All conference members are invited to attend a conference-wide Zoom session on Friday, May 27 at 12:00 p.m. At the session, we will discuss a recommended change to the Conference Insurance Plan design, benefits and costs to be presented to Annual Conference in the Insurance Committee’s report. To learn more about the recommendation and to register for the Zoom session, visit the Insurance webpage.
Churches! If you haven’t tried out texting with your congregation, I’m here to tell you how transformational it’s been for Asbury Church in North Raleigh. And it’s more than just another promotional text – it’s our goal to text with our congregation like Jesus would text, not like Southwest Airlines or Jersey Mikes.
This tool has transformed how we do ministry. It goes beyond reminders to include prayer requests (how else can I ask 300 congregants how I can pray for them and then within 90 minutes pray with over 60 of them individually?), first-time guests (with workflows, I NEVER forget to send that email or text to start the conversation), event sign-ups (just text the keyword “Journaling” to sign up for our Spiritual Journaling class) and more.
I want to share some real and measurable praises from following the advice of Text in Church’s workflows and follow up and Church Marketing University’s Coaching as well as their GROW program to help with Google Grants to help support how Asbury UMC continues to welcome others to our campus in ways that are adding up to life change. I wanted to spread the word to NCCUMC because out of the 300+ churches involved in Grow, only a few are Methodist (or even mainline). While those resources have helped us do this easier, and in less time, the principles don’t require any subscription.
The first shift was a mindset shift to loving and connecting with our community through inevitable events. It takes about as much preparation and volunteers to run a Fall Festival or Spring Carnival for 40 families as it does for 200 families (just more supplies!). Since we were already doing these events for our ministries, it just meant scaling up. Next, we needed to know who was coming, and we did that with RSVPs on the website as well as QR Check-In Giveaways when they’re onsite. Then, it’s about inviting them back (not overdoing it – but connecting with them for things that are FOR them, not things we want from them).
Asbury Church went all-in on these concepts in October of last year. Since then, we’ve spent over $44,000 of Google’s money to bring over 8,000 new visitors to our website, and over 1,400 people have RSVP’d for an event, planned a visit to worship, or submitted a prayer request. Google’s Grant for Nonprofits provides up to $10,000 per month to qualified non-profits for their ads to run as long as you stay within their quality standards. We have had at least 20 new families who have come directly through these outreach events this year using these ideas.
We text regularly with our congregation (about 300 numbers), but we’ve also added over 450 people who get our big event invites and continue to build relationships with us. These folks are doing more than just coming to big events, though. They share needs and prayers, and I’m able to get to know them, even if it’s through text to start. What these numbers don’t show you are the cool stories I can tell from connecting with these folks on text (I met many folks, but these were all texting-only connections). Little boys meeting their hero firemen with touch a truck, answering questions with parents with special needs kids to feel comfortable coming, helping lonely moms find connection and companionship, and even becoming the church someone reached out to when a family member passed away (and had come to all of our events/holidays but never a normal Sunday service).
Sure, but is that really all you do? Yep. We started with simple Facebook events and local listings like WRAL. Then we added Google Grants in. As we built up the contact list from one event (Fall Festival), we invited those people back with an email/text. For each event, we spent $50-75 of our church budget on Facebook Ads, we had a banner made on Creedmoor Road, and God did the rest of the work.
Have questions? Want to learn more? So much content and advice is on Text in Church or Church Marketing University’s websites – they’re super generous leaders who want to partner with pastors. I’m happy to talk to you personally and show you specifics if you’d like.
*Article written by the Rev. Jenifer Swindell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
God who tends to the sick and the wounded,
Our hearts are heavy with the news of 1 million American lives lost from coronavirus and over 5 million more lives lost worldwide.
How long, O Lord, must we be plagued by this disease?
Jesus, during your earthly ministry you healed people from physical, mental, and spiritual wounds. Be present with those who need to be healed because of COVID-19. So many of us are left wounded by COVID. Some of our scars are physical as we fight the active disease and the long-term effects of this disease. Some of us have had our faith shaken by the loss of those that we love to this disease. Some of us are part of the new mental health pandemic that is rising to the surface in the wake of COVID.
