Download the printable version of the Oct. 24 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Leadership, discipleship are two points of focus for Connecting Council
Emporia State students among 150 at Flint Hills town hall in Council Grove

Judicial Council asked to rule on constitutional validity of three plans
Decisions on human sexuality issues won’t stop with General Conference
Mainstream UMC schedules Rally Forward! in Prairie Village, Nov. 9-10

Elevate Worship Conference set for Nov. 9-10 in Norfolk

‘In Living Culture’ scheduled for Nov. 2-4 in Texas
Big autumn weekend is on tap Saturday-Sunday at Camp Fontanelle
‘Wherever the fear comes from, it is real’

#MeToo in church is subject of this weekend’s ‘Transformation’ event
Toys, books, clothes needed for Youthville Christmas Connection
What are Christians called to do when families are separated?

Discipleship Ministries restructures with agencies in a new strategic area
Required federal labor law posters are available via website

Lawrence-area churches spotlighted in story about help for homeless families
Article spotlights O’Neill, First United Methodist Church
Blue River District churches spearhead effort to help O’Neill
In other news
Blogs and commentary
The week ahead

Leadership, discipleship are two
points of focus for Connecting Council

The Connecting Council discussed the desirable traits of strong leaders and ways to reach new people for Christ during its fall 2018 meeting Oct. 19-20 at Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church in Topeka.

The discussion on leadership centered on how the conference can live into its vision statement of “Great Churches. Great Leaders. Great Disciples. Transformed World” even as the denomination moves toward a special session of General Conference in February to discuss the church’s stance on LGBTQ marriage and ordination.

“What is greatness?” Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. asked the group. “I hope we can gain clarity of what greatness means to churches of 25 people and what it means for churches with 250 and above. We’re not going to go through a whole other visioning process, but we want to live into our vision because that means Christ is working through us to make a difference in people’s lives.”

The Connecting Council also learned some details about Fresh Expressions, a movement that started in Britain aimed at meeting the unchurched where they are in a community – restaurants, parks and even bars. The concept is to meet them on turf that is comfortable to them so they can feel free to explore the role Jesus can play in their lives.

Read more about the Connecting Council’s fall meeting.

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Emporia State students among 150 at Flint Hills town hall in Council Grove

Among the 150 people at the Council Grove United Methodist Church for the Flint Hills District town hall meeting Oct. 21 were five Emporia State University students, along with the Rev. Kurt Cooper, campus pastor. 

The students, who met with Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. for an impromptu discussion following the two-hour town hall, said they had various amounts of knowledge of the human sexuality issues facing the denomination before the session. 

“I’ve heard a lot about this through campus ministry,” said Abraham Ruffcorn, a senior from Basehor. “I didn’t really know what all was in store and in the plans.” 

Ruffcorn said he came to the town hall wanting to learn more, “and I feel like I did.” 

Read more about the 14th town hall meeting.

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General Conference

Judicial Council asked to rule on
constitutional validity of three plans

The United Methodist Church's top court was urged during an oral hearing Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland, to rule in advance on the constitutionality of proposed legislation that will come before the special session of the General Conference in February in St. Louis.

The first hearing was on a request for a declaratory decision from the Council of Bishops on the constitutionality of the three sets of legislative petitions that form the report of the Commission on a Way Forward. 

Read more from the United Methodist News Service.

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Decisions on human sexuality issues
won’t stop with General Conference

The One Church Plan, recommended by the Council of Bishops, would let a local church host a same-sex wedding, but only if the congregation votes in favor of having such weddings. All three Way Forward plans set to be considered by the special General Conference hold the prospect of tough votes by United Methodist churches and conferences. This report from the United Methodist News Service includes the thoughts of Lisa Maupin, Great Plains Conference lay leader (pictured above).

