Healthy Church Academy travels to churches to deliver courses

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Healthy Church Academy travels to churches to deliver courses

March 31, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0465}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

Sometimes the mountain will come to you.

ARCADIA — Members of churches in the Arcadia area participate in small group discussions at a Healthy Church Academy (HCA) class that was brought to a church near them, alleviating the time and expense of traveling to either the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park or Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, where many of the HCA classes have been held. Photo by the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, Photo #06-330.

That’s what happened when a cluster of churches in the Arcadia area of the conference’s South West District wanted to attend a Healthy Church Academy (HCA) course, but couldn’t afford the expense of traveling to Leesburg or Orlando. HCA leaders tailored a course specifically for them and held it at a church in their area.

HCA, the creation of the Florida Conference’s New Church Development, Congregational Transformation and Connectional Ministries offices, provides tools for new church development, congregational transformation and life-long training for clergy and laity in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Courses are normally held at the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) in Fruitland Park, Asbury Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus and churches throughout the state to make the courses easily accessible.

The Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the Connectional Ministries’ Global Mission and Justice Ministry team and dean of HCA, said the decision for HCA to travel to a cluster of churches demonstrates the evolving nature of the academy.

Rankin said members of the Arcadia area cluster approached him and other conference leaders about designing a course that would enable church members to improve their outreach and marketing in time for a fall outreach event.

“What excited me about this is that it illustrates the grass roots of church education,” Rankin said. “So we designed a course around a theme.”

The one-day course, called HCA 601 Outreach and Marketing, was held in early March at Trinity United Methodist Church in Arcadia and focused on outreach for small, rural churches. The cluster sponsored the session, and all churches in the district were invited to attend, according to the Rev. David Harris, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Harris said about 40 people attended. “For a rural area that’s pretty good attendance,” he said. “You get that many people fired up, and that’s a catalyst for their churches. ... And we’ll see what comes out of it.”

Harris said HCA leaders providing training on location is a good way to tailor courses for a reasonable fee. “With conference leadership (leading the session) it was very easy to do. The cost was minimal,” he said. “We received good training that addressed rural concepts.”

The Rev. W. Rocky Walker, pastor at Nocatee United Methodist Church, attended the course, along with eight members from his church. He said he has been interested in other HCA courses, but could never get members to travel to them.

“I think this is the right direction for the academy to be heading,” Walker said. “We are a retirement church, and folks are on a fixed income so it’s a very good thing that they didn’t have to travel. I realize that the LEC has great prices, but for a charge not to occur is a very good thing for them. So it’s great that HCA came to us.”

Carol Blair, a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, Arcadia, also attended the course. Blair is a member of the East Ohio Conference, but has been spending winters in Arcadia since 1977. She teaches a laity leadership class and said she would take another HCA course if it came to her area.

“It makes it quite handy,” she said.

Rankin said HCA traveling to additional clusters or any group of congregations could become a regular occurrence.

“This is an example of where I see HCA going,” he said. “I think it’s a far more effective means to an end. This is a great way of getting churches together for learning. It’s designed for synergy to take place in the community. Homework happens when they go back to their churches and knowledge is shared amongst the learners.”

An upcoming HCA course open to the whole conference will take place at Indian River City United Methodist Church May 20, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. It is HCA 1401, a praise and worship team workshop designed to give worship leaders and worshipers a theological and Biblical foundation for planning and executing worship that draws people closer to God. Teams will learn how to plan successful worship week after week.

The course has also been designed as a resource to help churches meet the goals for worship outlined under Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker’s three fundamentals initiative that Whitaker and Bill Walker, the conference’s lay leader, have been sharing with churches throughout the conference. Whitaker has established goals for churches to meet in 2006 in three key areas, evangelism, outreach and worship — fundamentals of church ministry.

The praise and worship team at Indian River City United Methodist Church will lead the session. The group has been creating weekly worship experiences for nearly 10 years, working with both contemporary and traditional worship styles. The cost to attend is $60 per person, which includes materials, lunch and refreshments. Partial scholarships are available.

More information about organizing learning modules for districts based on need may be obtained by contacting Rankin at 800-282-8011, extension 131. More information about courses, online registration, faculty, locations, tuition and lodging is available at


This article relates to Healthy Church Academy/Church Transformation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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