Sylvan Hills’ United Methodist Men is an Intergenerational Group of Hard Workers

Sylvan Hills’ United Methodist Men is an Intergenerational Group of Hard Workers

By Sam Pierce

Featured Contributor

Members of Sylvan Hills UMC’s United Methodist Men recently built a wheelchair ramp for a former nursery supervisor at the church. The group is intergenerational, making it unique compared to many other UMM groups. || Photo provided by Sylvan Hills UMC

In an effort to reciprocate the devotion of one of the elderly members of Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church in Sherwood, members of the congregation, including the United Methodist men and women, and youth group, built a wheelchair ramp for easier access to her daughter’s house.

“This lady has participated and contributed so much to the church and all of its activities over the years,” said Newton Skiles, the treasurer for the men’s group. “It was a way to repay her for everything she has done and helped with over the years.

“She is a very special person and a very personable lady … This was something we needed to do and wanted to do for her.”

The elderly member was a former nursery supervisor for the church and recently moved in with her daughter in Jacksonville.

Skiles said she and her family have been members of the church for many years. He said the daughter was worried her mom, who primarily uses a cane to maneuver, would fall. He said one of the young ladies brought it to the group’s attention and they were able to get the youth involved as well.

“The Methodist men and women were able to split the cost of the materials,” Skiles said. “We have a couple of members who are excellent carpenters and who have built ramps before.

“We were able to finish in a little over a day.”

“There was a need expressed by one of our members who was moving into her daughter’s house,” said the Rev. Sara Bayles Charlton. “The cost of materials was donated at a discount from the lumber supplier and they were able to finish it that Saturday by mid-afternoon.”

Bayles Charlton has been the pastor at Sylvan Hills for a year and a half.

“I thought it was a very moving gesture and a multi-generational mission as we cared for each other as a church family,” she said.

Bayles Charlton said the men’s group has about a dozen members and the women have well over 50 members. She said about five or six members from the youth group showed up to help build.

“Our church is unique because we have six or seven different generations,” Bayles Charlton said. “We had kids as young as three or five helping build the ramp – we had a whole range of people helping there.

“The church life at Sylvan Hills is amazing. A wide range of ages coming together for the mission of the gospel.”

Bayles Charlton said construction of the ramp was a need that arose, “but the men’s group can do just about anything – all sorts of projects. It really depends on the need.”

The church also hosts a monthly wellness clinic and in 2019, collected 5,000 pounds of food for its food pantry. She said they also have a community garden and a blessing box.

“We have an abundance of ministries that bless our community and church,” she said.

The wellness clinic usually meets the first Thursday of every month and allows members of the community to receive blood pressure and sugar checks, doctor visits, immunizations for back to school, as well as physicals and flu shots.

“We held a vision and hearing test in December and we will hold a dental check in February,” she said. “It is all free for our community. We probably serve 4 to 5,000 people a year and we host in different communities as well.”

The church has hosted the clinic for a little under five years.

“I think it is a real vital ministry,” she said. “We see all sorts of people.”

Skiles and his family joined the church in 1990 and he was the president of the men’s club in the mid to late 90s and has been the treasurer for more than a decade. “We have had an active group over the years,” he said.

Skiles said the men’s group has several fundraisers throughout the year, but its biggest is its annual golf tournament in May.

Some of their projects include supporting the church’s ministry partnerships with the local schools in the community, as well as assisting with the Angel Tree and the church’s early learning center or preschool.

This month, the Methodist Men’s group will host its annual chili cook-off and Dessert Diva competition on Jan. 19.

There is no cost for entry, but donations are accepted. Proceeds from the event will benefit both groups. Bayles Charlton said the donations go towards ministries like the wheelchair ramp or other local mission projects. She said last year they had 10 entries for chili.

“The chili cook-off has been around for 25 years or so,” Skiles said. “In the early days of Sherwood, one of our mayors, Bill Henson, was a longtime member of the church and really liked chili.

“After he died, we started thinking about ways to honor his memory. We took this one as a project and every January, we have a chili cook-off. We have had quite a number of pots of chili.”

He said a few years ago, they added the Dessert Diva, where members of the women’s group will bake desserts to go along with the chili. Skiles said he has been named the Chili King a couple of times over the years.