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Mainstream UMC schedules Rally
Forward! in Prairie Village, Nov. 9-10

Rally Forward!, a two-day session of worship and workshops supporting the One Church Plan, will be from 1-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 10, at Asbury United Methodist Church, 5400 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, Kansas.

Friday will include a keynote presentation by Rev. Mark Holland, founder of Mainstream UMC, which is rallying for General Conference delegates to pass the One Church Plan. Saturday’s worship is led by Rev. Dr. Nanette Roberts, pastor of Olathe Grace UMC.

The cost is $20 per person, which includes a light lunch, evening dinner and coffee and donuts. Scholarships are available.

Registration is available online, and can be made at the door.

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Clergy Excellence

Elevate Worship Conference
set for Nov. 9-10 in Norfolk

American Baptist Churches of Nebraska and Northern Seminary are sponsoring an Elevate Worship Conference, Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church, Norfolk.

All denominations are welcome.

Workshop options include “Everything But Sermon and Song,” “Crafting the Worship Set: Choosing Songs for Your Congregation,” “Worship Audio 101: Choosing and Using the Right Audio” and “Worship and Discipleship.”

More information is available in this brochure.

The cost is $39 per person, or $99 for groups of three. Click on this link to register.

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Equipping Disciples

‘In Living Culture’ scheduled
for Nov. 2-4 in Texas

An event/conversation, “In Living Culture: Creating & Resisting ‘Active’ Cultures for ‘Effective’ Transition and Growth in Cross-Cultural Appointments,” is scheduled for Nov. 2-4 at Fellowship United Methodist Church in Trophy Club, Texas, about 15 minutes from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

The mission of the conversation is to equip pastors, bishops, cabinets and congregations with knowledge and strategies to create more vital, growing churches where pastors and laity in cross-cultural settings work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.     

The cost is $199.99 per person.

Registration and more information is available here.

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Big autumn weekend is on tap
Saturday-Sunday at Camp Fontanelle

This Sunday is a special day out at Camp Fontanelle. It is UM Day. Come out to Camp Fontanelle for Search for Treats in the Maze and support the Simon Says: Live a Better Life Foundation. 

By bringing a new toy, valued at $5 or more, you will receive a free admission pass to the corn maze and pumpkin patch for the day. The Simon Says Foundation provides monthly birthday parties at the Open Door Mission for child residents. The foundation, created after Simon Jones lost his battle with cancer, also awards grants for youth to have a fun or extreme adventure experience. Free admission will also be given for monetary donations, to the foundation, of $5 or more. 

On the Search for Treats in the Maze day, bring your trick-or-treat bag and look for volunteers in the maze, from 2-4 p.m., handing out treats. Dress up in costume, support two great programs, get some treats and have a memorable day out at Camp Fontanelle. (If you would like to volunteer to pass out treats, contact Trent Meyer at 402-459-0686.)

Two other special events for the season are the Scary Maze Night, Friday, Oct. 26 from 7-10 p.m., and the ninth annual Halloween Wilderness 5K Run/1.25 mile hike, on Saturday, Oct. 27. 

This Friday, guests can walk through the maze and get a little chill, either from the air, the rustling of the leaves, a mannequin or someone jumping out to give you a fright! This Scary Maze Night is the last of the season. If interested in being a “scarer,” contact Trent Meyer at 402-459-0686.

The Wilderness Run/Walk is a fun way to see the trails out at camp. Dress up in costume and run, or walk, over Buttermilk Creek, up Christmas Tree Hill and near the Fontanelle Cemetery. After getting that fresh air, enjoy lunch and then take the free corn maze pass you receive for participating, and spend the remainder of the day at the corn maze/pumpkin patch.

Camp Fontanelle’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze is open weekends through Nov. 4. Friday hours are 4-7:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-7 p.m. This Second Season is used as a fundraiser for the camp to improve programming for summer ministry. It also is an opportunity for the public to discover all of the activities of the camp and its mission of “impacting lives through an intentional Christian community” for all.

