Curiosity Classes

Here's a look at (most of) the Curiosity Classes (breakout sessions) that will take place at Our hope is to have over 50 options! 

Please note that this list is still tentative. Worships, workshop descriptions, and bios are likely to change before the final list is released later this summer.

Intergenerational Resources for Stewardship

Would your church like to incorporate stewardship materials and practices into your intergenerational ministry with children, youth, and adults? Rosanna Anderson, Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, will present a collection of current resources to encourage generosity across the generations. Discover tools to use in Sunday school, confirmation programs, mid-week ministries, and special gatherings to help your church draw closer together and be inspired to reach out to neighbors as generous disciples of Jesus Christ.

Rev. Rosanna Anderson is the Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church, where she has served since 2014. She is the author of God Loves Us: Student’s Book the spring 2017 adult Bible study in The Present Word series. Rosanna has been a pastor and Christian educator at churches in New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee. She enjoys volunteering on the Discipleship Committee at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville.

Nurturing Diverse Spiritual Types in Classroom & Worship

One size fits some. Those who hope to find a borrowed template that will work in our various churches will always go away frustrated and disappointed. Each of us and each congregation has a unique spiritual type that is best deepened and protected from excess in carefully crafted ways. Exploring the various spiritual types and diverse backgrounds that students and teachers bring to the classroom and people bring to worship, we will discuss creative ways of teaching and worshipping to include and embrace this spiritual diversity.  The same tools that work in determining an individual’s spiritual type also work to determine the collective type of your congregations.  When this wisdom is combined with multisensory approaches, your congregations and classrooms can deepen and flourish. This worship invites us to involve all of our senses, address a variety of spiritual needs, and incorporate diverse spiritual approaches.

B. J. Beu is a spiritual director and life coach who helps people who have suffered profound loss to heal their hearts and discover wholeness again. An ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, B. J. pastored churches for 20 years before turning his attention to spiritual direction. For the past 20 years, Beu has been the author and editor of The Abingdon Worship Annual, along with his spouse Mary Scifres.  They have also just published Is It Communion Sunday Already?! Communion Resources for All Season. Together, they also run a teaching and retreat ministry from their Top of the World Retreat Home in Laguna Beach, supported technologically by their son, Michael, a film student at California State University Northridge.

Nurturing Children’s Natural Creativity

Children are born creative. Along their journey often that creativity is stifled by rules and boundaries. This workshop will provide the innate skills and processes needed to recharge and awaken children’s God-given gift of creativity. Led by Barbara Bruce (see bio below).

8 Spiritual Pathways to Faith Formation

God created each of us to be unique. Why, then, do we assume that we are all on the same spiritual path to forming our faith?  Come and learn how we can connect with differing spiritual needs as we grow in faith.  Learn how we can meet the diverse needs of all of our people as we worship, grow in knowledge and deepen a spiritual connection with God. A bonus will be experiencing prayer in all eight intelligences.  

Barbara Bruce is an educator with a passion for the diverse ways people of all ages learn and grow in faith. She is author of ten books that are devoted to “teaching teachers to teach”, including, but not limited to Multiple Intelligences and Learning Brain theory.

Leading “Grace-full” Retreats

Retreats are sacred times apart from everyday routine with the potential to draw adults into deeper communion with God and into covenant community with each other.  Leading Grace-full Retreats presents a way to nurture community and communion by immersing adult retreatants in the Wesleyan means of grace.  Centered in guidance, spiritual practice, and discussion, this workshop shows how to interweave Christian conferencing, prayer, searching the Scriptures, worship, study, and fasting to shape full day or overnight retreats.  Leading Grace-full Retreats also lists helpful resources and explains:   prayerful preparation for leadership, sample formats, and music selection.

Sherry Bryant-Johnson is an ordained Deacon with extensive training in spiritual direction as well as United Methodist professional certification in spiritual formation.  Her ministry encompasses retreat leadership, teaching, small group facilitation, and writing.  She was an editor/essayist for the anthology, Embodied Spirits:  Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color (Morehouse, 2014) and the principal writer of Journey to Joy: Jesus is the Strength for Life, a VBS study for adults (Abingdon, 2016).  Sherry Bryant-Johnson currently serves as the ministry coordinator for the East Jackson District of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church

Children in Worship 1: Our Story, Our Song

How do we help children see that they are part of God’s Great Story? How do we help children know that, without their voices, our most beautiful songs of faith are incomplete? Join Mark Burrows for this highly interactive session as we explore ways to make worship more engaging for people of all ages. (See bio below.)

