District News

Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century


Courses are free – order your own book and bring a sack lunch.
You must attend all sessions to earn credit for the course.
Registration deadline is January 8.


Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century

Saturdays, January 13 & 20 (snow date Jan 27)
9am – 3pm
Parchment UMC (225 Glendale Blvd, Parchment, MI 49004)

Led by Carla Gillespie
Required book: Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century by Richard H. Gentzler, Jr.

Are you inspired to learn new ways of helping your congregation develop an intentional and comprehensive ministry that is by, with, and for Boomers, Gen X’ers, and others in their golden years? These are the older adults who often play leading roles in our congregations. This course explores innovative and practical ways of helping congregations develop outstanding ministry with members of our Baby Boomer Generation and beyond. It offers a rich learning experience that includes knowing more about the aging process and the developmental stages of midlife and older adulthood and how we can best shape our ministry.


Church Conferences

All Fall conferences will be convened as in-person Church Conferences, extending the vote to all professing members of the local church present at such meetings. (2016 Book of Discipline ¶248)

At least one week in advance, send your COMPLETED and SIGNED forms as scanned PDFs to Mandana at [email protected].

Forms are found on the Conference website: michiganumc.org/resources/forms

2023 Church Conference Forms Checklist

2023 Good Beginnings-Pastor
2023 Good Beginnings-SPRC

2023 Church Conference Schedule UPDATED 10/16/23

2023 Church Conference Letter

2023 Church Conference Agenda


Native Americans and United Methodism Course

Rev. Karen Wheat will offer a course on Native Americans and United Methodism.

Mondays in October (2, 9, 16, 23, 30)
5:00 – 7:00 pm
Milwood UMC (3919 Portage Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)

A look at Native American spirituality and history, especially as it relates to The United Methodist Church. We’ll explore creation stories, how Native Americans were treated by Methodists, and work to understand the roles of Native Americans in the formation of the country and the church. This course will strive to answer why recognition and land acknowledgment remains important today and what can be done for the future.

The book First White Frost: Native Americans and United Methodism by Homer Noley may be purchased through online used book retailers.

This course is open to anyone interested. It has been approved for advanced Lay Servant course credit. 

Register by Monday, September 25.




Session 1 – Explore the various ideas concerning the origin of Native American Peoples in North and South America

  1. Various theories
  2. Various Indigenous Civilizations
  3. First encounters with European and Christianity

Session 2 – Explore the Position of the Church toward Native Americans

  1. Columbus and 15th Century encounters
  2. French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English encounters in 16th Century
  3. English and French in the 17th Century
  4. John Wesley in the 18th Century

Session 3 – First intentional mission to Native Americans

  1. French/Father Marquette
  2. Methodist/John Wesley and early missions to Native Americans by Methodists
  3. The Trail of Tears and the Trail of Death
  4. Treatment of Native Americans by the Methodist Church
  5. Famous Native American Preachers
  6. Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference beginning and today

Session 4 – Field trip to Bradley/Salem Mission

Session 5 – Things we need to do to support United Methodist and all Native Americans

  1. Why there is still need for support
  2. Why land acknowledgement is so important
  3. What can an individual or a local church do

UMC Night at the Growlers

Join United Methodists from around the District at a Kalamazoo Growlers baseball game July 28.

Gates: 5:35pm | First Pitch: 6:35pm

Fireworks following the game!

Reserved bleacher seat
Growlers hat

All-Inclusive Ballpark Buffet (hot dogs, burgers, chips, potato salad, coleslaw, and more) for 4-innings 
Unlimited soda and water throughout the game

