Download the printable version of the Dec. 5 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Conference summer internships expand to include confirmation teachers
Bishop leader delivers Christmas message of ‘peaceable kingdom’
UMC's ‘Unwrap Christmas’ tour coming to Kansas City on Dec. 17
New research poll shows church’s shifting views of alcohol

We’re in search of potters, woodworkers for Annual Conference

Finding a call doesn’t always mean working in a church
New blog looks at clergy health and wellness
Health, wellness of clergy is theme of 2019 Orders & Fellowship

Our daily devotionals continue – we’re looking for January submissions
Register for OneEvent before Dec. 15 to enjoy $69 rate
Early-bird registration continues through Jan. 31 for YOUTH2019

Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice 
We need to continue to defend refugees, ILC legal director says

Free workplace posters available to download online for free

Committee seeking liturgical resources for hymnal revision
Wichita OK's razing of Mead's Corner building, former coffeehouse ministry
Staff enjoys holiday dinner, 'ugly Christmas sweater' contest
In other news
Blogs and opinion
The week ahead

Conference summer internships
expand to include confirmation teachers

The Great Plains Conference’s summer internship program is expanding in 2019 to include students helping to teach in confirmation camps.

Applications are now open for the internships -- Micah Corps, Network Interns, Pastoral Leadership and the new Confirmation interns -- which will be from an opening retreat, May 20-24, to conclusion in late July. The interns will be paid $9 an hour for up to a 40-hour week for the 10-week program.

Find out more about the internships.

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Bishop leader delivers Christmas
message of ‘peaceable kingdom’

The Christmas message from Bishop Ken Carter and the Council of Bishops recounts the story of the peaceable kingdom, and the painting of the same name by artist Edward Hicks.

It is something to consider as the church gets ready to make difficult decisions in a special session of the General Conference in February in St. Louis.

“The way forward may be the rediscovery of our core mission: ‘to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world,’” Carter writes. “Jesus is the embodiment of the peaceable kingdom. To recall the words of the gospel about John the Baptist: ‘he was not the light; he came to bear witness to the light’ (John 1. 8). The church approximates the peaceable kingdom as she stays close to the person and work of Christ.”

Read Bishop Carter’s entire message here.

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UMC's ‘Unwrap Christmas’ tour
coming to Kansas City on Dec. 17

What makes for the perfect Christmas gift this season? According to statistics, it’s sharing experiences with family and friends. To fulfill that Christmas wish, The United Methodist Church is presenting “The True Meaning of Christmas Tour.”

Representatives will be traveling to 11 cities across the nation – including Kansas City, Missouri, on Dec. 17 -- in a gift-wrapped truck offering family-friendly fun, while connecting visitors with a reminder of what Christmas is all about.

“Christmas is a joyful time for many, but can bring about depression, stress and loneliness for others,” Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, which created the tour in partnership with local churches, said. “We want to help people remember that celebrating Christmas is not about to-do lists and shopping. If you’re feeling stressed or alone, we want to invite you to connect with a local United Methodist church to experience fellowship and explore the true meaning of Christmas.”

The Kansas City stop will be from 1-5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at Frank Theis Park at the corner of Oak and 47th streets, across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Pew Research found that the things people least liked about Christmas were related to commercialism and materialism. They would rather spend their time with family and friends. Eventbrite revealed that millennials place a higher value on experiences over possessions. United Methodist Communications’ recent Barna Group survey, noted that people seeking a spiritual home spend the majority of their free time at restaurants and coffee houses with many engaging in volunteer activities.

Given these findings, The True Meaning of Christmas Tour fits the bill for what people are looking for in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 

In each city, local United Methodist churches will join the truck team to host festivities that include free hot chocolate and an interactive photo booth for capturing memories. A craft station will also be on site for decorating greeting cards for those who might be in need of cheer, such as hospital patients and nursing home residents. Attendees are also invited to share prayer requests, engage in conversations about the reason behind the season and to join local congregations for Christmas services and events.

Follow the tour online at and #UnwrapChristmas.
In addition to tour stops where the truck will be on-hand, United Methodist congregations in additional locations across the U.S. will host hot cocoa fellowship events at their churches.

To reach even more people with a message of hope this Christmas, The United Methodist Church will also be running complementary national advertisements created to inspire people throughout the holiday season.

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New research poll shows
church’s shifting views of alcohol

A new survey by LifeWay Research shows perhaps the most dramatic evidence yet of how U.S. Methodists, once famous teetotalers, now are willing to take a drink from time to time. Heather Hahn from the United Methodist News Service reports on the survey and the historical shift it shows. 

