More than 500 people have registered for the Eastern PA Conference’s major, annual training seminar, Tools for Ministry, to help church leaders and members become more informed, involved and adept in various areas of ministry. And the number is climbing daily.
They will all gather online Saturday morning, March 13, from 8:30 to 12:30, in 34 courses taught over two sessions by expert practitioners. And most will do it from the comfort of their homes using Zoom video conferencing.
That convenience is a rare silver lining around the dark cloud of pandemic-forced church closings and gathering limitations. Indeed, it may lead ultimately to a total attendance record over past Tools sessions, which were all held onsite at churches in each district.
The diversity of topics being selected by registrants includes typical leadership courses like The Work of the Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee (65 people*) and The Ministry of Being a Local Church Trustee (37 people*). But some want to go beyond the basics, choosing eclectic courses like:
- Engaging the Whole Congregation (50 registrants),
- Vital Contemporary Worship (36),
- Life on Life Discipleship (34)
- Enthusiastic Evangelism in Today’s Society (31)
- Advanced Church Marketing and Communications (31)
And then there are more specialized courses, such as
- A Time to Be Born and a Time to Die (45 registrants), a workshop that “will help us look at preparing people for their passing, as well as helping people cope with the loss of their loved ones,”
- Make us One Lord: A Moderated Conversation on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the United Methodist Church (36), and
- Christopher Columbus: It’s Time to Know the Truth! Helping Your Church to Learn the True Story of Indigenous People (32).
Deeper into the toolbox
Before next Saturday arrives, more folks may dig deeper into the toolbox to select other intriguing and informative courses to build, repair or upgrade their knowledge and ministry involvement in important areas. Wise church leaders might consider taking:
- Church Marketing for Beginners
- Sexual Misconduct in the Church
- Effective Church Audits
- Tax Issues Faced by Churches, Preschools and Cemeteries
- Building Community Partnerships
- Fundraising for Special Projects
- Adaptive Leadership
- A Renewed Emphasis on Evangelism for the 21st Century, and
- Getting Out While Staying In: Volunteers in Mission, COVID Edition.
Two courses, both titled Part-Time Is Plenty, relate to the increasing reality of churches having part-time pastors. One is subtitled Changing Mindsets; the other, Design to Thrive. (How to make vitality happen with part-time clergy in particular local settings.)
The course with the shortest title will teach the broadest and most essential goal of church leaders: Servanthood. Meanwhile, several courses will focus on specific generational, cultural and topical arenas of ministry.
Generational, Cross-Cultural Ministries
Seven Things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids is one of two children’s ministry courses. The other, Ministry of Children in a Time of Pandemic (Ministerio de Niños en Tiempo de Pandemia), is one of two courses offered bilingually. The other is Casting Your Net in the Sea of Gen-Z (Lanzando la Red en el Mar de Gen-Z).
Two longtime youth ministers will co-lead another pandemic-related, age-level course: Youth Group Lessons from the Pandemic: Finding the Light in the Darkness… “Youth groups seem to have suffered in many ways during the pandemic,” reads the description. “Trying to plan activities and even virtual, online events are not working for many. We need to find new, more adaptive and flexible ways of doing creative youth ministry.” The presenters will “share successes, non-successes, pitfalls, and best practices to help transform youth groups in 2021 and beyond.”
Several courses will address racism, diversity and inclusiveness in ministry
- Intercultural Competency is “designed to increase the intercultural competency of attendees and help them deepen their understanding of relationship dynamics, especially in diverse cultural communities.”
- When You SEE White Supremacy, How to USE Your White Voice is limited to 18 participants. The first session of this course taught by the new Whites Confronting Racism group, filled quickly. A second session was opened, and that one is now at 15 registrants and close to filling up as well.
- And More Than a Large-Print Bulletin and a Ramp will offer ideas on “How to Serve with People of All Abilities.”
Other key courses will address important social issues of concern to many United Methodists: Addiction, Prison Ministry, and Immigrants in need of affordable legal assistance.
The workshops will be offered in two 90-minute sessions—beginning at 9:00 and 10:45 AM, with a break in-between. Bishop Peggy Johnson will begin the morning plenary session at 8:30 with devotions. An offering, using text-to-give on smartphones, or mailed or electronic funds transfer options, will be received to support the antiracism and justice work of POWER, an interfaith community organization to which some Eastern PA Conference churches belong.
*All course registration numbers are as of March 4.