Download the printable version of the Nov. 28 issue of GPconnect.

In this edition:

Find out more about Fresh Expressions Vision Days in video interview
Eleven workshops build on ‘Living Well’ theme for 2019 Orders & Fellowship
The OneEvent brings worship, service, fun for 6th-12th graders in January
Bishop’s town hall tour wraps up as countdown to special session begins

Council of Bishops urges trust in delegates for 2019 special session

Learn more about benefits of clergy covenant groups

Camp Fontanelle recovering from Nov. 16 fire at its 7:24 Shelter
Do you know a 'balcony person?' Are YOU a 'balcony person'?
United Methodist Men's 100 Club completing year, looking forward to 2019

Scholarships available for Ecumenical Advocacy Days in D.C.

Tax-wise giving for individuals older than 70 ½

Urban Abbey receives UNO veterans Community Partner of the Year Award 
In other news
Blogs and opinion
The week ahead

Find out more about Fresh Expressions Vision Days in video interview

If you feel like your church is either declining or has hit a plateau, perhaps you just need to start fresh – as in Fresh Expressions.

This innovative way of being the church involves leaving the walls of the building and engaging people in the mission field where they are. By doing so, we can introduce more people to Christ and can live out what we were directed to do in the Great Commission, as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20.

The Great Plains Conference has two vision days scheduled for February (Feb. 2 in Omaha, Feb. 9 in Topeka), with a goal of helping local churches see how they can add these important ministries – termed “Fresh Expressions” – to reach people in their communities. The Rev. Michael Beck, a pastor in the Florida Conference who also serves as a coordinator and cultivator for Fresh Expressions U.S., shares some insight into what churches will see at a vision day in this short interview with conference Communications Director Todd Seifert.

Watch the eight-minute interview.

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Eleven workshops build on ‘Living Well’
theme for 2019 Orders & Fellowship

Eleven workshops are being offered at the 2019 Orders & Fellowship gathering, Jan. 16-17 at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

The workshops are:

  • Diving Deep for Resilience, led by Seanne Larson Emerton, a licensed marriage and family therapist;
  • Mindfulness – Focusing on Taijifit & Labyrinth, led by the Rev. Joy Freeman, staff chaplain at the North Kansas City Hospital;
  • Love to Stay: Six Keys to a Successful Marriage, led by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of Church of the Resurrection, and his wife, LaVon;
  • What is Spiritual Direction?, led by the Rev. Sally Ruggia-Haden, a retired United Methodist pastor;
  • Pastor & Parish: A Resourcing for Re-Orienting the Work of SPRC as Ministry, led by Rachel Meyer, program director for the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School;
  • Self-Care for Caregivers, led by Ginger Vaughn-Pullin, family nurse practitioner and professor at Graceland University;
  • Be Still and Know, led by Ginger Rothhaas, a former business consultant who is now a care minister at Church of the Resurrection;
  • Self-Differentiated Leadership through Separate and Together, led by the Rev. Bill Selby, founder and leader of the Center for Pastoral Effectiveness;
  • Tips to Start Getting Healthier, led by Lacey Spallitta, certified personal trainer and health coach;
  • Leadership Coaching for High-Capacity Pastors, led by the Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff, pastor of Wamego First UMC in Kansas; and
  • Becoming an Effective Stress Manager, led by New Directions Behavioral Health.

The workshops take place on Wednesday afternoon. Pre-registration is required so that we can have adequate space for each workshop.

“Living Water. Living Well” is the theme of Orders & Fellowship, which begins with a meet-and-greet on Tuesday, Jan. 15. You can also register at this time as well as take a tour of the new worship space at COR.

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

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

Many hotel blocks are set up for the meeting that are near the Church of the Resurrection. To view more details about hotels, click "Lodging." All hotel reservations must be made by Dec. 21 to receive the discounted rate.

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The OneEvent brings worship, service,
fun for 6th-12th graders in January

The countdown to The OneEvent is on! We’re 38 days away from gathering at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina for two days of worship, service and big-time fun!

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

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

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

Copies of The OneEvent brochure are available here.

Keep up to date through The OneEvent Facebook page.

Adult volunteers are still needed to make The OneEvent happen.

Watch and share our Facebook video.

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Bishop’s town hall tour wraps up as
countdown to special session begins

Eighteen town halls in all 17 districts in the Great Plains Conference – nearly 5,000 miles on the road. More than 4,100 people in attendance, including 26 appearances by delegates and alternates to the General Conference. 

