You may go through most days without much hope. Oh, you may have a great job – but not much hope. Or lots of money – but no hope. Or seem to have the ideal life – but little hope. But God is giving you hope in so many different ways. Through things like prayer, just the right words from someone at just the right time or an experience you never saw coming. This gift of hope from God is like a light in the darkness – a little goes a long way.
By Melinda Shunk
Children's Ministry Coordinator
Cindy Burns has been the children’s minister at Pulaski Heights for more than 11 years, and a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t value and give praise to every volunteer that helps minister to the children that walk through their church doors! At a district small group meeting, Cindy had once shared with me that she had a once-a-year meeting that normally filled all of her volunteer positions. She had my interest, but we didn’t have time to get into a deeper discussion on it until recently at lunch when we circled back to the ins and outs of how volunteering works with a once-a-year sign-up.
I was curious because PHUMC worships more than 1,000 parishioners each Sunday, has about 25 kids in each classroom K-5th grade, and has at least 30 special events for children a year. That is a lot of volunteer opportunities and most need at least two volunteers in the classroom, while many like VBS need 100 or more. Like anyone serving in Children’s Ministry, you don’t want to burn out the same amazing volunteers by asking them to do everything. You don’t want to ask anyone to do anything out of their range of Spiritual Gifts. You never want to fill a position because their only qualifier for the position is that they pass all Safe Sanctuary checks.
Each year before her need to recruit volunteers, Cindy spends a lot of time in prayer. She prays that God may offer a call of service to her church as they offer up the opportunities to serve.
“In a church, one might use the word volunteer but I prefer to think of it as a service to God and to the church and to others,” Burns said. “If most of us can serve in some way, then no one person has to do it all. God provides! My calling is to be sure I am reaching out to enough folks to give the opportunity to serve as many as possible!”
In mid-January each year, she holds her once-a-year volunteer sign-up. The whole church is invited directly after worship for a fellowship lunch with childcare provided. Sign-up sheets are posted with every ministry event position, time commitment, and description of gifts used to do the job.
For some of the sign-up boards, she asked long-time returning volunteer teachers to stand next to the sign-ups to answer questions and explain why they keep coming back to serve. By the end of the afternoon, she and her Children’s Ministry team will have the majority of the positions filled. She also reaches out with a phone call to those who were not able to attend the lunch with opportunities about the slots that still need to be filled.
Cindy has this advice to give when making sign-up sheets and phone calls:
1. Break-down the jobs as small as you can. Many hands make light work. Example: For VBS: a.) snack purchaser b.) snack sorter for each day c.) snack distributor. Instead of one person in charge of the overwhelming task of being the VBS snack person.
2. When talking to a member about serving, Cindy says, “If your reaction to this request is -I would rather walk on hot coals than do this … God probably is not calling you to this service. If your reaction is butterflies in your stomach and thinking that you’re not sure if you are worthy, I might encourage folks to put themselves out there and give it a try.”
3. Have all the materials the teacher may need to do the lesson ready in the classroom. Always have a detailed description of what to say and do so that classroom volunteers can show up shortly before class and still teach a good lesson. Many folks are so busy these days they don’t have extra time outside of the church. Don’t give them homework.
4. Let volunteers know how much you and the children value their service. Cindy can’t say enough praise for those who serve the children in ministry at Pulaski Heights.
The new life Jesus freely offers is all around you because he’s changing things in real ways for real people right now. You can see how his forgiveness frees people. You are able to encounter people he has healed. You actually connect with people he’s radically transformed. You can be overwhelmed by his signs of hope that are present when you look for them. And here’s the truly amazing thing – all of this can happen in your life too. All you have to do is say, “I’m ready for new life!”
A New CouRSe for Arkansas
The Online Congregation Resourcing System Is a Great Way to Learn More About Our Church and Our Ministries
By Michelle Morris
Lead Equipper of the Center for Vitality
One of the exciting developments that occurred in 2019 was the launch of our online Congregation Resourcing System, also known as CouRSe. This system is the result of a visionary partnership between the Arkansas Conference and the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA). CouRSe allows anyone in the state to log on and receive training for a variety of topics, from creating child-friendly worship services to discerning a new ministry for addressing hunger to training as a Lay Servant.
The system launched in early May with “Orientation to Annual Conference,” a course to help members to Annual Conference better understand the process. Then, at Annual Conference we launched seven topic-specific courses on such subjects as generational differences and intentional discipleship. There was also a step-by-step walkthrough for building a church Facebook or Instagram page. Following Annual Conference, we created a course around the material Dr. Greg Jones brought to us on the Heart of Methodism. That course, which is still available, can easily be used as a small group or Sunday school class study, something several of the courses could be used to do.
The initial courses gave us an opportunity to assess the possibilities of the system and to poll people on subjects that interest them. People are interested in engaging Scripture and studying through the system. The Arkansas clergywomen met that need this past month by providing a daily Advent devotional written by clergywomen and lay women from across the state. The course included video and text devotionals, including one in Spanish.
CouRSe students have also expressed a need for practical training. January includes the rollout of training courses in the major church committees: Administrative Council, Trustees, Finance, and SPRC. If you have been nominated to serve on these committees, taking these courses will help you better understand the work before you. You could take the course as an individual, or use a committee meeting to work through it together. Also in January, we will offer our first Zoom based live courses for the “Lay Servant Ministry Basic Course.” These will meet either Tuesday or Thursday evenings in January and February, and enrollment is limited to 12 for either session. If you have been interested in training as a lay servant, but have trouble attending the live courses, you can join us through CouRSe and make that next step in serving Christ.
Later in the year, we will offer a course on basics in General Conference, as well as an updated “Orientation to Annual Conference” course. We will also add courses to help people better utilize and understand the work of the UMFA. We will add more and more training in social media, communications, hospitality, financial planning, worship design, and other topics that will help make work in the church easier and more fulfilling.
CouRSe is free and open to anyone. To sign up, go to arumc.myabsorb.com. Once you have completed the signup, you can enroll in courses in the catalog. A great starter course can be found in the Featured Courses line: “Getting the Most Out of CouRSe.” Also, if you have any questions about the system, or you have ideas for content, send an email to email@example.com. CouRSe is overseen by the Center for Communication, due in large part to the media demands of creating courses, and organized by CouRSe Coordinator Michelle Morris.
Many things can imprison you: financial struggle, a horrible temper, depression, a dead-end job, chronic physical illness, family struggles, guilt about something you’ve done or hopelessness about your future. But just because you feel imprisoned doesn’t mean you are. Jesus gives you the gift of true freedom that comes from being unconditionally loved and forgiven, and sets you free to fiercely love God and your neighbor. So how do you experience this gift of freedom? Simply trust that Jesus does for you what you need, but can never do on your own.