Children in Worship 2: Our Experience

What makes for engaging worship isn’t about screens vs. bulletins, pipe organs vs. guitars, robes vs. skinny jeans. The main factor is this – Is our worship presentational…or congregational?  This session will focus on how we can design worship that is more experiential and, true to the word liturgy, the “work of the people.” Led by Mark Burrows (see bio below)


Children need a safe space to pray, to question, to explore the big ideas of the Bible. Testament is part creative journaling, part prayerful doodling, and thoughtful throughout. If you are looking for a way to engage older elementary and tweens with Scripture in an authentic way, this is it.

Mark Burrows--- Mark is a writer, composer, and clinician whose works are published by many major houses.  His choral pieces, musicals, and music education resources top numerous best-seller lists.   Mark is currently the Director of Children’s Ministries at First United Methodist Church – Fort Worth, Texas. Mark has been called a “thought leader” in the area of children in worship. His resources, such as My Testament and Bible Black Belts, are noted for their creativity and depth.  Mark received his undergraduate degree in music education from Southern Methodist University, and his graduate degree in conducting from Texas Christian University.  He lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Nina, and their two daughters, Emma and Grace.

Safe Spaces: Security Ministries and Safe Sanctuaries (including the LGBTQ Community)

This workshop will look at and review incorporating security and safety measures into the life of your church in a way that supports rather than inhibits the ministries of the church. Time will be spent sharing some about Safe Sanctuary measures that specifically address the needs of those in the LGBTQ community.

EvaMarie Herndon Campbell is an ordained United Methodist deacon in full connection with The Oklahoma Conference.  Currently she is serving as Associate Minister in Christian Religious Education at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Her responsibilities include ministries with families with children in First through 5th Grade, United Methodist Women and Security.

Paula Gradney-Garner serves as Director of Young Children and Special Needs at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She also leads classes and workshops dealing with diversity and the church; and assists with Security Ministries. She serves as a lay representative to the Council Oak District Mission Strategy Team, and the Oklahoma Conference New Faith Communities Ministry Team. She holds a Special Needs Certification, a Bachelor of Science in Human Services and Management, and a Master of Business Administration. Paula is currently in the UMC certification process for Children's Ministries and Christian Education through Perkins School of Theology.

Intergenerational Lent, Holy Week and Easter

In this workshop these leaders will help the facilitation of sharing ideas and best practices for creating intergenerational, faith forming experiences for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. 

Rev. Jane Berman Cheema is an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church and currently serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministry at First UMC-Evanston, IL. Helping children, youth and their parents claim and live their identity as followers of Jesus is her passion. With over 20 years’ experience Jane loves to learn from and with children and youth. She does this through creative teaching within and outside the walls of the church. Connecting worship rituals and liturgy is one of the ways Jane helps God’s children learn about their identity and to live their faith in the world. She is especially interested in engaging children and youth in leadership in worship.  Jane is a 2002 graduate of Garrett-Evangelical’s master of Christian Education program. During the past 10 years in addition to her day job at First UMC Evanston, she has served as an adjunct instructor in the Vocational Formation and Church Leadership program at the seminary. She also serves as a field education supervisor, and most recently as a peer group facilitator at Garrett-Evangelical. Rev. Cheema is a travel and outdoor enthusiast who likes to seek adventures in nature to help her remember her place on the planet.

Linda Duback is the Coordinator of Children and Family Ministries at Glenview United Methodist Church. She began her career teaching special education and then middle school language arts in public schools. After staying home with her children for a few years, she was called to ministry and is now responsible for faith formation for children and families, infant through 8th grade.

Christine Hides is a Christian educator, writer, child advocate, deacon candidate, and mother of two. She serves as the Director of Ministries with Children and Youth at Northbrook UMC and as the Content Manager for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation. Her articles have been published on several websites including Building Faith, Grow Christians, and her own faith formation blog, Bless Each One.

Sacred Song and Dancing Spirit

Applying ancient prayer practices for contemporary spiritual disciplines, this workshop will integrate Lectio Divina practices with rhythm, movement, music and video. Christian Educators who work with all ages, from the youngest preschoolers to the oldest adults will benefit from learning these skills. This interactive workshop answers the question “Curious Church: Don’t you want to know?” by illustrating – and engaging participants in – the use of ancient prayer practices for contemporary spiritual disciplines.

Karen Covey Moore --- Ordained in The United Methodist Church since 1985, Karen holds an M. Div. and a D. Min. from Wesley Theological Seminary and a Masters in Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction from Neumann University. Karen has been praying with the Native American Flute for 11 years and is the founder of Whispering Woods Native American Flute Circle and Ministry. She offers spiritual direction and retreats through Chabereth Ministries which she founded in 2004. She is also the co-founder and a current member of the Board of Directors of Hearts On Fire: Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders. She has completed the 2- year Academy of Spiritual Formation 21 and earned the certificate in Spiritual Formation from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Karen enjoys photography as a contemplative practice, and playing her guitar. She is the mother of three, grandmother of six and the great-grandmother of one.