Those are the final stats of Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s town hall tour of the conference, which concluded Nov. 17 with sessions in Parsons and Lawrence.

Bishop Saenz discussed the three plans – One Church, Connectional and Traditional – that will be put before the delegates in the special session of the General Conference, Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis.

A video from the Topeka District town hall, held Nov. 11, shows Bishop Saenz talking about the plans. Here’s a photo gallery with more than 300 images from the town halls across Nebraska and Kansas.

Communications director Todd Seifert, who manned the PowerPoint for all 18 town halls, reflects on the experience in his In Layman’s Terms blog.
Our Commission on a Way Forward page is updated with reports, resources and information leading up to the special session.

And now a question for you: What kind of discussions has your church had regarding the proposals? It could be as formal as sermons and Bible studies, or as informal as discussions over coffee. We want to hear how the topic is being discussed in the Great Plains, and you don’t have to state which proposal is favored. Share with David Burke in our communications department, including your contact information. Thank you!

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General Conference

Council of Bishops urges trust in
delegates for 2019 special session

Finding a way forward in the church debate over homosexuality is now up to General Conference. But bishops still have a role as presiders at the lawmaking assembly. The United Methodist News Service reports on how bishops plan to do that work.

Read more in this story.

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Clergy Excellence

Learn more about benefits
of clergy covenant groups

Calling all clergy!

Are you connected with other ministry leaders who, like you, are seeking to be faithful to your call to lead and serve in your community? Would you benefit from some support and resources to start (or re-start) a group?
Check out this segment from an episode of “Harvesting the Great Plains” from last spring introducing some resources that we’ve made available and consider how you might covenant together with a group of fellow clergy for encouragement, support and accountability. And if you’re already meeting with a group, learn about how you can apply for a grant to deepen your experience together!
Learn more at

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Equipping Disciples

Camp Fontanelle recovering
from Nov. 16 fire at its 7:24 Shelter

Your prayers are appreciated for Camp Fontanelle as it begins the clean-up and restoration efforts after a Nov. 16 fire in its 7:24 Shelter.

The building sustained damage on its west end, with the structure suffering heavy smoke and heat damage. Based on an initial assessment, the building will be repaired and any equipment that was damaged will be replaced.

Jane Van Horn, camp coordinator, said a Christmas Camp scheduled for Dec. 14-16 will be conducted as scheduled.

“While we had plans to use the 7:24 for activities and worship during Christmas Camp, we will move everything back to our Riverview Lodge,” Van Horn said.

The 7:24 Shelter was constructed in 2014 to provide a large surface area for summer programming when inclement weather hindered the ability to provide outdoor activities. It also has been used for an eating and relaxation area for guests during the corn maze season.

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Do you know a 'balcony person?'
Are YOU a 'balcony person'?

A "balcony person," defined by a devotion that stuck with Jeanie Leeper, Prairie Rivers District director of Lay Servant Ministries, is someone who has cheered you on and helped you find your potential and calling in Christ.

"They were able to see in me things I could not," she writes in the latest Lay Servant Ministries blog. "As I continue to mature in Christ and answer God’s call, I am constantly aware of and thankful for my 'balcony people.'”

Those "balcony people" may be encouraging you to enter Lay Servant Ministries, and Leeper says you should listen to them.

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United Methodist Men's 100 Club completing year, looking forward to 2019

The United Methodist Men's 100 Club has completed its year, and presents its 29th annual report. Here's information on how to join the organization.

Its 30th annual Scholarship Dinner and Auction will be Wednesday, May 29 at Topeka Countryside UMC.

