Men N Ministry leaders urging local, district men to reboot, connect, grow

Photo by William Baker. Adrian Despres prays with more than 300 men who gathered at Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington, for their fall men’s event in October. 

written By Jessica Brodie, UM Advocate

After more than a year and a half of a COVID-19-induced disruption, leaders in South Carolina men’s ministry are urging their local groups to embrace a season of reset so they can begin anew.

“Our vision is that men, via their district presidents, will attempt to reset their local and district connections and get to know each other again, all so they can reboot and grow in Jesus,” said Marvin Horton, president of the South Carolina Conference United Methodist Men.

To that end, they are rolling out events, resources and more as tools to help them achieve this purpose.

Horton said the physical separation and other pandemic-related issues of the last 18 months have caused a great deal of pain for many of their men across the state, between personal losses and spiritual struggles.

“We’re not about meeting and eating but about growing relationships with Jesus Christ. It’s spiritual, not just a civic duty,” Horton said.

First, he said, conference and district men’s ministry leaders will do what they can to re-establish local connections, communicating with district superintendents and other leaders in their area to get to know people again. This is the phase they have been working on lately, trying their best to reconnect with their charter and sponsor churches and embrace the wider vision of men’s ministry.

After all, Horton said, “United Methodist Men is who we are, but Men N Ministry is what we do. That’s what we’ve been focusing on.”

Soon, they’ll be meeting with individuals and groups in their areas to discern how men’s ministry can be helpful, compiling resources and other tools to help cultivate a climate of mutual mission/ministry goals.

They’ll also be encouraging connections with other men’s ministry leaders across the state with an understanding no one is working alone but as part of a team.

“Basically, it’s an attempt to get all the districts working on one page,” Horton said. “Ministering to men is a tough business, and finding and working with a leadership team, or with another close by who knows what it is to try and lead a bunch of men, will be a tremendous support.”

In February, men will again gather at Mount Horeb United Methodist Church, Lexington, for a men’s spiritual retreat and golf tournament that they hope will spur on the work they have been doing. The golf tournament is Feb. 25, and the retreat is all day Feb. 26. Speakers and a theme are being developed now.

Men across the state echo Horton’s sentiment that the last year and a half have been extraordinarily difficult. COVID-19 closed doors and kept many from meeting in person, not to mention other life struggles. For instance, Anderson District United Methodist Men President Chuck Blowers said he has little to report on districtwide activity, having suffered a stroke late in 2019, then adding COVID-19 into the equation. Yet he is looking forward to holding a district meeting this year and doing other things to reconnect with other men with the same goal.

Harry White, Florence District president, said he’s eager to implement more cross-racial activity. As a Black man, he’s made strides connecting with people in predominantly Black churches though an active ramp-building effort, but he personally wants to see more unity with people of all races doing ministry together.

United Methodist Men have roughly 10 active or getting-active district presidents across the 12 districts, and they are working to mobilize all districts.

As Horton said, “This ministry to men and their families is more than church attendance, but about where we spend eternity. This is only the beginning.

“It’s through our connection that we’ll thrive and grow.”

Here, the Advocate chats with men’s ministry district leaders about their hopes for this year and current issues facing the church:

Chuck Blowers, Anderson District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? I am looking forward to elections and holding a district meeting.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches? I believe just survival during these pressing times.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful? A reigniting of Men N Ministry all across the district and conference.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I am a retired master carpenter/builder and an avid big game hunter. I’ve been married to my darling bride for 38 years with two grown children and two wonderful grandchildren.

Charles Shipman, Columbia District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? I am looking forward to connecting and reconnecting with men in the Columbia District. I look forward to serving with them in efforts to improve our ministry to men.
    2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches? Asking are we relevant in our communities? Are our churches recognized in our community as a positive member?
    3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful? The one thing I would like to know that was successful one year from now would be that our men’s ministry in the Columbia District is healthy and is active.
  2. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I am employed by a small healthcare consulting firm that works with home health and hospice agencies. I am an armchair sports spectator. I like to read and to occasionally play golf. Mitzi and I have two adult children and three grandchildren. Our daughter and her family live in Charleston, and our son and his family live in Hastings, New York.