“There are some excellent recipes, which always amazes me,” he said. “It always amazes me that you can have so many different kinds of chili with basically the same ingredients.

“It really is a unique thing.”

2020 Steel-Hendrix Awards, Willson Lecture, Gill Preaching Workshop Set for March 2 and 3 at Hendrix College

2020 Steel-Hendrix Awards, Willson Lecture, Gill Preaching Workshop Set for March 2 and 3 at Hendrix College

CONWAY, Ark. (January 15, 2020) — Three annual events that enrich and celebrate leadership in ministry have been set for March 2 and 3, 2020, at Hendrix College. This year’s Steel-Hendrix Awards honor three extraordinary church and community leaders, and the Willson Lecture and John and Marjem Gill Preaching Workshop features a seminary professor from United Methodist-related Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

The Marshall T. Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy will hold the 35th Annual Steel-Hendrix Awards Banquet at 5:30 p.m. in the Student life and Technology Center’s Worsham Student Performance Hall North. Tickets for the banquet cost $25 and are available through Monday, Feb. 24. Visit for details.

Following the banquet, Dr. Gregory C. Ellison II of Candler School of Theology, Emory University, will deliver the annual Willson Lecture as part of a worship service in Greene Chapel. The service begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

Ellison holds degrees from Emory University and Princeton Theological Seminary, where he received his Master of Divinity degree and Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology. Ten years after graduating, he returned to Emory to join the faculty of Candler School of Theology. He is currently an associate professor of pastoral care and counseling. In his second year of teaching at Candler (2010-2011), he was awarded Faculty Person of the Year. Three years later, he received the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award, Emory University’s most prestigious faculty teaching honor. He is author of Cut Dead But Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men and Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice. He is an ordained Baptist minister who has served on the ministerial staffs at both Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

The Steel-Hendrix Award recipients for 2020 are:

Mable Donaldson

Mable Donaldson – The Mary and Ira Brumley Award for Religious Education

Mable Donaldson is a retired public educator with a passion for teaching and spending time with students. As a teacher and administrator in the Pulaski County Special School District (16 years) and the Little Rock School District (21 years), her roles included junior high school science teacher for both districts and supervisor for Gifted Education Programs for LRSD. She also has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a scholastic auditor for the Arkansas Department of Education.

Donaldson received a Bachelor of Science degree from Philander Smith College (where she has since received a Living Legends Award) and a Master of Education degree and supervision certification from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her honors as an educator include an LRSD Superintendent’s Citation; LRAEOP Administrator of the Year; College Board Southwest Region Award for Advanced Placement; Arkansas Association Gifted Education Administrator of the Year; and recognition by Governor Mike Huckabee as an Outstanding Arkansas Educator. In addition, the Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy has recognized her and her husband for visionary leadership in pipeline program development.

A lifelong Methodist, her activities in the church have included Sunday school teacher, financial steward, communion steward, United Methodist Women, pastor parish relations chair, nurture and membership committee, worship committee, and finance committee. Presently she serves on the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas Board of Directors, Arkansas Conference Episcopacy Committee, the Central District Superintendency Committee, alternate member to the Arkansas Annual Conference, and scholarship committee member for the Dollars for Scholars Program at Wesley UMC Little Rock.

Donaldson has served as president of the Arkansas Association for Gifted Education Administrators (AAGEA); on the board of directors for Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education (AGATE) and Arkansas Association Education Administrators (AAEA); and as a member of teachers associations for PCSSD and LRSD as well as the Arkansas Education Association. Donaldson enjoys participating in the Little Rock Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, which she has done for 16 years. She also serves as second vice president for the Alpha Mu Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International Society.

