Words have power. They can build up or tear down; reconcile or divide; and offer hope or inflict harm. When you use words that tear down, divide or inflict harm, you are responsible for your actions. When you intentionally do so knowing the impact they will have on others, you need to repent. Saying you do not mean what others hear is not an excuse. In fact, it makes things all the worse. This is not a political matter. It is quite simply a faith issue. If there is any doubt, remember Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. His piercing words remind you that you don’t get to pick and choose how you treat others. Rather, you are called by God to always act neighborly toward every single person you meet.
There are some tried and true ministry outreaches that so many churches use to make disciples who make disciples, but sometimes a church finds a very specific niche that serves their community best!
West Memphis United Methodist Church has done just that! When Children and Youth minister Carissa Tarkington was hired, she was met by a group of lay leaders that had a passion to go to Church of the Resurrection for their summer workshop training.
Upon arrival at C.O.R., they decided to divide and conquer so that they could get the most out of their workshop experience. One group went to a workshop called Building Better Moms, and they just knew it was a ministry their church could offer in West Memphis.
Once they returned to Arkansas, they were excited about what they learned but didn’t immediately take the “build it and they come” approach to programming. They prayed and listened to how this could be used in West Memphis.
They started listening by creating a Facebook support group with moms in their church and inviting other moms from the community. They had teachers in the public school system who would invite moms that they knew to the public Facebook group. The administrator of the Facebook group kept daily discussions, ideas, encouragements going to give the moms what they needed. The group members needed to know they were not alone in not having all the answers about raising their children. The Facebook Group grew to 300 followers.
The helpful discussions in the Facebook group and building connections with the West Memphis UMC members made it easy to take a poll: “If our church would offer some parent classes and training, what areas would you like to see us cover?” They received overwhelming feedback for parenting children with special needs, and mental health for children and parents.
They also asked, “if they were able to offer this training, what would be the most likely night to come?” Tuesday was the night that worked for most moms, but they would also need childcare if they were to attend.
Carissa and her lay leaders got busy planning their first Building Better Moms training. They asked the UMW to provide a meal. Senior members of their church who were moms volunteered to sit as mentors at each table during the meal and speaker.
They asked several mental health providers to come and speak at the event explaining services and parenting techniques. Oh, that thing about childcare!
Well, the nursery was provided by the church with help from the paid caregivers, youth and the fathers of the families attending. The fathers that helped found themselves creating their own support group while they supervised and played with the kids. This father group was an unexpected blessing that clearly showed their communities need for connection.
Table group discussions during this event lead to another overwhelming need. The parents attending had special needs children, and their kids were not part of social groups or getting chosen for school activities like school plays. So, from that one night, the special needs cast for the Peter Pan production was launched. Building Better Moms members, the youth group, church members financial backing for set and costumes along with the director Carissa Tarkington debuted the first ever special need student theatre production of Peter Pan held at the church.
West Memphis UMC really let the Holy Spirit lead them to what their community needed. Building Better Moms, the program they learned about at C.O.R., does not necessarily focus on moms of children with special needs, but that is what this group became. The church body felt there was a need and just kept listening and following the need. Building Better Moms continues to be a growing ministry with more than 100 moms participating in monthly activities at the church and in the community.
It’s tempting to put others under a magnifying glass, criticize them and compare yourself favorably to them. But that only creates a smokescreen that helps you avoid the most important thing you need to do – deal with you. But you never undertake this work alone. You always do it with God, who is in the business of transforming you from the inside out so you better love God, follow Jesus, love others and live joyfully. So go ahead and deal with you day today. And don’t feel guilty in the least.
Fighting Hunger Through Photos
Two Pastors Use Photography Passion to Raise Money for 200,000 Reasons
The Revs. Rodney Steele and Stephen Coburn are more than just clergy members who serve the Arkansas Annual Conference office as District Superintendents; they’re also skilled photographers who capture the beauty of nature and God’s creation in stunning still images.
Steele — who retired this year and previously served as the Southwest District Superintendent — and Coburn — who is currently the Northwest District Superintendent — have been good friends for years. Their photography has mainly been more of a hobby than a way of making a living.
