Download the printable version of the May 20 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Great Plains Camps suspend traditional summer programs
Abbreviated, revised, conference call Annual Conference is 10 days away
UMCOR establishes COVID-19 Response fund
Coronavirus updates from he Great Plains and beyond
Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute is going virtual for 2020 session
Rev. Dee Williamston discusses her candidacy for bishop on Potluck podcast

‘Threshold’ talks debut in podcast; conversations continue Thursday
Clergy, candidacy mentors sought for 2020-21; Friday is deadline

Connect your high school graduates with campus ministry programs
Learn how to relaunch kids’ ministries programs
Readiness 360 surveys are another way of connection

Emporia, Washburn students engage in social justice issues on spring break

Information tells about Memorial Day, Pediatric Inflammatory Syndrome

Free online giving service for local churches extended through June 30
Conference offers half-price WW memberships to clergy, staff, spouses
Forgiveness guidelines issues for Paycheck Protection Program
It’s a PPP-Palooza on this week’s Finance Friday
Nebraska UM Foundation announces scholarship program for local pastors 
Deadline for Nebraska UM Foundation scholarship applications is June 30

Video of social media in pandemic webinar now available
Adobe Rush video editing training offered for church leaders
Free guide for pastors on moving during pandemic

In other news
Blogs and commentaries

Great Plains Camps suspend
traditional summer programs

Great Plains Camping Inc. has decided to suspend traditional summer camping programs for the foreseeable future at all five member camps due to the public-health risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Programming at Camp Fontanelle and Camp Norwesca in Nebraska and Camps Chippewa, Horizon and Lakeside in Kansas may resume later in the summer or fall, depending on a number of factors associated with the pandemic. Some forms of online or alternative camping programs will be considered. 

Camp Chippewa has also announced today that all activities, including the United Methodist Youth Institute, July 20-25, have been canceled.

Read more here.

From Resource UMC: Even though activities are cancelled, show your support to camps.

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Abbreviated, revised, conference call
Annual Conference is 10 days away

We are 10 days away from the revised, abbreviated Annual Conference session on Saturday, May 30. Conference call technology will be used to care for items that cannot be delayed. We will convene as an Annual Conference at a previously scheduled special session during the time frame of Oct. 1-4 in Grand Island.

A PDF of the May 30 special session workbook is available here.

Tentative agenda for the special session.

United Methodist News Service: Plans vary to get annual conference business done.

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UMCOR establishes
COVID-19 Response fund

Since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak, UMCOR has been working with health boards, medical professionals, disaster management coordinators and faith leaders to prevent the further spread of this disease.

Now it is clear that the impact of COVID-19 will be far-reaching and demands an even greater response. Through the UMCOR COVID-19 Response fund, grants will be rapidly released to equip partners to assist vulnerable populations around the world impacted by COVID-19, including racial/ethnic and indigenous communities in the United States.

Grants from this fund will be disbursed quickly and efficiently to address health concerns, food insecurity, water and hygiene limitations and other pressing needs. Even as you shelter in place, you can be there for others. When you say "yes" to supporting the UMCOR COVID-19 Response, you will help bring God’s love to life for those who need it most. Questions or comments? Please contact Tom Farley, director of development at, or call 800-862-4246.

Advance # 3022612. Follow this link to donate online.

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Coronavirus updates from
the Great Plains and beyond

Our continuing Ministry amid coronavirus series focuses on churches in Papillion, Nebraska, Manhattan and Buhler, Kansas, all putting funds to work to help community members in need.

Our coronavirus page answers your questions about reopening your church building.

The virtual church life page include house church resources, online technical considerations, social media, ways to continue "being the church" and more.

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Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership
Institute is going virtual for 2020 session

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute 2020 will be an all-virtual experience, the Leawood church announced today.

“After much discussion and discernment, we've determined it is most prudent to forego any in person conferences until 2021 and pivot toward online opportunities for engagement and learning with you,” information from the church said.

The newly designed virtual event takes place Thursday-Friday, Sept. 24-25 with a condensed schedule.

“A condensed schedule does not mean less content! It does mean we're working to reduce long hours of screen time in one sitting. We're working on a variety of ways to bring you relevant and actionable leadership development content through a live event and on demand bonus material.
More information and registration will be available in mid-June at"

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Rev. Dee Williamston discusses her
candidacy for bishop on Potluck podcast

The Rev. Dee Williamston, Salina-Hays district superintendent, is the guest on the newest episode of the “Potluck” podcast.

