More Than NumbersPart 2: The Center for Administrative Services

More Than Numbers
Part 2: The Center for Administrative Services

By Amy Ezell

Director, Center for Communication

When you think of budgets, audits, computer crashes and taxes, do any happy or joyful thoughts come to mind? They definitely do not for me.

But have you stepped foot in the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church Center for Administrative Services? Simply stated, this Center holds some of the most warm, genuine, loyal and smart folks you’ll ever meet, and they make reporting, budgeting, benefits and technology troubleshooting a pleasure.

I asked each of the people in this Center to share their favorite part of their ministry, and every single one of them shared that they love helping people. No one said they love numbers, or preparing reports or anything like that. They all LOVE our United Methodist people and strive to do what it takes behind the scenes to make things easier for those on the “front lines.”

The Center for Administrative Services has three primary functions:
Financial administration for the Conference which includes budget preparation, ensuring proper spending and annual audits
Clergy and retiree benefits
Property management, including leased office space and sale of closed churches

The roles of this Center revolve mostly around money, but the building and maintaining personal relationships can not be overlooked. One of the most important pieces to know about this Center is that every team member (except for one) has served the Arkansas Conference for at least eight years. Some have served for more than 25 years! As you read more about the valued individuals that make up this Center, you will recognize that their ministry focuses on trustworthy relationships.

Todd Burris, the director of the Center for Administrative Services, has been serving the Conference for 25 years this month. Seeing the collective work of churches and knowing that there is a United Methodist presence in communities across the state are things he lists as the best part of his ministry work.

Something that is not a primary function, but is extremely important, is the support Burris and his team do to help churches and clergy find a clear pathway on reporting taxes. This is something made very difficult by the fact that clergy, as dual-status employees, are considered self-employed by the Social Security Administration while the IRS considers them employees of the local church.

Todd is the supervisor of the Center for Administrative staff and considers most of their work done behind the scenes. “We ensure that the vision set forth by the Annual Conference in how to fund its mission priorities is carried out,” he stated.

Megan Rugg came to the Center in June 2018 and has been a true blessing to anyone she works with. She is the Assistant Director and her background as an auditor in public accounting allows her to not just manage payroll, reporting and reconciling accounts, but also serve as a mentor for local churches on tax reporting, accounting best practices and financial reviews.

Melissa Sanders holds several positions as the Financial Controller, Conference Statistician and Annual Conference Registrar. She has served the ARUMC for 28 years. Melissa has held various roles throughout her tenure, but currently processes and distributes tithes and donations to the prospective Conference ministries. She also manages event and Annual Conference registrations, prepares statistical reporting, and works with local churches every day on various projects.

Mona Williams has served as the Conference Benefits Officer at the Conference for almost 19 years. She oversees all employee benefits for both clergy and laity, active and retired. Ask any local church or employee, Mona is a person that people know they can trust. She treats her position as a ministry of love to help churches provide financial peace to our clergy and laity so that they may stay focused on making and sending disciples for Jesus Christ. Mona has spearheaded employee benefit programs that allow for clergy and laity to be the best they can be, both mentally and physically.

Wendy Brunson-Daniels serves as the Assistant Conference Benefits Officer and has been with the ARUMC for almost 18 years. In this role, Wendy works directly with clergy and laity on pension benefits and also generates the monthly billing for tithes, apportionments and personal pension payments. When asked what the best part of her ministry area is, she replied, “I get to help take away stress and worry from clergy about retirement benefits so that they may spend more time making disciples who make disciples for Jesus Christ.”

Palmer Lee is the IT Manager and has served the Conference for eight years. Palmer manages all desktop support for the Conference and District offices. He catalogs all computer equipment for all staff, including those working remotely across the state. Palmer has supervised the ReCharge initiative and maintains all communication systems to make sure they are working properly. You will always find Palmer at Conference events, managing all technology for the production team. His favorite part of ministry is working directly with minority churches and equipping them with tech training and assistance.

