A Sunday Prayer 1/27/19

Lord of All that Is,

I stand in wonder that You love me. I am amazed that You cherish me. I am eternally grateful that You call me beloved. I am astonished that You chase after me even when I turn away. I am humbled that You do whatever it takes to bring me back.

I must confess I cannot understand it hard as I try. I cannot comprehend it even as I attempt to delve deeper in understanding. Indeed, sadly, I sometimes feel so undeserving I try to minimize – or worse – deny it.

Yet You remain steadfast. And I am Yours. And nothing can change that. And my life journey is to live into Your reality of unconditional, invitational, transformational and eternal love so that it literally transforms me from the inside-out.

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Amen.

Bright Nights at Searcy FUMC

Bright Nights at Searcy FUMC

By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

In early November, I attended the Northeast District small group Children’s Ministry. They try to meet at least six times a year for lunch, praying and sharing. I met Catherine Vest, who had only been on staff as a Children’s Minister for two years but has more than seven years experience in ministry if you count all her years of volunteering. She was so excited to share her newly revamped Wednesday night program with her small group. Catherine shares her new program, in her own words, this month.

Melinda Shunk
Conference Children’s Ministry Coordinator

Sept. 5, Searcy First United Methodist Church began a new Wednesday night children’s program called Bright Night. This brand new program is for children entering Kindergarten – 5th grades.

Each Wednesday from 6 – 7:15 p.m. children hear God’s word, actively use the Bible and know what it means to give God glory! The focus for the fall semester was Matthew 5:14-16; God made us be lights in the world.

Wednesday evenings at Searcy First are the highlight of a lot of children’s week. This fun-filled experience on Wednesdays forms faith we hope children will carry with them throughout their lives.

The idea for Bright Night came out of a ministry planning session in the spring of 2018. Our ministry team wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone in our congregation for mid-week discipleship and study. Whether you are nine months old or 99 years old, we wanted there to be something that would grow faith and fellowship in the middle of the week.

In working with children through Sunday School and our other programming, I noticed an overall lack of empathy among children and a need for children to be encouraged. After meditation, prayer, and study, Mathew 5:14 – 16 stuck with me as a means to teach young children who God intends them to be to others in the world.

Each Bright Night of the fall semester, the lesson plan revolved around this verse. We studied it together and talked about ways we could live out this verse.

We looked at ways to live it in our own lives, and how others are lights in the community to us. We also looked at ways we could be lights to others.
This was accomplished through art, music, drama, science and even some mission field trips! Our schedule began each night with singing and prayer request time, then moved on to a large group lesson. Small groups followed for various age groups and then we all gathered back together to play large group games.

To emphasize the Bright Night theme, every week our group meeting room was decorated with colored twinkle lights and each child was given a flashlight to write prayer requests by and a glow stick bracelet to wear during game time.

We celebrated our end of the semester by taking healthy goody baskets to thank some “bright nights” in our community at the Searcy Fire and Police Departments. We are looking forward to continuing this program in 2019!

You Can Always

Life can easily catch you up and carry you along so that you’re spending so much of your time reacting to what’s happening to you that you forget how to live the unique one-of-a-kind life God longs for you. Why this happens is perfectly understandable. But you can always stop the craziness for a few moments. You can always engage in a conversation with God. You can always listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. And you can always experience abundant life as a Jesus’ follower even when things seem most out of control.

A different kind of worship serviceAmboy UMC reaches more people through Facebook Live

A different kind of worship service
Amboy UMC reaches more people through Facebook Live

By Sam Pierce

Featured Contributor

Amboy United Methodist Church in North Little Rock was searching for a way to reach its Hispanic community. The Rev. Candace Barron, who is also the senior pastor at Gardner Memorial United Methodist Church, said in November they came up with the idea for broadcasting their sermons through Facebook.

“We started to reach the Hispanic community, people we haven’t actually seen here for church services,” Barron said.

Stephen Copley, the executive director of Interfaith Arkansas and one of the pastors at Amboy, said Facebook might reach those who aren’t coming into the building.

“We thought it might be a good way to get out into the community,” Copley said. “The genesis of how it started was really an attempt to reach people and use our technology to – first of all – share the good news of God’s grace and create a fiscal worship experience.”

The Monday Night Live at Amboy UMC is held every Monday at 6:30 p.m. for 30 minutes of prayer, Bible study and a thought-provoking meditation on life.

The event is geared towards the Hispanic community, but it also for those who have a difficult time getting to church on Sunday mornings due to disabilities, work or other reasons.

“We wanted to expand our footprint in a different way and be accessible to those who can’t physically make it to church,” Barron said. “This is a way to reach them, where they felt safe and not have to worry about being picked up by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

Copley said, initially, they had hoped to start in mid-September, but they didn’t get rolling until late October. He said they are looking to boost it again this month in hopes of getting the word out and hopefully increase the number of views. He said it is still kind of early to tell just how many people the Facebook Live ministry is reaching.

On Nov. 26, the service reached 84 people, and there were 41 video views, six likes and multiple comments, according to Copley. He said he is pleased with those numbers.

“The hardest thing is, we don’t know who they are and how consistently they are watching,” Copley said. “The main idea behind it is that folks are busy and life gets chaotic, but somehow they can still build a relationship with God.”

He said it is difficult to build a relationship compared to those who actually come into the building, but at least in this way, they have some kind of connection with people.

“To me, it’s exciting,” Copley said. “It is a real contemporary way to reach people. Even in the early church, even Jesus proclaimed the gospel in different ways, and that is the driving force in what we are doing.

“We are planting seeds, some of those we may never know, but someone’s life could be changed,” Copley said. “And that’s the heart of the good news, and that is what is exciting about it.”

Amboy UMC has a membership count of 200 to 250, but worship attendance is usually about 20. Copley said the Facebook ministry might assist the church in growing.

“We have been here since the 1950s, and this is just another way to engage a community by adding a different kind of worship service,” he said.

Barron, who has been with Amboy UMC for four years, said they recently contacted every person on their membership and a lot of their members have moved out state but want to keep their membership. She also said some aren’t really “church people anymore, but they don’t want to drop their membership.”

“Most of them wouldn’t budge, even though they lived in Dallas, Memphis or some other place,” Barron said. “Some still send in checks for their tithe.

“This (ministry) is an experiment we are trying. The Spanish service uploads to the other website in the Spanish community and we have been at it a lot longer. We are trying to build up the Spanish service.”

The Spanish service is held on Sundays at 4 p.m.

In December, Amboy hosted a toy drive for people in the community, where they met residents and gave away toys and let them know “coming into a church isn’t a scary thing.”

They also recently visited the local Veterans Affairs hospital for caroling, and the church works closely with the neighborhood association. Barron said she wants people to be aware of all their services.

“In the spring, our thoughts and plans are to try to create a service in the building (on Mondays) and use that as a springboard to invite folks,” Copley said.

“We will continue to do the Facebook live, but we also want to meet in the building and have a service and see if folks respond to that.

“That might give us the first indication of this ministry’s impact.”

Life is Complexicated

People who hurt you once upon a time end up being those you come to love over the course of time. People you unquestionably loved for years are the very ones you hurt. Relationships that you’ve assumed were over find new life in new ways. Yes, life is complexicated. And mysterious. And uncertain. Which is exactly why you should grasp the One constant you can absolutely count on in every moment and every situation – the reality of God’s free gift of unconditional love that never ceases reaching out to bring healing, hope and new life.