In the episode -- recorded in early March, before the postponement of the General and Jurisdictional conferences – Williamston talks about her candidacy for bishop and how she’s introducing herself to the South Central Jurisdiction, as well as the peaks and valleys of her life and how she decided to go into the ministry.

Clink on the “Potluck” logo to listen.

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Clergy Excellence

‘Threshold’ talks debut in podcast;
conversations continue Thursday

The Clergy Excellence team invites all clergy to join a series of conversations via Zoom hosted by the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford and the Rev. Shelly Petz that we’re calling “At the Threshold: Ministry in Liminal Time.” The purpose of the conversations is to identify new realities, discuss questions, and encourage the heart of pastors during this new, uncertain season in the life of ministry. The conversations will explore the theme of being in a “liminal time,” on the threshold of transition, from the way things used to be to … well, we just don’t know yet. While this is a season of disruption and loss, it is also full of opportunity and growth. We want to acknowledge both.

Each session is being recorded and will be shared in a podcast format, which you can find here. Take a look at opportunities to join:

  • Creativity, Comparison and Coping — A panel of four Great Plains pastors joined Ashlee and Shelly for conversation about these three tensions during this new season. Listen at this link.
  • Mental Health Check-in (3 p.m. May 21)—Seanne Larson Emmerton, a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed independent mental health provider who comes from a long line of United Methodists, including circuit riders has a special interest in spirituality and health. Her specialties are relationships, trauma and resilience using positive psychology and a strength-based model. She invites clergy to join this conversation where we will explore best practices for mental health resilience during this liminal time with a focus on ways to renew and sustain energy. There will be time to examine your own internal house of wellness and gently identify next steps. Register here.
  • Practical Questions for New Ways of Ministry (10:30 a.m. June 4) — Several Great Plains pastors join Ashlee and Shelly to identify some of the questions—and opportunities during this new season! Register here.
  • More will be scheduled at 10:30 a.m. every other Thursday Info here.

Ashlee and Shelly will introduce each subject, occasionally have a guest join in the conversation, and will facilitate a discussion among the clergy present. You’re welcome to join the call and share in discussion, just listen, or listen to the recorded session following the live conversation here.  

Feel free to reach out with possibilities or questions to Ashlee,, or Shelly,

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Clergy, candidacy mentors sought
for 2020-21; Friday is deadline

Ministry does not happen alone. It happens with people — church members, other clergy and members of our community. Mentors are among the most significant influences in the life of someone discerning a call to ministry and developing effectiveness in ministry. Have you felt called to come alongside those in the beginnings of ministry? 

The primary way that the Great Plains does mentoring is in a group context. 101 Candidacy Summit and 401 Residency participants are assigned to mentoring groups. However, certified candidates and licensed local pastors who are required (by the Book of Discipline) to participate in mentoring are able to select their mentoring group from two options: 201 Preparation for Ministry and 301 Practice of Ministry. To find out more about the distinction of the two groups and other resources, visit the mentoring page.

We are currently requesting people to serve as clergy and candidacy mentors for the 2020-2021 Conference year. Those who have completed Course of Study or are ordained as a deacon or elder are eligible to serve as a mentor. Are you interested? If so, would you consider applying to be a mentor? Our deadline for applying is May 22, 2020. You can register here.

Are you currently serving as a mentor and want to continue? Please register even if you are intending to continue mentoring with a current group. The application will give you a chance to identify your intention about which type of mentoring you’d be willing to do and will be used to match willing mentors with mentoring needs.

If you have questions, please contact the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford, clergy recruitment and development coordinator, at , or 785-414-4216.

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Equipping Disciples

Connect your high school graduates
with campus ministry programs

For pastors, youth ministers, and amazing youth mentors, if you have high school graduates heading to college in the fall, give them the gift of connection by connecting them with the United Methodist Campus Ministry at their school.  While the school year has been different help them live into the next chapter of their lives.

Simply enter their name(s) here to receive a direct personal connection with a campus minister. 

If you prefer to connect them directly with the campus minister with an email or conversation with information at

Thank you for your ministry and work in investing in youth and giving them the gift of the United Methodist connection throughout the Great Plains. 

For more information, check out the list of campus ministries in our Great Plains Conference at  

-- Rev. Nicole Conard, young adult leadership/campus ministries

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Learn how to relaunch
kids’ ministries programs

Among the considerations for reopening church is the education and care of its youngest population.

The Congregational Excellence department of the Great Plains Conference has released a four-page document of guidelines and considerations before relaunching kids’ ministry.

It includes questions to consider before reopening, changes that will need to be made and guidelines by age group.

