Feb 06, 2024 | John W. Coleman

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.  —Proverbs 3:13

Several hundred lay and clergy members of Eastern PA will spend three brief but full Saturday mornings in February and March drilling down into a deep well in search of refreshing insights about church ministry and leadership. They will use expert teaching, probing questions, innovative concepts, shared experiences, biblical interpretation, creative media, helpful resources, and other Tools for Ministry to seek and find blessings of wisdom and understanding.

Three district/regional Tools for Ministry events will offer learning for leaders in dual 90-minute sessions:

  • West District: February 24 at Salem United Methodist Church in Manheim, PA
  • South-East Region: March 2 at Eastern University in St. David’s, PA
  • North District: March 9 at Asbury United Methodist Church in Allentown, PA

West District Tools for Ministry, Feb. 24 | See the Courses | Register

In the West four courses will focus on financial stewardship—offering timely wisdom to treasurers, finance committees, pastors and grant-seekers working with “shoe-string budgets.”

All three Tools sessions will offer courses aimed at training lay leaders, trustees, SPRCs and church leaders interested in shifting to the popular, streamlined One Board Model (aka Simplified Accountability Structure).

“Effective Youth Ministry” will tell leaders “How to Start and How to Keep Going.” Meanwhile, “Serving Senior Communities” and “Growing Older Ministries Grows Churches!” will explore resources, activities and opportunities to engage life and spirit among this high-value constituency. And the always needed Safe Sanctuary course will address child abuse, sexual misconduct, vulnerable adults and safe digital policies, while using scenarios to show leaders how to provide the training in their churches.

Members of EPA’s Commission on Religion & Race will teach on Cross Cultural/Cross Racial Ministries and “How to Talk with People about Race and Racism.” Another course will help people learn to “Have Hard Conversations” and lead ministry “in a Polarized World.” And another will teach how to start Church and Society advocacy ministries.

“Church Growth 101: Hospitality & Welcoming Guests” should both attract those who want their churches to grow. And for pastors and church leaders who feel weary in well-doing, the “Building Personal Resiliency” might prescribe some remedies.

Meanwhile, the future is here. So, it’s time to start using Chat GPT to do AI research for your sermons, Bible studies, forms, and so on. And “How to Get Free and Cheap Technology for your Church” should help leaders affordably address technology needs.

All Tools sessions will offer a primer on the 2024 General Conference, just two months away, and may answer some burning questions…while, alas, leaving some questions unanswered.

South-East Region Tools for Ministry, March 2 | See the Courses | Register

The South-East Region will return to the much-appreciated, Eastern University campus, offering “passionate, relevant and new workshops and presenters,” said the Rev. Evelyn Kent Clark, South District Superintendent. “We will have a variety of new workshops, along with returning ones that can enable us to not just do church but actually be the church.

“One workshop will open our eyes to a new look at youth ministry for today, with real, hands-on ideas and strategies to impact young people in our churches and communities,” she continued. “One of the most essential parts of our week is the worship experience. Is your worship experience uplifting, creative and connected with powerful preaching and worship design? If not, find out how it can be. If it is, find out how to take it to the next level.

“We are called to serve our communities as lay and clergy disciples. Hear new ways to transform lives and innovative ways to connect with neighbors. Introduce your neighbors to Jesus Christ. Assist and support community members. Assess and supply their needs. Teach and equip them to change and become agents of change.

“Is getting your church on the website driving you crazy? Find out how to make your church’s website work for you. How many members in your church have heard God’s call to ministry in the last ten years? We have a workshop on cultivating the culture of discerning, sharing and responding to God’s call.”

While all Tools academies offer required continuing education for Christ Servant Ministers and Certified Lay Ministers, the South-East will also tie some of its courses to elements of the Pathways to Congregational Fruitfulness & Health.

  • “Identifying Resources for Ministry” (Pathway: Sustainability)
  • “Building Vital Congregations” (Pathway: Vitality)
  • “Youth Ministry” (Pathway: Next Generation Ministries)
  • Staff/Pastor Parish Committee (Pathway: Conflict Resolution)
  • “Deacons, Deaconesses and Home Missioners, Oh My!” (Pathway: Community Engagement) and
  • “Organizing the Local Church for Mission” (offered in Spanish and English) and “Connecting with Our Missionaries” (Pathway: Journey of Hope ).

Additional courses will focus on Safe Sanctuaries, “Selfcare & Mental Health” and “Churches Walking with those coming home from Prison.”

North District Tools for Ministry, March 9 | See the Courses | Register

The North District will feature “Launching and Growing Family Ministry” to explore how to welcome, support and involve young families in a church’s full ministry. And a special introduction to the Pathways initiative will lead attendees to “Embark on a Transformative Journey” that can revitalize their churches.

“Methodists: A Singing People” will fill the classroom and perhaps the hallway with melodious voices as it teaches and celebrates the denomination’s proud tradition and practice of church music—especially Wesleyan hymns.

“So you want to lead a Bible Study?” will teach a primer in strategies, structures and contemporary scriptural insights for teaching Bible study in various settings. Meanwhile, “Christian Spiritual Practices” will prepare attendees to relieve worry and distraction and listen more deeply and calmly for God’ voice through time-honored, transformative spiritual practices.

Finally, as each district/region intentionally offers courses related to the conference’s mission to “End the Sin of Racism,” the North will offer “How to Start a Conversation on Race.” And EPA’s Committee on Native American Ministries will lead a Path Toward Wholeness/Journey of Hope session in the North and the South-East titled “William Penn’s Holy Experiment—Did It Work as He Intended.”

The workshop will examine the horrific Conestoga Massacre and the forced assimilation of children at the Carlisle Indian School to show how William Penn’s friendly relationship with the Lenape gave way to hostility and brutal attempts to solve the “Indian problem.” In the journey toward hope and healing, understanding the intergenerational impact of this brutal history on Native Americans should lead one to advocate for justice and fairness in issues facing Native Americans today.