bishop James Swanson presents representatives of South Carolina with a plaque for tying for first place in a contest for the most effective ministry by an annual conference.in the United States. From left: Dennis Sullen, Marvin Horton, Bishop Swanson, Herman Lightsey and L.W. Smith
Best local churches
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.––Some 200 Mandarin men visit hospitals, nursing homes, and detention centers. They also cook, teach, coach basketball and soccer teams, and lead a 100-member Cub Scout pack and a 25-member Scout troop. Last year, 51 young men and women received PRAY (Programs of Religious Activities with Youth) awards. In 2015, the men gave $38,000 to local ministries and charities. Every year, some 100 golfers participate in a “Memorial Golf Tournament” to honor those who have gone on to “Heaven’s Fairway.” Following the event, they have a family cookout and silent auction; the day provides $10,000 for mission projects. The men field two softball teams in spring and fall leagues, and sponsor an annual family night at a Jacksonville Suns baseball game. They also provide a family bowling night with 80 participants, a “Steak ‘N’ Spud” night, and a “Boil & Oyster Roast,” where they present an annual “Man of the Year” award. They sell two semi-truckloads of a Christmas trees, provide meals for a local food bank, serve with “Tool Belts United,” help with a life-skills seminar at the Trinity Freedom Farm, and support an Easter pancake breakfast. Every Sunday, you can find them assisting worshippers with parking. They attend the annual conference retreat in Leesburg, and host a district rally and a barbecue meal. They provide small accountability groups, weekly Bible study, weekly prayer groups, and breakfast groups in local restaurants. They also sponsor Wednesday night studies on a variety of topics.
Jarvis Memorial UMC
GREENVILLE, N.C. Jarvis men sponsor an annual barbecue chicken dinner that contributes to their ability to give $15,000 to various ministries, including: the Wesley Foundation of East Carolina University, the Music Academy of Eastern North Carolina, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, a community shelter, a soup kitchen, a Boys and Girls Club, a preschool playground, a West Africa orphanage, and a Thanksgiving luncheon for first responders. The men also provide instrumental and choral music for “Squeaks, Squawks and Clangs,” a beginning music ensemble program for students from low socio-economic groups. Once a month, they prepare, deliver, and serve hot meals to a community shelter. On Fridays, the men provide 60 students at two elementary schools with backpacks of food. The men filled packets at a Stop Hunger Now food packaging event, and they supported a three-evening revival led by Bishop William H. Willimon.
WYLIE, Texas––In 2015, Wiley men contributed 351 man hours to construct eight handicap ramps in the area, and they joined with other youth and adults to construct 24 ramps during a mission trip to San Antonio. With funds from a Valentines banquet and a golf tournament, they contributed $1,200 to help young people participate in mission trips, $400 for a scholarship for Boy’s State, $500 to the Wylie Christian Care Center, and $1,200 to a regional ministry that provides housing and meals for homeless families. They also gave $200 for a local Bible ministry, $1.200 to provide meals for the hungry, $200 to the Society of St. Andrew, $1,200 for assistance requests, and they provided funds to enable two people to attend a Walk to Emmaus weekend. They also assist elderly church members including removing large tree limbs overhanging a home. Some of the men participate in a ministry at the Hutchins State correctional facility.
Tied for 5th place
CROTON ON THE HUDSON, N.Y.–– UM Men host several opportunities for fellowship including an Asbury spaghetti dinner with Boy Scout Troop 49 in Ossining, a chili lunch and hot dog sale, a barbecue meal, hikes, and a pastor’s breakfast. They raised $1,000 for the “Harry Chapin Run against Hunger.” They also supported a public-health ministry in Nicaragua and a missionary in Israel/Palestine. They also repaired church buildings, maintained the grounds, sponsored a Father’s Day worship service, provided school back-packs and distributed Strength for Service books.
NAMPA, Idaho––UM Men prepared a luncheon at an annual bazaar. With the funds from the luncheon, they prepare and serve more than 90 meals per month to the Nampa Community Shelter. They also provide the shelter with furniture and other items donated by church members. They also collected funds to provide a service dog for a veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. One member has served for seven years as a mentor for at risk children. One member serves on the Nampa Housing Board, and another serves on the Salvation Army/Community Shelter Advisory Board. The organization meets monthly for breakfast or lunch and they are studying Discovering Mark.
Men of the Shreveport District raise funds with cook offs and other events. Last year, they sent 200 pounds of yams to churches and food pantries in North Louisiana. Bossier churches provide meals on the first three weekends of every month at St. Paul Episcopal Hope House. District men provide meals on the third weekend, and George McCalman, a member of Plain Dealing UMC, delivers soup and sandwiches and on the fourth and fifth weekends. Men of First UMC Natchitoches provided $6,100 to package 20,000 Stop Hunger Now meals for emergency situations around the world. Men of Ellerbe Road UMC deliver 400 Meals on Wheels to shut-ins each Monday; last year the church also provided 2,800 spaghetti meals in a monthly “Cook’s Night Off” with proceeds of $2,500 donated to the NW Louisiana Veterans Home. Shreveport men furnished 10 new bikes, and Natchitoches men furnished four new dirt bikes for the Wesley Foundation at NW State University.
It’s a tie.
South Carolina Conference
South Carolina had two tragic events in 2015. The first was the tragic shooting of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church as they were engaged in Bible study. South Carolina Conference created a fund to help Mother Emanuel families. The second event was a flood that devastated the state. UM Men raised money, filled flood bucket, and helped flood recovery efforts through UM Volunteers in Mission. The conference contributed $4,500 to the Upper Room Prayer Ministry, $300 to Africa University, $300 to Red Bird men, $2,500 to “No More Malaria,” and $100 to “The Summit on the Black Church.” Last April, the men hosted training for the “Bishop’s 100 Men” who are willing to disciple men and their families for Christ. UM Men have built strong working relations with the bishop, his cabinet, and conference staff. Each year the attendance at a “Spiritual Weekend” has increased from 160 in 2013 to 1,100 in 2016. The men participate in “Revolution,” a conference event that draws 2,000 high school and college youth. To help churches expand their ministries to men, the conference hosted five “teaching church events” in 2014 and five events in 2015. Some 700 men participated in the 2015 events. Belin UM Men partnered with UM Women discover ways to stop human trafficking and end hunger.
Western North Carolina Conference
The conference provided $6,000 for scholarships for second-career clergy and gave more than $1,000 to the Upper Room Prayer Line. They also provide funds for Carolina Cross Connection, T. Duckworth Ministries, the Society of St. Andrew, Strength for Service, Africa University, prison ministries, and a conference ministry that ministers to 400 people through 23 group homes. The conference provides e-mail news to 1,050 men across the conference. They boast the second highest number of charters in the U.S. The men packaged 10,000 Stop Hunger Now meals for emergency situations around the world. They changed their annual weekend UM Men rally to a one-day event. The men support scouting and restarted the conference disaster-response ministry after a five-year hiatus. Early response teams are being deployed throughout the conference. The men support the conference building team ministry and the Western North Carolina Children’s Home, and they assist in maintaining UMC camps along with workdays at local churches.