Harry White, Florence District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? We have our ramp building ministry we’re trying to stay involved with, mainly in the Black churches, and we are working with our district superintendent to try to get our ramp ministry more across the board. I’m looking forward to getting it out to the White community, too. We can’t seem to come together, but we need to get the word out.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches? For some reason, we have a wall and everyone wants to build their wall. Blacks don’t trust the Whites and Whites don’t trust the Blacks. It’s like we don’t want to work together for whatever reason. We don’t want to visit each other’s churches. This needs to change. I wish I knew the answer, and I wish pastors would start encouraging this.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful? I would love to see some unity across the board. I’d like to think we’ve accomplished something, done something together, whether a ramp ministry or some other ministry or whatever. I’d love for our ramp ministry to have grown into something.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I’m a welding instructor at Florence Darlington Technical College, I’ve been married 52 years to Loraine, and we have two sons and a daughter.

The Rev. Gerald Clinkscales, Greenwood District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? I am looking forward to seeing the Greenwood District Methodist Men becoming focused on ministering within our communities. We have many smaller groups within the district, and our aim is to help the groups become connectional pulling their resources, their time and talents together accomplishing goals together through connectional units.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches? The most pressing issue today is navigating the current health crisis as congregations. There are small churches that are still not having live services or events. Without their regular crowds on Sunday, local small churches are adjusting. Some congregations are providing virtual services or pivoting to outdoor services, while others are maintaining their social programs despite the challenges of doing so while social distancing. Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable. Local churches must continue to be creative when it comes to church amid the pandemic and always consider the health and welfare of the most vulnerable members of our congregations.
    3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful? I would like to look back and see that every decision we made about the church and her future was the right choice for every individual situation, despite all the obstacles we have faced over the past two years.
  3. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I am a local pastor of a three-point charge (Crossroads-Martha’s Chapel-Mays) in the Greenwood District. I have one son, Aric, who is a senior at Appalachian State University and a faithful housemate named Violet, a Staffordshire terrier.

Gregg Riley, Hartsville District United Methodist Men co-president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? I am looking forward to visiting many churches in the Hartsville District to get to know the men, worship and share ministry opportunities with them. We are planning to train men in No Man Left Behind, a model for disciplining men. The goal is to help and support each man in moving into a closer, more personal relationship with Christ.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues in our local churches? One issue is welcoming all persons, regardless of socioeconomic status and other differences, to worship and church activities. Just as Christ would welcome all, we must do the same. Another issue is to encourage parents to come to church and bring their children to church. A small child should know Jesus and understand how Jesus wants us to live and treat others. A third issue is helping each and every person know there is a place for each person to serve. As we are different, we have differing spiritual gifts to offer and contribute to the body of Christ.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would to look back and know was successful? That many men from different churches got to know each other and share their love for Christ with each other. That many men were encouraged to grow spiritually and experience Christ in a close and personal way.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I am a retired educator with 42 years of service as a teacher, coach, guidance counselor and administrator in South Carolina’s public schools. I love to read, share special times with my family, participate in church activities, travel and do yard work. I have been married for almost 50 years and have two daughters and six grandchildren.

Bill Keesee, Marion District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? Being able to meet and discuss the needs of our district, to have an open meeting with the district members able to attend with a special speaker, to add to our charter churches and to have a special project the whole district can work on.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues in our local churches? Getting our churches back to normal in attendance. COVID-19 has a lot of our older members afraid to return. We have to keep our faith in God strong. We have to reach out to those attending and have them call those not attending yet.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would to look back and know was successful? The growing of our UMM charters. New men’s groups to churches that don’t have a UMM. Knowing that the Marion District is reaching out to all in need and helping as much as we can.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I have just recently gone back to work after several years of retirement and am working in the building supply business. I love to golf. But my main job is raising our 12-year-old grandson, Christophe. He keeps me young. Most of all, I have missed mission trips. We have had to cancel the last two years. I hope to go next summer.