There’s plenty to do out at Camp Fontanelle! Make plans to come out and make memories, have a lot of fun and support YOUR United Methodist Church Camp. For more information, contact the camp at 402-478-4296 or

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‘Wherever the fear
comes from, it is real’

Julie Schropp, a lay speaker and director of the Kansas City District lay ministries, loves to be around children and is “(relatively) fearless and unafraid.”

“Why then,” she asks, “am I so afraid of the children’s message -- the longest stretch of unscripted and unpredictable time in front of a congregation?”

Read her thoughts in the latest blog from Lay Servant Ministries.

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Mercy & Justice

#MeToo in church is subject of this
weekend’s ‘Transformation’ event

Great Plains Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and retired Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson will address the church’s role in the era of #MeToo in the annual “For the Transformation of the World” event, Saturday at Lexington (Nebraska) First United Methodist Church.

For the Transformation of the World is an annual Mercy & Justice educational event that is organized to equip and resource Great Plains congregations and communities to engage and address specific social justice issues affecting our mission field. Besides Bishop Saenz and Bishop Sherer-Simpson, this year’s event will be feature a staff person from General Board of Church and Society, and Gerise Herndon, a faculty member from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Lunch is provided. Participants will have their choice of afternoon workshops on issues related to women’s leadership or sexual violence against women in schools, workplace or church and the Biblical way to address these issues.

Complimentary lodging available at Camp Comeca for those traveling 200 miles or more. Email Donna Ernest for details,

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Toys, books, clothes needed for
Youthville Christmas Connection


You can help make the holidays joyous for the more than 7,500 children in Kansas foster care by collecting toys for kids through EmberHope Youthville’s Christmas Connection.
Your church can help make a child’s holiday wish come true! Each ornament lists Something I Want, Something I Need, Something to Wear and Something to Read. Churches may also participate in Christmas Connection by making EmberHope Youthville offering envelopes available during the holiday season.
EmberHope Youthville is proud to have been supported by the Methodist Church since its founding and is delighted to continue its tradition of strong church support during this holiday season. If you would like to participate in Christmas Connection, please contact Mercedes Kamaru at 316-223-4022 or
EmberHope Youthville is a faith-based agency in Newton, Kansas, that has been serving at-risk children and families for more than 90 years. You can find more information at

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What are Christians called to
do when families are separated?

Families belong together! Who of us would not agree with this statement?

And yet, hundreds of immigrant children have been separated from their parents who came to our country seeking asylum according to international law. This has and is happening in our name and with our tax dollars. New regulations are discussed right now which would continue with the practice to separate families. What are we called to do in such a situation?

For many Christians it is difficult to discern if and how to get involved in “politics.” The question arises how “politics” is defined. One definition says that politics is about how we order our lives together. And we know that Jesus was very concerned about that.

Our United Methodist Principles state that “the strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong and ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.” (¶164 B)

We should take our responsibility to vote seriously.

This summer, our Micah Corps interns were in Washington D.C. at the time of the Families Belong Together Rally by the White House. Bernard Hangi, one of the interns who is studying Information Systems Technology in Georgia, shares about the experience:

On June 30, the Micah Corps interns, including myself, went to the Families Belong Together Rally in Washington, D.C. Sibling rallies also took place around the country, in an effort to permanently end the separation of children from their parents, family detention, the zero-tolerance policy that created this crisis in the first place, and to quickly reunify these children with their parents. Religious leaders, including the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society General Secretary Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, condemned immigration policies that separate families, harm children, and deny humans of their sacred worth. Celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alicia Keys and America Ferrara echoed the harm these unjust practices cause, and the need for a compassionate, loving approach to the asylum and immigration process.

As we held up our United Methodists Stand for Justice signs, many people stopped and told us how happy they were that people of faith were taking a stand. I really began to understand that as a Church, it really matters that we put some skin in the game and vocalize our opposition to unjust government policies and practices.

