Spring 2019 registration for Arkansas Area Course of Study School now open

Registration for the Spring 2019 semester of the Arkansas Area Course of Study School is now open. For Spring 2019, this will be held Saturday, March 2; Saturday, April 6; and Saturday, May 4 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. You must attend all three Saturdays. The registration deadline is February 15, 2019, and the cost is between $75 and $275. To sign up, please visit https://www.eiseverywhere.com/aacoss.Courses offered:

For any questions, please contact Nancy Meredith at (501) 324-8033 or email bom@arumc.org.

Children’s Ministry Matters
Coordinator for Children's Ministries seeks to equip church leaders with vital resources

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

From a very young age, Melinda Shunk knew she wanted to pursue a life of faith. Even as a kid growing up in Iowa, Shunk loved spending her summers at church camp, attending youth events at her church, and being what many would consider your typical youth group kid.

“My mother thought it was very odd that I wanted to pursue a faith at such a young age, you know, as a 12 and 13-year-old,” said Shunk. “She just thought that was too young, but I just felt pulled and called by God.”

Shunk’s faith journey took many interesting twists and turns growing up, first attending a Lutheran Church as a teenager and then later attending an Evangelical church as a high schooler. These two very different faith worlds – one liturgical and progressive, and one contemporary and conservative – led Shunk to see two sides of the Christian faith growing up. However, by the time she reached college she had started to actively push away from organized religion.

According to Shunk, however, it was during those formative years in college that she felt the closest to God.

“I was having an authentic, genuine relationship with God during that time. Growing up, I was given rules and damnation and fear from the Evangelicals, and then I was given strict tradition in the Lutheran Church, butI wasn’t given reasons why we had those traditions,” Shunk said. “So, because I was given traditions versus shame and scare tactics, then when I could just be authentically me with God, I felt a much closer connection with God when I prayed or when I just talked to God.”

It was also during her time in college that she realized teaching was where she was being called by God; specifically, teaching children in public schools.

Melinda Shunk, Coordinator for Children’s Ministries
|| Photo by Stephen Gideon

Ministry was nowhere on her radar at this time. Even though she was encouraged by many friends and family to go into some sort of ministry, Shunk saw it as a male-dominated industry and didn’t see a place for herself in the church.

So, Shunk went about her chosen career and spent many years in the public education sector. Although teaching in public schools gave her great joy and she loved helping kids, Shunk felt restricted by the rules of public education; specifically, rules preventing her from sharing her faith with them.

“I would see a child having a problem, and I would have to stop myself from saying things like ‘oh, it’s okay, sweetie, because God made you that way.’ You can’t say what you want to say to these kids in school that are struggling with all of these different problems,” Shunk said.

After seven years, Shunk decided she needed to take a break from public education. In 2004, she took a year off from teaching when her second child was born.

At the same time, a position had just opened up in at her church in Iowa for early childhood ministries. The position was the perfect answer to her questions of where she belonged, and she eagerly took the job soon after.

Working with kids and getting to talk about God was the perfect merger of her two worlds, and it’s what ultimately led her to the position she’s in now as the Arkansas Conference Children’s Ministry Coordinator.

Shunk’s position requires her to promote and strengthen the Children’s Ministries of the Arkansas Annual Conference by leading the Conference Children’s Council and District Children’s Coordinators to resource local church children’s ministries and leaders.

What that means is Shunk is primarily in charge of making sure every church has the resources they need to effectively minister to the children in their congregation and grow them into fantastic and faithful future leaders in the church.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks and breathes and lives children’s ministry as Shunk does.

“Children’s ministry and children’s ministers are the foundation of the church. They are the ones that we need to make sure we reach out to. And when you bring in children, then you bring in their parents who can be reached as well. When you minister to children, then that’s where you’re going to find your future church. I know it’s cliché, and it’s been said before, but children are the future!”