Dr. Rev. Brenda Buckwell is an author (The Advent of God’s Word, a weekly blog at and founder of Living Streams Flowing Water.  She is a UM Endorsed spiritual director, coach, and educator who opens interior space for the power and presence of Christ to shape individual and community life to fullest potential for authentic living. Brenda has extensive experience in practical application of spiritual direction for training small group leaders and educators.  By weaving together spiritual direction (Mercy Center), theology and leadership (Garrett-Evangelical Seminary), she empowers persons to exceed their current level of leadership. With an online teaching certification, she is adjunct at Ashland Seminary, teaches for GBHEM UMC Cyber Campus, Garrett-Evangelical Life Long Learning and CenterQuest. In addition to spiritual direction, two of Brenda’s favorite spiritual disciplines are swimming and ballroom dancing. The delight of life is her grandchildren for whom she strives to be Amma.

Reimagining Children’s Church: Inviting Young Children to Worship through Spiritual Practices

This workshop will focus on practical ideas for introducing groups of young children to the liturgical elements of worship through child-centered spiritual practices. Participants will have the opportunity to share in discussion, and to experience some of the spiritual practices together.

Emily Delikat holds a M.A. in Christian Ministries with an emphasis in Christian Education from Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, and a B. A. in Music from Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama. Emily has more than 10 years of experience in early childhood classrooms, and has worked as Director of Music, Director of Children’s Ministry, and Director of Spiritual Formation in United Methodist churches before joining The United Methodist Publishing House as a Development Editor. Emily is the editor and writer of Deep Blue Early Elementary and Deep Blue Kids Church. She is passionate about helping children and families fully participate in the life of the church through worship, education and service. She lives in Franklin, TN with her family and attends Blakemore United Methodist Church in Nashville. Emily loves to spend time with her husband, Andy, and her daughter, Maggie and their guinea pig, Bucket. She enjoys reading, taking walks with her family, and watching way too much television.

Church Revival through Songwriting

While mainline churches in the United States continue to see decline and aging populations, there is actually a tremendous movement of creativity, revival and growth among churches who are engaging younger generations through songwriting.  This workshop will explore how discipleship comes to life and worship services are infused with creativity and the Holy Spirit’s energy through the songwriting process. Through large-group presentation and small group dialogue, this workshop will expand our possibilities for the arts in worship, especially though engaging new and younger disciples through creativity and songwriting.

Eric Drew is a worship leader, songwriter, coach and the Director of Worship for the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey. He is passionate about bridging the rich traditions of the church into a new generations, spaces, and sounds. In 2017 Eric released his first full-length album of worship music, Center of It All. He is inspired by custom-built guitars, local coffee shops, books on leadership, and his beautiful wife and twin girls.

Family Matters: Equipping Families to Raise Faithful Children --- Beth Fender

As fewer families make time at church a priority, it is even more essential to equip parents, grandparents, and other caring adults to nurture the children in their midst in faith in the everyday moments of life.  This workshop is intended for anyone passing on the faith to their own children/grandchildren, as well as for those who are considering starting an intentional emphasis in their ministry on equipping families for at-home faith formation. 

Beth Fender is a deacon serving as Coordinator of Discipleship and New Streams on the staff of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the UMC. Beth has taught children’s and intergenerational Sunday school for many years and leads an intergenerational weekend camp each summer at which her whole household has volunteered together. She and her husband are the parents of three young adult PKs (preachers’ kids) who remain actively involved in the church.

Ministry in the Small(er) Church

Small(er) churches make up the majority of the worshipping congregations in the United States.  This workshop will focus on building the systems and structures as well as practical tips for ministry with not just young people but the entire church. Brad will utilize content from his book, Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem, to share insights and real tools to help church leaders move from the Small Church Mentality which says, “We can’t because we’re small,” to the Small(er) Church Mentality of “Because we’re smaller, we can!”

Brad Fiscus has been in ministry with teenagers since 1985. During this time he has served as a leadership development consultant, public school teacher, football coach, wrestling coach and youth minister. In 2009, he began serving as the Director of Next Gen Discipleship in the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. The mission of Next Gen Discipleship is to assist the local church in increasing their capacity to build disciples through ministry with adults, children, youth, young adults, college students, and family systems. Additionally, he serves as a Staff Consultant with Ministry Architects. Brad has been a contributing author to Group Magazine and Faith Trust Institute. Brad newest work called Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem was co-authored with Stephanie Caro for Youth Ministry Partners a division of the United Methodist Publishing House. He and his wife, Shelley, are the parents of two teenagers.

