By Holly McCray
Three classes drew the biggest audiences in several districts at the 11 Re-Ignite workshops held in January and February.
"Should Faith Mix With Politics?"
"Effective Dialogue on the United Methodist Social Principles"
"Social Media: Getting the Message Out in a TGIF World" (TGIF: Texting, Google, iPhone, Facebook)
This calendar year brings both a U.S. presidential election and the quadrennial General Conference of The United Methodist Church. Those likely heightened interest in the first and second topics.
As for the third, use of and fascination with social media seem ubiquitous. Read "WiFi presents challenges for Conference planners," published in this issue of Contact, in the special sections on the 2012 General Conference. When the 2008 General Conference met, 100 million people used Facebook, reports Mary Jacobs. Today that total is 750 million.
Re-Ignite offered such topical classes to extend education to more laypeople, not only church officers, explained Aly Shahan. She is the Oklahoma Conference coordinator for Re-Ignite, formerly titled Local Church Leaders Workshops.
A total of 1,832 people attended the regional events, she reported. The number includes 306 youth participants and 30 children in age-appropriate classes. (The count does not include those in nursery care.)
At the North/South Oklahoma City District event, elementary students made 125 "compassion kits," packaging donations brought to the workshop.
Younger people led worship at several events. In Enid District, a youth band led the music, youths and children formed the processional, and a youth group presented the message by performing a skit. Muskogee District’s event drew 150 young people to a rally and offered a half-dozen classes designed for youth.
Also well attended were classes that taught adults about effective children’s ministries, said Shahan.
She smiled as she recalled an excited youth who posted on Facebook a picture of herself with Bishop Hayes, who preached and taught at a number of the workshops.
The bishop "continually supports the local churches. His involvement makes a difference in the environment and spirit of the workshops, and we feel truly blessed to have a bishop so engaged," Shahan stated in her Pre-Conference Workbook report.
"What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty," taught by Bartlesville District Superintendent George Warren, topped all classes in attendance. It was one session only.
Re-Ignite is committed to workshops that not only offer training for specific church officers but also classes that appeal to all laity and all ages, Shahan confirmed.
"We also want classes for laity who may be interested only in missions, in how to grow their own spirituality, or even in what it means to be a United Methodist," she said.
Another goal is to encourage youths who attend summer church camps to reconnect with each other at the winter workshops.
Attendance overall dropped this year, from more than 2,500 people in 2011. Shahan said re-naming the workshops may have had some effect. Inclement weather was not a factor. Online pre-registration was beneficial, especially in food preparation. The pastor’s support is always crucial, she noted.
Evaluations received from participants were resoundingly positive, the coordinator said. "The main reason people come, the most common answer I see to ‘Why was this meaningful to you?’ is sharing ideas with people from other churches."
Attendance totals: Ardmore District, 122 people. Bartlesville, 228. Clinton, 129. Enid, 161. Lawton, 150. McAlester, 160. Muskogee, 395. North/South Oklahoma City, 466. Stillwater, 165. Tulsa, 172. Woodward, 150.