SENT Conference to Pursue Great Commission

September 19, 2017 | | News

EAST BRUNSWICK – On November 11 at Aldersgate UMC in East Brunswick, leaders throughout GNJ will be invited to learn more about what it means to be “sent into the world” for Christ.

Honing in on Jesus’ “Great Commission” the 2017 SENT Conference will feature storytellers, change makers, organizers, theologians, and pastors.

Workshops leaders include Danielle Fanfair and Marlon Hall of Folklore Films, Mark DeVries of Ministry Architects, the consulting firm on boarded by GNJ to develop the Next Generation ministries initiative passed at the 2017 Annual Conference session, and Christian Coon of Chicago’s Urban Village Church. Additionally, Eric Barreto of Princeton Theological Seminary and Michelle Matthews of Kingstowne Communion in Alexandria, VA will also lead workshops on theology and reclaiming Wesley’s model of relational discipleship and community building.

“How are we sent into this world?” asked Director of Mission, Nicole Caldwell-Gross. “How do we connect with new people? How do we connect with new communities that aren’t even interested in church? What does this mean for me, my ministry, and my call? This conference will send you and your team into the world to create meaningful ministry with new people.”

Michelle Matthews, an inner-city high school English teacher turned pastor, expressed zeal at her opportunity to speak at the SENT conference.

“What a fan-freaking-tastic idea for a conference,” she exclaimed. “Let’s start learning from the full host of creatives.”

Having helped plant four United Methodist new faith communities in Virginia Beach and Durham, NC, Matthews’ heart is “set on fire” by expressions of church that major on community, mission, justice, and inclusivity. Her workshop will focus on how disciples are formed and teaching how to enmesh with community in courageous, creative, and collaborative ways that elicit slow and steady growth through spiritual depth, intimacy, and public presence.

Eric Barreto, a Baptist minister who pursues scholarship for the sake of the church, will lead a theology workshop titled “Acts of/and Imagination.”

“The Acts of the Apostles is not a blueprint for a perfect church,” he says. “Instead, Acts contains stories meant to provoke and inspire our imaginations about how God might be present among us in vibrant and unexpected ways.”

His workshop will walk through six imaginations for following Jesus into a changing world. Barreto regularly writes for and teaches in faith communities around the U.S. He has also been a leader in the Hispanic Theological Initiative Consortium, a national, ecumenical, and inter-constitutional consortium comprised of some of the country’s top seminaries, theological schools, and religion departments.

As pastor of a fast growing young adults-centric congregation that is one of 30 new “planting churches” started by the United Methodist Church in 2009 designed to attract people who have been turned off by religious institutions, Christian Coon believes that even the best-laid ministry plans will go awry.

“But, rather than seeing the effort as a failure, it might be the start of a new way that God is wanting to reach people in your context,” said Coon.

Author of “Failing Boldly: How Falling Down in Ministry Can Be the Start of Rising Up” Coon talks about the benefits of community organizing for one’s ministry and how failure may sometimes be the best thing that can happen.

For Ministry Architects consultant Mark DeVries, leaders in the church often fall into one of two styles: Disruptive innovators stirring up change to create quick momentum, and systems leaders designing long-term structures to create stability and sustainability.

“The problem is that disruptive innovators often don’t know how to sustain their own change initiatives, and system leaders can find it immensely difficult to avoid creating a culture that grows stale over time,” said DeVries. His seminar seeks to provide strategies for leaders who want to combine the passion and energy of disruptive change and anchor it in systems that can ensure the long-term impact of those changes.

Having trained youth workers across the U.S., Canada, Russia, Uganda, South Africa, Ecuador, Trinidad, Nicaragua, and Northern Ireland, working with a variety of denominations, DeVries has helped facilitate GNJ’s Next Generation ministries initiatives. He’s taught courses and guest lectured at several colleges and seminaries including Princeton Theological School Vanderbilt Divinity School, and David Lipscomb University. DeVries has authored several books including “Sustainable Youth Ministry” and “Family-Based Youth Ministry.” In 2011 he co-authored “Before You Hire a Youth Pastor” and “The Indispensable Youth Pastor” with YMCA Vice-President, Jeff Dunn-Rankin.

Storytellers like Danielle Fanfair and Marlon Hall seek to empower people to become storytellers in their communities. Their workshop invites SENT attendees to excavate the “good news” through the power of the human story.

Fanfair serves as a strategist and producer for Folklore Films, a Houston-based film series dedicated to illuminating beauty from brokenness and folklore within us all. She explores the stories of people who are using change, trauma, and pain to fuel passion through life-giving work, telling “visual poems” through film.

Hall describes himself as “a curator of human potential.” Academically trained as an Anthropologist, accomplished film-maker, and published author, Hall is a lecturing Fellow for Duke University and helps Fanfair curate Folklore Films.

For more information and to register for SENT, click here.