From your partners in men’s ministry
A bi-monthly e-mail letter from agency officers and staff
to leaders of United Methodist Men
Something on the inside
By Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
––James 2:14-17 MSG
With what should I approach the Lord and bow down before God on high? Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings, with year-old calves? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with many torrents of oil? Should I give my oldest child for my crime; the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit? He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.
––Micah 6:6-8 CEB
In his book Love! Nine Fruits of The Spirit, Robert Strand reminds us how important it is to love others.
Strand tells the reader about the experience of a clergy wife:
“During Vacation Bible School my wife had an experience with her primary class that she says she will never forget. Her class was interrupted on Wednesday about an hour before dismissal when a new student was brought in.
“This little boy had one arm missing and since the class was almost over she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the cause, or his state of adjustment. She was very nervous and afraid that one of the other children would comment on his physical challenge and embarrass him. There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible.
“As the class time came to a close she began to relax. She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony. ‘Let’s make our churches,’ she said, clasping hands together, fingers interlocked. ‘Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s . . .’ The awful truth of her own actions struck her. The very thing she had feared the children would do, she had done!
“As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, ‘Davey, let’s make the church together’.”
Not a whole lot is going to happen for the good in this world until we team up with God and other people to make life what it ought to be, the church what it ought to be, society what it should be, and our homes what they should be.
Both James and Micah raise the question of how we put our faith––our relationships––into action. Neither is concerned with words or phrases that sound very religious; they are only concerned with outcomes. They were not impressed with great speakers that could (as we say in some preaching circles) “Say it well.” They were more interested in the final product of your walk with God in Christ Jesus.
Every day, people see inconsistencies in what we say compared to what we do. Though of different eras, James and Micah question our integrity.
Following through on commitments can be difficult and can cause us to make sacrifices we would rather not have to make. If we make good on our promises to God, we may have to give away (or not receive) what we want in order to bless others.
Then there also are those times when we are just not sure if God is calling us to do all of that.
- Have you experienced situations where your faith and your actions were in conflict?
- Reaching out to offer help to others can be risky. What do you think we risk when we reach out to offer ourselves?
- Has God ever pushed you to help others? If so, what was going on inside you that assured you that God was moving you to help?
- How do you discover what pleases God?
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president
General Commission on UM Men
A lesson from a walk in the woods
By Gil Hanke
Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (CEB)
While on vacation in New Hampshire, I took several long walks on trails and bike paths in the White Mountains. On one particular day I allowed myself to be instructed by the beauty God placed in front of me.
These woods are dense, with many different kinds of trees. Some are evergreen; others are broad leafed and they are beginning to take on some colors of autumn. Some tree trunks have the same diameter as my arm, others I would have difficulty getting my hands to touch if I gave the tree a hug. On this day I walked a bike path for more than four miles. The even surface permitted me to really explore the trees and the underbrush.
What I saw on this beautiful day was a quest for light. The tallest trees reached straight skyward; their branches broad and unencumbered by other smaller trees. Their highest branches formed a canopy of green against the blue cloudless sky. I was surrounded by that canopy, rarely in direct sunlight.
The smaller trees illustrated the quest for light. For most, there were no branches near the ground. The trunks of both the evergreen and the broad-leafed trees twisted to find the life-giving light filtered through the canopy. These smaller trees were not at all symmetrical with leaves only on the “light side” of the tree.
While there was no lack of water, no lack of fertile soil all the trees were on a quest for light.
In some places there was no light, and smaller trees stood barren, stunted, twisted and dead. In places where a fallen tree created an open window to the sky, the area was filled with thriving new growth leaning into the light.
So what did I learn from this walk?
Even with plenty of water and fertile soil, trees will not be healthy unless they have light.
If planted in a field, all trees with water and good soil will grow straight; as there is nothing to impede the light.
But, in a forest trees struggle to find light.
Most of us don’t live solitary lives. Most of us live in a forest of others which we refer to as community.
God has given my community his life-giving light, and in reality there is enough light for all of us. But we need to seek it, strive for it.
Yes, we may need to do some bending and twisting to find the light.
Yes, there is some natural pruning that takes place so that we can have access to God’s light.
Yes, there are always bigger light seekers who appear to have more access to God’s light, but in reality they grew slower than others in the community and encountered different risks.
We all have access to the same light of God, but big or small, those who are evergreen, and those who have seasons of bareness must struggle to find the light.
Are we actively seeking the light?
As trees, we can go without light for a period of time, but to stay healthy we need to be renewed by God regularly. The light I get today is new light from the same source.
Tomorrow, if I seek it, I will receive the gift of new light, again from the same source.
