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National conference to offer tips for fruitful ministry

National conference to offer tips for fruitful ministry

KISSIMMEE – “Give Me that Old-time Religion” may be a foot-stomping, sentimental favorite, but it’s not necessarily a church’s best rallying song in the 21st century.

All ministries, even such institutional standbys as Sunday school, choirs and ushers, should be evaluated in terms of how well they bear fruit, said well-known UMC author and educator Lovett Weems Jr., who also is the director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.

“Success is not a biblical term,” he said. “But fruitfulness is.” 

Lovett Weems Jr.
Lovett Weems Jr.

Weems will lead a series of seminars on the theme “Guiding Your Ministry to Be More Fruitful” at the National Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors annual conference next month in Kissimmee.

The conference will begin with check-in at 2 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Radisson Resort Celebration in Kissimmee. Dr. Steve Harper, professor of spiritual formation and Wesleyan studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, will be the keynote speaker during dinner on the opening day.

Weems will lead two days of seminars Sept. 19 and 20. The conference will wrap up with a business session on Sept. 21.

Rev. Susie Horner, senior pastor of Wakulla UMC, Crawfordsville, and president of the Florida Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors, said the conference theme is intriguing, but the event will offer participants much more than that. Clergy representatives from United Methodist conferences nationwide are expected to attend.

“I think it is an opportunity for associate members and local pastors to come together in one place and discuss the similarities and differences … in other conferences,” she said.

“What other ideas for ministry are out there that we might not have thought of?”

Horner said she has wanted to attend the national conference in years past, but this is the first time she has felt it was feasible.

“I really would hope that since it is here in Florida, our local pastors and associate members will take advantage of it,” Horner said. “I don’t know when it will be this close and accessible again.”

Rev. Valerie Harvard, fellowship secretary and pastor at Trinity UMC in Covington, Ga., said this year’s event occurs in Florida for the first time since 1983. About 45 clergy members typically attend the meeting.

Weems said his seminar sessions will focus largely on themes in a book he co-authored with Rev. Tom Berlin titled “Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results.”

One of the most important roles for church leaders is to help congregations discern God’s vision for them and carry it out, Weems said. Although the same United Methodist mission of making disciples for world transformation applies to all, God’s vision for carrying it out will not be the same for all churches, he said, nor will the plan for bringing it to fruition.

“There’s something that God is calling a particular congregation to do at a particular time,” he said. “Given our mission and our context, what is God most calling us to in the near future?”

Church leaders must help their flocks set objectives and plan activities with specific outcomes in mind rather than saying, “We can do this and we can do that,” Weems said.

“We do it and hope to goodness that something good comes out of it.”

He said all United Methodists must take part in the discernment process, but pastors have a special role.

“People have a right to expect some things of the pastor that they don’t have a right to expect of everybody else in the church,” Weems said.
“Part of that is helping the congregation discern where God is calling us to go and how we can move there.”

Harvard said fellowship members also will hear of a $5,000 donation the group made in memory of the Rev. Carol Crumpton of Texas, an active member who was killed in a car accident in 2008. The money will go toward rebuilding a seminary library needed for theological education in the Congo, to honor Crumpton’s mission work in Africa.

For information and registration, visit