Download the Aug. 31 edition of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Podcast with Bishop Saenz concludes future of UMC series
Bishop, Cabinet, Justice leaders learn to ‘cross over’
Bishops prepare for elections of new colleagues
Kansas lay servant conducts funeral for Pearl Harbor victim in Missouri

New clergy discipleship videos focus on Omaha-area pastors
Preacher’s Toolkit session to focus on impact of short stories
Mental health sermon guide for Advent available
Cross Cultural Cross Racial group has initial meeting
Clergy retreat, Sept. 25-27, puts you in mindset for year ahead

Signup now available for devotions through November
Big Garden accepting fall garden applications
How do you #BeUMC? Tell us in your own video

Deadline for NUMF ministry grant application is Sept. 30 

What can churches do to assist parents? New course will explain

Wichita pastor aims for activism, advocacy, acceptance
Funeral held for first of four homicide victims
Chadron pastor receives promotion in Anglican church
Pastor’s path from social worker to ministry
In other news


Podcast with Bishop Saenz
concludes future of UMC series

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. shares some reflections on what has transpired in The United Methodist Church, the process of disaffiliations, and his hope for the future of the denomination during an interview on the “In Layman’s Terms” podcast.

Host Todd Seifert, conference communications director, concludes a four-episode series on the future of the denomination with his interview with Bishop Saenz.

Download the episode.
Listen to all four episodes in the series.

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Bishop, Cabinet, Justice
leaders learn to ‘cross over’

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and the Cabinet, along with leaders of the Great Plains Conference’s Mercy & Justice team, have been taking part in an immersive retreat along the Texas-Mexico border. The trip is an extension of the annual conference session’s theme of “Reimagine Discipleship.” One way to reimagine discipleship is to reach across borders we create for ourselves and to build bridges with people we don’t know so we have a better opportunity to make disciples for Jesus Christ. We must be willing to “cross over.”

In two brief videos, you can travel with the bishop to two locations that assist people after they have been allowed entry into the country, one a short-term stop for people on their way to join family and one longer-term for people awaiting work visas and other documentation. You also will see the first Spanish-speaking church in the United States, and the bishop shows you and explains some of the complexities of the border wall with Mexico.

Video 1
Video 2

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Bishops prepare for
elections of new colleagues

The United Methodist Council of Bishops concluded its meeting preparing to welcome new episcopal leaders early next year. The new bishops will be coming aboard as the denomination deals with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and undergoes a fracturing unseen in any current United Methodist’s lifetime.

Read more from UM News Service.
See Council of Bishops press release.

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Kansas lay servant conducts funeral
for Pearl Harbor victim in Missouri

More than 80 years after he was killed in Pearl Harbor, Wilbur Francis Newton was finally buried near Mound City, Missouri.

But the funeral was conducted by Jacob Brubaker, a lay servant from Bird City, Kansas, a distant relative.

The Missouri Conference shares this story with us on how the veteran's funeral came to happen.

Read more here.

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Clergy Excellence

New clergy discipleship videos
focus on Omaha-area pastors

The second video in the Discipleship Real Talk series is now available! Hear from Rev. Dr. Craig Finnestad, lead pastor at Water’s Edge UMC in Omaha; Rev. Amy Lippoldt, senior pastor of St. Paul’s UMC in Papillion; and Rev. Juan Carlos Veloso, pastor of Iglesia Comunitaria and Grace UMC, Omaha.

Watch video here.

Check out our “Overtime conversations with CraigAmy, and Juan Carlos.

