February 13, 2017/Volume 16, No. 3

Conference News

Graves Meets with AWF Large Church Pastors

Bishop David Graves met with over 30 AWF large church pastors on Thursday, February 9th. The meeting was a continuation of the on boarding meetings he held in the fall upon coming to the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Claire Bowen, a lay leader out of the North Georgia Conference, facilitated the meeting. She was an integral part of the fall on boarding with the newly consecrated Bishops in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Bowen identified four top themes from a survey that was sent to the Order of Elders of topics that were considered most important. They included the appointment process, church benchmarks, leading during changing times and the Bishop's ongoing leadership and clergy health and development. From this session, the Bishop was able to learn more about what seems most important to this leadership group. 

Two AWF Churches Make Top Growing Church List

Congratulations to Crosspoint UMC and Woodlawn UMC! Both churches made the 2017 Edition of Len Wilson's Top 25 Fastest Growing Large Churches. We are grateful for their ministry and outreach. This list is ordered on a 5-year trend according to self-reporting attendance numbers as recorded by the General Council of Finance and Administration office of the United Methodist Church. To qualify, a congregation must have had at least 1000 in AWA at the end of 2015, which is the most recent full year of official records, and cannot have experienced year-to-year decline in the last two years. See complete list

Bishop's Day Apart to Welcome Rev. Jerry Herships and Claire Bowen 

The 2017 Bishop's Day Apart will be held Tuesday, February 21, 2017, at Dothan FUMC. Bishop David Graves will welcome Rev. Jerry Herships out of the Denver, CO, area. This day apart will look different from past years and will have a more interactive component. The sessions will be a bit more interactive than perhaps you’re used to experiencing. The topic is entitled, “That'll Preach! How to Make Your Message Stick.” Rev. Herships will explore his innovative techniques to engage all personality types through your sermons. Jerry will give a similar presentation that he did last year at the Fred Craddock Center in Cherry Log, North Carolina. You will walk away with practical knowledge to further engage your congregations. Claire Bowen will facilitate a 15-minute Communications Style Preference assessment at the beginning of our session that will allow us to better understand how we engage with differing personalities. We are also asking that you bring a rough-draft sermon you are working on that is not Wi-Fi dependent, perhaps it is your Easter sermon or Ash Wednesday sermon. Click here to register

AWF Youth Ministry 101 Videos Launched

Rev. Jeremy Steele and Caroline Hare, leaders in our AWF Youth Cohort, filmed ten videos consisting of various topics helpful to youth leaders and volunteers. The videos were shot and produced by Luke Lucas, AWF Communications Specialist. Steele said, "While it is important to understand how prevenient grace helps make your lock-in fantastic, sometimes you just need someone to tell you how to put together a youth budget. This project is about making sure that no youth worker has to guess on the basic nuts-and-bolts of youth ministry." We hope you will check these out and make those in your church who minister to youth aware of this wonderful resource. Click here for video set

Around the Conference

Jernigan Offers Strengths-based Finder Workshops

A local church staff can “make it or break it” based on how well they connect with one another. That is why knowing each other's strengths can offer a glimpse into how we are most productive. How do you prefer to receive information? Do sudden interruptions bother you? Can you make a quick judgment call or do you feel your better outcome happens after you have time to ponder it? These questions can allow a church staff to gain insight into how we achieve our optimal performance. Rev. June Jernigan, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Ministerial Services, has been traveling the Alabama-West Florida Conference offering a Strengths Finder Workshop. Prior to the training day, June has each ministry staff member take a Gallop Strength Finder Survey. It enables her to learn more about ways each staff person leads and engages with one another. Usually retreats are for one day on location at a church or a nearby retreat center. Click here for full feature

Glory Sighting: Camden UMC Takes Prayer Walk to Streets

Rev. Brian Dovey leads his congregation at Camden UMC on a Prayer Walk through downtown Camden, AL. The pastor and congregation prayed for neighborhoods, businesses, local and federal government, other churches and racial reconciliation. This was an effort to get the church outside the walls and into the community where they could be seen "being the church." Dovey said, "The congregation was excited about being a part of the walk and is looking forward to doing it again in the future, perhaps with neighboring congregations.  Instead of just talking about prayer we wanted to actually do it. We wanted to participate in something positive that we hope will have an eternal impact on people. We believe that prayer changes things and we wanted to put that belief into action. I have heard several stories already about the difference this is making in people’s lives. Praise be to God!!!!"

Glory Sighting: Milton FUMC Stops Hunger Now

The recent Milton FUMC and Stop Hunger Now partnership was a roaring success thanks to the more than 100 volunteers who helped assemble more than 10,000 food packets in less than 1.5 hours! The church collected spare change to purchase the $3,500 worth of ingredients for the meals during Hunger Action Month. Children in the church went door to door, asking their neighbors to support this ministry by telling them that feeding the hungry was more important than buying cookie dough! Community partners such as the servicemen at NAS Whiting Field and the Milton High School ROTC worked with members of the church in helping unload the heavy ingredients and load completed meals after the event. Each meal packet feeds six persons, which means that this event made a difference in 60,000 lives. The assembled meals are shipped by Stop Hunger Now throughout the world to support school feeding programs, orphanages, and crisis relief.  

