MEMPHIS, Tenn. –– Charles Gilliland, president of the McKendree District United Methodist Men, and vice-president of Memphis Conference United Methodist Men, has been certified as a men’s ministry specialist to help Memphis Conference churches expand their ministries to men.
The certificate was awarded during the August 27-28 training session for persons who will take DISCIPLE Bible study into Tennessee state prisons.
In presenting the certificate, Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, said Gilliland “brings to this task a great background in DISCIPLE Bible study and a strong commitment to congregational development.”
A 30-year member of Colonial Park United Methodist Church, Gilliland taught a 6th grade Sunday school class for 22 years. He has also been a member of the choir for over 20 years, and he now chairs the Communications Committee.
“During my tenure as a Sunday school teacher we initiated a 6th grade day trip to a conference mission at Reelfoot Lake. The idea was to show our children our church at work beyond where we live.” said Gilliland. “Each Christmas, the ministry sponsors a toy store where qualified parents can ‘buy’ new donated toys for their children. The price of the trip was a donated toy. Our hope was that the children would be able to relate to the importance of helping make Christmas better for someone else, and not focus on the gifts they might expect to receive.”
The active layman also spends nights and helps provide meals at the church for families in need of housing through a program sponsored by the Memphis Interfaith Hospitality Network.
His three year stint as Stewardship Chairman at Colonial Park left him convinced that we make a mistake when we allow our stewardship effort to focus so completely on financial stewardship. “Each of us pledged to support our church with our prayers, our presence, our service and now our witness in addition to our gifts when we joined the church. We need to be committed to finding ways to put our unique combination of talents and abilities to work fulfilling that pledge,” Gilliland said.
After co-leading DISCIPLE I about a dozen times in his local church, Gilliland now plans recruit teams to take the 34-week Bible study into state prisons in the Memphis Conference. Gilliland serves as secretary of the Tennessee chapter of DISCIPLE Bible Outreach Ministries, an effort, begun in North Carolina, to take the Bible study into state prisons.
For the past couple of years the Memphis Conference layman has been visiting and writing an inmate in a Tennessee prison in West Tennessee.
“Those visits have had a real effect on me,” he said. “I have always believed prison should be about changing lives in positive ways and not merely warehousing people to do their time. The Disciple Study offers us a way to take a small first step to effect that change.”
In order to qualify for certification as a men’s ministry specialist, Gilliland completed a lay ministries course, an on-line course in United Methodist history and polity, an “Understanding Men’s Ministry” course, and safe-sanctuary training.
Gilliland plans to help provide small groups with ways to assess where they are in their spiritual walks and provide activities designed to aid spiritual growth. He suggests that developing one’s spiritual history may become a catalyst for reconnecting with old friends and mentors. “At the least this could become an opportunity to provide a heartfelt thank you to someone who may or may not understand his or her significance in our lives,” said Gilliland.
“I also believe that as we rethink our faith development we will become stronger in our mentoring of those who depend on us for guidance,” he said.
Memphis Conference churches who would like to have Gilliland help them find new ways to reach unchurched men and provide spiritual growth opportunities for men within their churches may contact Gilliland at firstname.lastname@example.org (901-240-3356).
Photo credit: Bill Freeman