Reflections by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
Reframe the question
By Bishop James Swanson
Believe it or not an annual conference session can be an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to guide us into great discoveries.
I was invited to the New Mexico Annual Conference and really had a wonderful spirit-filled time. While I was there conference members spent some time asking themselves a series of questions prompted by Change Your Questions, Change Your Church, a small book by J. Val Hastings, president of Coaching 4 Today’s Leaders.
Someone might ask, “Why would you write about this in a UM Men’s publication?” Well, because Val’s questions are universally fit for any ministry within the church that is seeking life, and the vast majority of men to whom we minister are in need of new lives.
Allow me to offer just one illustration of what Val offers; it’s on page 1:
“History changed when a single question changed; when we stopped asking, “How do we get to the water?” And started asking, “How do we get the water to us?”
Val’s suggestion to the church and my suggestion to UM Men in our local churches is not how do we get the men to come to us but “How can we go to them?”
This is a local question. It involves the men of your church investing enough time to study the landscape of your community or communities. It is what many of us call looking at context. What colors your ministry area? What are the joys, hopes, dreams and aspirations of the males and the significant others of these males in the area where your church is planted?
Oh, by the way, there are other questions you need to reframe, but I’m not going to provide them. Buy the book.
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. president
General Commission on UM Men
Words have Power
By Bishop Gary Mueller
The Book of Genesis describes how God created the earth, all that is on it, and humanity by uttering words.
Throughout history, the right words have brought hope in the darkest moments and the wrong words have brought hatred and destruction.
This is not just an observation about life. It is personal. You have experienced countless times how your own words have made a far greater difference for good or ill than you ever imagined possible.
Sadly, we live in a time when the destructive force of words far outweighs their ability to make a positive difference. This inescapable fact confronts us every day through social media, our political discourse and, in a very personal way, our deeply divided United Methodist Church.
If this trend continues, the consequences will be devastating.
When words are weaponized, the practice says far more about those who utter them than the people they are speaking about. The words we choose provide a window into our soul. The choice of words that tear down, divide or inflict harm points to the reality that we are fundamentally out of kilter with God.
This means something personal and powerful. When we choose words we know will harm others, it is not acceptable to say that we do not mean what others clearly hear us saying. In fact, it only makes things worse. Quite simply, we need to come to grips with the fact that we need to repent.
But there is hope. The Word of God, Jesus, has come to transform us from the inside-out with a word of grace that forgives, heals and makes new.
May we so feast on this Word, that our words reflect the life God makes available to us far more than our own insecurities, self-centeredness and fear.
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
A miracle in Antioch
By Gil Hanke
This last Sunday, our church in Antioch, Tenn., celebrated the work of ten college interns from across the country who spent this summer working with at-risk children through Project Transformation.
Our church is a great space to host this work, but, ironically, we have few school-aged children attending our church on Sunday mornings.
We have a great Cub Scout pack, some children in the nursery, but not many in our “holy huddle” which completes our children’s time in worship.
By contrast, Project Transformation registers 120 children who attend a wide range of activities Monday through Thursday during the summer. We get help from other UM churches in our area, and many of our members serves as volunteers. My wife helps several days a week by being read to; she loves it.
The goals are focused on reading, which transforms these children into better students. Studies reveal children who read during the summer are better students in the fall.
Those goals were clearly met by every child. But, on Sunday, we heard from ten college students who were also transformed.
Based on the number of interns, their lack of experience in teaching or working with elementary and middle-school children, and the huge number of children, failure seem a more likely outcome to them on day one. But each of these interns will never be the same. All will complete this summer more confident and blessed than when they began.
Some will change their majors; one will even change the college he is attending to get a degree in youth ministry.
Some who are staying in the area will be help grow a children’s program at our church.
This transformation of interns is also part of the plan, and one of the key factors was (and is) their reliance on God. Something supernatural happened that made this all work. The hand of God, some Christian leaders, and some local volunteers all showed up and made this a huge success.
The interns and volunteers will never be the same.
Those who heard their stories of growth in faith, will never be the same.
And those children, now ready to excel, will never be the same.
What can your church do to reach out to your neighborhood?
Gil Hanke, chief executive officer
General Commission on UM Men
By Steven Scheid
Within Scouting ministry, we seek to prepare youth for the challenges they may face. But, we also prepare them to avoid challenges. A good example is the principle of “Staying Found”, a few rules to help keep you from getting lost.
- Always have a buddy with you. We use this principle for youth and adults. There is a safety in being together. We can pick each other up, be the voice of reason, and stand as witness together. Jesus sent his disciples out by twos. Later he would specifically tell the disciples, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
- Know where you are. Before we take a trip, we learn of the area. With the vast amount of knowledge at a finger’s swipe away there is really no excuse for not learning ahead of time. Use maps, guides and history. In the church, we look at this unique time and wonder if we will survive. I believe the most delicate challenge for survival was in Acts 15. The Council at Jerusalem was a fledgling movement that was under serious threat from disagreement within. There was a great and honest dispute, but God resolved the issue. Even if there is not a detailed map of what lies ahead there is a way to know. The maker of it all will guide.
- Look back! The irony of moving forward is we think we know where we have been. But as we go forward we seldom realize the rock, tree, or stream look different from the other side. We must stop regularly and look back. We need to know the other side of where we came from. We may travel that way again and need markers to direct our path.