Read the story here.

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Annual Conference

We’re in search of potters,
woodworkers for Annual Conference

Is there a potter or woodworker in your congregation? We are exploring the possibility of local crafts people to create some items for worship services at Annual Conference. Please send name, phone number and email address of someone you know to the Rev. Nancy Lambert, director of clergy excellence and assistant to the bishop, so that we can be in touch with them about the items we are seeking.

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Clergy Excellence

Finding a call doesn’t
always mean working in a church

Creating a Culture of Call means that the behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes of your congregation/community readily support the members of the community to identify and explore a call by God to serve God as a lay, licensed or ordained person.

Not everyone who feels a call will work in a church, but as everyone seeks to live out his or her faith more deeply, we pray that everyone will consider their work in the world, and even their everyday interactions with other people, to be an opportunity to live out God’s call.

Check out our featured resource for December, a section of our website dedicated to helping anyone explore God’s call for their lives:

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New blog looks at
clergy health and wellness


We know serving as clergy can be a stressful profession. Sometimes the stress can be amplified during what are supposed to be festive times of the year, such as Advent.

Sometimes preparations are stressful, overwhelming, and looming, even to the point of making a person sick – physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

The Rev. Shelly Petz, an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference, will serve as the writer of a new blog aimed at providing resources and reflections for clergy and congregational wellness. Its aim is to invite clergy and congregations to live their best life, connect to God as their source, and explore wellness in areas of physical, mental and spiritual health.

Read the new blog.

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Health, wellness of clergy is
theme of 2019 Orders & Fellowship

The 2019 Orders & Fellowship, the annual gathering of the clergy of the Great Plains Conference, will be Jan. 16-17, with a meet-and-greet scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15.

It is an opportunity for you to refresh and renew, drawing deep upon the Living Water of Christ, so that you may Live Well in the next season of your ministry. The event is being held at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas.

From 6:30-8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 15, will be a time to meet and greet other clergy at Church of the Resurrection. Cookies and beverages will be provided. You can also register at this time as well as take a tour of the new worship space at COR.

Wednesday morning begins with worship and communion at 8:30 a.m. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. will bring us the word for this service. Registration will be open at 7:30 a.m.

The plenary speaker for Wednesday and Thursday is Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, associate professor of global health at Duke University and research director of the Duke Clergy Health Initiative since 2007. She co-authored “Faithful and Fractured,” about pastors taking care of themselves, setting priorities so that they have the space and time to do the ministry they love, and becoming healthier and more whole, to become whom God has created.

After lunch on Wednesday you will have the opportunity to select among 11 different workshops that will explore healthier living, whether it be spiritual, emotional, physical, mental or social health. Which one most resonates with you? Which is most “outside the box” for you? Which one most speaks to your least healthy place? What do you need to pay most attention to so that you become healthier in your ministry? Pre-registration is required so that we can have adequate space for each workshop.

Wednesday ends with a time for the Order of Elders and Deacons and Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members to meet with Bishop Saenz to learn about opportunities in the conference to strengthen your congregation and the vision for 2019.

Thursday morning will end with worship to send us on our way home. Rev. Kevass Harding, Wichita Dellrose UMC, will be the preacher for this service.
Many hotel blocks are set up for the meeting that are near the Church of the Resurrection. To view more details about hotels, click "Lodging." All hotel reservations must be made by Dec. 21 to receive the discounted rate.

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Equipping Disciples

Our daily devotionals continue –
we’re looking for January submissions

Have you been uplifted by our new, daily devotionals? Would you like to add your voice to them?

Since Oct. 1, our daily devotionals have originated from the Great Plains Conference, from staffers, clergy, laity and others interested in sharing their perspectives.

Our December devotions have been claimed – thank you to those who have volunteered – but January 2019 is open for those who want to participate.
If you’re interested, simply contact Lisa Soukup,, and she will give you a list of the daily lectionary choices as a suggestion, but if a particular verse is close to your heart, you may choose that instead. Claim your date, write a devotional of 200-300 words, plus a prayer, and return it at least a week before its scheduled date.

If you aren’t receiving our devotionals, check out this webpage and subscribe to get a devotional by the time you wake up every morning!

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Register for OneEvent before
Dec. 15 to enjoy $69 rate

The countdown to The OneEvent is on! We’re 31 days away from gathering at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina for two days of worship, service and big-time fun!