Find the document here.

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Readiness 360 surveys
are another way of connection

Looking for another way to help connect with the congregations during this time? There are so many things we are unable to do in the church. Yet, there is something we can do that can help the congregation foster a sense of community, learn about the church, reflect meaningfully and propel us to the good coaching conversations about the church. The survey is conducted all online and invitations and codes are sent via email. This is a great time to catalyze the online communication, use the time we have, and spend 20 minutes our time in meaningful reflection on the congregation.

If you are a pastor who signed up at Orders & Fellowship, your congregation already has a code that staff are willing to help you activate. If you would like a code today, contact your district. It is a free resource with free coaching with a leadership team, all available online. Updated resources and information are listed on

Contact your Congregational Excellence Staff person of your district if you would like more information or code for your church:

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Mercy & Justice

Emporia, Washburn students engage
in social justice issues on spring break

This year, Peace with Justice Sunday falls on June 7. Each congregation can also choose another Sunday to celebrate this special Sunday. Resources can be found here.
Offerings from last year supported students from two campus ministries on their trip during spring break. They were able to engage with several issues of peace and justice. The trip was cut short because of the outbreak of COVID-19. The news about the coronavirus became more and more the focus. “It shaped how we all thought about justice and mercy and peace,” said the Rev. Kurt Cooper, UM Campus minister at Emporia State University.The thought of a pandemic, changing the outcome of their semester, was something the students had not given a lot of thought to prior to this trip. I have been using the words ‘pandemic privilege’ lately to discuss with them (and others) the good fortune many of us have in this time of sheltering in place and social distancing.”

Read more about the Emporia State and Washburn's spring break trip to Colorado and New Mexico.

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Disaster Response

Information tells about Memorial Day,
Pediatric Inflammatory Syndrome

I want to commend each of you as we continue on this challenging journey towards a new normal. I appreciate your patience and tolerance of so much information that has been shared. Having two states in our conference has made it difficult to keep the newest, factual information before you. Today I am sharing two documents from the State of Kansas that has some get information and recommendations.

One provides recommendations on how to have a safe Memorial Day celebration. As always, follow your county measures first.

The second document is on the Pediatric Inflammatory Syndrome that is beginning to make the news. This syndrome is potentially associated with COVID-19. For those of you living in Nebraska, you would report to the Nebraska Office of Epidemiology at 402-471-2937. 

As we continue to make disciples during this time, let me encourage you to continue providing creative, online worship experiences and other online connections. In this uncertain time, it’s OK to slow down and put the vulnerable individuals in our minds as we look at potentially reopening our houses of worship. Continue to be safe and be well!

-- Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator

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Free online giving service for local
churches extended through June 30

The online giving option made available to churches at no additional cost by the Great Plains will be extended through June 30. Find more information on the service and other online giving options at

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Conference offers half-price WW
memberships to clergy, staff, spouses

On July 1, 2018, I became Great Plains Conference Benefits Officer after being the Benefits Assistant since February 1, 2011. It has been my mission to bring excellent service to all members from the benefits office. I then went on a personal path to bring wellbeing and good health to my life. I began speaking to your peers, Bishop Saenz and The Board of Pensions regarding well-being and good health. Currently, the Conference provided EAP (Employee Assistance Program) but we needed to do more.

I am excited to announce that the Board of Pensions approved a two-year program to subsidize your cost 50%. Starting June 1, 2020, all ½, ¾ and fulltime active status clergy, spouses, conference fulltime lay staff and spouses can enroll into the new WW (Weight Watchers).

I hope to hear from you and see you in October that this new benefit has helped you in your journey to gain well-being and good health.

Videos to start your journey 

-- Peggy Mihoover, conference benefits officer

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Forgiveness guidelines issues
for Paycheck Protection Program

The Small Business Administration has issued its forgiveness guidelines for loans obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA states that forgiveness is based on an employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. The loan forgiveness form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers, including:

  • Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an “alternative payroll covered period” that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles
  • Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after receiving their PPP loan
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness
  • Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30
  • Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined

To download the Paycheck Protection Forgiveness Loan Forgiveness Instructions and Application go to

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It’s a PPP-Palooza on
this week’s Finance Friday

Join Scott Brewer, conference treasurer and director of administrative services, as he looks at the new forgiveness guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program and what we’ve from our collective experience with the PPP. Join the live webinar this Friday at noon CT/11 a.m. MT by going to For an archive of past shows and slide decks, go to

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Nebraska UM Foundation announces
scholarship program for local pastors 

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation is pleased to announce a new scholarship program to support local pastors. Applications are available online for at Application deadline is June 30.