As we think about what has been lost during this pandemic so many faces are brought into our minds. So many reflections of You that we can no longer see face to face. We thank you for the lives of all those we have lost, those known to us and those unknown to us. There is so much anger and pain carried by we who miss them. Renew our hope in the resurrection and the promise of Eternal Life.
God, we ask that you would take away the fear, anxiety and feelings of isolation from people receiving treatment or quarantining. Give them a sense of purpose in pursuing health and protecting their neighbor from exposure to the disease. Protect those at high risk from the virus. Renew the energy of healthcare professionals, caregivers, and essential workers. Allow struggling people to give themselves permission to find help and may they find the help that they need. We ask that you keep COVID-19 from spreading.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.*
*Prayer written by the Rev. Lindsay Collins
The New York Times article mentioned in the video.
It has long been the hope of the Church universal that we could live into Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples, “that they may all be one.” (John 17:21) Our unity undergirds the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world so that the light of Christ shines in a hurting world in deep need of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation with God and one another. This is the prayer of every water-washed Spirit-born baptized believer. However, there have been moments throughout the church’s history where some of our brothers and sisters felt it necessary to leave the connection for reason of conscience.
It grieves my heart that some local churches and pastors have discerned that they can no longer be a part of The United Methodist Church. It is painful for us all to have anyone leave the family. We have shared so much together. I pray that the mission to make disciples of Jesus who change the world will be accomplished wherever you find yourself.
The work of The United Methodist Church continues even as we share this pathway for local churches to disaffiliate and clergy persons to withdraw. I pray that each local church and pastor considering this step would do this work of discernment in a deep attitude of prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We have outlined on our website the process for a local church to disaffiliate or pastor to withdraw. The North Carolina Conference will seek to work with a local church or a pastor to ensure the process is carried out in a spirit of grace and cooperation.
I know that when these things happen, no one leaves totally happy or with all that they desired, but we can proceed without disparaging each other. “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up.” (Hebrews 12:14-15)
All clergy conference members are invited to attend a conference-wide Zoom session on Tuesday, May 24 at 12:00 p.m. At the session, we will discuss a recommended change to the Transition Fund to be presented to Annual Conference in the Board of Pension’s report. To learn more about the recommendation and to register for the Zoom session, visit the Transition Fund webpage.
We are excited to be able to again meet in person for Annual Conference 2022. We look forward to seeing you in Greenville on June 15-18 as we worship, learn, conduct business, and fellowship together. We will be blessed in our gatherings by this year’s leadership: Bishop Leonard E. Fairley, the Rev. Janet Wolf, and the Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Locklear. Learn more about them and when you can see them during Annual Conference below.
Bishop Leonard E. Fairley
Bishop Fairley was elected to the episcopacy in 2016 from the NC Conference and became our bishop in September 2021. He is also the episcopal leader for the Kentucky and Red Bird Conferences. Bishop Fairley has served large and small as well as rural and urban churches and as a district superintendent for the Rockingham and Capital districts. He and his wife, Dawn, have a blended family with four children and seven grandchildren.
Bishop Fairley will preside over the business sessions and will preach at the Ordering of Ministry Service on Saturday morning at 10:30 am.
Rev. Janet Wolf
Janet has worked as a poverty rights organizer, UM pastor, college and seminary professor, and animator with think tanks inside prisons. She focuses on public theology, transformative justice, and nonviolent direct action organizing to disrupt and dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline. She is the author of Practicing Resurrection: The Gospel of Mark and Radical Discipleship. Janet and her husband, Bill Haley, have five sons and six grandchildren.
Janet will share with us during the Wednesday evening worship service at 7 pm and lead the Thursday morning Bible study at 8:30 am.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Locklear
Ken has served in pastoral ministry for over 34 years. He has served seven churches, started a new church in Greensboro, NC, and served as Executive Director of Native American Ministries for the Southeastern Jurisdiction at Lake Junaluska. He is now serving as the Gateway District Superintendent. Ken is married to Janet, and they have one son.
Ken will be our preacher for the Memorial Service on Thursday morning at 11 am.
For more information about Annual Conference 2022, visit nccumc.org/ac2022.