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In From Mark

By Rebecca

Easter Week Reflections on the Cross

On 06, Apr 2018 | In From Mark | By Rebecca

What comes to mind when you see the cross? Challenge yourself to a new perspective.



In From Mark

By Rebecca

Intro to our “Vlog” Video Blog

On 06, Apr 2018 | In From Mark | By Rebecca

We’re excited to launch our video blog this week! Check out Mark’s introductory video below.



In Events

By Mitch

Charge Conference + Holy Momentum

On 23, Oct 2017 | In Events, Laity, News | By Mitch

Charge Conference for churches in the Southwest District is at St Paul’s United Methodist Church on November 4th. The usual charge conference business is planned during a working lunch hour, but the highlight of the day is a class by Sue Nilson Kibbey beginning that morning.  She is the author of Flood Gates, Holy Momentum for a Fearless Church and is best know for her breakthrough prayer initiative. Her book makes an urgent case for change in our prayer lives and shifting each congregation’s culture toward omnipresent discipleship. In other words, this is an opportunity to hear how to transform your church into a congregation of daring, Spirit-driven disciples. Sue Nilson Kibbey never disappoints to deliver a compelling message about the power of prayer.

Flood Gates begins at 9:30am (gathering at 9am), Saturday 4 November at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 2423 W. 26th Street in Joplin. Registration is $20 which includes materials and lunch for those attending the charge conference. You may register by going directly to the Southwest District Facebook page and selecting “Events.” All training materials and lunch will be provided with your registration.  Notify your pastor you want to attend before you register. 

Churches attending charge conference must have all paperwork approved by their respective church councils with proper signatures.

NOTE:  The Sue Nilson Kibbey event has minimum attendance requirements per church.

  • For churches under 30 – 2 laity and the pastor
  • For churches 30-90 – 3 laity and the pastor
  • For churches greater than 90 – 4 laity and the pastor



In Events

By Mitch

The First Earthkeeper in Missouri is from the Southwest District

On 28, Jul 2017 | In Events, Laity | By Mitch

Full disclosure: I am married to Cheryl Marcum, a candidate for Earthkeeper, scheduled for commissioning on August 6.  

Maybe you’ve heard of Earthkeepers.  They are United Methodists who discerned a call from God to a vocation of caring for God’s creation. They help us understand how caring for God’s creation is a core part of our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ. 

The first Earthkeeper in the Missouri Conference will be from the Southwest District, Stockton United Methodist Church.  Cheryl Marcum will be commissioned an Earthkeeper at the commissioning ceremony at Trinity United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, upon completion of the August 1-6 Earthkeepers Training Conference at Mount Sequoyah Retreat & Conference Center in Fayetteville. 

Earthkeepers is the inspiration of Rev. Pat Watkins, a recently retired missionary for God’s Creation with the General Board of Global Ministries.  His successor, Rev. Jenny Phillips, will lead this new, globally-focused ministry, based at the new Global Ministries’ Center for Mission Innovation in Atlanta.  

Earthkeepers can be laity or clergy.  Each Earthkeeper is required to participate in four days of intense training in creation care theology, best practices in climate conversations, UMC resources for advocacy and action, and then commit to 10 hours per month of providing leadership for a community project or advocacy campaign.  An Earthkeeper selects her or his own focus area, for example: creating a community garden, advocating for climate action or renewable energy policies, working for environmental justice by cleaning up toxic waste sites, or creating a green team within a church, district, or conference.  These actions connect the local church directly to community concerns.

Do you have someone in your congregation who is called to to become an Earthkeeper, to serve as a caretaker of God’s good creation?

Many people have thought of God’s creation in terms of advocacy but not as a valid mission of the church. God’s creation is as appropriate a mission field as Nigeria or the Philippines or wherever else. In order to be in mission to God’s people, we have to be in ministry to God’s creation.” – Rev. Pat Watkins

Read more at:

Innovative Program Aims to Commission 500 Earthkeepers, The Missouri Methodist, August 2017, page 9.

New Earthkeepers Program Aims to Commission 500 for Creation Care Work

Caretakers of God’s Creation is a grassroots community of United Methodists.



