Pastors Partner for Multi-Faceted Ministry Connections

Date Posted: 10/9/2014

Two pastors are better than one when it comes to doubling the impact for children and adults in the Central South District. Rev. Joseph Wilson, Sr. of Sloan UMC and Rev. Frank Guidry, Jr. of Wesley UMC, have recently partnered in leadership to offer a Revival Week, VBS for all ages, and backpack mission project for their communities.
 
Sloan Memorial UMC and Wesley UMC have recently experienced the truth of Ecclesiastes 4 firsthand: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.
 
Not only did the pastors connect two congregations in ministry, leaders also recently connected a string of events that, according to Patricia Jefferson, Sloan UMC Lay Leader, “yielded an awesome connection with far-reaching impact that continues to manifest itself in ways that only a Jesus Connection can.”
 
The pastors initiated the idea for this unique three-part joint ministry venture. Rev. Frank Guidry of Wesley UMC liked the idea of combining the congregations for VBS and including adults, and Pastor Wilson, Sloan Memorial UMC, initiated the idea of using the last two nights for Revival. Both congregations solicited teachers and volunteers to help with crafts, attendance, hospitality, photography, transportation, publicity, and first aid. Volunteers and pastors from both churches came together for three organizational meetings to plan, schedule, and budget for this joint venture.
 
To minister to the whole family they launched a late summer Vacation Bible School that included adult Bible study paralleling the children’s curriculum, later connected this to a Blessing of the Backpacks outreach which was then tied to a Back-to-Church event on September 21.
 
Part One: VBS for the Whole Family
While children enjoyed the VBS series entitled, “The Jesus Connection,” Rev. Joseph Wilson, Sr. and Rev. Frank Guidry, Jr. were teaching class study sessions with the adults. Having classes for the adults, coupled with the fact that a light meal was prepared each evening and served by the Hospitality Committee, provided something for the entire family. “In fact,” shares Patricia, “the adult class usually ended up with the largest number of participants because we have adults who will commit to a week of VBS classes but are unable to commit to they typical weekly Bible Study sessions or Sunday School. We had 89 on the evening with the Friday Night Live Revival to hear s Mrs. Sharon Kinney and Rev. Damon Russell -- both spirit-filled speakers who commanded the attention of everyone!”
 
The themes, scripture references, and biblical connections for each evening were displayed in the sanctuary.  Study/activity booklets were prepared for every participant (Pre-K thru adult).  Opening sessions were held in the sanctuary and closing sessions were held in the fellowship hall as the evening meals were finished.  The VBS theme song, “I’m Connected”, is still being sung in Sunday School classes.  Before the start of the “Friday Night Live” Revival service, students presented highlights from their VBS studies and all participants and volunteers received special certificates.
 
The evening study sessions included arts and crafts activities, favorite fun songs from MYF gatherings, and tasty treats. “The week culminated with nearly 100 children and youth gathering around the altar in response to an invitation to connect “a friend named Jesus,” she adds, “which helped our volunteers to know that their efforts had not been in vain.”
 
Tying Ministry to Mission
Throughout the joint VBS/Revival week sessions, participants demonstrated an overwhelming response by donating socks and undergarments to cover “the seats and feet” of children at the partner schools of both congregations: Bruce Elementary School and Ernest McGowen Elementary School. Rev. Frank Guidry was thrilled with the results. “Due to creative planning and innovative contributions from members of both congregations, the Wesley and Sloan Memorial joint Vacation Bible School was a model for future endeavors.,” he shares. “This was one of the most remarkable and significant events I have participated in.  From the Mission Project of providing socks and underwear for the elementary schools in each of our Mission Fields to a closing Revival along with crafts and Biblical instruction, this was an event that was second to none.  I took a survey of the children and adults on the last day and the overwhelming opinion was that fun and enjoyment was had by all.”
 
Part Two: Blessing of the ‘Personalized’ Backpacks
The “Blessing of the Backpacks” was only a couple of weeks following the VBS/Revival and it really was not a part of the VBS/Revival plans or format.  It simply grew from the “connections” that were initiated with the VBS/Revival week. To Patricia’s surprise, the “Jesus Connection” had just begun! 
 
“Since we had the registration forms and grade levels for the students,” she says, “purchases were made and backpacks were stuffed accordingly. Students were not just given a generic backpack with some supplies.  The backpacks were filled with grade-appropriate supplies and were presented to each youth by name and additional backpacks/supplies were available for children/youth that were present in our worship service but who had not participated in VBS.” 
 
The Nathan Billings Foundation, formed in 2005, provided 100 backpacks as a part of its continued commitment to honor the life and legacy of Master Nathan J. Billings, a cherished angel from the Sloan UMC family who was summoned home to glory at age six. “This year we combined this event with VBS and it was an extraordinary success,” shares Bonita Billings, little Nathan’s mom and administrator of the foundation. “It gave people from all age groups an opportunity to participate by donating supplies, money and/or their time and to witness the fruit of their labor.” Adds Bonita, “Our foundation is about GIVING where there is a need and we know that children need school supplies and backpacks. They feel whole and equipped for learning when they have their needed supplies to start school. It makes my heart smile when I see a happy child excited about starting school and thankful for having received a back pack full of school supplies. Some 100 students from a community of mixed cultures were able to receive one, and that's what GIVING is all about.”
 
Part Three: Back-to-Church Sunday
All participants of both summer events completed registration forms, which also helped both churches in updating member cell phone numbers and email addresses. Copies were duplicated so that each church would have access for follow-up and the two-congregation “Jesus Connection” continued with invitations to Back-to-Church Sunday.
 
Notes Rev. Joseph Wilson of Sloan Memorial UMC, “The success of the VBS conducted by Sloan and Wesley was due to the work performed by members of both congregations. This was an awe-inspiring event and was an example of folk trusting God to bless an event. The success of these events is leadership from the Holy Spirit.  We could not have imagined how God would have blessed this event!  He showed us what it means to have faith in Him.  An anointing was on every phase of this endeavor!”