Rev. Paul Atkins

The Rev. Paul Atkins – The Ethel K. Millar Award for Religion and Social Awareness

An ordained deacon serving CanvasCommunity United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Paul Atkins is the son and grandson of life-long Methodists. He grew up in Little Rock and Benton and participated in the life of his local church through youth group, mission trips, and church camp. In college, he studied bassoon performance at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he met his wife, Julie. They married in 1998, half-way through his masters in music at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. After two years in New Jersey as a freelance bassoonist, Atkins returned to Central Arkansas in 2001 to work as a church music director. When that position ended, he joined his father in the insurance business while continuing part-time in music ministry and exploring his call to ordained ministry. While attending Memphis Theological Seminary, his experience volunteering at a ministry with people experiencing homelessness knocked him off his intended path back to music ministry. His family (including daughter Elizabeth, born in 2008) moved to Little Rock to do church differently, where they connected with CanvasCommunity in 2011.

At Canvas, Atkins has developed relationships with his friends experiencing homelessness and tried to find ways to connect them with the rest of Canvas and the wider church. When his friends go to jail for various reasons, Paul visits them and has organized a monthly note-writing ministry. He has led Bible studies trying to draw together people from different backgrounds. This past April, Canvas and the City of Little Rock piloted a program called Bridge to Work, which offers people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to work picking up trash around the city as well as get connected with services to help them get to their next step. Hundreds have participated in the program and been able to earn a day’s pay, get identification documents, access to health insurance and health and job search services, and some have found permanent jobs. Overall, Paul believes God is calling rich people and poor people to know and care about each other and to live into God’s web of lovingkindness where all are family.

Virginia Brown

Virginia Brown – Hendrix College Youth Minister of the Year

A White County native, Virginia Brown is the current director of youth ministries at First United Methodist Church of Beebe, Ark. She has been a United Methodist her entire life, and graduated from Searcy High School while being an active youth group member at St. Paul United Methodist Church. St. Paul is also where she got her start in youth ministry, as an intern straight out of high school.

After interning for two years in Searcy, Brown began her first part-time youth ministry job at First United Methodist Church of Pocahontas. To finish her degree in Recreation and Parks Management, she transferred to Southeast Missouri State University; while completing her degree, she also interned for two years at Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, Mo. During summers, she worked at Beartooth Christian Camp in Fishtail, Mont., first as a counselor and then as the assistant program director. While still in Montana, she accepted the position at First United Methodist Church of Beebe, where she has now been for 5 ½ years.

For the past year and a half, Brown also has attended seminary full-time at Memphis Theological Seminary. Her dreams include becoming an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She enjoys spending time outdoors, and would like to use her passion for experiencing God through creation as a way to reach not only young people, but also entire families.

Preacher as Prophet

In addition to delivering the Willson Lecture on Monday evening, Ellison will lead the annual John and Marjem Gill Preaching Workshop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, on the topic “Preacher as Prophet.” The cost for participants is $35 and includes lunch in the award-winning Hendrix Dining Hall. For details or to register, visit

About the Steel-Hendrix Awards

In 1984, Hendrix College inaugurated the annual Steel-Hendrix Award Lectureship to celebrate 100 years of its official relationship with the United Methodist Church. The award was named in honor of Marshall T. Steel, a prominent minister and former president of the College.

About the Willson Lectures

The Willson Lectures were established at Hendrix in 1956 for the purpose of bringing outstanding speakers to discuss spiritual values, sound family relations, and vital issues confronting the world today. The Willson Lectures are made possible through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Jim Willson, who have established lectureships at 23 United Methodist colleges nationwide.

About the John and Marjem Gill Preaching Workshop

The John and Marjem Gill Preaching Workshop aims to strengthen the United Methodist Church by enhancing clergy’s ability to proclaim the gospel in ways that are relevant to the needs of our time, and to enhance dialogue and fellowship among clergy colleagues. Since 1984, Hendrix has helped facilitate this annual gathering, providing preachers throughout Arkansas with continuing education and training toward becoming more effective preachers.

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

Diaper Dandies Ministry Works to Break the Cycle of Poverty in Fort Smith

Diaper Dandies Ministry Works to Break the Cycle of Poverty in Fort Smith

By Sam Pierce

Featured Contributor

About five years ago, the Rev. Steve Poarch, of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Fort Smith, became concerned after noticing a large number of babies with unchanged diapers in his community.

“He really wanted to address this situation,” said Mary Huss, the chairwoman of the Diaper Dandies Ministry. “And because we have a large low-income population that comes in and out of our church, it was very common.”