When I was a child I got the light I needed, which made me aware of God, but I have always needed more.
I hope I am never satisfied that the light I have received from God in the past is adequate for my present or future. Unlike the trees, we are also gifted with the chance to reflect that light to a world that needs God’s renewing light more than ever.
Strive for the light, be renewed by the light, and reflect the light.
That is the lesson I learned on my walk in the woods.
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on UM Men
National association launches training sessions
By Steve Nailor
I had two wonderful experiences in August.
First, I attended my first meeting of the General Commission on UM Men. I have served on other general boards over my career with the denomination. I was a delegate to four general and jurisdictional conferences and a member of the governing board of the National Council of Churches. What impressed me about the commission is that all 20 members––and I mean all––want UM Men to grow and expand their ministries. This 20-year-old commission is committed to making disciples for Jesus Christ.
My second experience was attendance at the annual meeting of the North Central Jurisdiction UM Men. All but one of the conference presidents met together prior to the Northern Illinois Conference Spiritual Congress.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, the new director of men’s ministry, joined us as we reviewed new training materials designed to help conference, district, and local presidents understand their duties and responsibilities.
The National Association of Conference Presidents (NACP) is engaged in an effort to provide training for leaders of UM Men at all levels. Members of the NACP Executive Committee will be trained first, followed by the men’s ministry specialists. The conference presidents and men’s ministry specialists will then provide training at the conference, district, and local-church levels.
I encourage you to participate in one of these training session designed to strengthen your men’s group and your ministry to and with our men.
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents
By Larry Coppock
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
John 10:14 NIV
In scouting ministries, we devote a lot of attention to how important it is for youth and adults to participate in scouting ministries within the context of a church setting.
The church is the hub around which ministry revolves.
The degree to which church leadership is committed to making scouting “a ministry” is the major determinant of its success as an outreach ministry.
Given that context each quarter we highlight stories in Scouting News about scouting youth and leaders who are making a vibrant difference in their local communities. Oftentimes they are recognized with Good Samaritan, Cross and Flame, and related awards.
It’s also important to recognize those UM churches that are using their scouting programs (BSA, GSUSA, BBBS and/or Camp Fire) as a ministry.
The Shepherd Church Charter Recognition (SCCR) was established to recognize churches that perform vital ministry including the following:
- Sponsor one or more of the following groups (as a ministry): Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Camp Fire.
- Offer the PRAY awards, a religious education program, for youth and children, grades 1-12.
- Observe a Scouting Ministries Sunday.
- Encourage each troop/club in the church to annually participate in one community service project.
- Elect or appoint a scouting coordinator who reports regularly to the governing body.
The SCCR was created to annually recognize the churches that provide outstanding scouting ministry in their communities.
As we ‘train up’ our children (Proverbs 22:6), please remember to honor the churches that produce our leaders and mentors.
For more information please visit the scouting ministry website.
Larry W. Coppock, national director, scouting ministries
General Commission on UM Men
Called to a new mission field
By Rick Vance
Several months ago, an evening worship service speaker proclaimed, “God is calling you into new mission fields!”
Little did I know how prophetic those words would become.
Some two months ago, God called me to move to Nashville to assume the responsibilities of director of men’s ministry.
As an introduction, I am an ordained clergy member of the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference. I hold degrees in radiologic technology, adult education, divinity, and leadership excellence.
God has used all of this training to prepare me for a variety of ministries.
As a young adult I was welcomed by UM Men and mentored into leadership roles in the group. They allowed me space to learn and make mistakes, while at the same time lovingly directing me into right practices. With the aid of a loving church, the men nurtured and supported me as God called me to the ordained ministry. Because of their witness, I have always had a passion for equipping men to minister to other men.
During more than 20 years of ministry, I served the denomination in a variety of local, district, conference and general church areas.
I am very passionate about engaging people to be in mission and ministry to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” By means of local, national and international ministry opportunities, we engage in ministry with the poor, make principled disciple leaders, and see transformation in our lives. Through all of this, we see the world change for the better.
This has been God’s call in my life; the only thing that’s changed is the mission field in which I’m living out this call.
As the new director of men’s ministry, I ask you to join me in our shared mission to “help men grow in Christ, so others may know Christ.”
Maybe God is calling you into new mission fields. Maybe God is calling your men’s ministry into new mission fields.
I would love to hear how God is calling you.
Allow me to help you along this journey.
Led by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I am excited about what God will do during our shared ministry.
The Rev. Dr. Richard Vance, director of men’s ministry
General Commission on UM Men
The power of presence
By Mark Lubbock
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
We often use the term “community” in the context of gatherings, neighborhoods and times of fellowship. However, in television reports the concept of “community” is too frequently replaced by news of riots and anti-social behavior.
