Leaders were teaching learners in six districts across our conference April 29, offering them tools for ministry to work not on houses of faith but on the people in them. Each year the multisite academies known as Tools for Ministry offer an expansive reach of knowledge to hundreds of church leaders, preparing them for disciple-making and Kingdom-building.
Unlearning and dismantling racism was a key theme in the Northwest and Southeast districts, as part of an ongoing, conference-wide anti-racism initiative. The Rev. Rodney Smothers (left), a trainer, coach and pastor in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, led the Southeast session’s focus on “Building the Beloved Community.”
The Rev. Joe Tyson, Northwest District Superintendent, welcomed two past superintendents—the Rev. Christopher Kurien, who is Indian-American, and the Rev. Alfred Maloney, who is African American—for plenary and workshop discussions about their experiences and insights about race and racism.
Staples of the church ministry toolbox are always on the syllabus, including: church finances and stewardship practices, church trustee responsibilities, leading Bible study, ensuring safe sanctuaries, dealing with church conflict, and exploring missions and social advocacy.
Other workshops spanned the full age-level spectrum, from children, to youth, to young adults, baby boomers and older adults. And some offered old and new ideas for navigating social trends, dealing with church culture and stimulating church growth.
Before scattering to workshops, members at each church site gathered in plenaries as they enjoyed fellowship and worship with diverse musical expressions, listened to presentations by guest speakers, and gave to district offerings to support mission projects.
The Central District got an early start with an advance Tools session at African Zoar UMC in Philadelphia the night before. The Rev. Jacqui King (right), Director of Leadership for Congregational Vitality at our Discipleship Ministries general agency in Nashville, led a “Take It to the Streets” seminar on Exploring Vital Ministry for African American Churches. She then spoke at the district’s Tools plenary and led a workshop the next day.