Conference Roundup

Conference Roundup

Leaders of 14 churches begin year-long "transformation" at Church Street 

For the last couple of years, district superintendents have emphasized "shared ministry" or "parish ministry" for our smaller churches. The no-brainer concept is that small churches can do more as a team than they can do on their own.

Last week, 80 clergy and lay members from nine middle-size and five large downtown churches gathered for their own revitalization act. Sponsored by Holston's Congregational Development office, the Sept. 15-16 "Transformation Initiatives" retreat was the kick-off for a year-long process led by Coaches Paul Nixon and Kim Shockley.

Starting Oct. 6, cluster groups from the kick-off retreat will meet once a month for 10 months. "We're hoping these cluster groups can give churches some new ministry tools at a time when they're trying to do ministry in a culture that's changing so rapidly," says Rev. Richard Edwards, Congregational Development director.

Leaders of the big urban churches -- Church Street, First Oak Ridge, Munsey Memorial, First Broad Street, and First-Centenary -- had already started sharing ideas before the Congregational Development department got involved, Edwards said. Just as the small church experience is very different from that of a mega church, the downtown church has different challenges than surburban or rural churches.

Nixon, author of "I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church," shared success stories from churches similar to Holston's that had bravely shaken off old church patterns to become vital supporters of their communities.

Participating mid-size churches included Harrison, Bluff City, Ketron Memorial, Washington Pike, First Madisonville, Hiltons Memorial, Carpenters, Christ (Greeneville), and Church Hill.

See our Facebook pages for photos and a video clip, and look for a story soon.

Got something to say about that?
Delegation creates Facebook page

How can you get a message to the people who will represent Holston's 894 churches at next year's big decision-making conferences?

For the first time ever, the Holston delegation has set up a Facebook page ... and it already has more than 350 members and prayers, concerns, and opinions posted.

The 36-member delegation was elected last June at Annual Conference for the purpose of attending General Conference in Tampa next April 24-May 4 and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C. July 18-20.  General Conference makes policy decisions for the denomination, while the jurisdictional conference primarily elects new bishops.

In a Facebook letter, the delegation politely says they won't respond to online posts, but will meet with Holstonians this spring "in a town hall type meeting to discuss any issues or concerns in which you want your voice to be heard."

Another way to reach the delegation is to e-mail (Here's the list of elected delegates.)

Camps announce numerical season
(and a good connectional story, too)

Holston's four camps are constantly faced with new challenges: diminishing summer vacations, cash-strapped economy, aging facilities, tornado and storm damage, higher accreditation expectations.

Yet, Buffalo Mountain, Dickenson, Lookout and Wesley Woods continue to reach children with God and nature experiences. This summer, 2,897 attended summer camp -- six more than in summer 2011.

What's more, 255 children professed their faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.

The Extended Cabinet received other stats from Camp and Retreat Ministries on Sept. 15: 

86 -- Increase in United Methodist campers
869 -- Faith commitment renewals
43 -- Ministers in residence
208 -- Summer camp staff

One of the best "connectional" stories to come out of Holston this summer was a new project led by a new camp director, John Erdman at Wesley Woods. With the aid of a $5,000 Change for Children grant, Erdman and staff created a mobile camp ministry.

"Rather than wait for kids to come to us, we felt called to go to where kids are and serve those who for a variety of reasons don't have the chance to come to summer camp," Erdman said.

Wesley Woods reached more than 500 additional kids by setting up at World's Fair Park in Knoxville, Blount County Family Promise at Fairview UMC, Byebee UMC in Morristown District, Mountain View UMC in Maryville District, and Cokesbury UMC's summer outreach ministry in Knoxville District.

"Whether it's day camp counselors who don't have kids in the evening or counselors who have a break between half week sessions, we've committed to using our resources to go out into the community and make a difference in the lives of kids," said Erdman.

Videos available from poverty seminar

"Breaking the Chains of Poverty," Holston's third annual "abolishing poverty" seminar, had 75 participants at First Broad Street UMC on Sept. 9-10. See the video clips of speakers on Facebook. A full-length video will be made available soon.

You asked:

Are we doing something for all the children suffering in Africa from the drought? Thousands of children have died from starvation.
-- Beth Stivers, Central UMC, Knoxville District

Holston Conference is heavily involved in feeding and meeting other needs for children in east Africa, specifically in south Sudan. Through the apportionments that your church gives, Holston also  gives to general church funds that support ministries and alleviate hunger in the Horn of Africa and other parts of Africa. 

If you or your church want to give more directly to help the children in the Horn of Africa, please see the information and resources available from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). You could give money, put inserts in your Sunday bulletin, or lead a larger effort in your district or city to help UMCOR help others.

Send your conference questions to with "You asked" in the subject line.