WAYNE – “A day well spent” that’s how Rev. Scott Bostwick of Grace UMC in Wyckoff described the Northern Region Day of Learning event, ‘Take the Lead.’ Held on March 3 at Bethany Wayne UMC. The daylong session invited laity to bring their pastors to learn about resourcing laity to lead churches and communities.
The event featured keynote speaker Rev. Mike Mather, pastor of Broadway UMC in Indianapolis, IN.
“People already have power,” said Mathers. “It’s our job to act like that and show that; point out where God is present. When we focus on the giftedness around us and invite others to talk about their gifts, the conversation shifts to what we’re missing to who we are.”
Additionally, Mather led a workshop on connecting with community titled “Name, Bless and Connect.”
Rev. Brian Neville of Hillsdale UMC left the church inspired.
“The regional events provided by GNJ have been top notch,” said Neville. “I was inspired by Mather, who said that church work is hard no matter what, so we might as well do hard work that we believe in.”
Instead of doing things the same old way with the same poor results, Mather encouraged his audience to reconsider how they do ministry so that it will have a greater impact on their communities.
“I took this to heart,” said Neville. “I’ve already started looking at ministries in my church in a different way.”
Others described the event as well-planned, well-attended, well-hosted and well-executed.
Rev. Jess Winderweedle and her team from Kingston UMC shared about leading ministry with millennials, designed for churches looking to connect with millennials but uncertain about where to begin. Attendees heard from the team that launched the Feed Truck, a fully-outfitted, mobile food truck with a team serving locally sourced breakfast and late night eats while also providing radical hospitality and a taste of hope to folks in Central New Jersey.
Rev. Gina Yeske, GNJ Director of Small Groups, presented “Big Ideas for Every Small Group Leader” begging the question of what’s next for small groups and uncovering new ways to bring vitality to a group’s ministry.
“In debriefing, my team and I found the selection of topics and breakout sessions to be very informative and helpful,” said Bostwick. “Mather’s winsome way of sharing his experiences, and how they relate to and inform our ministry settings were both helpful and inspiring.”
Along with her colleagues Rosario Quinones and Alma Matos, Rev. Lyssette Perez of the UMC of The Rockaways directed a contemporary bilingual multicultural worship workshop aimed at providing tools and ideas to develop this kind of worship as a means of outreach to all people.
“Our communities are a mosaic of cultures, languages, abilities and orientations,” said Perez. “For many years and generations, churches have been the one place that has been pretty homogeneous. It has been said that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. However, if we walk through any city or town, we will see all sorts of people and shops, hear voices in different languages and smell a variety of foods from different restaurants. We celebrate the cultural diversity in our congregations.”
A big takeaway from the event was Mather’s notion that “God’s spirit flows down on all people” that everyone has a gift and it’d be a sin to waste it.
“But the challenge in the church is that we operate from scarcity, and not plenty,” said Mathers. “That mindset is even in the way we communicate opportunities to serve in our local congregations, which makes us look desperate.”
“As my wife likes to say, ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it,’” said Bostwick. “That being said, ‘discovering abundance in unexpected places’ was certainly an apt title for the plenary – no bait-and-switch here! From a practical standpoint, I appreciate and will implement the two questions Mathers suggested for our guests and members alike: ‘What three things do you do well enough to teach others and what three things do you want to learn to do well?’”
GNJ Lay Leader Rosa Williams weighed in on the event by reiterating Mathers’ message of enrolling people into God’s kingdom.
“Most of our outreach ministries such as feedings, pantries and thrift shops often tell recipients what we can offer them in meeting basic needs,” said Williams. “We forget about the whole person and what they can offer! Mathers encouraged us to simply ask people what gifts they have and how they can share that gift. This simple act of conversation and listening jumpstarts relationships, builds up a person’s self-esteem and self-worth and engages them to use their God-given talents in meaningful ways.”
Additional sessions were led by Rev. Dr. Steve Bechtold, Skylands District Superintendent, on seeing conflict as a transformative experience through leadership and an afternoon plenary from Trey Wince, GNJ Director of New Disciples, on how to take next steps and implement the day’s learnings. Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash, Executive Director and Brian Mickle, Director of Development, from the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey also provided resourcing information and answered questions.