Promo Code: UMC


2023 Growlers game flyer

Southwest Michigan Latinx Community Ministry

Our Sunday worship is an extension of our home, the experience of the warm welcome, along with familiar music and faces we have grown to know over time and faith. But for some, worship does not represent an extension of their home or their lives. “Everyone has an innate need to connect and belong. It’s an idea grounded in theology (think God’s radical connection with humanity in the person of Jesus) and in science (think Brene Brown’s new academic research on how we are wired for – and the importance of cultivating – connection).” -Anne Nelson
The Hispano/Latino community represents 12% of the total population in the Greater Southwest District. And every year more than 200 migrant camps receive temporary Hispanic families for seasonal work. Just within the limits of our district!
That’s why we are creating a new place for new people; reaching more diverse people who become more like Christ in the world: a Hispanic/Latino New Church in Van Buren County. Making New Disciples in New Places is one of the Four Areas of Ministry Focus of The United Methodist Church. We have a vision to create a unique community – a place for engaging, transformative worship, and fellowship to all generations.
We have launched a Tuesday evening worship which is held in two languages, Spanish and English. It starts with bilingual music, scripture, reflection, and prayers. This means that if you don’t speak either of the languages, you can still worship. Join us Tuesdays at 7:00pm livestreaming on Facebook or in person at Lawrence UMC.
We have been working to get to know the Hispano/Latino Community of the area through partnerships and connections with the State Department of Labor, the School District, the Health and Human Services Department, and the Van Buren County fair board.
One of the local schools has asked for the support of 300 reusable water bottles for the children of migrant seasonal workers and its summer program. The cost of 50 plastic water bottles is approximately $100; for that reason, we are looking for sponsorship from the churches of the district on this project. 
If you’d like to support this project, send checks to: 
Greater Southwest District
2350 Ring Rd N, Suite B
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Memo: Migrant Project

Mission Evening: A Night at the Thrift Shop

Presented by Union City United Women in Faith
Hosted by Greater Southwest District United Women in Faith

Thursday, June 22, 2023
Union City United Methodist Church (200 Ellen St)

6:30 to 7:15 p.m. enjoy refreshments, hear a brief presentation with Q & A time and view an exhibit about our 60th Anniversary celebrated in 2022.
7:15 to 8:00 p.m. tour the Thrift Shop to experience how we receive donations, how they’re sorted and placed on the sales floor.  You may also S-H-O-P-!

It’s a one-block walk from the church.

♥ Registration is $5 and the entire proceeds will go to Community House
♥ Ingathering of non-perishable protein items (peanut butter, canned fish and meats, beans, etc.) for the Union City Food Pantry



Fresh Expressions – what exactly is it?

~Jessica Cobb

A Fresh Expression (FX) is a form of church that is designed to reach those who might not typically attend a traditional church service. It is about taking ministry to people where they are already gathering, rather than attempting to attract people to your church’s gatherings. Fresh Expressions invite Christian disciples to gather with those already in their social circles and to ask “How can I help my friends connect with God?”.

Fresh Expressions can take many forms, from small groups meeting in homes to coffee shop gatherings to outdoor worship services. They are often led by laypeople who are passionate about connecting with others in their community. A Fresh Expression can build around a meal (Dinner Church) or around a common activity (imagine a Fresh Expression built around soccer, ultimate frisbee, video games, or yoga), and as relationships are built, they start to incorporate at least one element of discipleship, such as prayer or scripture reading.

What distinguishes Fresh Expressions from other church groups is that these are not gatherings of church members in outside spaces (a Bible study at Starbucks). These are groups of people from outside the church already gathered, and church members connected to those people and groups. One of the key benefits of Fresh Expression is that they allow churches to engage with people who might never set foot inside a church building. They provide an opportunity to meet people where they are at, and to build relationships and connections that can lead to deeper conversations about faith and spirituality.

Fresh Expressions are not intended to replace traditional forms of church. They are designed to reach people who are not currently being reached by traditional forms of church, and to create new opportunities for people to connect with God and with each other. 

As we continue to seek new ways to connect with our communities and to share the love of Christ, Fresh Expressions offer a different approach to consider. By going to where people are and starting this new form of church, we can build meaningful relationships that can transform lives. If you’d like to learn more about Fresh Expressions, or have ideas to start a Fresh Expression, contact your pastor or the district office.