Steve Lathrop, Orangeburg District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? I am looking forward mostly to resuming our normal activities once the pandemic has subsided. My original plans were to resume this summer, but the variant has impacted those plans. I am looking forward to face-to-face encounters with the men of the district, and hopefully this fall we will resume.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues in our local churches? There are numerous issues that exist currently within the church. Hopefully a path forward will eventually be initiated at the General Conference level, but it does not look like it will occur this year. However, at the district level, and within the local churches, there are several issues. We seem to concentrate on reaching out to the younger men, but we must not disregard the existing senior men. The major issue is how to develop the structure of the United Methodist Men to meet the needs and requirements of each generation. We also need to continue striving to put our emphasis on discipling men. The tendency is to concentrate on social gatherings and meetings. But we must continue to strive to be a bastion of making disciples of the men in our churches.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would to look back and know was successful? Hopefully entering 2022 we can all look back on how well the men of the church persevered within the pandemic and grew to encompass all the men of the church. We need to be able to look back and feel that we have, in fact, created new disciples of Christ.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. Personally I am trying to be active within the church. At the local level we are continuing with our ramp ministry, we have several different Bible studies for men within the church and we are there for the men. I also keep relatively busy as a Stephen Leader within Stephen Ministries.

Bob James, Rock Hill District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? I am looking forward to seeing the district UMM units getting back to active meetings, planning missions, activities and fundraisers. Our UMM District Leadership Team has set goals of reaching out to as many men as possible in the coming year and providing support, resources and the means of communicating with each other across the district.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues in our local churches? There are many pressing issues our local churches are facing: How to get members off their couches and back to the Sunday worship services. How to encourage members to be patient with the global issues that will not be addressed until August 2022 at the earliest, and not “give up” on Methodism and go elsewhere as a number of local church members have during the past year. How to get the “under 40s” interested in being active in the missions of the local church. How to overcome apathy that can be prevalent with our members, especially men.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would to look back and know was successful? A success story for men in the Rock Hill District would be an intentional, positive response to a community need by Methodist men, especially between multiple UMM units and men from churches across the district—men making a difference.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I have been happily married to Linda for 47 years and have three adult children, all active in their churches. I am an active member of Woodland UMC in Rock Hill and have held numerous leadership positions in the church. I participate on the South Carolina Conference Commission on Archives & History. I have also just accepted the position of Rock Hill District Lay Leader, which I will attempt to balance with my role of district UMM president. I am employed, by choice, as a pharmacy analyst for a national major healthcare group purchasing organization in Charlotte. What little spare time I have is taken up with vegetable gardening and enjoying family.

Jeff Tillerson, Spartanburg District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? This year I’m looking forward to the fellowship with the UMM in person again, but I know it’s going to be an uphill climb.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches? The challenges we see that are impacting the UMM is recruiting the younger generation of men.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful? We have grown as ministry, and we are stronger than before in 2022.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. During this time in this trying year, it has allowed me to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like golfing, vacationing and just being thankful and blessed for the time we have here on this beautiful place God created.

Alvin Glen, Walterboro District United Methodist Men president

  1. What are you most looking forward to as the UMM district president this year? To visit the men and have a face-to-face talk about where they are currently and what things they plan to do moving forward. Being able to fellowship with men in person safely.
  2. What do you think are our most pressing issues within the local churches? How to get fully engaged in the sanctuaries and the community after worshiping online for a year.
  3. What is one thing a year from now you would like to look back and know was successful? A full return to worship, fellowship and outreach.
  4. Share a few things about your profession, hobbies, family, etc. I serve as conference men’s vice president as well as men’s ministry president of the Walterboro district and St. John (Dorchester) lay leader. I am a husband of 41 years, a father of five and a grandfather. I’m currently in my 42nd year as a public school art instructor. I have received awards for my artwork and was awarded teacher of the year several years ago. I also enjoying fishing and boating with my children and soon with my grandchildren. I enjoy helping form ideas and helping people find ways best for them to be successful. Leadership is rewarding, but I’d much rather be in the background