Shunk says that when you minister to children, you have to consider the age of the child. For very young children, it’s best to use light versions of Bible stories that cover the basics. Something that gives them a hands-on experience of who God is and His love for other people. For older children, you can start to dive into a deeper understanding of who God is and what it means to be a Christian. Once they’re in junior high and high school, you can begin to really explore larger ideas that affect teenagers’ daily walks with Christ.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Quest – a new children’s program created by former Children’s Ministry Coordinator Karen Swales – is one way that Shunk and her team are hoping to reach a new group of kids in the church. The event – which is geared toward ministering to third, fourth and fifth-graders – is a way for kids to learn what their “call” is, regarding Christian faith. It’s also a time for children to learn the meaning of baptism, spiritual gifts, and God’s love, and connect with a diverse range of kids from different areas of the Arkansas Conference.

For the future of Children’s Ministry, Shunk is looking to speak with children’s ministers and pastors from around the state to see what their needs are, and look at the different ways the Conference office can help them to acquire the resources they need to have authentic connections and a vibrant children’s ministry in their church.

“Children’s ministry is all about having authentic relationships. A lot of times we get caught up as children’s ministers with just growing your program with the next big thing or the cool music and videos you’re using,” she said. “But what it really boils down to are the relationships that we build with those people in the church because the Holy Spirit is found when people are together.”

God’s Still God

Bedrock institutions no longer seem to function, violence is epidemic and we’re terribly polarized. No wonder increasing numbers of people wonder whether they can count on anything – including God. But they can. And so can you. Absolutely, totally and completely. Because God’s still God! And that means God is doing what God does – reaching out in love, healing brokenness, and transforming lives, families, communities, nations and the world. So see what God’s up to today. Experience it. Celebrate it. Then tell someone all about it.

New Headquarters for the United Methodist Foundation Will Be the James B. Argue, Jr. Stewardship Center

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (Oct. 18, 2018) – The Board of Directors of The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas voted to name their new headquarters building in honor of the CEO who served the organization for more than 35 years. The James B. Argue, Jr. Stewardship Center is almost ready for occupancy, and signage is going up soon. A formal dedication of the building in Argue’s memory is planned for early 2019.

“The James B. Argue, Jr. Stewardship Center perfectly reflects the focus of The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas; that is, to encourage and enable Arkansas United Methodists to be good stewards,” said the Honorable Beth Deere, Chair of the UMFA Board. “Not coincidentally, stewardship was the watchword of Jim Argue’s life and work. It is a fitting name for the Foundation’s new home.”

The 10,000-square-foot building on Wellington Village Road in Little Rock will house offices for the Foundation staff and is also the home of the Lusk Training Center, named for John and Becki Lusk of El Dorado who made a $1 million gift to fund the portion of the building that will be used for group meetings and events.

“Jim’s career goes far beyond his 35-plus years of service at the helm of the Foundation,” said Clarence Trice, UMFA Senior Vice President and CFO. “His continuing national leadership on education issues, his long-term leadership in the Arkansas General Assembly, and his local board leadership to several non-profit organizations are marks of his commitment to United Methodist principles.”

James B. Argue, Jr. was born August 19, 1951, to Rev. and Mrs. James B. Argue, Sr. He was a graduate of Little Rock Hall High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Hendrix College in 1973. Jim was the President Pro Tempore of the Arkansas State Senate for the 85th General Assembly and a Democratic member of the Arkansas Senate, representing the 32nd District, from 1996 to 2008. Previously he was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1991 through 1996. He was a long-time member of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.

In 1981, Jim became President of The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas. Under his leadership, the Foundation’s assets grew from $67,000 to more than $164 million upon his death in May 2018.

About The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas
The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas manages $165 million in endowment funds and other charitable assets that benefit local churches and United Methodist ministries. UMFA is one of the largest United Methodist Foundations in the country. Founded in 1963, the Foundation is responsible for over 800 funds that support United Methodist ministries.


Media contact:
Haley Walker Klein

Share What God Has Shared with You

It is amazing how many opportunities you have every single day to share a spark of God’s love with people. Not because you have all the answers, are superior or are seeking to win divine brownie points. But because you simply are passing on what God has freely shared with you. So take time today to turn every encounter, each routine thing you do and all the conversations you have into opportunities to share what God has shared with you – amazing grace that changes everything about everything.