We as Micah Corps interns normally go to churches and talk about issues like these and what we as Christians need to do when we approach such issues in our community. One of the ways that we encourage churches to love their neighbors is to stand up for our neighbors when they experience injustice. Going to this rally, I realized that there's hope for immigrants who are experiencing injustice. Seeing people protest in the sweltering heat and standing up for what is right showed me that God is working in all of us. When we all respond to injustice in the world, we can create lasting change.

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Discipleship Ministries restructures
with divisions in a new strategic area

Discipleship Ministries, led by former Wichita pastor, the Rev. Junius Dotson (shown here), has announced an organizational redesign. Specifically, the agency will combine New Church Starts (Path 1), Leadership Ministries and Young People's Ministries units into a new strategic area. The agency also will create a new stakeholder relations area that will focus on relationships with church leaders across that denomination. The new area will encompass conference relations, global relations, strategic partners and research.

Read more from United Methodist News.

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Required federal labor law
posters are available via website

Required federal labor law posters are available from this website for $17.99. A new post is required each year. A company has reportedly been calling churches offering to sell the posters for more than $100. While those posters are correct, these are more economical.

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Across the Connection

Lawrence-area churches spotlighted in
story about help for homeless families


Several Lawrence-area United Methodist Churches are spotlighted via a story about helping homeless families with children in the third-quarter edition of Lawrence Business Magazine.

The article shares information about the ecumenical organization that includes Lawrence First UMC, Eudora UMC, Lawrence Central UMC, Ives Chapel UMC, and Vinland UMC among its 38 member faith communities. Family Promise calls on churches to host families in the program for a week at a time as part of a rotation between the churches.

Many of the families struggle with lack of employment, single-parent issues, health concerns, children with special needs, and lack of support systems.
Family Promise helps to sort through whatever challenges families are facing – as the organization’s website states, as a “life raft” – while families work to achieve stability.

Read the full story.

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Article spotlights O’Neill,
First United Methodist Church

The ICE raid that changed the life of O’Neill, Nebraska – and put its First United Methodist Church on the front line for helping immigrants stranded by the raid – is the subject of an article in BuzzFeed News:

“The immigration status of workers, their effect on the economy, and their place in the community were always assumed but never spoken about. The raid changed that.

"‘We’re a divisive community right now. The immigration system has got us split right down the middle,” said Pastor Brian Loy, 56, who runs the First United Methodist Church in town and helps run a food bank for the affected families every week.

“Loy has lost friends over his support of the laborers, has been ‘shunned’ downtown, and has had congregants confront him, he said. Most people, he believes, are ignorant of the immigration system, like he was, assuming that undocumented workers had unlimited access to government welfare. ‘I didn’t understand that until I got in the middle of this.’

“The food bank he helped set up for those affected by the raid gets its donations mostly from outside cities, not O’Neill. As the weeks went by, more laborers came out of hiding to visit the pantry — Loy doesn’t know how they ate before then. Some waited outside the church for hours before Loy and his crew begin serving lunch and handing out supplies — so they started providing breakfast.

“The crisis gave his church a sense of purpose, a mission to help those in need.”

Read the entire BuzzFeed article.

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Missouri River District churches
spearhead effort to help O’Neill

Many people have asked, “How can we help in O’Neill?” One of the Missouri River District churches, Faith Westwood UMC in Omaha, is spearheading an effort in Omaha to help the O’Neill Food Pantry, which is operated out of the O’Neill UMC by Pastor Brian Loy. Pastor Marta Wheeler and Omaha St. Paul has joined the effort with diaper donations.

Pastor Marta Wheeler delivered a donation of diapers to Faith Westwood UMC for delivery to the Food and Basic Needs pantry at First United Methodist Church, O’Neill. This and other donations make it possible for First UMC to serve 65 families each week (more than 125 individuals.) Faith Westwood typically sends 2 truck/van loads of supplies to O’Neill each week and coordinates the shopping and/or collection of all the supplies (except meat, milk and eggs) to feed and provide food and basic needs for all the families served.

