Part 1: A Year in Review

5/17/2014

FOCUS ON THE VISION
DENISE WALTON

The 2012 Book of Disciple defines the purpose of Connectional Ministries within each annual conference. Each annual conference is responsible to focus and guide the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church within its boundaries by:
  • envisioning the ministries necessary to live out the mission of the church in and through the annual conference;
  • creating and nurturing relationships and connections among the local, district, annual conference, and general church ministries;
  • providing encouragement, coordination, and support for the ministries of nurture, outreach, and witness in districts and congregations for the transformation of the world;
  • ensuring the alignment of the total resources of the annual conference to its mission;
  • developing and strengthening ethnic ministries, including ethnic local churches and concerns;
  • providing for advocacy and monitoring functions to ensure that the church is consistent with its stated values.  

Connectional Ministries exists to resource and support local church leaders in their disciple making efforts. While the local church is the primary location for disciple formation, Connectional Ministries' team members and staff provide training, events and resource materials to supplement and assist local church leaders in this highest priority work.

In this article, we review the Nurture and Outreach Team and provide updates on the ministries related to these areas.

Nurture Team

The primary purpose of the Nurture Team is to help local churches meet people where they are in their faith journey and help them grow in their knowledge and experience of God's love. Helping people move from being a baby Christian to mature discipleship is the work of Nurture ministries.

This Conference team seeks to support local church nurturing efforts by sponsoring a large number of disciple forming experiences, primarily through the camping and retreat events held at Epworth By The Sea.

The annual Join the Journey Confirmation Retreat was held March 14-16, 2014. This event supplements the confirmation classes held in local churches as older elementary and middle high students explore what it means to be a Christ follower. We celebrate the students who attended the event and the adult chaperones supporting this ministry experience. Many students profess their faith soon thereafter and continue their journey as a disciple. Connectional Ministries partners with Epworth By The Sea for to offer this event at low cost to the participants.

Weeklong camps for elementary and middle high students are sponsored each summer in partnership with Epworth By The Sea. The Reverend C. J. Harp, who serves as the Valdosta State Wesley Foundation campus minister during the school year, will serve again as camp director. C. J. and the Leadership Team, comprised of faith‑filled college students, continue a long tradition of creating memorable experiences that nurture faith development and life‑long friendships.

The Nurture team sponsored a September elementary student weekend retreat called KidzQuest. This high‑energy event that began about 13 years ago continually stirs the faith of everyone associated with the event.

A revival of the fall Youth weekend retreat was planned for Nov. 15‑17, 2013. The event was renamed and rebranded as "Encounter." Youth participants embraced the mission component of the event and provided 671 shoes to Soles4souls.

Outreach Team

The key function of the Outreach Team is to resource local churches around missional outreach both globally and locally.

Our Outreach Team is a connecting link with General Board of Global Ministries, which has an expansive scope. From missionaries serving all around the world to supporting mercy, health and welfare ministries within the bounds of the Annual Conference, this team touches many areas of human suffering as expressions of God's love.

The team plans to do more communication about the wide variety of ways individuals and congregations can offer mercy through personal energy and financial support for those who are on the frontline of mission. One area that will receive renewed attention is the Advance Mission Specials program. Thousands of projects across the world and around 50 projects within the bounds of South Georgia extend Christ's love to some of the world's most broken people. Each project is in need of financial and prayerful support.

United Methodist Volunteers in Missions and Disaster Response are two overlapping ministries that give South Georgia United Methodists a tangible way to be personally involved in serving persons in need. A new training event for volunteers willing to work with children impacted by disaster was held Nov. 1‑2 in Cordele.

Other areas of focus for UMVIM and Disaster Response include UMVIM leadership for teams wishing to embark on a mission journey and areas of disaster response such as Early Response Teams and Chainsaw training.

We celebrated the life and death of Mrs. Jamie Gibson, UMVIM and Disaster Response Coordinator for the South Georgia Conference. Jamie was dedicated to her ministry and was a tremendous blessing to the South Georgia Annual Conference.

In addition, we also celebrate Mr. Rick Doer, the new Disaster Response Coordinator. Rick completed the Disaster Academy sponsored by United Methodist Committee on Relief. He is working cooperatively with Allison Lindsey to address the needs of the annual conference related to disaster response.

Again in 2014, the Outreach Team will co‑sponsor the “Mission u” event with the United Methodist Women. This annual event prepares hundreds of women and men to go back home to educate and mobilize others to alleviate suffering and engage in systemic social change that will reflect a more Christlike world.

A new component of Mission u involves a partnership with The Office of Connectional Ministries and Hispanic Ministries to provide Hispanic Basic Lay Speaking Training. Coordinators Rev. Daniel Medina and Rev. Isaac Salgado are a crucial part of the steering team for this event. Hispanic clergy and laity will be invited to a Saturday training event during the Mission u weekend. The curriculum and all promotional material for the event will be in Spanish. The event will be recorded and available to local Hispanic congregations for future training purposes.

We invite the prayers of the annual conference for the Nurture and Outreach Teams as they continue to partner with local churches in the effort to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

In the next issue I’ll share the activities of the Advocacy Team and Witness Team.

Rev. Denise Walton serves as the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at denise@sgaumc.org.