Also, check out our new Clergy Discipleship “Splash Page.” You’ll find a collection of videos, articles, grants, and other resources to help you cultivate your own relationship with Christ as clergy leaders.
See below for Clergy Discipleship Meet-Ups with some of our own Great Plains clergy talking about their own discipleship.
Do you want to have an opportunity to connect with other clergy and one of the guests who sat down to talk with us? Would you put one of these dates on your calendar for this fall? Register for one of these conversations today, bring your cup of coffee, and let’s connect around what it means to grow in our own discipleship as ministry leaders. Fall Zoom “Clergy Discipleship Meet-Ups” listed with the special guest who will join us below:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 13, 10-11 a.m. CT, Rev. Dr. James Bryan Smith, Religion Professor at Friends University, Wichita. Register here.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 20, 10-11 a.m. CT, Rev. Maria Campbell, Heritage UMC, Overland Park. Register here.
  • Thursday, Sept. 22, 10-11 a.m. CT, Rev. Dr. Craig Finnestad, Water’s Edge UMC, Omaha. Register here.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11, 10-11 a.m. CT, Rev. Dr. Bruce Emmert, Forge CMC, Retired Elder. Register here.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2-3 p.m. CT, Rev. Dr. Reuben Langat, Clay Center UMC, Clay Center, KS. Register here.
  • Thursday, Oct. 20, 2-3 p.m. CT, Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff, Trinity UMC, Hutchinson. Register here.
  • Thursday, Oct. 27, 10-11 a.m. CT, Rev. Amy Lippoldt, St. Paul’s UMC, Papillion. Register here.
  • Thursday, Nov. 17, 10-11 a.m. CT, Rev. Juan Carlos Veloso, Iglesia Comunitaria and Grace UMC, Omaha. Register here.
Read more about this series and find previous episodes here. For questions, reach out to Ashlee or Shelly. Subscribe or follow for easier listening opportunities on the following platforms:

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Preacher’s Toolkit session
to focus on impact of short stories

Preacher’s Toolkit: Short Story Sandbox is a peer group co-sponsored by the Great Plains Conference, UMC and the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence at SMU with virtual and in-person experience.

Pastors, are you interested in vitalizing your preaching in the year ahead? Short Story Sandbox is a five-session preaching peer group that is for you if you love stories and would welcome a chance to read something other than spread sheets and biblical commentaries(!).

Consider whether Short Story Sandbox may be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Virtual: 4 Zoom sessions, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CT (Oct. 25, Nov. 29, Jan. 24, and Feb. 21).
  • In-person: The final session (March 28, 2023), will be a face-to-face daylong capstone gathering in Salina (church TBA). 

Reading short stories can spark preachers’ imaginations and make us better at our craft. Sessions will focus on various aspects of storytelling (theme, tone, plot, point of view, imagery, scene and character). The cost for registration is $100 and includes the in-person gathering in Salina.

Participants will read one or at most, two, short stories for each session. Sessions will consist of a time of teaching by one of the leaders, followed by discussion of a short story and sharing of brief reflections by group members.

The faculty for Short Story Sandbox are Dr. Larry Parsley, Dr. Alyce McKenzie and Dr. Lee Ramsey. Read more about the faculty, learn about why short stories are such a powerful tool for preachers, and register here: The group will be capped at 12 people, so register today!

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Mental health sermon
guide for Advent available

Mental health is a concern across the country. However, access to mental health services is not equitable.

Access is often determined by income, where you live, awareness of local services, education about mental health and illness, and the stigma surrounding mental health.

Congregations and community partnerships are vital to improving the use of mental health services and reducing its stigma. We regularly hear that congregations need tools to help address these needs.

Designed for use during Advent or Ordinary Time, the Journey Toward Mental Wellness sermon guide and toolkit was designed to help faith leaders begin meaningful conversations on the importance of mental health. In this sermon guide, we define mental health as something we all have. It’s a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. Having great physical, spiritual, and mental health is key to ensuring that communities thrive.

In this toolkit you will find sermons on mental health and exercises to start thoughtful discussion with your congregation, as well as resources on connecting others to behavioral health services.

Ultimately, we hope this guide will help your congregation create a stigma-free, supportive environment that will encourage those affected to seek help. You can download the free guide at

To increase your capacity to address mental illnesses and substance use disorders in your community, the Health Fund is also offering free sessions of Mental Health First Aid. Learn more about the training at

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Cross Cultural Cross Racial
group has initial meeting

Rev. Dr. Grace Pak, founder of Shalom Idea and a workshop leader specializing in intercultural competency, leads a discussion at the first Cross Cultural Cross Racial Task Force meeting, Aug. 15 at Salina Trinity UMC.