Other churches and individuals who would like to assist with this ongoing effort are encouraged to send their checks payable to: Faith Westwood (and marked “O’Neill”) to: Rich Anderson, Finance Director, Faith Westwood UMC, 4814 Oaks Lane, Omaha, NE 68137. Or, call Vikki O’Hara, M.Div, Director of Caring Ministries at 402-650-9489 (cell) in you are interested in collecting supplies or making an in-kind donation of the specific items needed. Gently used, clean, washable blankets as well as coats and sweaters for all ages are also being received for O’Neill.

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In other news

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Share from our toolbox for local churches


Have you ever found some treasure on one of those “buy-and-sell” websites or Facebook pages? You know the kind, where you share something that may be of value to someone else or where you find something you’ve been looking for but until that time had yet to discover it?

The Great Plains Conference has something similar, but it won’t cost you a dime, and it just may help your church find solutions to challenges. And the best news is, your church may hold the answer for other churches hours away from you.

In the latest installment of his “In Layman’s Terms” blog, Todd Seifert, conference communications director, encourages you to share your church’s successes in the Local Church toolbox, and he tells you how you can find things submitted by others. The basic idea is to share best practices so that everyone can benefit.

Read the blog.

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Best practices for using Facebook for church

"Whether you are personally interested in Facebook or not, you can’t deny its importance in our culture," writes Jayna McFarland, the Great Plains Conference website and social media specialist. "What other presence has undeniable importance in our culture? The church!"

Facebook can be a vital tool to reach the 3.3 million Kansans and Nebraskans who use the social media site, but there are dangers to be aware of and some common-sense advice that McFarland gives in her first blog with the Great Plains.

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Here's 15 ways to pray for your pastor

"The life of a United Methodist pastor is filled with a variety of responsibilities. They preach, teach, visit, counsel, lead, consult, communicate, budget, clean, and so much more," writes Joe Iovine from United Methodist Communications. "Pastoring a church is not a job that can be done well under the pastor’s power alone. Every pastor relies heavily on God’s guidance, strength and peace as they live into their call."

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and in this essay, Iovine suggests 15 ways to pray for your pastor.

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UM Student Day set for Sunday, Nov. 25

Think about the young people in your congregation. Maybe some are venturing away from home for the first time as college freshmen. Perhaps others are pursuing graduate studies. Put names and faces to those students as you prepare for United Methodist Student Day on Nov. 25. 

By promoting generosity on this special Sunday of The United Methodist Church, you nurture tomorrow’s Christian leaders. 

Now is the time to share this message with your congregation and church leaders so that they, too, have the opportunity to ensure a brighter future for United Methodist students. 

Download the United Methodist Student Day pastor’s kit today for all the tools you will need to celebrate on November 25. You’ll find sermon starters, social media images, e-books, videos and much more to inspire your congregation about this special day. 

To enhance your observance, order leaflet offering envelopes and posters at or call 888-346-3862. 

Together, we will enrich the lives of United Methodist students as they continue on their faith journeys. 

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Blogs and commentary

  • The power of ‘and’: Discussion of the three plans proposed by the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward contain too many “buts,” writes the Rev. David Livingston, senior pastor of Lenexa St. Paul’s UMC. “‘I may disagree with you but ...’ sounds like a negation of your opinion. I'm right, you're wrong, but you can still stay in the church with me,” Livingston writes. “The alternative, and as a ‘progressive compatibilist’ what I would argue for, is ‘I may disagree with you AND... ‘”
  • Officially or unofficially, church will separate: No matter how much we value our shared heritage, the Rev. Thomas E. Bowsher of Milbank, South Dakota, believes The United Methodist Church is already divided and cannot be reconciled.

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The week ahead

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