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Mercy & Justice

Scholarships available for
Ecumenical Advocacy Days in D.C.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a powerful gathering of people of faith to come together to worship, learn and share, and to take action for the healing of the world.
“In 2019, we gather at a time in which people of faith and conscience are again called to stand in the prophetic stream of those who have come before us, those who were not afraid to stir up #GoodTrouble for the sake of God’s kingdom.”
“The history of engaging in #GoodTrouble is embedded in our faith tradition and our history as a nation and in the world. In the Bible, we read stories of the midwives who resisted Pharaoh and preserved the lives of Hebrew baby boys. We see Moses challenging the authority of Pharaoh, and Jesus overturn tables run by money changers. … Today, we are deeply troubled by what we see in the world. The 2019 Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference will draw on #GoodTrouble pioneers from the Civil Rights era as well as inspiration from young leaders to learn from the past, share best practices, and encourage one another for the work ahead. Through worship, educational and training workshops, and advocacy, we will beckon the Spirit to “Trouble the Waters” as depicted in John 5:1-9, calling on God to bring healing to our nation and world. Join us as we envision and train for new ways to stir up #GoodTrouble for the healing of all God’s children.”
This past April, we had a passionate group from Kansas and Nebraska at the event which focused on the uprootedness of millions of people in our world today.
Joy Lenz, a member at Grace United Methodist Church in Winfield, Kansas, reflected: “At Ecumenical Advocacy Days I saw people carrying out social and political action and connecting it to their faith in new and beautiful ways. There I was surrounded by people who saw religion and politics and action not as distinct and separate ideals, but as a connected cycle. Faith leads to social stances which leads to political engagement which leads to personal action which strengthens faith.”
Peace with Justice Ministries of the Great Plains Conference is offering scholarships for representatives from our conference to attend this gathering, April 5-9. Please contact Andrea Paret, Peace with Justice Coordinator, at
Read more information about 2019 EAD.

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Tax-wise giving for
individuals older than 70 ½

You have saved and saved, now use your savings to make an impact. If you are 70½ or older, you can use your individual retirement account (IRA) to support your church or give to the Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation. Making a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA will lower your income and avoid taxes, plus it can go to meet your required minimum distribution (RMD). Through this process, you not only give back to God through your church, but you can also give more because of avoiding some taxes.

Making an IRA rollover gift is easier than ever:

  • Contact your IRA administrator. With the popularity of the IRA rollover, most administrators provide forms and a procedure to help you make a rollover gift.
  • You can direct a transfer of up to $100,000 to be made this year from your IRA to a qualified charity.
  • You will pay no income taxes on the amount transferred.
  • Note: Because you are not claiming the transferred amount as income, you will not receive an income tax deduction for your gift.
  • Please contact the Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation at 1-888-453-8405 to let us know how you would like your gift to be used.

Give from your pretax assets by making an IRA rollover gift. If you are 70½ or older, this strategy allows you to give up to $100,000 directly from your IRA rather than take the required minimum distribution from your IRA. This strategy does not result in a charitable deduction but will help you avoid tax on the distribution. This strategy works for both itemizers and non-itemizers.

View a video here that has more information.

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Across the Connection

Urban Abbey receives UNO veterans Community Partner of the Year Award 


Omaha’s Urban Abbey, a coffee shop, book store and ministry, received the Community Partner of the Year Award for 2018 at the from the Office of Military and Veteran Services at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Nov. 15. This award recognizes Urban Abbey’s third year of partnership with UNO's Student Veteran Organization (SVO) through its Coffee Talks Student Veteran Small Group. 

Since 2016, Urban Abbey has provided free coffee, donuts, and fellowship as we make space for UNO's student veterans to connect and take part in confidential and honest conversation about the joys and challenges of life as a college student and military veteran. Former Abbey Pastorista Rev. Chris Jorgensen began this partnership with UNO's SVO, and the group has been led by former chaplain Joel Walker since 2017. 

Urban Abbey is grateful for the work of UNO's Office of Military and Veteran Services and our partnership with the Student Veteran Organization.

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In other news


Help draw new people to your church

On the eve of the Advent season, do you need some resources to invite people to your church? Communications director Todd Seifert has discovered a website you need to check out to find $400 in free products, plus a few other helpful websites, in his In Layman’s Terms blog. 

Read more about it here.

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Book traces history of church sexuality debates

Disagreements in The United Methodist Church about human sexuality extend as far back as the birth-control movement of the 1920s, writes Ashley Boggan Dreff in "Entangled: A History of American Methodism, Politics, and Sexuality." The book, published by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, covers the attitudes of U.S. Methodists about sexuality since World War II. 

Read more about “Entangled.”

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Blogs and opinion

  • Navy reserve chaplain decries church polarization: Military chaplains must work with people of all faiths and many different beliefs, writes a Naval Reserve chaplain. The Rev. René P. Lawson (pictured above) argues that The United Methodist Church should be able to incorporate differences, too.  
  • Disciple-making requires truth-telling: Living out the mission of making disciples requires truth-telling, writes a longtime church communicator. “As the church struggles with issues of identity and finding its way forward, I have become increasingly concerned about the willingness of many church leaders to want to avoid truth-telling in favor of doing public relations for God,” writes Melissa Lauber, Baltimore-Washington Conference director of communications.

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The week ahead

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