Commission reviews National Gathering and BSA Jamboree
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The Aug. 5-8 meeting of the 20-member General Commission on UM Men reviewed responses to the 12th National Gathering of UM Men in Indianapolis and the National Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.
Sixty-two percent of respondents to a questionnaire following the July gathering of UM Men rated the two-day event as “excellent” and 32 percent said it was “very good.”
“The event as a whole was very uplifting and inspiring,” said a respondent. “It has given me a new drive to lead my men’s group for the remainder of 2017 and into the future.”
Ministry is expanding
A report on a “re-start” effort to help annual conferences who do not have functional leaders also gave indications that men’s ministry is expanding. Bishop James Swanson, president of the commission, and Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president, wrote letters to bishops of 18 targeted conferences and offered assistance in starting or restarting conference organizations.
Gil Hanke, top executive of the commission, noted that new conference presidents are now in place in Kentucky, Susquehanna, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Wisconsin, and Desert Southwest annual conferences. He hastened to note that there are active units in annual conferences without functioning annual conference organizations. For example, in 2016, the winner of the best local church unit was in the Desert Southwest Conference which at the time did not have a functioning conference organization of UM Men.
Report on BSA Jamboree
Fifteen UM clergy served as chaplains to the 30,000 participants in the National BSA Jamboree and 35 volunteers provided information about the UMC in the Faith and Belief exhibit area of the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va. Gil Hanke said an estimated 12,000 Scouts visited the exhibit that included information about Strength for Service, Programs of Religious Activities with Youth (PRAY), the Society of St. Andrew, scouting ministry specialists, and training opportunities.
The Rev. Scott Pickering, vice-president of the Scouting Ministry Committee of the commission and a chaplain at the jamboree, told the committee how important it is for chaplains to have training in behavior disorder. During the July 19-28 event, one Scout pulled a knife on a leader, and another Scout threatened to jump off a bridge.
Participating by phone in the August 4 committee meeting, Lee Shaw, BSA director of national alliances, congratulated the commission on their contributions to the jamboree. He noted the UMC is one of only three denominations to increase the number of Scouts during 2016. In 2015, there were 324,696 young people involved in Scout troops chartered by UM churches; that number increased to 327,405 in 2016, an increase of 2,709 Scouts.
Some of that increase may be attributable to the 344 scouting ministry specialists in 51 annual conferences. Those volunteer leaders also encouraged churches to begin or expand PRAY classes. A total of 4,874 PRAY awards were earned in 2016, making the UMC the top denomination in award presentations.
In other business, the commission learned:
- Laura Bush, former first lady and a member of the UMC, will be the major speaker at a Duty to God luncheon at the 2018 National BSA meeting;
- A survey of UM scouting ministry specialists favored by a two-to-one margin an exploration of a BSA plan which would invite girls to participate in scouting units beyond the coed Venturing program;
- There are 38 men’s ministry specialists helping neighboring churches expand their ministries to men;
- Information from the 19 workshops at the National Gathering of UM Men will be presented in a series of webinars.
- The National Association of Conference Presidents is considering a name change as it seeks to become an international organization.
- “Suits for Success,” an Illinois group that provides suits for inmates about to be released from prison is seeking to become an affiliate organization with Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries.
- UM Men contributed $160,000 to the UMM Meals for Millions program of the Society of St. Andrew. Wade Mays, director of the program, says the U.S. wastes 120 billion pounds each year, and he challenged each unit of UMM to double their contributions to the hunger-relief effort.
- UM Men helped secure a $20,000 grant from the World Service Contingency Fund in order to help with the cost of developing a guide to help reduce the number of domestic violence incidents. That guide is now being tested prior to being released to UM Men organizations.
- The commission agreed to partner with the Red Cross “Home Fire Campaign", a national effort to provide free smoke alarms in high-risk areas. See separate release.
- Commission members prepared packages of rice and beans for a local elementary school that serves children from several nations.