The Center for Administrative Services is available to provide support to all Arkansas United Methodist churches and clergy. Please call 501-324-8000 for any inquiries.

New D.Min. program “Land, Food, and Faith Formation” launched at Memphis Theological Seminary

Memphis Theological Seminary is currently accepting applications for the Doctor of Ministry in Land, Food, and Faith Formation. This dynamic and innovative low-residency program is open to students who are passionate about the intersections of ministry with agricultural practices, food justice, care for the land, and the role of faith communities in both rural and urban settings.

Students in the Land, Food, and Faith Formation D.Min will explore the theological and ethical dimensions of land and its use, the role of food in our lives, and the ways faith communities both shape and are shaped by their relationship with land and food. This program will provide theological resources and practical models for the practice of ministry in faith communities which seek to relate more intentionally to the care of land, food, and all living creatures.

Instructors in this program are at the forefront of food justice and creation care across the country like Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, a public speaker, community organizer, and social entrepreneur who started the Black Church Food Security Network in Baltimore, Maryland, Rev. Nurya Love Parish of Plainsong Farm, and Rev. Dr. Noah Campbell, the director of the Memphis Center for Food and Faith.

Applications are currently being accepted until April 30.
The first year’s courses will be held in June 2020 and January 2021.
For more information, visit memphisseminary.edu/landfoodfaith.

Open for Business 24/7

When you’re feeling down and out, it’s amazing how a change of pace can change your perspective for the good! Too often, however, the very time you need it is the time you don’t seem to have time for it. This is why you need to know there’s a special place you can go for that needed change of pace anytime you need it – God’s heart that is open for business 24/7. And when you do, you’ll experience how God’s love in Jesus renews, refreshes and reinvigorates you anytime and anywhere.

2 Arkansans Serve the World as Global Mission Fellows

2 Arkansans Serve the World as Global Mission Fellows

Andrew Fleming (front left) and Tony Elkins (back left) share a meal together with two others. Andrew and Anthony are Arkansas Methodists serving the world in different mission areas as Global Mission Fellows. || Photo provided by Andrew Fleming

By Sam Pierce

Featured Contributor

Shortly after graduating from college, Andrew Fleming was not sure what he wanted to pursue, so he thought becoming a part of the Global Mission Fellows gave him a sense of direction.

“It seemed like a good program,” Fleming said. “And I could go out and have another two years of pretty structured stuff to do and give me time to think of what I want to do in the future.

“That was the beginning of it. As it got closer, and I started talking to some of the other people involved, one of the big reasons, I decided to join, was for the opportunity to serve with people.”

According to the website umcmission.org, “the Global Mission Fellows program takes young adults ages 20 to 30 out of their home environments and places them in new contexts for mission experience and service … They connect the church in mission across culture and geographical boundaries.”

“It really is a valuable opportunity,” Fleming said. “I’ve never really had a calling to ministry, but this is something that I have wondered for a while. I don’t think I want to be ordained, but this was a good way to explore that a little bit.

“My dad is a pastor, and I know I don’t want to do that because I have seen all the hard things he has had to deal with it … I still don’t have the best grasp on what I want to do, but by going through this program, it has given me a better understanding.”

As a Global Mission Fellow, Fleming works for Metropolitan Ministries, a nonprofit organization in Tampa, Florida that serves people who are homeless or at risk. Fleming said he works on the spiritual formation team and helps lead chapel services and bible studies.

“I think we have the space for 50 families on our main campus,” Fleming said. “Families generally live there from three months to a year or even longer. We also serve our community through an outreach program, in order to prevent others from becoming homeless; we provide assistance to them.

“I help organize and plan some of our chapel services and we do three short services a week. I help facilitate the choir that we started and things with our Bible study on campus.”

He said part of his role is focused on outreach by talking and praying with those looking for assistance.

