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In Brief — Dec. 1, 2006 {0581}

In Brief — Dec. 1, 2006 {0581}

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

In Brief — Dec. 1, 2006

Dec. 1, 2006    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0581}

An e-Review News Item

This series includes:

n Regional training helps churches welcome guests
n Churches asked to fill gap for backpack drive
n Florida churches partner with ministry to fight hunger

Regional training helps churches welcome guests

By Pam Garrison**
LAKELAND — “My congregation is welcoming because … .”

When asked that question most Florida Conference churches say they’re friendly and, therefore, welcoming, but how welcoming are they really? Do they offer more than a smile and a bulletin? Are members pleased to see newcomers, or are they complacent, offering a friendly greeting to those they know and conversing with friends while overlooking the couple sitting alone, trying to look like they belong?

Most members don’t plan to ignore visitors, but some are self-conscious and uncomfortable themselves about greeting people they don’t know and at the same time feeling guilty because they know they should be reaching out to newcomers.

At the end of every United Methodist television commercial developed for the church’s national Igniting Ministry media and welcoming ministry is the phrase: “If you’re searching for something to believe in or belong to, you’re not alone. Our hearts, our minds and our doors are always open. The people of The United Methodist Church.”

Florida Conference churches have an opportunity to see how well they live up to that promise at a regional welcoming training in January and learn how they can change if they don’t.

Jackie Vaughn, director of Media Grants and Services with the national Igniting Ministry office in Nashville, gives a delegate attending the Florida Conference's 2006 annual meeting doorhangers she can use to reach out to neighbors around her church during last September's Open House Month. Photo by e-Review Staff, Photo #06-475.

The Florida Conference will be the host for the “Living Our Promise” Igniting Ministry training event Jan. 13 at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, near Leesburg. It’s being offered as a regional event to United Methodist churches throughout the Southeastern Jurisdiction, and its focus is to assist United Methodist congregations in developing welcoming and hospitality as a lifestyle in their church.

Igniting Ministry is designed to support local churches and encourage them to become active partners in reaching out to “unchurched” people and creating renewed enthusiasm among members. The 2004 General Conference authorized United Methodist Communications in Nashville to continue coordinating Igniting Ministry and creating the commercials being used.

The session will provide ideas and suggestions for church leaders on how to develop an active welcoming and inviting ministry and offers three training tracks using materials and resources developed for the Igniting Ministry campaign. It will be led by national Igniting ministry trainers Cathy Farmer, director of communications in the Memphis Annual Conference; the Rev. Larry Homitsky, council steward of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference; and Larry Hygh, director of communications for the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

“The three tracks allow churches to participate in the event regardless of previous knowledge or experience with this ministry,” said Emily Reece, who directs the national Igniting Ministry training program. “Each person attending will choose one track, which starts in the morning and concludes in the afternoon. Additional team members from the church may attend the other two tracks to cover all the sessions and explore all the information and resources.”

“Starting Out” includes an overview of the basics of welcoming, inviting and discipling. It also introduces the campaign’s “Planning Handbook,” a collection of resources intended to guide a congregation in establishing a local advertising and welcoming effort. “Moving On” offers existing Igniting Ministry teams and leaders new ideas, plans and training options and introduces a small-group video study series, “Beyond 30 Seconds: Developing a Welcoming Congregation.” “Living Up” aims at helping churches interested in reshaping their community identity find ways, individually and corporately, to live up to the ‘Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.’ promise expressed in the commercials placed on cable channels nationwide three times a year.

“When the spirit of God begins to move in the lives of individuals and families, these are the people who visit our churches,” Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker said. “How we show hospitality to them and care about them might make the difference in whether they become disciples of Jesus Christ and receive the good news.”

Whitaker added: “Our churches are encouraged to practice hospitality. This workshop from Igniting Ministry will help them do that.”

Local churches are encouraged to send a minimum of three members of their teaching membership team, including the pastor, to the session. The registration fee is $40 for each participating congregation, plus $10 per person for lunch and snacks. The registration deadline is Jan. 5.

Church teams interested in registering or needing more information may visit or contact the Igniting Ministry offices at United Methodist Communications in Nashville toll free at 877-281-6535. Overnight accommodations are available Jan. 12 at the Life Enrichment Center at a rate of $34.50 per person, double occupancy, or $51.50, single occupancy. Room reservations may be made by contacting Holly Forcier at the Florida Conference office at 800-282-8011, extension 149, or

Churches asked to fill gap for backpack drive

By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Children’s Harvest is hoping Florida Conference churches will fill the gap when it comes to providing backpacks and school supplies for Florida’s students.

Children’s Harvest gives backpacks filled with school supplies to about a dozen Florida outreach ministries to be distributed to at-risk children and youth. The backpacks are funded through donations from churches and individuals received at the conference’s annual event.

Of the $124,000 collected at the 2006 annual meeting 10 percent, or $12,400, will be used by the Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty (BICAP)/Children’s Harvest task force to purchase the backpacks and school supplies.

Because Children’s Harvest was one of three ministry areas benefiting from the total collected it will have less money to fund its 2007 fall backpack drive. Children’s Harvest distributed 5,000 backpacks during the 2006 drive.

Pamela Ann Cahoon, BICAP’s chairwoman, said the money will purchase about 3,500 filled backpacks. She said the ministry welcomes the idea of churches and missions collecting funds so Children’s Harvest can donate even more backpacks to children whose families can’t afford to purchase them on their own.

“We are thankful for what we have received. We really, really appreciate it,” Cahoon said. She added: “The need is there. This is a tangible, hands-on opportunity for churches to be involved in ministry.”