“We have people that are looking for assistance frequently,” Poarch said. “They need help with rent or utility bills and we just happen to notice that several times they would bring their children and their diapers would be saggy and hadn’t been changed.

“One of the things we began to realize is if there is a financial crisis in the family, diapers, as expensive as they are, are not being purchased.”

The diaper ministry has been in effect for a little over four years now and it was just recently awarded a $40,000 grant from the Windgate Foundation. The grant will fund the ministry’s continued efforts to “improve the health and welfare of our community’s most vulnerable members by providing diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper rash ointment to families in need,” according to Poarch.

Poarch said, currently, the ministry distributes about four times a year and each distribution provides a two-week supply to an average of 100 infants and toddlers.

“Starting in 2020, we are going to move to six times a year thanks to the grant,” he said. “It will also help provide diapers to be on hand for emergency situations and provide for the education programs and parenting classes.”

Huss said the ministry will be fully funded for the next two years thanks to the grant.

“Thirty-six thousand of the grant will be used for the purchase of diapers, wipes and ointments and $4,000 will be used for parenting classes for the clients,” Huss said. “This grant will also allow us to extend our outreach to foster parents, schools and social workers.”

The parenting classes will be hosted by St. Paul through a partnership with Child Care Aware of Northwest Arkansas.

“We are going to help these parents understand issues of child welfare and potty training,” Poarch said. “The systemic causes of poverty is probably too large of an issue for one church to address.

“But we are trying to expand how we meet that need and reach out to our community.”

St. Paul recently received a $40,000 grant from the Windgate Foundation to continue providing infant supplies to Fort Smith’s low income residents. || Photo provided by St. Paul UMC – Fort Smith

Huss said because she refuses to file and keep a lot of documentation, there aren’t many requirements for those who need diapers. People are asked to provide basic contact info and date of birth of the children.

“We determined early on that we would operate on the honor system,” she said. “And we would develop a sense of trust for these populations.”

Poarch said at the first distribution they served about 29 babies, some of which were multiple babies in one family. He said that it was a shock to be able to do that many.

“When we open the door at 10 a.m., there is already a line of people,” he said. “The response, the need, is overwhelming. If we advertise publicly, we could serve way more than what we are able to serve now – but the need is so much greater than what we can provide.

“We only have enough supplies for about 100 to 120 and if we had it listed on a public forum, we wouldn’t be able to keep up. The need is so great in our community, as I would imagine it is in a lot of communities.”

“Steve is a wonderful leader and he has a huge heart for outreach for this community,” Huss said. “He is wonderful, and very much has a servant’s heart.”

Poarch said the congregation is 100% behind this ministry.

“… I think we all feel that it is a blessing and fulfilling to be able to help. When we help these babies, we spend about $30 a baby, because diapers are so expensive. Because we are able to do this for a family, that’s $30 extra into their budget and many families have two babies, so that’s a $60 return.

“Which may seem like a small amount to many people, but to this population, it is a lot.”

Huss said the church also hosts a back-to-school supply carnival that consists of a new backpack for every child and school supplies.

She said they set it up with a series of games and after they play each game, they win a school supply, which includes a box of crayons, pencils, and binders for the older children.

“It is a joy to see those little faces,” she said. “We are very humbled by the response that we get from these families because it is not often they are given help, without having to prove anything.

“Their gratitude is a huge gift. It is always very satisfying when you can help those less fortunate. It is very rewarding work.”

Poarch said generational poverty is a huge issue, not only in the state but throughout the country.

“We know it is an issue in our community and people struggle to break the cycle of poverty,” he said. “It is a bigger issue than putting diapers on babies.

“If we can be compassionate and provide a little bit of assistance and a healthier situation – then that’s what we are called to do.”

A Missional Community Movement

By Kay Kotan

Director, Center for Multiplying Disciples

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”
Mark 12:29-31 The Message (MSG)

We have all heard the statistics. Depending on what study you are reading, the unchurched is a growing percentage of our population ranging from 60-70%. We have come to understand there is simply a population of people who will never darken the doors of any church for a whole variety of reasons. Churches will not have the opportunity to receive them as a guest for worship. Ever. Rather than bemoan the facts, complain about why “they won’t show up,” and/or give up, we must remember we are still called to reach those very people in our mission field. But how?

