Did you receive your copy of the new United Methodist Church Handbook in the mail with the Bishop’s letter? For those not familiar with this publication, this is a quadrennial publication for use in the local church to help understand the work of the church and the connection. This publication is available for free at shop.umc.org (either publication or download.)
There are ways to use this handbook to increase the local church’s understanding of the connection. One of the ways that I used this guide in my local church setting was through a sermon series. I ordered enough books to give one to everyone. That first Sunday, in addition to the bulletin, each person received their copy. Of course, people begin to thumb through it as soon as they sat down. Others set it aside and figured it was just a take home for later.
As I began my sermon, I pointed them to the table of contents and explained what the handbook is, including its easy summary of What It Means to be a United Methodist and how we are connected to other United Methodists throughout the world. I then spent some time in the first sermon talking about what we believe as United Methodists. This was easily laid out for me on pages 4 and 5. I encouraged my congregation to read pages 4-6, and to bring it back with them next week.
In the next sermon in the series, I used page 6 to talk about God’s Grace. That led into the Four Areas of Focus which easily led into a discussion over the next couple of weeks, using the handbook as a reference, of our connection, how we are built and how these pieces work together. I used the breakdown that our Conference Treasurer furnished of where each part of the church’s apportionment money is used as well as the graphical representation on page 25 and took the opportunity to discuss even deeper our connectional giving including special giving.
By the time the series was over, it seemed like our church had a better understanding of the United Methodist Church, what we believe, and how we get to serve as the church in the world today.
Later, I was asked to teach a Basic Lay Servant course. I felt that this was a useful tool to provide to the Lay Servant and I used it as part of the caring section of the class. I created a worksheet on grace and gave assigned reading out of the handbook to help the participants spend some time with the materials on grace. We took time to walk through the handbook and discover how it is useful in our continued growth as a United Methodist. The handbook also offers resources that I pointed my Lay Servants to for their own growth and understanding as well as to share.
I am preparing now for a confirmation-type class with youth and adults and plan to use this handbook as part of the text for these trainings. This book also serves as a handy resource for Sunday School teachers, leaders in the church, and for new member training. It has a glossary of United Methodist words and terms that would be helpful to anyone in the Church as well as a frequently asked questions section.
This resource, free to the user, is another service of the World Service Fund of our apportionments. It is a part of the way that we can help each grow in ministry and love in the world so that we may go out and make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!
Cheryl George is pastor of Baker Charge in the Potomac Highlands District and serves as Conference Communications Team Chair.