Fun for the Whole Church Family: Intergenerational Events for Everyone

This workshop will provide an overview of best practices in planning intergenerational learning events appropriate to participants’ context. Focus will be placed on Intergenerational events around the liturgical feats and the inclusion of adults as co-learners. The workshop will include a small group, hands-on experience, of creating an intergenerational event as well as an opportunity to practice some of the components of the planned event.  Participants will leave the workshop with a first draft of an event to take back to their own local church community. 

Angelina Goldwell, M.Div., has served children and families for over a decade. Her work focuses on developing authentic intergenerational experiences as well as empowering parents & caregivers in the faith formation of children. A graduate of the Claremont School of Theology she began her career at a large Catholic parish in Los Angeles. She is currently Director of Religious Education for the First United Methodist Church of Olympia, WA. In her spare time she enjoys horror movies, time with her husband, and playing with her Alaskan malamute. 

Preparing for the Future

Whether you are 20, 45, or 60, the time is NOW to prepare for what is ahead of you. This workshop will provide suggestions, food for thought and helpful hints for whatever is to come as you consider your career and eventual retirement.  Subjects will include attitude and approach to decision making, learning opportunities, and financial matters that will shape your future.  Whatever life hands you, you will be ready to say, “Let’s go!”

Mary Alice Gran has been a life-long Christian Educator who began as a volunteer with Myrtle Felkner, Christian Educator extraordinaire.  Mary Alice’s first paid position was Director of Children’s Ministries at a large 3000 member St. Paul’s UMC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  During 11 years there she earned a Master’s Degree in CE at G-ETS and was among the first ordained Deacon in Full Connection.  Then to a campus church in Ames, Iowa, before moving to the General Board of Discipleship (now known as Discipleship Ministries) in Nashville.  While leading children’s ministries for 16 years there, she also volunteered in different small membership churches in a variety of CE capacities. Now retired and still volunteering, she is happily living with her husband, Rev. Brad Gran, in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Recess: It’s for You, Too!

One of the greatest challenges that ministry professionals face is burnout. Expectations are great, resources are often scarce, and the work is never done. How can we live out our call at the same time as we intentionally create space to care for our bodies, minds, spirits, and relationships?

Bishop Laurie Haller grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania as a Mennonite. She was an organ major at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and received a Master of Music degree from the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music. During that time, she felt called to ministry and received an M.Div. degree from Yale Divinity School. Bishop Laurie was ordained in the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1982 and subsequently transferred her ordination credentials to The United Methodist Church. Bishop Laurie served a variety of local churches in both the West Michigan and Detroit Annual Conferences for thirty-five years, including six years as a district superintendent. She was elected to the episcopacy in 2016 and was assigned to the Iowa Annual Conference. Bishop Laurie and her husband have three young adult children and two grandsons. In her spare time, she loves to run, hike, cycle, swim, golf, and contemplate the goodness of God’s creation.

Bishop Cynthia Harvey ---Bishop Harvey serves as bishop of the Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, having been assigned there in September of 2012. The Louisiana Annual Conference is composed of 486 congregations and 118,725 members and includes the entire state of Louisiana. Under Bishop Harvey’s leadership, the Louisiana Annual Conference follows a mission and vision focus to: lead others to an abundant life in Christ; engage in the community; learn, live and tell the gospel story; and reach out and draw-in people from all walks of life resulting in vibrant, alive and vital congregations. The vision and mission are undergirded by Core Values: integrity, accountability, unrelenting love for all people, courage and risk, and holding nothing sacred but the mission. She continues to draw upon the vision and mission at every opportunity.

Using Google Classroom for Online Faith Formation

During this workshop participants will be presented with examples of ways to use the Google Classroom platform for online and blended learning in faith formation ministries.  Workshop participants will gain practical tips for setting up a class and for the ways to make sure there is online safety.  Together the participants will create a list of the best practices for online faith formation. Each one will have the opportunity to design their own Google Class on a topic of their choice.

Christine Hides is a Christian educator, writer, child advocate, deacon candidate, and mother of two. She serves as the Director of Ministries with Children and Youth at Northbrook UMC and as the Content Manager for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation. Her articles have been published on several websites including Building Faith, Grow Christians, and her own faith formation blog, Bless Each One.

