U.M. ARMY Gearing Up for Summer
U.M. ARMY (United Methodist Action Reach Out Mission by Youth) is an ideal opportunity for small churches and small youth groups to participate in a full-week out-of-town mission project with other youth from different churches.
As many as 150 Texas Annual Conference churches participate each year in U.M. ARMY - an organization focused on helping others while providing high school and college-age individuals a way to make a tangible difference in the world.
“Last year we provided free home repairs to over 1,000 low-income, elderly & disabled homeowners throughout the conference, including more than 200 wheel chair ramps,” noted David Sabom, Texas’ Executive Director of U.M. ARMY.
The acronym stands for United Methodist Action Reach Out Mission by Youth and impacts communities across the conference and beyond by giving youth the opportunity to serve others by building wheelchair ramps, porches, steps, and handrails; painting homes, cleaning houses, and mowing yards. Participants spend a week providing free home repairs for low-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners in areas near their host church. Along with daily devotions, evening worship, fellowship and recreational activities, the program provides young people with a place to grow spiritually and engage in activities that promote leadership development.
Once registered, youth groups begin to gather tools and equipment, and some hold fund raisers with their church to help pay for their trip. Sabom said getting the whole church involved in supporting their youth on a U.M. ARMY trip is very important.
“We call them work camps,” Sabom added. “We sponsor them through our office here. We contact United Methodist churches throughout the Texas Annual Conference and ask them if they will host one of our groups at their church for a week. Participating churches contact us and let us know approximately how many youth and adults they anticipate will be going and what week during the summer they would like to go. We coordinate all of that and put several churches together who want to go that particular week and we designate where they’re going to go.”
Sabom’s office combines different groups so attendees can experience meeting youth from other churches and form camps with 60 to 100 participants - depending on the size of the host church and how many that church can accommodate.
Ideal for Small Churches
“Looking forward, we hope to engage many more smaller churches with small youth groups, letting them know that they are welcome and encouraging them to participate,” Sabom noted. “U.M. ARMY is an ideal opportunity for small churches and small youth groups to participate in a full-week out-of-town mission project with other youth from different churches. The United Methodist connectional system is suited to U.M. ARMY, bringing together different churches and different youth groups in a common mission experience.”
The program’s strength comes from pooling resources to benefit everyone, according to Scott Atnip, the Fund Development Manager for the national U.M. ARMY organization. “Growing up in a larger church, we were able to do our own mission trip for 30, 40, even 60 kids... A lot of rural or smaller churches don’t have the same opportunities. There are a lot of churches that might only have 2, 3, or 4 youth and might think they can’t participate. Through U.M. ARMY, smaller churches can join with other churches to participate in a full-fledged, quality mission experience. We just want people to know that regardless of the size of a church or youth program, there’s a part of that they can participate in.
For summer 2012, there are 34 different work camps lined up throughout the conference. Group registration usually opens in October and the deadline set for applying is mid-February. However, Sabom emphasized that registrations don’t close until all of the camps are full. “Although a lot of our registrations are closed at this time, we still have plenty of openings and are still accepting group registrations and still hearing from churches who want to go to U.M. ARMY this summer. We don’t turn anybody away until all the camps are full and there’s just no more room.”
U.M. ARMY is also working to grow in other parts of Texas and beyond. Atnip is working with the U.M. ARMY National office to expand the ministry throughout the country from their home base in College Station, Texas. He said every chapter has seen growth and participation over the last couple of years. “U.M. ARMY is doing camps - not just in the summer, but also over spring break and Christmas. College camps are busting at the seams each year.”
They plan to host over 50 camps throughout the country this summer in several growth regions where they are actively trying to begin new chapters, Atnip said. He noted that there are new camps this summer taking place in North Texas, Central Texas and Northwest Texas as well as Louisiana and Oklahoma. There are also many more camps being coordinated by existing chapters in the Texas Annual Conference and the Southwest Texas Conference as well as up in the Northeastern jurisdiction.
“Our first step in the growth process is to encourage churches from a new region to attend a camp in an existing chapter, so, for awhile, we had churches from other Texas conferences and Louisiana come to Texas and then go back and teach others about the U.M. ARMY model, Atnip said. “After their initial visits, U.M. ARMY begins to host growth camps in their regions. Many Texas Conference churches are actively out every summer serving as missionaries in communities they serve but also training others throughout the country.”
Wherever the camp is located, both Atnip and Sabom are certain U.M. ARMY makes a difference in the lives of those they work with. “We are a youth mission organization,” Sabom said. “I think the youth get so much benefit out of providing services to people in need... All of the fun and all of the fellowship and all of the work and all of the spiritual development - everything we do is focused for them and we really want to see them grow in their faith.”
For more information contact:
Texas Executive Director David Sabom