The CRCC Task Force consists of 16 members and its purpose is to build a framework for CRCC Ministry here in the conference. The Rev. Kathy Williams, leadership development coordinator, said monthly meetings will continue over Zoom through April 2023. The ministry and focus of the Task Force aligns with a priority identified by the Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity Task Force.  

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Clergy retreat, 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  

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Equipping Disciples

Signup now available for
devotions through November

Opportunities to sign up to write daily devotions for the Great Plains Conference through the end of November are now available.

Go here to sign up for a day.

The SignUpGenius page includes a link to the Vanderbilt lectionary if that is helpful to you.  Scroll down to see the dates and verses at the end of the year. 

Write a meditation on the scripture around 300 words and a two sentence prayer for reflection.

Submissions should be sent to and are appreciated at least 5 days before the publish date. 

Devotion readers have asked to send emails of appreciation of those who write.  If you would not like to be contacted please indicate when emailing your devotion. 

If you would like to write but not sign up for a particular date you can submit devotions here and we will publish them as they are needed. 

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Big Garden accepting
fall garden applications

The Big Garden is accepting applications for fall 2022 community gardens and orchards for Kansas and Nebraska United Methodist churches who participate in the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund’s Healthy Congregations program. The Big Garden is an Omaha-based non-profit organization that works to address food security by developing community gardens and orchards, creating opportunities to serve, and providing horticulture education to home gardeners and garden leaders.

In 2015, The Big Garden expanded into rural Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. The Big Garden currently has more than 30 active community gardens and 13 orchards in Kansas and rural Nebraska that are a part of the Healthy Congregations program. Many of the gardens and orchards are located at United Methodist churches or community partner organizations, such as schools, parks, food kitchens, food pantries, and foster care facilities.

If your church is part of the Healthy Congregations program (or wish to join), you’re encouraged to apply for the community garden grant and/or the community orchard grant. You can learn more about joining Healthy Congregations at or by contacting Dashinika Poindexter at

Community Garden Grant
Those who qualify may receive up to $2,700 to start a community garden. Existing community gardens may apply if there is a comprehensive plan for expansion or improvement to the gardens.

To begin the community garden application process, please fill out the form at

Community Orchard Grant
The community orchard grant provides up to 10 fruit trees for free. A portion of the food grown must be donated to those in need. The Big Garden will assist in designing the orchard, provide the trees and materials needed on planting day, as well as lead the orchard planting. Ongoing horticulture education, such as how to plant a fruit tree, orchard tree maintenance, pest and disease management, holistic orchard sprays, etc., will be provided for orchards free of charge.

If you are interested in a fall orchard planting, please complete the interest form at The deadline for orchard applications is Sept. 1. Fall plantings begin Oct. 1 and will run until late November, depending on weather.

For both grant opportunities, please contact Molly Baurain for questions or additional grant details at or 913-897-2418.

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How do you #BeUMC?
Tell us in your own video

#BeUMC honors the core values that connect the people of The United Methodist Church. No matter the challenges we face, God is with us, and we continue to have opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

The campaign calls us to embrace our Wesleyan heritage and envision a promising future. Every day offers a chance to live into our mission and to strive to #BeUMC — to be the church our communities so desperately need. This grassroots effort, built upon powerful stories of congregations and people living their faith, celebrates what draws us to The United Methodist Church and what we aspire to be.

The Great Plains Conference has a new webpage,, to celebrate how we are living out our promise to be the church.

It's easy to send us your video!

  • Go to
  • Click on the "agreement" window at the left, which will reveal a window for you to complete your upload.
  • Type in your email address and a title (your name and city would be preferred). You can add a message if you like.
  • Click the "+" sign, and that will allow you to upload your video from your computer, phone or tablet.
  • Then, as you come across disciples in action involving your church, share their stories on social media by using the #BeUMC hashtag.