Let the Children Come to Me: Intergenerational Ministry with Children and Families

This workshop will explore best practices in which a community of faith should “Embrace, Engage, Educate, and Empower” our children to be equal co-participants in God’s love fin all aspects of congregational life and in ministry within the community beyond our church walls.  Grounded in research, this workshop will equip participants with strategies to address the needs of the whole child and their families.  Ideas for intergenerational activities will be explored within a framework that confronts the Physical, racial, Economic, Spiritual, and Social Dynamics of poverty of children and their families, particularly in multicultural and immigrant faith community settings.

Nancy Grim Hunter - bio forthcoming

Courageous Conversations

Participants will learn about and experience engaging in a Courageous Conversation. Courageous Conversations help adults learn through structured large and small group experiences in an environment designed for safety and bravery. Participants will learn how to design their own Courageous Conversations for their context utilizing the toolbox of resources that will be provided. Participants will also get a first-hand experience with a practice session of a Courageous Conversation styled dialogue during the session. Led by Scott Huges (bio below).

Scott Hughes - bio forthcoming

Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way

Throughout Methodism, the use small groups have proven to be the best strategy for disciple-making. However, small groups present churches with many challenges. This workshop will cover the connection between our baptismal covenant and small groups, the purpose of small groups, and the importance of leadership development.

Scott Hughes is the Director of Adult Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries, Elder in the North Georgia Conference, M.Div. Asbury Theological Seminary, D. Min. Southern Methodist University, Co-Host of the Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way podcast.

If not now, when?  If not us, who? Reaching a culture that seems to be different from you.

Embracing, empowering, and cultivating a relationship with children, youth, and young adults that may be different from your congregation.  Truly discovering practical ways to engaging a child, youth, or young adults’ faith in the community around you! Come discover ways to reach a culture that seems different from you.  This workshop will emphasize how to be practical and able to reach and relate to the diverse culture today.

Angela Johnson is the associate pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Gainesville, GA.  Angela’s passionate about loving, embracing, and embracing all of God’s children.  Diversity and inclusiveness are imperative to her heart and ministry Angela has served children, youth, and college students. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, boxing, and walking.  Angela’s favorite scripture is Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Favorite Quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”-Anonymous

Against the Flow: One Church’s Journey into Cross+Generational Ministry

There’s a story in Story City about a church that went against the flow of age segregated Sunday school, VBS and Confirmation and went Cross+Generational.  This workshop will unpack the ups and down that came with this intentional journey into a Cross-+Generational systems change and how now every week they connect the wisdom of the elder to the wonder of the child in the same sacred spaces.

Kristin Johnson has a heart for children, youth and families and strives to have cross-generational relationships at the core of the church.  She is a Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and a 20 year veteran in Youth and Family Ministry.  She currently serves as Director of Youth and Family Ministry at St. Petri Lutheran in Story City, Iowa.  She is married to Pastor Scott Johnson and they have two daughters, Ainsley and Alanna.  You can contact Kristin at

Partnership with God in the Places and Routes of Life

This workshop explores vocational imagination as a vital part of discipleship and educational ministries. All believers live in vocation (i.e., partnership with God’s work in the world), but too often failed vocational imagination hides this from us. We need to rethink vocation as constantly emerging within the places, paths, and stages of our lives.  How am I in vocation in this place? How does a place evoke vocation in me? How am I in vocation across the various places of daily life? How does my vocation evolve over my life journey? Such questions are important for ourselves as well as for our ministries of equipping persons for vocation. Participants will consider integrative approaches to foster vocation across age groups in congregations.

Dr. Randy Litchfield is Professor of Christian Education at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. The topic of this workshop is the subject of Dr. Litchfield’s current book project, Evoking Places: Vocation, Roots, and Routes. His professional and personal background contributes to his ability to address issues of vocation and place. Because of his time as an engineer and product team leader for a division of General Motors, he understands the issues of faith and lay vocation in the workplace. His teaching career in undergraduate and seminary education immerses him in the formation of persons for lay, professional, and ordained vocation. 

The Whole Picture: Effectively Nurturing Committed Disciples

What does it take to raise up a truly committed disciple of Jesus Christ, a servant of God’s justice and peace?  What does it mean to be “effective” in our nurture of disciples as God calls us to do? This workshop will dig into the theology, content, and process behind an effective ministry that fulfills our calling to raise up servants who follow Jesus teachings. The approach is not a canned program but a way of designing the total church ministry, structuring it to create long-range, in-depth, faith-nurturing programs in the local congregation that leverage existing ideas and resources, moving members toward a deeper more committed faith. The workshop is based on the ideas found in the leader’s book, Beyond Christian Education: The Future of Nurturing Disciples in the Local Church.

