Download the Aug. 3 edition of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Podcast series looks at the future of the UMC
Institute returns with smaller numbers but oversized spirit
Mainstream UMC founder Holland wins U.S. Senate primary in Kansas
Church's part of Boy Scouts' bankruptcy plan approved
Results of new poll about Jesus raise questions
Blistering summer challenges churches in US, worldwide

Deadline to register for special session is Aug. 26

Few spots remain for August spiritual formation retreat
Clergy retreat scheduled, Sept. 25-27, puts you in mindset for year 
Health and wellness sermon guide released
Lilly Foundation offering grants to historic Black churches

Warta to leave position as conference lay leadership coordinator
2022 Summit provides youth intentional time to hear God's voice
Churches are in need of lay ministers; training starts Aug. 28
'As for Me and My Body' wellness coaching program now available

Churches, individuals seeking to do justice can 'Partner Up'
Lincoln church named as ‘Cool Congregation’

Need vast after Kentucky flooding; Great Plains volunteers should wait

Kansas, Nebraska foundations host free webinar on budgeting, staffing
Take a few moments to ensure Zoom is updated

New book offers how-to for ‘breakthrough prayer’

Summer mission trip takes Nebraska teens to Alaska
McCool Junction UMC celebrates 150 years
Singers to appear for church fundraiser Aug. 12-13
In other news


Podcast series looks
at the future of the UMC

A new series of the “In Layman’s Terms” podcast looks at the future of The United Methodist Church through interviews with people who have been part of the delegations to General Conference, have spoken on the topics of the UMC and disaffiliation of churches, and who have studied the concerns over human sexuality that the debate has centered on since 1972.

In the first episode, host Todd Seifert, communications director for the Great Plains Conference, talks about the current state of the denomination with the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the UMC’s largest congregation.

Download the episode.

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Institute returns with smaller
numbers but oversized spirit

After having to meet virtually during 2020 and '21, United Methodist Youth Institute returned to an in-person gathering last week. Although the 35 youth attending this year didn't match the pre-COVID, triple-digit attendance, their spirit was still high.

“They’ve really formed a nice community together, and it might even be tighter-knit because there’s less of them,” said Heather Fischer, stepping in for her brother, the Rev. Kurt Cooper, as community life director. 

Read more and see a photo gallery here.

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Mainstream UMC founder Holland
wins U.S. Senate primary in Kansas

A longtime pastor and the founder of the Mainstream UMC coalition, the Rev. Dr. Mark Holland has won the Democratic primary for U.S. senator from Kansas.

He will face Sen. Jerry Moran, who is seeking a third term, in the Nov. 8 election.

Holland received more than 96,000 votes, 38% in a six-person field.

“We felt like we did very well and exceeded what we had hoped for,” Holland said this morning.

Read more here.

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Church's part of Boy Scouts'
bankruptcy plan approved

United Methodist leaders greeted with cautious optimism a judge’s partial approval of the Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy reorganization plan. The denomination’s $30 million commitment to a fund for survivors of Scouting-related sex abuse gained the judge’s OK in a lengthy ruling issued July 29.

Read story from United Methodist News Service.
Read press release.

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Results of new poll
about Jesus raise questions

Nearly half of people who took a survey about attitudes about Jesus and Christianity said believers are giving and loving. But a significant minority say they’re hypocritical and judgmental. United Methodist professors and pastors offer thoughts on the poll results.

Read more from United Methodist News Service.

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Blistering summer challenges
churches in US, worldwide

Across much of the United States, as well as Europe, it’s been a summer of record-setting heat, presenting challenges and opportunities for United Methodist ministry. Churches have opened as cooling centers and carried on with mission work, albeit with adjustments. 

Read more from UM News Service.

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Annual Conference

Deadline for clergy, lay members to
register for special session is Aug. 26

Registration for the special session of the Great Plains Annual Conference is now open. There is no fee for this special session. 

