coleman, EPA Conference Communications Director

Main photo: Sandy Carmichael (left) and Pat Heist, both of West Grove UMC, share a moment of fellowship at the Southeast District’s March 7 Tools for Ministry session. Sabrina Daluisio photo

2nd photo: Christ UMC Lansdale’s praise team sings as the Rev. Anita Adams Powell (right), Central District Superintendent, prepares to adjourn the district’s March 7 Tools for Ministry opening plenary session.