Through this new and young program, the Foundation has $5,500 available in scholarship funds for the 2020-2021 academic year. The following is a list of scholarships available:

  • Frederick and Esther Paulus Local Pastor Scholarship (three scholarships, $1,500 each) 
  • NUMF Gifts from The Heart Local Pastor Scholarship (1 scholarship for $1,000) 

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation would like to acknowledge the generous gifts donors have made to make these scholarships possible. Mr. Paulus and his late wife have had a passion through the years for supporting post-secondary education. By setting up an endowment fund at the Foundation, they have been able to fulfill this dream of supporting students. Thank you for being our partner in ministry.

The Foundation’s own Gifts from The Heart Program continues to support five areas: Missions, Youth & Camping, Pastoral Education & Support, New Start/New Faith Communities, and Greatest Needs. We are honored to put the good work and generosity of United Methodists in action through this new scholarship opportunity.  

If you are interested in learning more about Gifts From The Heart, we would be honored to partner with you and continue to grow these funds as added resources for our churches. Please call the Foundation at 877-495-5545 or visit our website at

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Deadline for Nebraska UM Foundation
scholarship application is June 30

The Foundation has scholarship applications available online for seminary students, undergraduate students, pursuing a career in church leadership at Application deadline is June 30.

Through this program, the Foundation has over $30,000 available in scholarship funds for the 2020-2021 academic year. The following is a list of scholarships available:

  • Albert R. Murdoch Ministerial Scholarship
  • Alice Kruse Ministerial Scholarship
  • Alice Kruse Seminary Scholarship
  • Alva Clark Seminary Scholarship
  • Andrew & Nevabelle Howe Scholarship
  • Baldwin F. & Amy L. Kruse Scholarship
  • Ben & Martha Simmons Scholarship
  • Charles & Marilyn Humphrey Seminary Scholarship
  • Cowles United Methodist Church Memorial Scholarship
  • Floma Taylor Ministerial Scholarship
  • Harlan & Mabelle Wyrick Memorial Scholarship
  • Murdock Ebenezer UMC Professional Church Leader Scholarship
  • Myrtle E. Williams Seminary Scholarship
  • Scahill Family Scholarship
  • Verl & Sylvia Miller Memorial Scholarship
  • Tither’s Scholarship
  • Women in Ministry Scholarship

Those students applying for the scholarships listed above will also subsequently be considered for the following scholarships: Cal Leeds Scholarship, Darrell & Joyce Pickett Scholarship, Rev. Albert W. Winseman Scholarship and Atherton Memorial Scholarship. Please read the criteria and guidelines for each scholarship carefully prior to applying.

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation would like to acknowledge the generous gifts donors have made to make these scholarships possible. Thank you for being our partner in ministry. If you would like to talk to someone about how you can honor the memory of a loved one through a named scholarship or provide further financial assistance for a seminary student, call the Foundation at 877-495-5545.

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Video of social media in
pandemic webinar now available

A video of the May 8 webinar “Social Media During Social Distancing – and Beyond” is now available on the Great Plains Conference website. Jayna McFarland, conference website and social media specialist, leads the discussion.

This time of necessary social distancing has been a wake-up call for many of our churches. How can we best use this powerful tool for ministry now – and into whatever comes next? Gain some new ideas to reach out and minister to your community in this webinar. The webinar begins with ideas for using Facebook for outreach, information and community building. New social media resources also are available on the social media section of the Virtual Church Life page.

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Adobe Rush video editing
training offered for church leaders

Church leaders can learn how to use the Adobe Rush video-editing tool for their ministries through a new, free training program from United Methodist Communications. Adobe Rush can enable church staff and volunteers to produce ministry videos with a polished look, for posting on church websites and social media channels.

Learn more.

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Free guide for pastors 
on moving during pandemic

Pastoral transitions this year will be like no others before. To help during this challenging time, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership is providing a free guide for pastors beginning ministry in a new congregation during the pandemic.

Learn more and download guide.

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Across the Connection

In other news


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 Blogs and commentaries

  • Why reopening a church is different: Planning for the future during COVID-19 presents challenges for the church unlike any other, writes the Rev. Alex Shanks, assistant to the bishop of the Florida Conference. How, he asks, will we lead in a time of change?
  • COVID-19 spotlights racial health care disparities: Health care disparities because of race make childbirth a dangerous experience for many, writes the Rev. Sharon Austin from Lakeland, Florida, in a commentary about how COVID-19 is bringing those inequities to light.


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