Keep on Rising from the Dead

by Rev. Dwayne Bagley

Dying and rising have been on my mind a lot throughout this Lenten season. In one of our Cabinet devotion times in March, we were invited to take a deep dive into the story from John 4 about Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. In that encounter, Jesus challenges assumptions the woman holds about which side of a very clear dividing line she is on, the proper way to worship God, and what to expect from a Savior. During what seems to be a chance encounter, Jesus’ words convince the woman to lay all her preconceived notions about the way things are to rest so that a new understanding of God’s grace can rise in their place. Because she does this, everyone around her similarly lays their own assumptions to rest and begins to embrace the possibility that they too are heirs of God’s promise. A tradition that has been cherished and formative, which includes their interpretation of the scripture, bars the way to this new way of understanding who can be counted among the people of God. An experience of Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit choosing to move wherever, however and among whomever it chooses transforms all these preconceived notions in such a powerful way that the people reconsider the foundation of their belief in light of the new thing God is doing.

It is a foundational belief of mine that the Spirit of the Living God continues to do new things. But because I am only human, I am motivated to hold on to what has been, believing all the while that I am doing so to keep a grasp on something essential. In moments of dire need, God grants me enough grace to wonder if what I consider essential is the same thing God counts among essentials. And I wonder if I am holding on too tightly to things I should lay to rest so that God can raise up something new in me.

I wonder the same thing about our United Methodist Church and its congregations. In this Age of Disaffiliation, we all are trying to keep a grasp on what has been at the expense of what might yet be. Whether we hold on to the hope of preserving The United Methodist Church or seek to keep a grip on our traditional understanding of scripture, we may be holding on too tightly. Our focus on what we are trying so hard to hold on to may keep us from seeing where the Spirit is moving. While may we say, “let go and let God,” our actions are less motivated by the Hand of Sweet Release than shaped by the Spirit of the Age. This continuing practice is all the more questionable when we consider our call to live as Easter People. Amidst the hope and promise of the Resurrection, there is this core assertion at work: Jesus did not die and Christ was not raised just so that everything could remain the same.

Trusting that conviction is among the essentials, I raise this question for us, for our churches and for all the people called United Methodist: “What do we need to lay to rest so that God might raise up something new?” As we consider that question throughout Eastertide, let this verse from our hymnal serve as inspiration and invitation: “The Church of Christ in every age, beset by change but Spirit led, must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.” Happy Easter. Christ is Risen. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

A Jubilee that Keeps on Giving

Stevensville UMC Partners with Riverside School

by Kellie Meyer

In the fall of 2020, Stevensville United Methodist Church started working on a weekend food program with Riverside Hagar #6 School in Riverside, MI. Riverside is a public school with an enrollment each year of 70-75 students. One teacher works with two grades in one classroom, making Riverside a unique school setting.

The weekend food program provides three meals a day for both Saturday and Sunday. SUMC provides food for lunch and dinner and Riverside School provides food for breakfast. Some food items include, SpaghettiOs, macaroni and cheese, soups, fruit, yogurt, Nutra-grain bars, and fruit snacks. We started the program with 24 students receiving weekend packs and we had about 10 volunteers helping to pack, deliver and purchase food.

When the District announced that 2020 would be a year of jubilee and that money from ministry shares could be used to start a new mission, SUMC Administrative Council thought this weekend food program would be a great way to use the jubilee money.

For the current 22/23 school year (which is our 3rd year with the program), we are packing 36 weekend bags every week. We created 4 teams of packers, a team of delivery drivers, and a team of food purchasers involving around 25 members of our congregation every month. We have been told that the children enjoy receiving the bags and the food they get to eat.

In the last year, Stevensville United Methodist Church has changed its Mission Statement to say: Growing Connections to God, to Each Other and to the Community. We believe our weekend food program is an example of this new vision and we know that 36 children are able to eat comfortably every weekend because of this new ministry.

Greater Southwest District