“Join us…as we learn together to build up the body of Christ for the transformation of the world!”
That Central District invitation is one that the five other Eastern PA Conference districts would no doubt echo in welcoming hundreds of expected local church leaders to their carefully planned 2016 Tools for Ministry academies.
The six district training events will be spread over three Saturdays. Four districts–Central, East, Southeast and Southwest–will hold theirs on Saturday, March 5. The Northeast District will hold its leadership training on March 12 with a focus on poverty. And the Northwest District Tools gathering is delayed until April 30.
Most of the myriad workshops will be led by home teams of knowledgeable clergy and lay professionals and volunteers from across our conference. But there will be a few out-of-town guest-lecturers among the diverse faculties.
Most notably, the Southwest District will hear a keynote message from the Rev. Mike Mather, pastor of Broadway UMC in Indianapolis, a once vibrant downtown church that is revitalizing after years of decline. He will speak and lead a two-session workshop on “Death and Resurrection of a Church,” as he reveals changes that are resulting from a church and community ministry approach that focuses on positive human assets rather than deficiencies.
The four districts hosting Tools sessions this Saturday are offering a vast array of workshops with topics covering church survival, social media, change management, visual arts and multi-media in worship, personal prayer and spiritual discernment, religious trends in American culture, evangelism and faith-sharing with new people, suicide prevention, addiction recovery, restorative justice and prison reform, hospitality and visitation, grant writing, church-school partnerships, conflict management, social justice, homelessness, healing ministries, Native American concerns and reconciliation, cultural diversity in worship, safe sanctuaries, mission opportunities for churches….and so on.
More conventional workshops for church leaders will offer instruction and ideas for trustees, children and youth ministry leaders, lay leaders, stewardship and finance leaders, UM Men and UM Women leaders, Bible study and small group leaders, and more.
The Northeast District’s Tools session on March 12 will focus on Ministry with the Poor, one of the denomination’s four mission foci. The morning plenary session will feature a Poverty Simulation exercise, where middle-class, Christian participants will play roles in a family struggling to navigate and overcome the rigors and restraints of poverty in America.
One stressful hour of simulation will represent one month in the life of a poor family that struggles to survive while its members seek needed social services, education, gainful employment, medical care and solutions to inevitable crises. The Pocono Alliance will offer the simulation exercise with help from graduates of Getting Ahead, a local program that provides resources, training and networking for people trying to escape poverty.
Remarkably, the poverty focus will continue in afternoon workshops for leaders that will address worship, staff-pastor relations, trustees, finance, and ministries with children and youth–all in the context of doing Ministry with the Poor.
The Northwest District has yet to announce program and workshop details for its April 30 Tools for Ministry session. But it sponsors a two-part Soul Care workshop for pastors and laity this weekend, March 4-5.
By John Coleman, Eastern PA Conference Communications Director