Wespath Hosts Clergy Benefits Academy in AWF Conference

Wespath Benefits and Investments hosted the 2017 Clergy Benefits Academy in the bounds of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. It was held in the Pensacola District at the Hilton Pensacola Beach. Wespath supervises and administers retirement plans, investment funds and health and welfare benefit plans. This three-day seminar was for all ages and stages of ministry—new ordinands, early-career clergy, mid-career clergy, ready-to-retire clergy, district superintendents, clergy in extension ministries—and spouses. Seminar topics included personal savings, health, clergy tax laws, future planning, social security, and pension benefits, to name a few. Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference welcomed those in attendance and participated in opening worship. Photo courtesy of Rev. Sam Persons Parkes

Standing Rules & Petitions/Resolutions Information and Approaching Deadline 

The Committee on Standing Rules has begun its work in preparation for the 2017 Annual Conference. The committee will be reviewing proposed changes to the Conference Standing Rules. The current rules can be found on pp.16-29 of the 2016 Conference Journal; if you do not have a print copy of the Journalyou may view it on the conference website here. Please be aware of upcoming deadlines specified in our Standing Rules. The deadline to submit petitions and resolutions is also approaching! Contact the chairperson, Rev. Christina Shaver at if you have any questions. The deadline to submit reports is February 15, 2017. The committee on Resolutions and Petitions will soon be meeting to discuss resolutions and petitions for Annual Conference 2017 and we want to hear your voice. Complete information here

Connectional News

Annual Conference 2017 to Vote on Five Constitutional Amendments

(UMNS) - General Conference delegates had their say last year. Now, it’s up to annual conference voters to determine whether five amendments will become part of The United Methodist Church’s constitution. In the coming months, the voters will consider changes that address matters of gender equality, inclusiveness in membership, delegate and bishop elections, as well as bishop accountability. To be ratified, a constitutional amendment first requires at least a two-thirds vote at General Conference, which happened in May 2016. Then, it must win at least a two-thirds majority of the total voters at annual conferences around the world. More here

UMCOR Earns Coveted 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

(UMNS) - The strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency of UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) have earned it a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. “UMCOR’s exceptional 4-star rating sets it apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “Only a quarter of charities rated by Charity Navigator receive the distinction of our 4-star rating. This adds UMCOR to a preeminent group of charities working to overcome our world’s most pressing challenges. Based on its 4-star rating, people can trust that their donations are going to a financially responsible and ethical charity when they decide to support UMCOR.” Read more


10 Ideas For a More Meaningful Ash Wednesday

(UMCOM) - Ash Wednesday is an important day in the church calendar. It marks the beginning of Lent, a season of preparation for the celebration of Easter. This holy day is not a holiday from work, school, or most other obligations, so if we are not intentional in our observance it is likely to resemble any ordinary Wednesday. To help us find ways to remember the holy in the midst of our routines—something we should strive for every day—we offer some ideas to consider. More here

2017 Lenten Resources Now Available

Are you or a small group in your church still looking for just the right Lenten resource for the upcoming season? An updated list has been posted to the AWF Website. Several new resources are part of the list, including Tom Berlin's latest book entitled, "Restored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess." Click here for complete list

Build Consistency with March Madness (February Follies)

(Seedbed) - After Christmas and before Spring Break can be a long season in a cold weather state. By February, it can feel like Spring will never come. A few years ago, we decided that we needed to do something to keep the energy going and the kids coming so we created our own version of March Madness. A large month long team-based contest that took many different elements to win. More ideas here


Legislative Prayer Breakfast, February 16

Baypines District Annual Lay Speaker Training, February 17-18

Fellowship of Local Pastors Meeting with Bishop Graves, February 18

Saint Simons Island Storytelling Festival, February 18-20

Bishop's Day Apart, February 21

AWF Clergyowmen's Day Apart, February 22

Fellowship of Local Pastors Meeting with Bishop Graves, February 25

Disabilities Awareness Sunday, February 26

Pensacola District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, February 26-28

Bishop’s Confirmation Retreat, March 3-5

Whom Shall I Send?, March 4

ERT Training Gulf Shores UMC, March 4

Marianna-PC District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, March 5-7

Conference Lay Servant Training, March 10-11

Wesley Heirs Spring Retreat, March 14

Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat, March 22-25

Demopolis District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, March 26-28

Fresh Expressions Vision Day, March 30

Baypines District Town Hall Meeting with Bishop Graves, April 2-4

Inspirit 2017 - A Retreat For Older Adults, April 6-8

ARM Cycle of Service, April 21-23


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