Building up disciples through Tools for Ministry

By John W. Coleman

Gifted and called leaders will be visiting six United Methodist churches across our conference on Saturday, April 29, bringing constructive tools for ministry to work not on houses of faith but on the people in them—that is, to build up disciples for the awesome, life-affirming work of ministry.

The annual Tools for Ministry training events—academies of missional learning happening simultaneously across the conference’s six districts—will again offer dynamic keynote speakers and workshops covering a broad range of crucial topics geared toward making informed disciples of Jesus Christ who are ready to help transform the world.


Understanding and countering racial privilege and racism—as part of transforming the church and the world—will be a focus of keynote and/or workshop topics in all the Tools sessions. As part of the conference’s engagement of the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Call to Action racial progress initiative, each district and each superintendent is addressing that challenge in this interactive training and teaching experience; and some have focused on it in special dialogues about race, racism and culture.

Other workshop topics will span from prayer ministries to church websites and social media, from emotional intelligence to personal evangelism and restorative justice. Staples of the church ministry toolbox will be offered, of course, including: church finances and stewardship practices, grant writing, planned giving, church trustee responsibilities, leading Bible study, ensuring safe sanctuaries, dealing with church conflict, and seeking transformation through missions and social advocacy.

There also will be needed workshops to teach ministry with all age ranges—children, youth, young adults, baby boomers and older adults, including one session on Advanced Care Planning (SW) and another on Understanding Dementia: Caring for the Person (East). And a number of workshops will offer ideas old and new for understanding church culture and stimulating church growth.

Tolls4Ministry1District Tools for Ministry times and locations:

kingweblg2015Extending the usual Saturday morning schedule, the Central District will begin its Tools for Ministry training on Friday night, April 28, from 6 to 9 PM, with a special session at Mother African Zoar UMC in Philadelphia. The Rev. Jacqui King, Director of Leadership for Congregational Vitality at the Discipleship Ministries general church agency, will lead a session on Exploring Vital Ministry for African American Churches.

Hosted by the Philadelphia Mission Connection, the Take It to the Streets seminar, following dinner, will focus on ministry needs, implications and adjustments amid racial and economic regentrification of urban neighborhoods.


“Our focus will be reconnecting with surrounding communities through prayer, process and people,” says King, who formerly was an innovative pastor in one of the nation’s most multicultural cities, Houston. She has asked attendees to read several online articles and bring their churches’ MissionInsite executive summaries to help them “set the framework” for their community analysis. Visit the event webpage for more information and register online at a cost of only $10.

King will also keynote the district’s Saturday Tools for Ministry session at Bethel UMC in Spring City (from 8 AM to 12:30 PM). She will challenge attendees to move from ideas to implementation as they “focus on disciple-making processes and practices while building community partnerships.” The special offering received will support the district’s Clean Water mission initiative.


Jacquie Morges

Individual keynote speakers at other Tools for Ministry sessions are:

  • East District: Jacquie Morges, of Ursinus College, a former United Methodist youth pastor, who works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a nationwide, evangelical, interdenominational campus ministry. She will speak on “Being the Church Outside the Building: Where to Start with Evangelism.”
  • Southeast District: the Rev. Rodney Smothers, black pastor of a mostly white UM congregation in Maryland and a widely sought-after speaker, trainer and coach on church and leadership development.

    Rodney Smothers

    After he speaks on “What is Beloved Community?” The district will offer plenary and workshop sessions on “Steps to Becoming the Beloved Community,” as it continues efforts to address race and racism following a guided dialogue on Jan. 15 of this year.


Greg Carey

  • Southwest District: Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary who has taught and written about ancient literature, the New Testament and the Book of Revelation. He blogs regularly for the Huffington Post religion section and appears in documentaries on the BBC, Discovery, and National Geographic Channels, including the 2011 documentary, “The Story of Jesus.”

Meanwhile, two districts will feature panel discussions during their opening plenary sessions.

Northwest District Superintendent the Rev. H. Joe Tyson will welcome two former superintendents, the Rev. Christopher Kurien, who is Indian-American and the conference’s Director of Connectional Ministries, and the Rev. Dr. Alfred Maloney, who is African American, to join him in a panel talk about race, racism and culture in the church and society. During a two-part morning workshop, the Rev. Alicia Julia-Stanley, a Latina pastor at a predominantly white church in Lebanon, will join them, as they use the Vital Conversations on Race resource provided by the denomination’s Commission on Religion and Race.

The Northeast District will offer a Mission Connection panel discussion for its opening plenary, with the topic “Strengthening the Connection through Resources and Relationships.” Its ensuing workshops include eye-catching titles like:

  • Going with the Flow: Partnering with Families in the 21st Century
  • Managing Conflict in the Church
  • Active Bystander Intervention
  • Radical Hospitality From Street to Seat and
  • The Nitty-Gritty of Children’s Ministry

In all, the six districts—which will become four districts on July 1—will, as always, provided rich resourcing and transformative teaching to the crowds of dutiful disciples who come to these Tools for Ministry sessions. And as always, they will leave committed to learning and leading their congregations in service to their communities and in mission to the world.