Bishop urges churches to get involved with children

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bishop urges churches to get involved with children

March 23, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0644}

An e-Review Commentary
By Pamela S. Davis**

An education summit sponsored by Florida Conference United Methodist Women last month at the Life Enrichment Center will serve as a model for district events throughout the conference this year — events designed to inform the community of issues affecting children and public schools.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker asks participants attending a recent education summit on children sponsored by the conference's United Methodist Women how Florida United Methodists can practice the "holistic ministry of the church” in order to meet children's needs. Photo by Pamela S. Davis. Photo #07-0552.

A diverse group of presenters, led by Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, shared ways each United Methodist can make a difference in the lives of Florida’s children. Participants, including conference staff, represented each of the conference’s nine districts.
Mary Melvin, Eugenia Whitehead and I, who had participated in a national education summit, facilitated the Florida summit. Under the theme, “For the Love of Florida’s Children,” Paulette Monroe, an educator and president of the conference’s United Methodist Women, focused on the importance of meeting the needs of Florida’s children, especially those in poverty.

Bishop Whitaker called those in attendance and all Florida United Methodists to be transformers of people. He said congregations must become externally focused in “bodacious” activities that minister to children. Through our social action outreach, we can strengthen our relationship between schools and churches, a relationship that has long been neglected. Public schools need United Methodists involved. One way is utilizing cluster churches in public education.

At the event, we gathered data from participants regarding their ongoing mentoring and experience as educators. They had a combined total of approximately 588 years of experience as educators and 870 years of experience mentoring children and working on advocacy issues. The Florida conference has a strong advocacy base in working with children, so together we can make a difference in their lives.

Expert panelists Stephanie Thompson, Andrea Peppers, Judith-Pierre Okerson, Mary Jane Trimble and Ginny Roebuck addressed questions from panel facilitator Mary Melvin on the federal No Child Left Behind initiative and Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The answers directly related to how United Methodist child advocates can impact students and schools.

I focused on reaching students with love, learning and literacy.

Participants attending a recent education summit on children work in groups to find creative ways to meet children's needs. Photo by Pamela S. Davis. Photo #07-0553.

We received grants and donations of books and stuffed toys from businesses to further the causes of education. These were given to mentors as gifts for their students. While mentoring is one way United Methodists can get involved, Eugenia Whitehead led a strategic planning session to develop action plans to implement other ways of involvement across the conference.

Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the conference’s Global Mission and Justice Ministries office, emphasized the importance of churches’ involvement in Children’s Week at the state capitol March 25 to April 1. Its theme is “One Voice for Children.” The annual week of activities is sponsored by the state and statewide religious organizations, including the Florida Conference’s United Methodist Women, Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty task force and Global Mission and Justice committee, as well as nonprofit and children’s advocacy groups. A full listing of Children’s Week events is available at

Overall the summit provided us with an understanding of the needs of children so we can address the question posed by Bishop Whitaker: “How can we practice the holistic ministry of the church?”

Our congregations must become externally focused and working on social issues such as children and public education. This must be the emphasis of the conference, as we focus on the really important work of raising children.


This article relates to Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Davis is mission coordinator of social action for Florida Conference United Methodist Women.

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