Dr R. Ben Marshall, a retired UM Elder and Minister of Christian Education has been involved in nurturing Christians for over 50 years serving in various size churches and on the conference level. Ben has a DMin in Christian Education from Perkins School of Theology and certificate in spiritual direction from Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is a charter member of the former CEF, and Executive Secretary of the United Methodist Association of Scholars in Christian Education. Presently, Ben is teaching and participating at Northaven UMC and is founder of the Christian Nurture Project.

Helping your community organize its own spiritual growth: Cultivating self-directed discipleship.

When people discern and plan their own spiritual practice, they grow in discipleship more fully. This workshop will help leaders organize their communities to discern their spiritual needs and design their practices that will help them grow in faith, ministry, and mission. The key for leaders is moving beyond offering spiritual opportunities for others to helping communities create their own spiritual practice for the next level of spiritual maturity and vitality. In short, we will learn how to cultivate self-directed discipleship.

Robert Martin is Professor of Christian Formation and Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, where he served as Dean from 2013-2017. Originally from Louisiana, Robert was ordained in the LA Conference of the United Methodist Church. Presently, he is an elder in the Missouri Conference of the UMC. Prior to his appointment at Wesley in 2013, Robert served on the faculties of Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City and Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT. He earned his Ph.D. in practical theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is married and is blessed with 2 daughters. Robert is currently writing a book about ‘being church’ from a sacramental perspective, and he speaks and teaches frequently on the subjects of spiritual formation, leadership, and missional faithfulness. He is especially interested in spiritual practices that foster missional engagement and are grounded in contemplative disciplines.

Jesus Loves Children of All Abilities

Children of all ability levels can come to know Jesus and learn the stories of God’s love for all people. Learn how to adapt Sunday school lessons and make modifications to classrooms so that children with disabilities can be included with their own age group. The goal is for all of God’s children to grow in the knowledge, experience, and love of Jesus together!

Sharon McCart taught children with moderate-to-severe disabilities for ten years, then earned her Masters of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology. After serving a congregation for three years, she felt called to Disability Ministries. She currently serves as the chair of the DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church at the denominational level and as chair of the DisAbility Ministries Task Force in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. She has led workshops at UMW Assembly in 2014 and 2018, at the WFX Conference in 2015, at the Western Jurisdiction Disaster Academy, Cal-Pac South District Lay Servant training, and other conferences, as well as at local churches. She has also written magazine articles and occasional blog entries. She was born and raised and still lives in California and has been married to Dale for 45 years. Together they have one adult son and a daughter-in-love. They also have a cattle dog/husky mix named Elsie, who has saved Sharon's life more than once.

 Sports Ministry: A Major League Way to do Faith Formation

Experienced sports ministers will show you the many ways that sports ministry reaches out to young adults especially, but can touch every generation.  This team has worked together mostly with college students, but also middle and older adults as well as children, to help persons grow in their faith. 

Patty Meyers, current President of CEF, is Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology at Pfeiffer University. A Deacon in full connection with the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, she is a certified Director of Christian Education and Music by The United Methodist Church. In addition to teaching full time at Pfeiffer, she does music ministries at First United Methodist Church of Landis in the Western North Carolina Conference. She holds the following academic degrees: Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Doctorate in Applied Ministries in Religious Education, Master of Arts in Christian Education and Bachelor of Music.     Dr. Meyers has served the church in numerous ways. She has written dozens of books, articles, songs and curricula for persons of all ages. Additionally, she has written for The United Methodist Daily Advocate at every General Conference except one since 1988. She has been a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator throughout the Church. Among the awards she has received are Outstanding Professor at Marylhurst University in Oregon and the Exemplary Teacher Award at Pfeiffer University.   She is married to Bob Meyers and they have a “four-legged child” at home, their Chihuahua, Tacy. Her hobbies include reading, playing the piano, knitting and tennis. 

Andy Asbury is from Waxhaw, North Carolina and has been a native of the state his entire life.  He serves as a Sports Chaplain with Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, North Carolina and has been involved in Sports Ministry for over 10 years in varying roles.  He has been leading an on-campus Thursday night fellowship program at Pfeiffer University called Athletic Ministries at Pfeiffer (“AMP”) where regular average attendance has exceeded 100 students.  Andy is currently seeking his Master’s Degree in Practical Theology at Pfeiffer University and has both a Master’s and Undergraduate Degree in Accounting from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.  Currently Andy is Chief Financial Officer and Owner of Asbury Management Group, Inc., a consumer finance company providing lending needs for automobile and personal loans with 20 locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Kentucky.  Andy regularly participates in coaching his kids’ sports teams and is on the Finance Committee at his church, Forest Hill Church.  Andy has been married for 15 years to his lovely bride, Katie Asbury, and has three boys, Tyler (12), Carter (9), and Walker (8).