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Deadline for NUMF ministry
grant application is Sept. 30 

The Nebraska United Methodist Foundation is pleased to announce a ministry grant opportunity available to Nebraska churches and affiliated agencies of the Great Plains United Methodist Conference.  

The Foundation is able to award these grants due to the generosity of donors to the Gifts from the Heart Endowment Fund. These grant dollars are available to enhance and expand your ministries. The ultimate goal of these awards is to provide assistance, both for new ministries and thriving ministries wishing to grow.

These grants are made for programs and activities and include operating expenses and supplies necessary for those programs or activities. They are not made for building repair, replacement, or expansion. 

The application deadline is Sept. 30. For application materials and more information, please visit our website at

If you have questions about the application process or would like to talk to the Foundation about how you can help grow these types of grants, call us 877-495-5545.

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What can churches do to assist parents? New course will explain

A new course of instruction is being launched to help church leaders guide parents. “It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent: Helping the Church Community Empower Families” will help church leaders journey alongside parents to nurture, equip, empower and effectively communicate with them.

Learn more

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Across the Connection

Wichita pastor aims for
activism, advocacy, acceptance

Valecia Scribner has gone from social services to being a youth director to, for the past two years, pastor at Wichita Woodland UMC.

“She’s been very well accepted,” church member Anita Martz said. “And I think it’s because she does have these beliefs and doesn’t just stand there and say, ‘God loves you, and have a good day.’ She’s got important things to talk about.”

As part of its series called “Wichita’s Finest,” which highlights community leaders in the city, KWCH-TV sat down for a lengthy interview with Scribner.

Read more here.

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Funeral held for first
of four homicide victims

The first of four homicide victims in the small northeast Nebraska town of Laurel was eulogized last weekend at the town’s United Methodist Church, just feet from the murder scene.

“And it’s the same love that Jesus has for Michele (Ebeling), that we can celebrate today,” Rev. Patrick Broz said at her funeral. “That in spite of the horrendous events that took place just cattycorner to this very building, that she is with God.”

See video from KTIV, Sioux City

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Chadron pastor receives
promotion in Anglican church

The Rev. Babatunde Oladimeji, pastor of Chadron UMC, received a preferment from the Anglican Church of Nigeria during ceremonies last month at the Nebraska church.

With the ceremony, attended by Nigerian bishop Most Rev. Dr. Edmund Akanya, Oladimeji becomes a venerable archdeacon in the Anglican Church. During the ceremonies, Oladimeji was given a mandate and robed with a cope, a ceremonial gown worn only by venerables.

Oladimeji said he was required by the church to return to his home diocese in northern Nigeria for the ceremony, but because of the cost and immigration paperwork he was not able to go. Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. approved having the ceremony in Chadron. Representing the Great Plains Conference was Rev. Charles Murithi, superintendent of the Prairie Rivers and Elkhorn Valley districts.

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Pastor’s path from
social worker to ministry

The Western Nebraska Observer is letting folks in Bushnell and Kimball know if they see a license plate reading GODS KD that it belongs to Lorri Kentner, the new pastor at the towns’ United Methodist churches.

This new-pastor profile tells how Kentner went from being a social worker to joining the ministry.

Read more here.

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In other news

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  • The new church challenge -- Gen Alpha: There's a new generation churches need to reach, this one dubbed Gen Alpha. That refers to people born starting in 2010. They are diverse, fully immersed online almost from birth and many live in “unconventional” homes, meaning single-parent, blended and multiple-partner families. Patricia Peña of Discipleship Ministries Path 1 offers some tips.
  • How can churches make digital natives feel welcome?: Digital natives communicate primarily through the internet, but research shows churches don’t prioritize online communication. Author and church health consultant Bob Whitesel offers tips for churches looking to reach the digital generation.

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Classifieds are posted for 30 days unless otherwise requested. Please allow three business days for your classified to appear on the website. Email to update or renew your classified. Submit your classified here.

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