Expanding the Definition of Mission

3/27/2014

Small churches can be empowered to address big issues. First UMC, Teague and nearby Fairfield UMC are leading the way in raising awareness, solutions and legislation addressing teen suicide. They are also expanding their partnerships with families, schools and other community entities to provide essential face-to-face ministry to the hungry, imprisoned and the elderly. 
 
The heart of any community, especially a small town, is the school.  The heart of any local church is its children and young people.  When these two come together, significant and fulfilling ministry happens. Members of Teague First UMC in the Northwest District of the Texas Annual Conference have always taken a strong role in ministry to and with the local schools. Many of the members are educators and all know the calling to this significant and satisfying ministry.
 
Sadly, a new area of education that Teague UMC and Fairfield UMC are addressing relates to teen suicide. Rev. Alan van Hooser of Teague UMC and Fairfield UMC Pastor Paul Kethley, who began a Suicide Prevention Initiative in 2012, helped host a “Parent and Community” training last month, following yet another local teen suicide last fall. “Fairfield ISD and State Representative Byron Cook are working together to pass the Jason Act to create school based curriculum on this issue (http://jasonfoundation.com),” Paul shares. “This will provide a mandate to train teachers and others who have close contact with students, it should be introduced by March, 2015 and will cost the state of Texas nothing.”
 
“Our definition of mission continues to change from the view that missions involve money offerings to more of a face-to-face ministry mindset,” adds Alan. “And, in recent years, our missional focus is growing more local in scope.”
 
Rev. van Hooser models the face-to-face ministry as a mentor at the Boyd Unit of the Texas Department Corrections and as a guest reader for kindergartners each week.  In recent months, 

Teague UMC also expanded their focus to include 36 high school students who were identified as having basic needs ranging from food to hygiene items.  “A weekend backpack food program and district-sponsored clothes closet are also being considered in partnership with a network of concerned citizens in the area,” he says.
 
Recognizing servant leaders
“At the heart of vital congregations you will find faithful volunteers,” says Rev. Alan van Hooser. “We can’t even mention mission work without Beth Beene’s name coming up. From her earliest days as a member in the 1950s, she has modeled a lifestyle of mission mindedness and extravagant generosity and is a key leader in a team of friends that are dedicated to our students.  Beth and her team have a heart for our local students, and have grown a ministry that has roots that have spread into all corners of the Teague School District.”
 
As founders and organizers of Project Christmas Kids, Beth, Pat Pascal and Elaine Luke have been helping needy students for decades. Their ministry has grown from a handful to hundreds that are helped year-round. Over the years, Beth has built many contacts from industry and within the entire community to provide funds and volunteers. He adds, “Beth Beene is a treasure, a leader and a witness to Christ’s love.  Her ministry and her core group of ministers grow our congregation and all grow in their love from and for Jesus Christ. “Another servant leader is Sheila Dove, the acting school district superintendent. Sheila is member of   Fairfield UMC and will assure the continued partnership between the church and local schools.
 
It’s all about relationships
 Six local congregations are joining with Teague UMC to provide bottled water, juice boxes and individual portions of food that students can pick up, no questions asked. Jennifer Timme, Teague High School's counselor says this simple ministry has reduced anxiety throughout the school and improved the lives of everyone. 
 
The blessings of face-to-face ministry are two-way. Adds Alan, “Hundreds of adult volunteers have grown in their own faith by expressing their discipleship with these young students.”  Many are reading to students and meeting other seemingly small needs through the relationships received while volunteering with Project Christmas Kids.  Everyone is both a blessing and blessed as they minister in the moment and watch our ministry with the school become a self-sustaining and growing network.”