Emily James was raised in Atlanta, Georgia, in the Roman Catholic Church. As a student at Pfeiffer University she became very familiar with the United Methodist Church and became very active in the campus church.  She serves as a sports chaplain for Pfeiffer and helps to lead a campus wide bible study. She enjoys learning and growing in her faith.  Emily especially enjoys working with children in their faith development.

Tony Kindred graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Banking and Finance and was a Golf Professional before he returned to U. of F. for a Master’s Degree in Accounting. He worked in public accounting until he started his own Real Estate Development business. His long standing relationship with FCA lead him to a Master of Arts in Practical Theology at Pfeiffer University and a new career in Sports Ministry.

Messy Monday

Our creativity is the most unique and powerful part of each and every one of us.  Art exploration and appreciation fuels that creativity through inspiration and play. This workshop will help you learn how to incorporate visual arts into everything from one hour Wednesday night programs, to small group gatherings, and to half or a full day event.  Topics will include schedule timelines, organization of supplies, and project ideas.  Suggestions will be given for activities related to preschool age children all the way through adulthood.

Melissa Miller passionately believes that as spiritual beings, art gives us a way to connect to something bigger than ourselves.  As a Children’s Ministry Director she has used ARTreach in faith formation to build a sense of community, to provide ministry for working parents, as outreach to homebound friends, and to cultivate friendships across the ages.  She has received a Certificate in Arts and Spirituality for Spiritual and Religious Leaders from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

Praygrounds in the Sanctuary: What, Why, How?

Whether it’s called a Prayground, a Grace Space, or a Wee Worship Area, the idea is the same: smart churches are intentionally creating spaces for children to be included in worship.  Never heard of Praygrounds? Join us! Interested in learning what they are, why you should have one, and how to do it? Join us! You already have one? Please join us! Let’s learn from each other as we create this sacred, welcoming space for children and their families.

Glenys NellistOriginally from England, where she was a Primary school teacher, Glenys Nellist now lives in Michigan, where she serves as Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference. Author of eleven books for children, including the series Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time, she is a writer with a passion for God, her family, and children’s ministry. Glenys is married to David, a UMC pastor. They are the proud parents of four sons and three daughters-in-law, as well as the happy grandparents of four little ones.

 Faith Growth Pathway for Children and Youth

 The Faith Growth Pathway (sometimes known as a Discipleship Pathway) is designed to be a tool and resource for children, youth and their families to use in faith formation. It is a tool that Christian Educators/Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry Directors can use to educate and empower the families they work with for faith growth at home and at church (and in the car and at the soccer field, dance studio, karate dojo, school, etc.). The Faith Growth Pathway for children and youth also includes practical ideas and suggestions for implementation, for example, celebrating milestones and how to use technology in ministry. This workshop will provide you with resources to help you create your own pathway and implementation plan. (See bio below for Kathryn Pittenger.)

Faith Growth Pathway for Adults

Faith formation includes many aspects of life and spiritual growth. The Faith Growth Pathway (sometimes called a Discipleship Pathway) is a guide for adults to identify strengths and growing areas in life and faith and how one can continue to grow in faith. This workshop will walk through what the Faith Growth Pathway is, how to create/adapt it to take home, and steps for implementation and evaluation. We will also look at how to use the Faith Growth Pathway in digitally-enabled ministry.

Kathryn Pittenger is an educator with a passion for lifelong faith formation. She is an Ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church and serves at Central United Methodist Church in Waterford, MI. After working through a consultation process at Central UMC, she led a team to build a discipleship pathway/faith growth pathway for adults. Since then, she has implemented a Faith Growth Pathway in her local church and has worked with other individuals and churches to start their own, as well as creating a Faith Growth Pathway for children and youth. Kathy has a deep love for serving children and empowering people to grow in their faith journey. 

Reimagining Confirmation

Confirmation is reemerging as a vital step in the faith formation of young people yet recent research shows that no two churches are doing it the same. In the Reimaging Confirmation workshop, you will join the ongoing conversation on what confirmation is becoming, what it is about and the foundations for emerging practices. The workshop will include findings from the Princeton Confirmation research project and recommended resources and tools leaders can use to reimagine confirmation in their local church settings.

Jack Radcliffe serves as Senior Editor for Youth Ministry Partners, the youth ministry resource group at the United Methodist Publishing House and Adjunct Instructor of Educational Ministry at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, TN. For more than 30 years he has served young people, their families and churches in a number of roles including associate staff, lead pastor, coach, consultant, coach, trainer, writer and speaker. Jack has an M.Div from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio and a D.Min in Practical Theology, Adolescent Development and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is married to Patti and together they have four adult children.