In Laity

By Mitch

Are You a New Lay Member to Annual Conference? Read on….

On 02, Jun 2017 | In Laity | By Mitch

Bishop Farr will preside at Annual Conference

What lay members to annual conference need to know:

Each year, our bishop presides over the annual conference for worship, fellowship, and to conduct the business of the United Methodist Church in Missouri. Annual conference includes reports of ongoing ministry, future goals, programs, budgets and the ordination of clergy. Workshops, live music, training sessions and exhibits add to the experience you take back to your congregation.

An effective lay member to annual conference returns to his/her local church to inform the congregation about the decisions, news, and learning experiences. As the elected member from the congregation, it is the responsibility of the lay member to interpret the actions of annual conference to the congregation. We are a connectional church and the lay member to annual conference strengthens the connection between the local congregation and the Missouri Conference.

Talk with your pastor before annual conference

Endeavor to understand the hopes and dreams of your local church and search for ways your leadership can advance the vision for ministry. Prepare for annual conference.

  1. Talk to people in your congregation who have attended previous annual conference sessions.
  2. Take advantage of pre-conference orientation sessions and information on the annual conference website to prepare you to learn and to contribute to the life of the church.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the ministries and concerns of your congregation.
  4. Become familiar with the rules of annual conference and basic parliamentary procedure.
  5. Participate in pre-conference sessions that cover upcoming issues, budgetary items, and proposed resolutions.
  6. On Friday of the conference attend the laity session and southwest district laity breakout.  This is an opportunity to meet other district lay leaders and share ministries and experiences.

As soon as practical after the close of the conference, report your experience to your church council in cooperation with your pastor. Communication truly improves connection.  

Amy Thompson, Conference Lay Leader, addresses Annual Conference 2016

Use resources available online

Read this handout to understand your role:

Watch this video recap of annual conference 2016:

Check out this publication by Cokesbury:

A great deal of info is available at the conference website:

Talk to your District Lay Leaders

District lay leaders can provide resources to point you in the right direction. Connect with your district lay leaders at annual conference – they want to help. The key responsibility of the lay member is linking the vision and resources of annual conference back to the mission of the local congregation. Ask district lay leaders, Marsha Egan and Mitch Ross, any questions you have and keep the link between annual conference and the local church strong.



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In Laity

By Mitch

Passing the Baton

On 19, May 2017 | In Laity, News, Reminder | By Mitch

Appointment season in the United Methodist Church comes around every year at this time. This June many churches will say good-bye to their current pastor as they greet a new pastor. Change, expected or not, can be stressful for congregations. But, “passing the baton,” pastor to pastor, is part of our Methodist heritage.

Here’s the good news: Change can also become an opportunity for mission focus, reevaluation of church values and growth. A change of pastor is a chance for new eyes to envision otherwise unseen possibilities. As laity, we pray for a smooth transition and that God will embolden us to support and minister alongside our pastors.

Prayer goes a long way toward calming the turmoil of change, enabling acceptance of what is new, and opening our eyes to see what God is doing in our midst.

  • Pray that congregations receive pastors sent to new charges in the spirit in which they are sent.
  • Pray that PPR committees provide the support and leadership that pastors and congregations need for continuity during a time of change.
  • Pray that congregations partner with new pastors and encourage them to minister as John Wesley taught: “Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel.”
  • Pray that we laity follow suit alongside our pastors. 

If a new pastor is sent to your church, please read this excellent resource provided by the Missouri Conference:

Pay attention to social media. See “Digital Transitions When Pastors Change” at:

Look at this resource from for 50 ways to welcome your new pastor:

We are an itinerant church. Wesley’s vision of itinerant ministry encourages a system of sending and sending again. But remember that as these changes occur, the mission of the church stands fast – the mission is unchanging even as leadership changes. Pray for each UMC congregation that the Holy Spirit guides and directs vital change in the local church, new pastor or not. Read more…

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In Laity

By Mitch

Laity Servants Tell Stories – May 6th at the UMC Conference Center

On 05, Apr 2017 | In Laity | By Mitch

Mid-State District is offering a great opportunity to learn from Ray Buckley, a distinguish storyteller.