“I think in a way it is a little empowering,” Fleming said. “To be able to do this work with these people and provide for them, while also serving alongside them.

“It forms a sense of community and it is cool to work with all of our clients. The whole process of moving here, and understanding my place in all of it and some of my privilege and the injustice that I have been complacent in – that has been a humbling experience.”

Fleming’s dad, David, is the senior pastor at Grand Avenue United Methodist Church in Hot Springs.

“Our family is so excited that Andrew chose to pursue service as a Global Mission Fellow,” David said. “He has been a committed Christian since his youth and has always had a heart for social justice issues.

“Having completed his college degree, he has an opportunity with this mission to serve others, to continue to learn about his faith and the world, and to take a break before continuing his education or starting his career.”

Tony Elkins works on a robot as part of his mission field, serving teens in Florida. || Photo provided by Tony Elkins

Andrew graduated from Watson Chapel High School in 2014 and from Hendrix College in 2018. Tony Elkins, who is also serving in Florida as a Global Mission Fellow, was a year behind Fleming in high school. The pair sang in the choir together and participated in quiz bowl together in school.

“The lessons Andrew learned through his participation in the religious life programs at Hendrix College have provided well for his qualification as a Global Mission Fellow,” David Fleming said.

He said his son’s participation in the choir and in chapel services provided the ability to serve as a worship leader. Andrew also spent a year living in the Bonhoeffer House, an international Christian community.

“It taught him so much about his own discipleship and about sharing faith through precept and example in relationship to others,” David said.

Andrew said having Elkins as a part of the fellowship in the beginning was beneficial and made “it less scary” but he said, since Elkins and Andrew work in different departments, Andrew has already begun forming friendships and relationships outside the two of them.

“I really enjoy it,” Elkins said. “I get to help people who have gone through so much. These kids are so diligent and have so much hope, love and promise and we are able to facilitate that.

“I work with the teen department and I also do different classes with them and help watch over the kids. Right now, we are wrapping up the robotic season and I know what I am doing there, so I am able to guide them.”

He said they have about 20 to 25 kids and have about 10 that really like robotics. He said it is very interesting to give them that activity and for them “to take to it like a moth to the flame.”

“It was a little scary at first,” said Elkins, who has never been but a short drive away from his family. “But I was able to answer the call that God gave me. I found a new family and a good group to help me through it, and through being homesick and all that stuff.”

“One of the biggest ways I have seen God is in the ways I feel supported,” Andrew said. “Especially from my family and from my new friends that I have made here.”

Elkins is a member of Good Faith Carr United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff and earned his mechanical degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2018.

“These kids have been through so much, but yet, they continue to push on and do the best they can,” Elkins said. “Metropolitan is a transitional living facility for those on the verge of being homeless or were homeless.

“Some of the stories that I have heard from them – it is so amazing. It is definitely very humbling.”

“Years ago, I considered serving as a Global Mission Fellow; I had other friends from college who did as well,” David said.

“It is an excellent context for those who are exploring a call to ordination or another full-time Christian service to learn about ministry and about their spiritual gifts.

“It is also one of the best ways that young people of faith take what they have received from their home congregations and campus ministries and ‘pay it forward’ before getting on with the rest of their lives.”

To learn more about Anthony and Andrew’s journeys as Global Mission Fellows and to financially support them, visit https://advance.umcmission.org/p-2003-elkins-anthony-e.aspx for Anthony and https://advance.umcmission.org/p-2002-fleming-andrew-d.aspx for Andrew’s page.

God’s Knack

God has a knack for showing up at just the right time in exactly the right way to do what most needs to be done. It may be helping you experience how much God loves you when you don’t think that’s possible. Prodding you to live out your identity as Jesus’ disciple when it’s easier to live on cruise control. Or challenging you to forgive that person who wounded your soul when you’d like to stay mad. But there’s more. God doesn’t just show up in other people’s lives – God’s about to show up in yours.