Children at one of the Florida Conference's outreach ministries show off the backpacks filled with school supplies and teddy bears they received from the conference's Children's Harvest drive. Photo courtesy of Donna Ratzlaff, executive director of United Methodist Cooperative Ministries, Photo #06-476.

Ministries receiving backpacks are Halifax Urban Ministries, Jacksonville Urban Ministries, Orlando Outreach Ministries, Christians Reaching Out to Society, United Methodist Cooperative Ministries, Grace Place, South Florida Urban Ministries, North Central District, Madison County Cooperative Ministries, Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, St. Petersburg United Methodist Cooperative Ministries and Cornerstone Family Ministries Inc. (formerly Tampa United Methodist Centers).

While backpacks are already slated to go to those ministries, Cahoon said the need is there to add even more to the list. She said the ministry is interested in learning about migrant communities, children summer nutrition sites and foster children who could also benefit from the backpacks and supplies.

“The feedback we have received is that the backpacks are incredibly helpful to the children and the families that receive them,” she said. “Some of the children wouldn’t have backpacks or school supplies if we didn’t provide them.”

Churches and individuals are encouraged to donate funds to help buy the backpacks/supplies. They may send a check made payable to Florida Conference Treasurer, with BICAP #810/Children’s Harvest in the memo line, to P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802. The Tampa area nonprofit Someone Cares Tampa Bay is willing to provide backpacks and school supplies for $8 each and empty backpacks for $5.50 each. Churches may also help with the effort by contributing to the missional offering that will be collected at the conference’s 2007 annual meeting.

Melba Whitaker, wife of Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, the coordinator of Children’s Harvest for the past several years, decided to bring outreach ministry to each annual conference as a way of highlighting the importance of missions.

More information may be obtained by contacting Cahoon at or 561-833-9499, or Vicki Walker at Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa, at 813-253-5388, extension 223.

Florida churches partner with ministry to fight hunger

By Carol A. Breitinger**

BIG ISLAND, Va. — Four Florida Conference congregations partnered with the Society of St. Andrew to feed the hungry during the first quarter of 2006, and five more churches partnered during the second quarter of the year.

The donations from these nine churches were combined with those of 196 other United Methodist “Partner Churches” across the connection for a total of $224,178. This amount provided nearly 4 million pounds of fresh, nutritious food that would have gone to waste but was, instead, salvaged from growers, then donated to food banks and service agencies throughout the nation. This is about 30 percent of the food the agency has saved and distributed to the hungry this year from January through June.

Partner churches support the the Society of St. Andrew’s ministry by providing the financial means to help glean even more food to feed the poor and educate people about the causes and effects of hunger in the nation and world. Churches are recognized as partners for donations of $500 or more.

The agency has issued certificates of recognition and gratitude to the following Florida Conference churches for their partner church level support during the first half of 2006: St. Andrew Partners ($500) — First United Methodist churches of Orlando, Lakeland and Boca Raton and St. Paul United Methodist Church, Largo; One Mile Partner ($850) — Wauchula United Methodist Church; Change the World Partners ($1,000) — Hollywood Hills United Methodist Church and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Orlando; and Extra Mile Partners ($1,700) — Clermont United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church, Titusville.

Florida Conference churches have also contributed to the organization’s ministry through its “St. Andrew Club.”

When members of the “St. Andrew Club” receive a “call letter” twice a year they respond with a donation. Fifty Florida Conference St. Andrew Club members have been contributing since 2001, giving contributions totaling $8,540 and providing 142,333 pounds of fresh produce that would have gone to waste.

The first “St. Andrew Club” was established more than 20 years ago by William “Bill” Schminkey, a member of Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Va. Schminkey had a passion to feed the hungry and a simple idea of how it could be done. His concept was basically the same as a church might use to raise funds for a new organ or building expansion. Fairlington church administers its club by enlisting from area churches members who agree to make a donation of their chosen amount twice a year in response to a “call letter.”

The original “St. Andrew Club” has since been expanded to include a chapter administered by Mountain View United Methodist Church in Forest, Va., for the Central Virginia region, and a chapter run from the Society of St. Andrew’s national headquarters for club members in states other than Virginia.

The three chapters of the “St. Andrew Club” have a combined membership of 4,497. Member donations have, to date, totaled more than $1.4 million — enough to provide 24.7 million pounds of fresh produce or 74.2 million servings of nourishing food to hungry Americans at a cost of just 2 cents per serving.

Information about becoming a “St. Andrew Club” member is available by contacting the Society of St. Andrew at 800-333-4597 or or by visiting

The Society of St. Andrew gleans America’s fields and feeds America’s hungry by salvaging fresh produce that otherwise will go to waste and distributing it to food banks and serving agencies across the nation. It is dedicated to bridging the hunger gap between more than 96 billion pounds of food wasted in the United States every year and the more than 36 million Americans who live with hunger. The organization is the nation’s largest gleaner of fresh produce donated to feeding programs, saving as much as 40 million pounds of produce each year that will not make it to market. The agency’s major hunger-relief programs are the Gleaning Network, the Potato Project, Harvest of Hope and Hunger Relief Advocate Initiative, which feed the hungry with the help of 30,000 to 40,000 volunteers each year.

The Society of St. Andrew maintains an operating overhead of less than 7 percent. More than 93 cents of every donated dollar goes directly into providing food for the hungry. It has offices and active gleaning networks in 22 states and maintains its national headquarters in Big Island, Virginia, where it was founded in 1979.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Garrison is manager of the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center and coordinator of the conference’s Igniting Ministry efforts. Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service. Breitinger is communications director for the Society of St. Andrew.