“Lay Servants Tell Stories” is a course offered at the UMC Conference Center in Columbia on May 6th.  The course is open to everyone and counts as an advanced course for Lay Servants.

See the flier below for more information and to complete your registration or follow this link:

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In Laity

By Mitch

New Year, New Dreams

On 05, Jan 2017 | In Laity | By Mitch

Forget the New Year’s resolutions. What are your dreams for 2017?

11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” – Genesis 28:11-16 (NRSV)

ladder-featherIn Jacob’s dream, a ladder was set up that extended from earth to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending on the ladder. More than just a dream, this gave Jacob a vision that his life was intended for something greater than he imagined – something God envisioned for his life.

In the dream, angels, God’s messengers, were ascending up to God. But, angels were also descending down from heaven. Like a biblical email system, the angels delivered messages even as God speaks directly to Jacob. Jacob has unexpectedly found a God-sized vision in his life, “the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!” (verse 16).

We must dream big dreams because we worship an awesome God. Jacob’s dream teaches us that God has dreams for us, we must pay attention to recognize them. “Surely, the Lord is in this place.”

dream-vision-featherDo you find joy being part of ministry that is larger than yourself? As lay servants, we often busy ourselves with programs, events and training, ministries that are easy to scale to a size we can handle. Why not ask, “What does it take to serve the vision of God?” Are we not God’s ambassadors and agents to carry out dreams and visions? I expect the new year to bring new dreams that reveal some snippet of God’s vision for our ministries. And, I expect it to be bigger than our own self-determined plans. Where is the greater joy, in fulfilling our plans or fulfilling the vision of God?

I met a soldier who was assigned duty in Bosnia as part of the Operation Joint Endeavor – a peace keeping force. Despite the separation from family and harsh living conditions, he expressed tremendous satisfaction with his time in Bosnia. He was involved in peacekeeping operations bigger than he could accomplish on his own. He found joy doing something bigger than himself. We, too, must aim for ministries greater than ourselves.

Suggested to do list:

  • Write down ministry dreams for 2017.
  • Pray that we seize God-sized visions and dreams.
  • Dream big in 2017!

Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”    William Carey’s motto on a hanging in St. James Church, Paulerspury, Northamptonshire.

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In Laity

By Mitch


On 06, Nov 2016 | In Laity | By Mitch


Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.” Twain had a sarcastic side with a twist on the truth.

So, where do you get your information? Specifically, where do you get your information about church life? Are you uninformed, misinformed or overwhelmed? What do you read?

First, we read the scriptures. No other source can provide the benefits and blessings of God’s word. But, most Christians I know also have favorite authors and websites that keep them abreast of the latest church ideas and trends. Below are a few of my favorite web resources.


Ministry Matters ( is a good resource with free content. If you want access to premium material a paid subscription is required. With a free account you can create bins to hold your favorite articles and subscribe to various weekly feeds.


The Lewis Center for Church Leadership ( is another place to mine information about church leadership, ministry and reaching out to different demographics. Check out their “50 Ways” suggestions under the Resources tab.


To keep up with current events in the United Methodist Church, go to and click on the News & Media tab.


To stay connected to all the latest happenings in the Missouri Conference, check out the Stay Connected page here: You can subscribe to Net News, Mission Cast, Justice Ministries or Shared Prayers and other subscriptions from the Missouri Conference.

If you tweet, follow the Missouri Conference on Twitter,


Finally, one of my favorites is I Am Second ( The site offers several innovative videos on many hot button topics. The short videos are good for sermons, small group topics or just to start a conversation.

What is your favorite resource?

Blessings, Mitch


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In News

By Rebecca

Overtime Changes for Salaried Employees

On 10, Oct 2016 | In News | By Rebecca

The media has carried news of changes to overtime pay requirements over the last several months. The Department of Labor is reducing the number of employees who do not have to record time and who are not entitled to receive overtime pay.

This reduction means that many employees, including employees of local churches, may now be covered by the overtime rules.

If you did not see the webinar from the conference office, I strongly urge you to go to the conference website and watch it here:

This new law that goes into effect 12/1 can impact church staff.  If you have any questions please contact our office or the conference .