One dictionary definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. . . . the sense of community that organized religion can provide.”
Biblical descriptions of community focus on meeting the needs of others.
There are no limit to the ways in which men can be of service to the church, neighborhood, schools, the elderly, children, and the needy.
My experience in the great Louisiana flood
The Washington Post reports a 2016 “no-named storm” dumped “three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina.” More than 500,000 people were affected by the August rain. Areas that had never been flooded in recorded history were under water––including my own home.
We lost everything––as did thousands of others living in areas previously considered safe from flooding. And we––along with 80 percent of neighboring homeowners––were not covered by flood insurance.
Occurring during an intense election cycle, very little about the Louisiana flood was carried by network news.
What to do? Where to go? FEMA officials offered some relief, but they could not begin to provide the resources necessary to make this many people whole.
Yet, God, through His Church had an answer!
Churches and religious disaster organizations from across the nation responded to this unprecedented disaster. God used the connection to minister to our immediate need and to offer hope for the future.
The response of UM Men was overwhelming!
Volunteers showed up almost immediately to help remove all the contents of our house including cabinets, furniture, sinks, bathtubs and sheetrock.
My wife and I could envision restoration, even without any insurance, simply from the way that God supported us through His people. I cannot begin to say THANK YOU in ways that express the depth of my heart to all who have been a part of this outreach.
Through an amazing string of “connections” we received a flood bucket that was packed by a UM church in Arizona, staged at the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana, shipped by a volunteer trucking line, distributed by a non-denominational church who first heard of our needs from my son. The bucket was hand delivered by a volunteer to my home!
This morning, Victor came by for copies of Strength for Service books. He knows me through Gulf South Men, a non-denominational men’s ministry. I had previously told the group about how UM Men provide first responders with copies of the devotional books.
Victor works with an organization that provides care for first responders in Baton Rouge who were taxed and stressed because of the cataclysmic flooding. Even two months after the flood, folks were a long way from being able to go back into their houses.
These first responders were caring for flood victims even while they were trying to restore their own flooded homes.
Victor’s group wanted to care for these first responders and Strength for Service provided a helpful resource. So, this morning, he came by to pick up books to distribute for the responders they serve.
See the thread take shape? A Roman Catholic Eagle Scout conceives of an idea to republish the 1942 book Strength for Service to God and Country. The General Commission on UM Men steps in to help him publish it. That book and a companion volume for first responders is subsequently developed and distributed all across the U.S. Information about the books is relayed by me to a non-denominational group, and the books are now being read by first responders in Baton Rouge.
You could not plan this kind of activity. God uses our Christian connection in amazing ways.
The UM Men connection
Let me bring this home now. Above are examples of how God makes use of the connection.
UM Men organizations are uniquely positioned to become vital and integral components in God’s Church by virtue of our mission and our structure.
The mission, of course, is to help men know Christ so others may know Him. The connectional structure involves local church groups, district organizations, annual conference organizations, jurisdictional organizations, the National Association of Conference Presidents, and the General Commission on UM Men.
Envision this: An opportunity arises in your area and 500 men show up to help.
This is more than a possibility with the UM Men connection.
Take steps to develop fellowship
Fellowship must be intentional, not left to chance. It is simply too important to ignore. When the men of the church gather regularly they get to know and eventually love one another. As this happens, men will also be more likely to attend regularly, and will also invite their friends.
You can make a difference in a couple ways.
- Encourage men in your local church to rally around a common interest. This can be anything at all. But you need to meet weekly, and you need to incorporate a spiritual element. You might begin by creating small accountability groups who use the “class meeting” model created by John Wesley and described by Kevin Watson in The Class Meeting.
- Join district UM Men activities as a group in order to establish friendships with men of other churches and provide for additional support for mission projects. The district should then join with other districts to engage in annual conference projects and conferences.
Understand this: you are not alone. The commission staff and certified men’s ministry specialists are here to help. We can provide speakers for events, help facilitate training on The Class Meeting, provide officer training, and establish a “No Man Left Behind” or a “Lead Like Jesus” seminar.
Please contact me with any thoughts, comments or questions.
Mark Lubbock, deployed staff
General Commission on UM Men
Why did Jesus walk on water?
By Jim Boesch
Question: Why did Jesus walk on water?
Answer: To build trust without borders.
In all servant leadership development training, I use the teaching model used by Jesus to equip His 12 disciples.
An early stage of Jesus’ influencing of these men centered on building their unconditional, unrestricted trust in Him. This trust would be paramount to the success of preparing them to become leaders who would establish the church for the ages.
