Rev. Dr. Sara Thomas from The General Board of Discipleship, who is the Chief Strategist for Vital Congregations, spoke about a Turn-Around Movement at Portage UMC on October 28th. The event was aimed at teaching clergy how to strengthen and grow local church ministries within the framework of our vision--Imagining Wisconsin Anew—and our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. She told the group that “leading a Turn-Around Movement requires new eyes and ears to take note of what God is doing in our midst.” She suggested that churches need to “hit the road” in your communities. She also said that we need to reconsider the meaning and importance of hospitality in fulfilling our mission. “Meals and the table can be a formational experience for your congregation and those you invite” she said. She suggested that we should be a “movie trailer” for the kingdom of God so that we attract more disciples on an ongoing basis.

On the next day, October 29th, Rev. Thomas spoke to a group of Conference board and agency chairs about “Telling Our Story.” The aim of this event was to learn how to strengthen the alignment of the boards and agencies and their work bringing Imagine Wisconsin Anew to life. According to Rev.Thomas, alignment is an ongoing process that necessitates communication, contact and connection. She explained that churches, as well as boards and agencies, need to offer H.O.P.E. in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. H.O.P.E stands for Hospitality through reaching out and receiving people, Offering Christ opportunities, Purpose through the participation in the means of grace, and Engagement with the surrounding community. She explained that our boards and agencies need to consider the diverse groups in our communities to reach new people, including millennials, boomers and family union. She asked the group to reflect on their own story of Jesus and how it can help their board or agency choose, bless, break and give people in the name of Jesus Christ.Rev. Thomas also had both groups play Jenga in order to demonstrate the need for a good foundation. For photos from the two days and the Jenga competition, click here and here.