By Vicki Brown, GBHEM
Leaders from United Methodist churches and higher education institutions will gather this spring at five events – one in each jurisdiction - to discuss how the church and the academy can work together more closely.
One of goals of "Bridging the Gap," organized by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, is to consider how to increase the number of United Methodist students enrolled in United Methodist-related schools, colleges, and universities.
Meetings are planned in the South Central Jurisdiction in Arlington, Texas, Jan. 22-24; the Western Jurisdiction in Stockton, California, Feb. 5-7; Northeastern Jurisdiction in Syracuse, New York, Feb. 19-21; North Central Jurisdiction in Naperville, Illinois, March 5-7; Southeastern Jurisdiction in Daytona Beach, Florida, March 27-29.
“It is imperative that we take a look at our connectional infrastructure and invest in making it stronger. We have to reopen the lines of communication between our schools, colleges, universities, and the church. That’s the hope for the future. It’s where our leaders come from,” said Wanda Bigham, interim associate general secretary, Division of Higher Education, GBHEM.
Ingrid McIntyre, director of Connectional Relations at GBHEM, said the events will provide time for networking and connecting.
“We will talk about our roles in ministry with young people, [and] how we can reach out to our United Methodist student leaders and provide current leadership tools that will be helpful in bridging the gap that sometimes inhibits our effectiveness,” McIntyre said.
One of the keynote speakers at three of the Bridging the Gap events will be Duane Anders, who contributed to the book 7 Myths of The United Methodist Church, written by Craig Kennett Miller. The book looks at the attitudes and beliefs that keep the church from fulfilling its call to create disciple-making faith communities. Beginning with the myth, "We’re a Connectional Church,” the book challenges leaders to create environments of grace for people disconnected from the local church.
Anders, district superintendent of the Dayton north district of the West Ohio Annual Conference, tells pastors in his district that if their church is growing and the other United Methodist churches in their region are not, they have not done their job. Anders is also lead pastor of Stillwater United Methodist Church.
At Bridging the Gap, he will highlight United Methodist connectionalism, and use his gifts of teaching and encouragement to connect the people of The United Methodist Church to United Methodist-related institutions. He will attend the Western, Northeastern, and Southeastern events.
Breakout groups at each event will include sessions on: vocation and discernment, church relations, student leadership, loans and scholarships, and John Wesley and higher education.
Those who may be interested in attending include: annual conference chairs of Higher Education and Campus Ministry; college and university presidents and deans; conference youth coordinators; youth ministers and volunteers; Christian education leaders; chaplains; college church-relations directors; directors of admissions and financial aid directors; district superintendents; and directors of connectional ministries.