But recently, the two decided to put their photo skills to good use, and have been holding photo exhibitions in Rogers, Arkansas, raising money for various causes through the sale of their prints.
One of their big projects has been raising money for 200,000 Reasons, a ministry of the Arkansas Annual Conference dedicated to reducing and eventually ending the number of hungry children in Arkansas.
Coburn has so far held three shows at Hark and Herald Co. in downtown Rogers. Through these three shows, he has been able to raise about $2,500 for 200,000 Reasons.
At this year’s Annual Conference, Steele and Coburn setup a booth where they sold prints of their photos as well as signed the photos for those who wanted them to be autographed.
“We raised just over $2,000 during conference,” Coburn said. He said his personal goal is to raise $6,000 for 200,000 Reasons in 2019.
The money raised for 200,000 Reasons will be used to provide meals for hungry children in Arkansas.
Steele has also used his breathtaking photos of Arkansas landscapes and U.S. National Park scenes to gather donations for 200,000 Reasons, but he is also raising money for a passion project that is close to his heart.
“I’ve raised $6,000 towards the $9,000 needed for a freshwater well in the North Katanga Annual Conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Steele said. “While in retirement, I hope to raise the remaining $3,000 needed for a freshwater well as well as continue raising money for 200,000 Reasons.”
Coburn’s next show will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the Arkansas United Methodist Foundation Building in Little Rock, Arkansas. Steele will be showcasing his work the weekend of Nov. 15 at Hark and Herald Co. in Rogers, Arkansas.
You can check out some of Coburn and Steele’s work below. Click on an image to zoom in.
Hendrix College Welcomes Three New Board of Trustees Members
Coburn ’81, Norman, Pair ’94 to begin Board service with October meeting
Rev. Stephen Coburn
Rev. Mark Norman
Rev. Sara Cole Pair
CONWAY, Ark. (July 16, 2019) – Three new members have been named to the Hendrix College Board of Trustees: the Rev. Stephen Coburn ’81, the Rev. Mark Norman, and the Rev. Sara Cole Pair ’94. These United Methodist clergy will begin their three-year terms at the Board’s October meeting.
Coburn, who currently serves as district superintendent and chief mission strategist of the Northwest District within the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix and a Master of Divinity degree from Iliff School of Theology. The Monticello native has served in pastor and associate pastor roles in churches around the state, most recently as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Springdale.
An avid photographer, Coburn has recently begun selling prints of his photos to benefit 200,000 Reasons, the Arkansas Conference’s statewide initiative to alleviate childhood hunger, which the College also supports through activities associated with its Office of Religious Life.
Norman currently serves as district superintendent and chief mission strategist of the Southeast District within the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. A graduate of Philander Smith College, where he also serves on the Board of Trustees, he earned his Master of Divinity degree at St. Paul School of Theology. His most recent congregation-level appointment was as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Benton.
His involvement in the denomination has included service on the United Methodist General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and serving as a delegate to the 2016, 2019, and 2020 General Conferences, having been the first-elected clergyperson to the Arkansas delegation. Norman is a Little Rock native who lives in White Hall. His daughter is a current Hendrix student.
Pair, who is originally from Paragould, has served as pastor of Sequoyah United Methodist Church in Fayetteville since 2010. After graduating from Hendrix, she earned her Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, and went on to serve congregations in Dallas, Fort Smith, Alma, and Conway before moving to Fayetteville.
She is a member of the Fayetteville Ministerial Alliance, and has served the Arkansas Conference on the Board of Ordained Ministry, Administrative Review Committee, Committee on Investigation, Northwest District Board of Church Location, and as vice-chair of Conference Board of Finance and Administration.
“We are looking forward to having Stephen, Mark, and Sara share their time, abilities, and perspectives as members of the Board,” said Bill Tsutsui, president of the College. “Their talents will serve Hendrix well as we continue to provide an environment that cultivates a spirit of inquiry and an eagerness for active learning that will extend beyond students’ four years on campus.”
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.