Treasures for ministry in the local church

2/18/2009

By Rev. Michelle Foster
Connectional Ministries

Whenever I have an opportunity to attend a conference, I always try to make time to check out the bookstore and display tables. I am curious to see what is being highlighted as the “new and best” thing. I continue to be surprised by the number of “treasures” that I stumble upon when I allow myself the time to browse and explore.

While in Jacksonville, Fla., at a national connectional ministries quadrennial training event, I discovered several resources I would consider “treasures” that I want to share with you. 

• Three Simple Rules for Following Jesus by Linda Robinson Whited — This is a six-week study for children based on the Three Simple Rules book that many of us have recently studied. Whited is a clergy member of the Mississippi Conference working in Nashville.

• Three Simple Rules for Christian Living by Jeanne Torrence Finley — This is a six-week personal reflection workbook that examines the ways we incorporate the Three Simple Rules into our daily living.

• Safe Sanctuaries: The New Edition by Joy Thornburg Melton — This updated workbook looks at ways we can protect children, youth and vulnerable adults from abuse in our places of ministry. It also offers suggestions for getting started, how to respond when an allegation occurs and why it is imperative that we engage in the work of Safe Sanctuaries.

• The Wesley Study Bible — Wow! What a great resource. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward recently described it in this way: “The Wesley Study Bible marks the first time that the writings of John Wesley have been compiled with the New Revised Standard Version. More than 50 leading scholars contributed to the study notes, most of which reference the writings of John Wesley. An equal number of pastors penned motivational thoughts on who to live out the scriptures. More than 60 Wesleyan theologians added "key-concept" writings that help us live deeper into the overarching themes and the specific topics throughout the Bible.”

• The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Bishop Robert Schnase — Along with the five individual workbooks that invite congregations to more deeply look at each of the practices through prayer, self-reflection, devotions and scripture readings. These books look at the central ministries important to congregational life and vitality. The areas of focus include radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity.

• The Crisis of Younger Clergy by Lovett Weems and Ann Michel — I knew fewer and fewer younger clergy were choosing to serve in the local church but I never understood why. These authors offer insight into the vocational choices of our young clergy, the crisis it is presenting in our local congregations and some of the ways that we might reverse the trend. This book is very thought-provoking and insightful into the state of the church today.

I was reminded again of the richness of devotional materials published by UpperRoom Ministries. Its bi-monthly periodicals, Pockets for children, DevoZine for youth Weavings and Alive Now! for adults are all great resources for personal reflection and spiritual growth. 

Now, as good as these resources sound, you and I both know they won’t do us any good if we don’t use them as they are intended. Here’s a challenge for you: Use one of these resources during the season of Lent for your individual or family devotional time. At the end of the study evaluate its import in your own life. Consider these questions in your evaluation: 

Where did it leave you challenged? 
Where did you sense the gracious presence of God? 
What difference did the use of this resource make in your own life?

My hunch is that if we give our best effort and are open to the spirit of God we might experience God in a new and fresh way. We have the potential to discover a “treasure” that is waiting to be unearthed. Are we willing to do a little work to find that which awaits discovery?

Foster serves on the conference staff working with children’s ministry and ministries to families.