By Rev. Dr. Sunny Brown Farley
Media productions, staff development, confirmation ministries, construction management, community engagement, hospitality, you name it – there is a ministry specialist in the Texas Annual Conference that is an available resource for congregations and their leaders.
Rev. Bonnie Osteen, who oversees the Ministry Specialist Initiative (MSI) program, said there are ample opportunities for churches to connect to experts in all areas of ministry through the MSI.
Her message: “Do this today! Every church can use MSI and everyone can find something on the list of specialists that is useful.”
She said churches have so much to gain from the MSI, which began under the leadership of Rev. Robert Besser who helped identify and vet clergy and lay ministry specialists in 64 areas of ministry focus.
Those specialists will come to a church and share their knowledge and advice in their areas of expertise. The initial cost of this service to the church is nothing.
“A ministry specialist is an answer to prayer for a church with a low budget and a desire to do great work for Christ,” said Rev. Virginia Wall, pastor at Disciples UMC in Houston.
Disciples connected with Ministry Specialist Rev. Johnnie Simpson, Jr., for help with church technology. Specifically, the church needed help with sound recording and streaming capabilities and a comprehensive assessment on their sound system.
“Johnnie was able to put our minds at ease about our technology and he gave practical recommendations for short- and long-term solutions,” Wall said. “He was able to help us troubleshoot some problems on the spot and, most importantly, he encouraged us in what we are currently doing.”
The first consultation by the ministry specialist is fully paid using Texas Annual Conference funds. This includes travel. In addition, the TAC picks up $30 for reimbursable expenses plus housing, if applicable.
Additional sessions with the ministry specialist for further discussion or implementation, using district or TAC funds, will be at the discretion of the church leader, district superintendent, ministry specialist, pastor, and TAC.
The process begins with an online application available from the conference at: https://www.txcumc.org/leadership-formation/ministry-specialist.
Church leaders will need to choose the area of focus and Osteen will help connect the church to the right specialist. The church, the specialist and the TAC will then sign an agreement on the scope of work to be done.
After that, the specialist will meet with the congregation and its leaders to achieve their goals. Once the process is complete, a church may apply for yet another specialist in a different ministry area of focus.
“We have nine overall categories with 62 specific areas of specialists,” Osteen said. “Every church in the conference should take advantage of this.”