We are indeed a called people. We are called to GO (not stay) and make disciples. We cannot just wait or hope they show up. We must go into our mission fields. It always warms my heart when I see a congregation out in the community sharing Jesus with those T-shirts on saying “the church has left the building.” These are people who are “going!”

What does it mean and look like to leave the building to reach people in our communities that will likely never be a part of the church as you and I know it? First, we need to intentionally be in places where unchurched people hang out. You are likely already in those places. This could be activities, events or hobbies you love such as volleyball, dinner group, book club, the gym, knitting group, cooking class, canoeing, wine-tasting, attending sporting events, etc. The options are endless! Basically, you are hanging out with unchurched folks doing the very things you love to do. You may already be part of a group. Or you may have the opportunity to start a new group around your own affinity. Once we have heard the affinity possibilities in our mission field, we then begin the process of developing the missional community. The development process for this group is what we refer to as HARVEST.

Every church can have a missional community or two! In fact, some churches have a network of missional communities reaching more people than in their Sunday morning worship service. And in reality, every disciple could be investing in and building up a missional community or two. Just imagine what could happen! If we really began to intentionally raise up missional communities, there would be a whole new (potentially huge) movement where new people in our mission fields around Arkansas can begin to build authentic, trusting relationships with other Christians and with Jesus!

If you are curious and would like to learn more about why missional communities are needed, how to get started building one, and/or how to develop the missional communities, gather a team from your church and sign up for one of the two trainings coming up Jan. 18 or 19. You can register at

Come join us in this exciting movement to reach new people in new ways for Jesus Christ!

Sowing the Fruit of the Spirit

Sowing the Fruit of the Spirit

By Kelli Reep

Methodist Family Health

Can you imagine what your life would be like if your mother was addicted to drugs, your father was abusive to you before leaving your family altogether, and you were never certain if you would eat that day or the next?

Can you imagine how you would behave?

While not all the children and teenagers in our continuum of care at Methodist Family Health come from situations like this, many do, and all have some sort of a traumatic experience in their lives. Abuse, abandonment, neglect or a combination of these coupled with psychiatric, behavioral, emotional or spiritual issues produce a child who desperately needs someone to show her or him the way to a stable life.

It can be overwhelming to think about teaching and guiding children who have experienced so much crisis in their lives. How can you understand where a child has been or why she or he acts out in a way that’s harmful when you, as an adult, haven’t experienced trauma yourself? To be sure, it takes a lot of grit and determination, but to reach anyone – child, adolescent, adult or senior – on her or his level is to start with love.

Love is what everyone seeks, and from love stems everything else: acceptance, confidence, value, peace. When you don’t trust you are lovable just as you are, everything about you changes. Behavior, then, becomes our soul’s way of screaming for help.

At Methodist Family Health, we utilize a complete continuum of care to address both positive and negative behaviors so the children and families in our care understand they are loved. From this, our children and families learn how to develop healthy and positive social, relational and interpersonal skills. Whether it’s talking with a therapist one-on-one or participating in group counseling, creating an art project to communicate what cannot be said, building trust in the adult caregivers who provide three meals a day, every day, in a secure and stable home, or reading a new Bible provided by an Arkansas United Methodist, we at Methodist Family Health use every resource available to make the children in our care know they are loved – by us, by their communities and by you, Arkansas’s United Methodists.

Recently, we finished our Christmas appeal, Share the Light, in which we asked Arkansans to contribute funds to Methodist Family Health to support our work. It can seem like contributing money or toys or prayer may not help much with a child who is hurting so badly as to think of killing her or himself. It also can seem like the amount of care to help a teenager who is so angry and hurt is insurmountable. But the truth is it takes one person providing one kindness to sow seeds of hope. How powerful it is to know someone thinks enough of you to keep you in prayer! How compelling it is to know someone thought enough of you as a person to make sure you receive the care and necessities to get better. How awesome it is to know you are loved by people you have never or will ever meet who want the best for you. It’s the fruit of your spirit that sows the tender shoots of the fruit of others. For this, and so much more, we at Methodist Family Health are grateful to you.