Registration completed from now until Dec. 15 is $69 per person.
All registration must be completed online at The event is open to youth in grades 6-12 and their leaders.

The 2019 OneEvent, Jan. 5-6, includes worship leaders Bonray; the Rev. Michelle Manuel, associate pastor of the Loft at the Woodlands UMC in Houston; the return of DJ Big Al Cherry; comedian Daren Streblow; and sand castle artist Joe Castillo.

Workshops will be led by the Rev. Molly Just and the Rev. Lora Andrews, Castillo, Zumba instructor Latasha Gibbs and the Rev. Dr. Gary Nelson, pastoral counselor, who will talk about teen depression.

Copies of The OneEvent brochure are available here.

Keep up to date through The OneEvent Facebook page.

Adult volunteers are greatly needed to make The OneEvent happen.

Watch and share our Facebook video.

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Early-bird registration continues
through Jan. 31 for YOUTH2019

Discounted early-bird registration continues through Jan. 31 for YOUTH 2019, the national gathering for United Methodist youth and their leaders next year in Kansas City that promises four days of discipleship, worship, Bible study, service opportunities and life-changing fun.
YOUTH 2019, with the theme Love Well, will feature big-name musical artists, excellent United Methodist speakers and many learning opportunities for youth grades 6-12 and their leaders. The event is sponsored every four years by Young People’s Ministries (YPM), a unit of Discipleship Ministries.
“The YOUTH event really is one of the best places for young people to grow as disciples as they experience the breadth and depth of the United Methodist connectional system,” said Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary at Discipleship Ministries and head of the YPM unit. “The intentional work with agencies and diverse groups who are part of the UMC make this time a treasure trove of discipleship experiences for youth.”
The event will be held at the Kansas City Convention Center & Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri, July 10-14, 2019. For more information, go to
Registration is limited to the first 8,000 youth and leaders. The early registration fee is $319 through Jan. 31. The regular price will be $359 from February through March, and late registration is $419 after April 1. Register here.  

Youth who are rising 6th through graduating 12th graders as of the 2019-20 school year are eligible to attend. Adult leaders must be at least 21 years old or older, and preferably have a five-year age difference between themselves and the youth they are chaperoning.
YOUTH 2019 is the national gathering for United Methodist youth groups and their leaders. It happens every four years. This kind of event has happened since 1988 in the United Methodist Church.
In addition to the YOUTH 2019 website, up-to-date information about speakers, programming, schedule and more can be found on Facebook (, Twitter (@Youth2019), Instagram (@Youth2019) and Snapchat (umcyouth2019).

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Mercy & Justice

Love Knows No Borders:
A moral call for migrant justice 

The Great Plains Immigration Rapid Response Team and the South Central Jurisdiction Immigration Task Force invite church groups and congregations to participate in solidarity actions during the National Week of Action for Migrant Justice, Dec. 10-18. The call is to stand in solidarity with the migrant exodus and all who seek refuge and asylum in the United States. The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), together with many other faith groups, is joining the American Friends Service Committee which is the main organizer.

We work closely with staff of GBCS who provide crucial support and resources to much of the work happening in our conference around welcoming the stranger.

Rebecca Cole, director of organizing at GBCS, shared: “Together, we are calling on the U.S. to end the detention and deportation of immigrants, respect the human right to migrate and seek asylum, and end the militarization of the border. The National Week of Action for Migrant Justice will commence with a Day of Action in San Diego, California, on December 10th where more than 100 faith leaders from all over the country will take part in a nonviolent direct action at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California. The event will kick off a week of actions in communities across the U.S., calling for an end to border militarization and for humane immigration policies that respect the rights and dignity of all people.”
In solidarity with those seeking refuge, we invite you to join people of faith around the country in taking action. The “Love Knows No Borders” week of action begins on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, and ends on Dec. 18, International Migrants’ Day.

Resources including an organizer toolkit and downloadable posters and social media resources can be found at
There are many different ways to participate.

  1. Join faith leaders in San Diego, Dec. 9-10
  2. Have your congregation, Sunday school group or other group host a Solidarity Action in your community during the National Week of Action. For example, a UMC in Delaware is planning a prayer vigil and a UMC in California is organizing a presentation about the situation of refugees focusing on the migrant caravan and asking the question: “How do we ensure a moral and lawful response?”

Make sure to register your event or sign up to attend a Solidarity Action – Register here.

  1. Use a liturgy or special prayer during worship services during the weekend Dec. 14-16.
  2. Contact our legislators and call on our government to end the detention and deportation of immigrants, respect the human right to migrate and seek asylum, and end the militarization of the border.