The deadline to register is Friday, Aug. 26. It is critical that all voting members of the annual conference register before or by the deadline because our voting will be online, and time is needed to properly prepare that system.
The special called session of the annual conference will be a Zoom webinar Saturday. Sept. 10, 2022, and starts promptly at 9:30 a.m. CDT/8:30 a.m. MDT.
An abbreviated workbook with legislation to be considered during the special session will be published and available for download on the conference website by Aug. 10. We will send an email with that link when the workbook has been published.
All voting for the special session in September will be done electronically, just as when we conducted the 2021 annual conference online. Once you register for the special session, you will receive an email with the webinar link to the annual conference session. You will receive a unique voting code closer to the time of the special called session. We also will send a link to an instructional video that will walk you through the voting process and how to request to speak during the webinar.
A live practice session on how to use the VVoter system has been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. CDT/6 p.m. MDT. More details will come in a future email, including the link to the practice session and the kinds of devices you will need to participate. It is recommended you have two devices or windows open on your computer — one to watch the webinar and one to vote.
We want to remind everyone that the special session of annual conference is a Zoom webinar, so the bar of the conference will be the Zoom webinar only. The event will be livestreamed on the conference website, but there will be a slight lag. Therefore, if you are a voting member, you must log into the Zoom webinar to ensure you will be able to vote in a timely fashion. The chair will not delay timing on votes for those watching the livestream.
So, in summary, register today for the special session using the link below. And watch your email for the following information in days and weeks to come:

  • Your unique voting code. This will be necessary for you to vote, and it is particular to each person, so do not share your code with anyone else.
  • An instructional video explaining the VVoter system we will use Sept. 10.
  • Information about a short practice session so you can familiarize yourself with the VVoter system.
  • A link to download the workbook with legislation we will consider during the special session.

Register by clicking here!
Or go to

-- Rev. Delores ‘Dee’ J. Williamston
Assistant to the Bishop/Director of Clergy Excellence

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Clergy Excellence

Few spots remain for August
spiritual formation retreat

Clergy of the Great Plains Conference, you are invited to take some time away from the routines and challenges of ministry and be attentive to your relationship with God. We hope you will consider attending Roots for Your Soul, a spiritual formation retreat planned just for you. The only cost to you is $50 to reserve your spot for this two-night, three-day retreat. Contact hours for Continuing Education Units are available. Scholarships are available upon request. See the registration form for details. 
Summer 2022: Aug. 29-31, St. Benedict’s Center, Schuyler, Nebraska 
Presenter: Rev. Dr. Charlotte Abram. Theme: Sabbath as Soul Food. Click here to register for the Summer 2022 retreat by Aug. 15 (three spots remain). 
Fall 2022: Oct. 24-26, Saint Benedict’s Center, Schuyler, Nebraska
Presenter: Seanne Emerton, LMFT, LIMHP, LPC Theme: Restore. Rest. Recharge. Click here to register for the Fall 2022 retreat by Oct. 10. 

Read bios of Roots for Your Soul presenters here

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Clergy retreat scheduled, Sept. 25-27,
puts you in mindset for year ahead

Would you benefit from having a two-day, two-night guided retreat to give you an opportunity to connect with others through worship together, take an honest look at how you’re doing, and also learn about creating a Rule of Life and Learning Plan for focusing your plan for growth?
For Your Life: Giving Your Soul Time and Means to Grow is a retreat for clergy, led by Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford and Rev. Dr. Shelly Petz, to help you create space to work on a plan for learning and formation for the year ahead. It includes time for honest reflection, introduces you to a template for growth in the year ahead, and helps you identify next steps in your individual development. You will have time to worship, space to spend time in solo reflection, and/or connection with others. The retreat will be held at Heartland Spirituality Center in Great Bend, Kansas, with a check-in at 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 with rest for your time away. We will wrap up by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The cost to participate is $50 and includes two nights of lodging, meals and a retreat notebook. Scholarships are available upon request. The deadline for registering is Thursday, Sept. 8.
To register and for more information, check out the website, or email Ashlee Alley Crawford at (If this time doesn’t work for you, but you’re interested in creating this space, you can register for a self-directed retreat! Learn more here.)