- Keep together. This rule seems easy enough. Don’t let your group drift too far apart. If something happens at the back of the pack, the group must be able to communicate with the front of the pack. Otherwise, the situation can become dire quickly. It may take all of us together to respond to an emergency. The best way to keep together is to let the slowest person lead. This is not easy but necessary for safety. Stop and gather the entire group at all crossings and forks.
- Communicate. If you need to leave the group, clearly communicate where you are going and when you will be back. Often the case of different paths is less about the path and more about sharing enough to know how we can come together again.
I pray for the church. I pray for Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders everywhere. I pray for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I pray for leaders in Camp Fire. But most of all I pray that we will teach children and youth to be the church.
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
The power of one
By the Rev. Dr. Rick Vance
One song can spark a moment,
One whisper can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring.
One smile begins a friendship,
One moment can make one fall in love.
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal
One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.
One step must start each journey.
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.
One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what's true,
One life can make a difference,
You see, it’s up to you!
(Ashish Ram poemhunter.com)
As I have traveled this spring throughout the connection to annual conferences, there has been one phrase I have heard time and time again. While parts of the phrase change, it always starts, “We just have a few people, so . . .”
Throughout Scripture, we see that God uses a person or a small group of people to generate great change or start a great movement. Moses led the people of Israel to freedom, David took on Goliath and throughout the New Testament God used individuals to start the early church.
The thing that all of these people had in common is that they knew their mission and they acted on God’s calling.
One voice can speak with wisdom, one heart can know what's true, one life can make a difference, you see, it’s up to you!
There is a song that verse states; “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.” Will you be that spark, that “ONE” that will allow themselves to be used by God to make a difference in men’s ministry?
If you need help, we are here to walk with you and help you.
Your brother on the journey,
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
A time to celebrate
By Steve Nailor
As I enter the last year of my four-year term as president of the National Association of Conference Presidents, I pause to give thanks for the life-changing ministries I have been privileged to witness. Each of these ministries have helped men grow in Christ so others may know Christ.
While there are still many things yet to be accomplished, it’s good to take the time to celebrate our ministries with partner organizations.
- Young people have gained skills and sharpened their life foci through Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts USA, Big Brothers-Big Sisters and Campfire USA.
- People in desperate need of help have received prayer support from conference prayer advocates and their support teams in districts and local churches.
- Elected officers of UM Men organizations have received guidance from attending the NACP meeting, on-line training and webinars
- Men of all ages have a better understanding of the culture that dehumanizes women and provides ways to support them through “Mending through Faith” courses.
- Men have had their lives enriched through experiences with “No Man Left Behind” and “Lead Like Jesus” courses.
- Inmates in state prisons have found hope and redemption though Disciple Bible study.
- Men’s ministry specialists have enabled neighboring churches to expand their ministries to men in their churches and communities.
- Scouting ministry specialists have encouraged churches to charter Scout organizations and minister to youth in their communities with other youth-serving organizations.
- Children and youth in Haiti have received the gift of hearing.
- Thousands of hungry people have received free food through gleaning efforts and potato drops sponsored by the Society of St. Andrews and meal packaging events sponsored by Rise Against Hunger.
- People without the ability to walk have received hand-crank carts through Mobility Worldwide.
- People in the U.S. Armed Forces and first responders on local communities have received Strength for Service books of daily devotions.
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
The missing element
By Mark Lubbock
"The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
––2 Timothy 2:2
In my annual conference there are 28 percent fewer men than women. Yet our state census shows men and women’s population as virtually even.
A Swiss scientific study determined that when the father was a regular church attender 82 percent of the children became attenders. When dad was not a regular attender, only 3 percent of the children came faithfully.
The single greatest impact on church growth can come from developing an intentional process to reach and connect men to Jesus Christ through your local church. The Center for Men’s Ministry and certified men’s ministry specialists can work with your church to develop a custom process irrespective of your location or demographics.
When your church engages in a partnership with the Center for Men’s Ministry you gain access to incredible resources:
- Children’s and Youth Ministry –– Partner with Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Campfire and Big Brothers - Big Sisters.
- Women’s Ministry –– Work together with UM Women and support their activities.
- Join with UM Women and discover resources for women’s ministry.
- Adult Ministry –– Receive training, participate in studies, attend events and discover how-to guides for a variety of adult activities.
- Fathering –– Engage in fatherhood training, father/children activities, and fatherhood studies.
- Marriage –– Learn how to have a career and children, and still be a world-class husband.
- Grandfathering –– Discover ways to become a world-class grandfather, a father to the fatherless, and develop mentoring skills.
- Hunger –– Partner with Society of St. Andrew to provide millions of servings of fresh food to hungry people, or partner with Rise Against Hunger to provide dehydrated meals to people in emergency situations.
- Community –– Participate in community programs to serve those in need around the world.
- Christian Leadership Development –– Engage in one of the best Christian leadership courses in the nation.
- Abuse Prevention –– Participate in “Amending through Faith”, an eight-session training experience designed to reduce domestic violence.
- Small Group Formation –– Receive information on how to lead a John Wesley’s Class Meeting.
- Accountability Groups –– Receive training on how to lead a John Wesley Band Meeting.
Invite me to come speak to your church leadership team. Let’s explore wonderful possibilities for your church and your district.
Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and deployed staff member .
General Commission on UM Men