LINK to UM Resources here (Global Migration Sunday; Love Knows No Borders UM Resources). 

For more information on any of these actions, contact Sandy Sypherd at or Andrea Paret

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We need to continue to defend
refugees, ILC legal director says

During International Education Week at Creighton University, participants were able to engage with several experts in the field of immigration during lectures and panel discussions. Charles “Shane” Ellison, a special assistant professor at Creighton University School of Law and the legal director of Immigrant Legal Center (one of our mission agencies), focused on false narratives and manufactured illegality in our current immigration policies, especially in regard to refugees and asylum seekers.

“Historically, the United States has tried to lead the charge in granting refugee protection to people who need it most,” Ellison pointed out. During the last few years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in refugees being allowed to enter our country. From a cap of 100,000 during the last year of the Obama administration to a cap of 45,000 now and a reduced cap of 30,000 for 2019, these numbers are even lower than during the years immediately following 9/11. And the actual number of refugees entering our country in any given year are often lower than the number allowed, with only about 22,000 of the 45,000 entering this past fiscal year. This shows that our current policies are not just a crack-down on illegal immigration, but they are “also reducing the number of legal options available for people to pursue.” Often our national security is named as the main reason to limit refugee admissions, but refugees are one of the best vetted groups. Quoting from a research study by the Cato Institute, Ellison emphasized that odds of being killed by a refugee in a terrorist attack are 1 in 3.6 billion a year, whereas chances of being killed by lightning are 1 in 1 million. Therefore, being killed by lighting is 3,000 times more likely.

“Protecting refugees and asylum seekers was once a bipartisan issue… Protecting refugees has been an American value and one we need to continue to defend.” Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” Ellison urged the audience to not stop fighting for justice.

The events were co-sponsored by many Creighton University groups as well as Great Plains Peace with Justice Ministries, Immigrant Legal Center and the Omaha Area Sanctuary Network.

To support work with refugees, you can donate to Immigrant Legal Center (formerly Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska) through your church (Conference Advance #721) or by going directly to the website at Or you can give to UMCOR Global Migration Advance #3022144.

Watch a video of Ellison’s presentation.

-- Andrea Paret, Great Plains Peace with Justice coordinator

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Free workplace posters
available to download online 

Free federal and state workplace posters, a requirement of laws nationally and in Kansas and Nebraska, are available for free to print online on 11-by-17 paper.

Federal workplace posters are available at this link.

Here’s where you can find Nebraska posters.

And here are the posters for Kansas.

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Across the Connection

Committee seeking liturgical
resources for hymnal revision

The liturgical resources subgroup of the Hymnal Revision Committee seeks the submission of new materials for possible inclusion in the next United Methodist Hymnal. The committee particularly seeks worship resources for baptism, confirmation, renewal of baptism and days and seasons of the church year. Resources are requested through June 30.

Read more from the UM Publishing House.

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Wichita OKs razing of Mead's Corner building, former coffeehouse ministry

The City of Wichita has approved the razing of Mead's Corner, a downtown building that served as the home of Wichita First UMC's coffeehouse ministry for 10 years, before its closing in July.

Read this story from The Wichita Eagle.

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Staff enjoys holiday dinner,
'ugly Christmas sweater' contest

The conference staff enjoyed its holiday dinner on Monday, which also included an "ugly Christmas sweater" judging.

Winning the contest was Tamara Shoop-McGinnis, Kansas City District administrative assistant, left. Second was Shane Warta, lay leadership coordinator; and third was Jan Swift, accounts payable.

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In other news

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Livestreaming considerations

Some churches decide to ramp up their evangelism efforts during the Christmas season by moving forward with plans to livestream. In his latest “In Layman’s Terms” blog, Todd Seifert, communications director for the conference, shares some thoughts on how to make sure you start off well so you have a chance to build your audience and introduce people to Jesus in the 21st century.

Read the blog.

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Blogs and opinion

  • When people leave your church: It’s an unpleasant reality but a fact of life that people will leave your church, writes the Rev. Emily Spearman Cannon (pictured above). The departures may be out of the control of the pastor or congregation, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Cannon, pastor of Auburn First United Methodist Church in Nebraska, gives advice for churches and clergy, including making a ritualization of those who decide to worship elsewhere.
  • Scripture and the One Church Plan: The Rev. James Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, supports the One Church Plan. And he says his reading of Scripture is the reason why.

The week ahead

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