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Health and wellness
sermon guide released

Our health is strongly influenced by a combination of biological, social, and environmental factors beyond our control: the conditions in our communities, the schools in our neighborhoods, the availability of healthy food and good jobs, and how close we are to hospitals and clinics.

As we continue to explore what it means to be healthy, the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund has created a sermon guide that will go beyond the physicality of what health “looks” like and deeper into holistic wellness that includes our emotional, physical, social, and spiritual health.

By exploring health from these four perspectives, the “God’s Temple: Health and Holiness in the Body of Christ” sermon guide opens a wider conversation about health and wellness that integrates with the church’s call to live as the Body of Christ in the world.

To help guide this conversation, the sermon guide utilizes select passages from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

Week 1 explores emotional health in relation to Paul’s teaching that the Christian community is the temple of God, highlighting belonging as crucial to our emotional well-being as humans.

Week 2 addresses physical health as an individual and communal endeavor as Christians are called to use our bodies to glorify God.

Week 3 explores social health using Paul’s discussion of whether the Corinthian Christians should eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul’s teaching emphasizes that social health means loving God and loving neighbor by glorifying God while also actively seeking not to be a stumbling block to our neighbors.

Week 4 concludes the series by exploring spiritual health as the cultivation of love as the church cooperates in using our gifts to grow and act as the Body of Christ in the world.

The free guide is available at

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Lilly Foundation offering grants
to historic Black churches

As the oldest institutions created and controlled by African Americans, Black churches are a living testament to the achievements and resiliency of generations in the face of a racialized and inequitable society.

To preserve and uplift America’s historic places, the Lilly Endowment Inc. and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund are investing in a $20 million initiative to help historic Black churches and congregations reimagine, redesign, and redeploy historic preservation to address the institutions’ needs and the cultural assets and stories they steward.

Grants from Preserving Black Churches are intended to preserve historic Black houses of worship (with either active or non-active congregations) and advance ongoing preservation activities. With grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000, the funding will strengthen capacity for historic congregations, preservation organizations, and community groups to better steward, manage, and use their historic structures.

A webinar is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. CT Wednesday, Aug. 10, to explain more about the grants.

Read more here.

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Equipping Disciples

Warta to leave position as
conference lay leadership coordinator

After nearly four years as lay leadership coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, Shane Warta has resigned effective Aug. 12.

In a note to the conference staff, the Rev. Jeff Clinger, director of congregational excellence, said Warta had “an offer he couldn’t refuse” and would be “starting a new adventure.”

“I have appreciated Shane’s work on the conference staff since long before I became the director of congregational excellence,” Clinger, who began his role on July 1, wrote in a separate statement. “As a member of the conference’s Vital Congregations Team, I watched Shane develop in his work over the last four years and was always impressed by his resourcing of and support for that team.
“In his work as coordinator of lay leadership, Shane has done an excellent job creating systems and resourcing laity to lead in their local churches and through the conference in a variety of ways. Over the last couple of years Shane also picked up additional responsibility related to our New Church Development processes, especially the Planter Incubator.
“In everything Shane has done he has brought his kindness, his thoughtfulness, his deep love of Christ, and his desire for the church to be strong in communities through Kansas and Nebraska. Shane will be greatly missed by the congregational excellence team and by the conference as a whole,” Clinger continued.
Clinger said that since Warta’s role has evolved during his time in the office, the staff is currently assessing what is most needed in the position before determining who will fill the role.

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2022 Summit provides youth
intentional time to hear God's voice

During the week of July 10-16, high-school juniors and seniors, and college-age counselors had the opportunity to experience intentional time and returned home with new insight on how and where God might be calling them to serve, work and live in the world.

Over six days on the Southwestern College campus in Winfield, Kan., students from Kansas, Nebraska, and New Mexico participated in the 2022 Summit, with activities that would guide them toward this calling.

Read more here.

