Many ministry leaders in the Desert Southwest Conference (DSC) are doing great work to support families through tough times. In honor of Christian Family Week (May 4-10, 2015), a few ministry leaders from around the DSC shared how they support families in their neighborhoods. In many cases, God has turned their past experience into a shared gift of Christian service. Who are the people in your congregation who God is preparing to serve the families in your community?
Divorce Care Ministry
It can be difficult for someone going through a family separation or divorce to come to church. They may not attend, fearing judgement or painful questions. They may have a preconceived notion of the church’s view of divorce, and ask themselves, “Will I be welcomed or comfortable there?” For more than a decade, Linda and Bruce Faber of Gilbert UMC have helped families in their community find their church to be a welcome place of recovery from the painful process of separation and divorce. Linda and Bruce facilitate the free classes at the church using a 13-week program entitled, Divorce Care. Linda shared that over the years, people from all faiths and walks of life have participated in the program, and most participants are invited to the class by an understanding church member. The group receives encouragement from Linda and Bruce, who were each married for 26 years before their first marriages ended painfully. The fact that their facilitators have been through divorce and successfully rebuilt their lives gives Divorce Care participants much needed hope and comfort. The 13 weekly sessions, which include video and discussion, help participants with important subjects like anger, loneliness, depression, finances, and children. They have also offered a session at Thanksgiving about coping with the holidays, which can be a difficult time for families in distress. 2015 divorce rate statistics tell us that approximately 40% of marriages can end in divorce. It is likely that there are families in your community in need of healing. Is there someone in your church who can walk with them?
Life Prep 101 Ministry
Do you know what documents your family would need to take to the bank in the event of your death? After her husband died, Joy Bradshaw of Trinity UMC in Yuma, AZ found herself grieving and overwhelmed with the responsibilities of dealing with his affairs. She explained the difficulties she and her children had searching through paperwork and resolving all the financial issues. Now she is using all she learned to help families be more proactive and find peace of mind by helping them get their affairs in order before a life changing event occurs. Joy helped to organize a free four week program in March at Trinity UMC entitled, Life Prep 101. Approximately 20 families took advantage of the expert guest speakers including a Hospice representative, a Banker, a local funeral director, and an attorney. Participants also received take home assignments, checklists, and a workbook. Joy believes the Life Prep 101 program is for everyone, especially parents. In the fall, Joy hopes to offer a packet at the church to assist family survivors who might also find themselves unprepared. Isn’t it beautiful how God can turn something as painful as the death of a spouse into an opportunity to be of Christian service?
61% of teachers participating in a recent survey reported that their greatest need is not donation drives of snacks and school supplies, but volunteers to support students with learning activities like listening to them read, tutoring, and helping with homework. Teachers have seen first-hand how volunteer help in targeted academic areas can boost student achievement, and with growing class sizes, they want to ensure all their students get the support they need to achieve. Amy Hamilton of St. Michael’s UMC in Lake Havasu City, AZ, a former educator, can relate. Because she also understands how it can be a struggle for a parent to be their own child’s tutor, she helped organize a free tutoring service at the church. This ministry was started 6 weeks ago and is currently serving two families. Already, other members are ready to assist with additional students as the program grows. One church member, who has an advanced math degree, has volunteered to assist even the most advanced math students. Alleviating homework stress for one hour a week is one simple but powerful way to support families and make a difference in the life of a child.
The Desert Southwest Conference issued a challenge to church leaders to reach out to their communities and Peggy Lingo of Sierra Vista UMC in Sierra Vista, AZ rose to the challenge. Peggy leads the Citizenship Ministry at Sierra Vista UMC. The ministry began with ESL classes, and when participants began to ask how they could get citizenship, the program grew. The church furnishes necessary books and instruction for free to anyone because the church understands how difficult paying for citizenship can be for immigrant families. The church has served families from all over the world, including a mother from Russia who found herself without citizenship after her husband died. She is now an American citizen and a church member. The class is fun, the students all become close, and everyone celebrates when students gain their citizenship.
All these leaders agreed that the personal rewards of leading these ministries are great, and the eternal rewards will be even greater. How can people in your church be nurtured to lead in ministries that address key issues in your community?
* As the Christian home is the key to strong faith formation, UMC Discipleship offers this PDF resource for the 2015 Christian Home Month theme: Families Called to Justice. Click here to download the PDF. www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/church-civic-holidays/christian-home-month
* May 4-9, 2015 is Christian Family Week. Borrow these DVD small group resources from the Regional Media Center.
o How to Pray as a Family http://bit.ly/1ywP5SQ
o How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth http://bit.ly/1czYAaa
o Insight http://bit.ly/1b7xmar
Find Out More:
* First UMC Gilbert 480-892-9166 or email
* Trinity UMC Yuma 928-344-3013 or email
* St Michael’s UMC Lake Havasu 928-855-0323 or email
* Sierra Vista UMC 520-378-3352 or email
* Divorce Care program www.divorcecare.org/