One example was when the disciples were confronted with what appeared to be a man walking on the water toward their boat in the midst of a horrendous storm.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
What stopped Peter from concluding his walk on the water was the borders of his human thinking that people just don’t do that. He was internally guided by what he couldn’t do rather than by the possibility of what he could do through Christ.
At times, I still struggle with self-imposed borders on my thoughts and actions. These restrictions hinder my becoming the person God is raising me to be.
But, when I trust in and focus on God’s presence in my life, I find Him bombarding me with ways to live in His presence.
Today, I want to share one of the resources He has provided.
In the fall of 2015, I heard a song while attending my daughter’s church that had a wonderful lyric at the end that began to haunt my soul. I didn’t remember the name of the song and didn’t ask because it didn’t seem to be that important. But those few words that dealt with the theme of trusting without borders just continued with me.
In August, I received an email with a link to a song I felt compelled to access. There it was again; this song about trust and borders.
Once I heard again, I captured it electronically and have listened to it every day since. I have built a devotion around it and have shared it at the beginning of six different ministry meetings. Most recently, I shared it with a wonderful group of Virginia UM Men at a visioning retreat.
The song is called Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail). It is about the experience Peter had that stormy night on the Sea of Galilee as he continued his journey of committing to trust in Jesus.
I personally relate to the story told in this song as I struggle to trust in God’s plans for my ministry with Him. Invariably though, just as Peter momentarily lost his faith and Jesus saved him in his moment of weakness, in my heart I know He will do the same for me as I seek to trust him without the borders I impose on myself.
Words of the song that are particularly empowering to me:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.
As we all continue to discern God’s calling on our lives as kingdom builder and servers, may we put our trust in Him and Him alone––without borders and restraints.
Jim Boesch, deployed staff
General Commission on UM Men
Discipleship – The Contact Sport
The 12th National Gathering of United Methodist Men
St. Luke's United Methodist Church
What does it mean to live a life of discipleship?
For years, men in ministry have been struggling to develop plans, models, strategies, or paradigms to answer this question. The General Commission on United Methodist Men has decided to approach this question in a different way!
At the 12th National Gathering of Methodist Men, men will be challenged to, become involved in combating domestic violence, be held accountable in small groups, be involved in church and community outreach and evangelism, and be engaged in developing new ways to care for their community, their church and themselves.
Featured preachers include: Mississippi Area Bishop James Swanson, president of the General Commission on United Methodist Men and South Carolina Area Bishop Jonathan Holston.
The plenary presenters are: Dr. Kevin Watson, assistant professor of Methodist and Wesleyan Studies at Candler School of Theology and author of The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience; and Shan Foster, national director of MEND (Ending Violence – Mending Communities), Middle Tennessee YWCA.
There are a few changes in the gathering this year. Two changes are in the workshops. First, we will be offering four distinctive training tracts that will offer contact experiences in the areas of: leadership, personal growth, spiritual development and basic United Methodist Men’s ministry development.
The leadership tract will help men develop and craft a vision for ministry and offer strategies for gathering and developing a team for ministry. A third session will offer an opportunity to discuss some of the problems facing men’s ministry.
The personal growth tract will offer training in men’s health and wellness as well as discussing stress and anger issues and offering faithful healthy ways to address these issues. Finally, this tract will look at a man’s need to leave a legacy, helping all men understand what it means to be spiritual grandfathers.
The spiritual development tract will address the ways men live out their discipleship connected to God through the work of the Holy Spirit. In this tract, men will discuss the joys and challenges of living life as Spirit empowered men in contact with their families, work and community. Prayer is an essential part of this process. Men will experience different ways to pray throughout a normal (or abnormal) day. Last, but not least, this tract will also help men discover how men are engaged with the daily work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The basic United Methodist Men’s ministry development tract will address some of the emerging topics facing men ministry in the local church. How do we reach the missing and younger men in our church? How do we offer small-group accountability and support ministry to men whose schedules or health will not allow them to come together? These are two of the questions that will be answered. Finally, in this tract, winners of the “national contest for the most outstanding local church, district and conference ministries to men” will offer a panel discussion on “How We Did It.”
We now seek your input. In addition to the contact training tracts, we want to offer workshop that address your needs.
Over the next two weeks, Rick Vance will be collecting ideas from you. If you have suggestions of topics you would like us to address, please email him by October 28 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to the amazing training opportunities, there will also be time for hands on mission involvement, great fellowship, great food and great fun. Our desire is that men will come to Indianapolis, encounter God, be changed and leave ready to be involved in the Contact Sport of Discipleship in their local church, community and the world.