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Churches are in need of lay
ministers; training starts Aug. 28

Many small membership churches are in crisis -- closing their doors due to a lack of pastoral leadership. The Academy for Small Membership Church Ministries' founder, Rev. Dr. Carl Ellis, has developed two courses to fill the important role of lay minister, helping small membership churches serve both the local community and our world.

Read more here.

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'As for Me and My Body' wellness
coaching program now available

As for Me and My Body is a four-week coaching program that invites churches to connect their spiritual and physical health to come to a deeper understanding that taking care of the body is an act of serving God.

Candice McField is the founder of Candice McField Fitness and author of “As for Me and My Body.” She is a certified health coach, fitness educator and serves on the Kansas Governor’s Council on Fitness.

In her book, McField challenges readers to evaluate the body, mind, and spirit through professional insight, scriptural portions, and personal stories that are encouraging and easy for anyone to understand. McField guides clients through a personal, life-changing quest that will enable faith leaders to:

  • Strengthen their relationship with Christ
  • Increase joy, happiness, energy and hope
  • Stop dieting and live a healthy lifestyle
  • Conquer health and fitness goals

The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund has partnered with McField to lead a group of 20 Healthy Congregations members through the book with four weeks of coaching calls.

Coaching sessions are at noon each Tuesday from Sept. 13 to Oct. 4. The deadline to RSVP is sept. 1. Each participant must complete a brief pre- and post-survey. The RSVP form is at

This training is open at no cost to members of the Health Fund’s Healthy Congregations program. All Great Plains United Methodist congregations are welcome to join Healthy Congregations. Please contact with any questions. To learn more about joining Healthy Congregations, visit

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Mercy & Justice

Churches, individuals seeking
to do justice can 'Partner Up'

Looking for new ways to share God’s love this fall? Maybe now is the time to consider or expand justice work at your church. 

Imagine this: your mission team, your church council, or another small group prayerfully considers the passions of your congregation. With your church context in mind, together you research and select a partner (an organization, coalition, or network) who can provide opportunities for action. You create a plan for how to invite your entire church to participate as opportunities arise to attend webinars and learning events, to call and email legislators, or to attend lobby days or rallies. You find ways to track your congregation’s participation along the way, so you can build momentum and celebrate each faithful step you take to answer God’s call to make a difference together. 

Here is a list of partners your church or your network might want to connect with. Look up their websites, check out their social media to see what they have been up to lately, and open yourself up to what amazing work of justice the Holy Spirit might have in mind for you.

And don’t forget, you can apply for social justice seed money grants through the Conference as you work to build ministries to transform the world! Click here to apply: 

--Rev. Sarah Marsh, Mercy and Justice Coordinator 

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Lincoln church named
as ‘Cool Congregation’

The nonprofit Interfaith Power & Light has recognized Lincoln Aldersgate UMC as a “Cool Congregation” for reducing its carbon footprint by at least 20%.

Aldersgate received a Sacred Grounds recognition for work to transform its two acres into a neighborhood oasis with a playground and native plantings. Aldersgate has now upgraded its worship building to reduce energy use, preventing 14 tons of carbon emissions and saving $1,700 on energy bills annually.

Read more about Aldersgate. Oher UMCs recognized were in California, Colorado and Maryland.

Here is more information about getting involved in the program:

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Disaster Response

Need is vast after Kentucky flooding;
Great Plains volunteers should wait

“It was a tough day sharing hope and love with so many,” wrote Sandy Penix, a district disaster response coordinator in the Kentucky Conference. She writes about her experience handing out flood buckets and praying with those dealing with loss following Kentucky’s deadly floods. 

Read more here.

The Rev. Hollie Tapley, disaster response coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, said ERTs from Kansas and Nebraska will have to wait until a plan is developed, since it will take time to access the damaged areas. The best way for individuals to help, she said, is to donate to UMCOR, Advance #901670.

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Kansas, Nebraska foundations host
free webinar on budgeting, staffing

From 10-11:30 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 25, join Lovett Weems and Ann Michel of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary as they present “Budgeting and Staffing for the New Year.” During the webinar, they will share staffing benchmarks, indicators you are overstaffed, and how to plan your budget as we come out of the pandemic with new ministry areas.

Dr. Lovett H. Weems Jr. is a distinguished professor of church leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary and senior consultant to Wesley’s Lewis Center for Church Leadership. Dr. Ann A. Michel has served on the staff of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership since 2005. She teaches at Wesley Theological Seminary in the areas of stewardship and leadership. They are authors of a new book, “Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance: A Transformational Guide to Church Finances.”

All clergy and laity are welcome to attend the webinar at no cost. Please note the conversation on staffing will not be recorded. You must attend the live webinar.

Register today to receive the Zoom link for the webinar. Kansas clergy and laity click here to register. Nebraska clergy and laity click here to register.

The webinar is co-hosted by the Kansas Methodist Foundation and the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation. For questions, please contact the Kansas Methodist Foundation at or the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation at

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Take a few moments to
ensure Zoom is updated

Zoom will start phasing out some of its older versions over the next few weeks and has asked that all users take a few moments to update to the newest version so that there is no loss in functionality. If you have not updated in the past six months, it’s likely you will need to do so.

The process is actually quite simple. Just log into Zoom a few minutes prior to a scheduled meeting, and if you are using one of the outdated versions, you will be prompted to update. The process takes 60 seconds or less, so just follow the on-screen prompts.

You also can update by following these steps:

  • Log into Zoom by going to
  • Click on your photo or avatar in the upper right corner.
  • If there is an update available, you will see a link there.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions.

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New book offers how-to
for ‘breakthrough prayer’

Two United Methodist leaders at United Theological Seminary have released "Dynamite Prayer: A 28 Day Experiment," a daily prayer guide aimed at helping people begin the practice of "breakthrough prayer." The book's authors are the Revs. Rosario Picardo, a veteran church planter, and Sue Nilson Kibbey, director of the seminary's Bishop Bruce Ough Innovation Center. Proceeds will go to support the center.

To learn more and order.

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Across the Connection

Summer mission trip takes
Nebraska teens to Alaska

Thirteen youth and six chaperones from Columbus First in Nebraska headed north on their mission trip – to Alaska.

Youth director Sarah Borgman said the youth wanted to go somewhere cooler and called it the best and most unique trip the youth ever had.

Read more from the Columbus Telegram.

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McCool Junction UMC
celebrates 150 years

One of many churches in the Great Plains that are celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year, the congregation at McCool Junction UMC in central Nebraska remains active and involved in the community.

The church had an open house on Sunday.

“For many generations, the McCool Junction UMC has poured the love of God into its local community,” Pastor Monica Magoola told the York News-Times. “This congregation is such a loving and family-oriented church and is a critical part of the social health of the McCool Junction community.”

Read more here.

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Singers to appear for
church fundraiser Aug. 12-13

The Elmont United Methodist Church and The Elmont Opry will present Helen Russell & Company at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, and 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the church, 6635 NW Church Lane, Topeka.
Helen Russell is originally from Elmont and has performed on the Elmont Opry several times. She went on to perform on Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry at the Lake of the Ozarks for many years before she and her husband, Elvis, formed their own group and now tour Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Texas.
Helen Russell & Company has been voted Entertainer of the Year two times and Valley Star Award Winner four times. Helen and Elvis bring live music that will entertain you with great vocals, scalding piano, hot licks on the banjo, jumpin’ bass guitar and drums.
There is a great variety of country, bluegrass, rockabilly, Gospel and classic rock from the ‘50s to the ‘80s, plus a super tribute to Veterans! They also feature audience participation with comedy to tickle your funny bone and Impersonations of entertainers such as Dolly, Reba, Cher, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Waylon, Willie and many more.
For reservations and ticket information, call 785-249-0908. Concessions are available 90 minutes prior to each show with hot dogs, nachos, desserts, snacks and drinks.

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In other news

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1207 SW Executive Dr.
PO Box 4187
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