The Heart of Faith: Living Faithfully Everyday

How do we help adults to live faith commitments in everyday life?  Learning to make decisions as a faithful Christian is difficult work in our secular and diverse world.  This workshop will teach the processes of faithful decision-making at the “heart” of faith.  Not only will concrete examples of effective church practices be shared, but the workshop will help participants explore how they can concretely inspire faith formation for living “in the everyday.”  The leader will offer models for working with millennials, parents, empty-nesters, and retirees.  These models are built on Jack’s own experience in helping a congregation develop a “Faith Builders” series.  “Faith Builders” grew out of research on practices of faithful congregations and on approaches to decision-making and theological reflection.  The response to “Faith Builders” has been amazing!  People are hungry for help in making faithful decisions in ordinary living. Led by Jack Seymour (bio below).

Teaching the Bible with Adults

This workshop will engage participants in examining approaches to Bible study for adults and YOUNG adults.  This session will be interactive!  After experiencing an approach to Bible study that connects scripture study with personal experience and community realities, participants will be introduced to several other approaches of Bible study from praying the faith, to planning for community involvement, and to engaging with interfaith neighbors.  Participants will also be helped to develop a plan for their ministry site that attends to both meaning making and to disciple building.  The workshop will draw on Jack’s Teaching Biblical Faith (Abingdon, 2015).

Jack Seymour is professor emeritus of religious education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL.  He is author of several books including most recently Teaching Biblical Faith: Leading Small Group Bible Studies (Abingdon, 2015) and Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living (Abingdon, 2014).  Currently he is a co-editor of the Horizons in Religious Education series for the Religious Education Association where he is also editor-emeritus of Religious Education.  He is currently working on projects on the theology of the people of God and interfaith religious education.  Active in a local congregation, he frequently teaches Sunday school and leads workshops for local churches and conferences.  

Picture Book Theology: 5 Books, 20 Ministry Applications

Of the 600 plus books on the Picture Book Theology website, 5 with rich and diverse applications will be presented during this workshop.  Additionally, multiple strategies for discovering how a picture book can relate to scripture will be offered including how a simple reading of a secular book can easily be transformed into a spiritual experience.

Hanna Schock is a nationally certified school psychologist and former school teacher who has transformed her passion for teaching and literature into Picture Book Theology, a website to encourage using secular picture books in ministry.  For year, Hanna has written curricula for her church, First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL.  Writing 50 children’s lessons based on the popular Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe by Daniel Erlander, was her first venture in marketing a curriculum.  Now she focuses on writing lessons based on the hundreds of picture books featured at  At present, Hanna is in the midst of writing Trinity Treasures, a preschool Sunday School curriculum using picture books tied to the lectionary. 

LifeWorks: Faith Formation with Working Young Adults

Learn how congregations can connect working young adults with their faith life through a new model of mid-week, mid-day small groups. Explore what resources (print, videos, online) and suitable mission opportunities are available. Participate in small groups to grapple with the big questions facing working young adults like: “Is work all there is to life?”, “What is my purpose in life?”, “How can I trust God?” This workshop will include PowerPoint and video illustrations, “Table Talk” (small group discussions), and role-playing situations.

Joellyn Tuttle has been involved in Faith Formation from her consecration as a Diaconal Minister of Christian Education in 1989 through her ordination as Elder in 2008 and continues currently. Through that journey she has worked with suburban, urban, village and rural congregations to develop meaningful experiences for relationships with God/Christ/Spirit for disciples of all ages. She has written articles for GBOD’s Leader (and Teacher) in the Church School Today magazines and served as the Conference Chairperson for the Bishop’s Initiative on Children and Poverty and the Christian Education Team, and was a Sunday School Consultant for the former North Central New York Conference (now Upper New York).  She recently completed her Doctor of Ministry from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester. NY with her dissertation focus on integrating visuals within the sermon, based on learning theory, brain research, and an examination of the “visions” of Ezekiel and the Apostle Peter and how artists help us reclaim the “visual” witness to the Divine in the Bible. The goal was to help more congregants engage in the sermon and deepen their faith experience in worship. This study also led to the importance of incorporating visuals in our small group Lifeworks sessions for working younger adults.   As an ordained elder Joellyn is also proud to have served as “Chaplain for the week” for the Conference summer camping program at Casowasco for many years, most recently in 2017 where she ministers to children and youth ages 6- 18 and the staff (mostly young adults). Joellyn first met Erin when Joellyn was an adult advisor to the CCYM of which Erin was a youth member; and is excited to be the “mother church” partner with Erin in the Lifeworks ministry in Skaneateles, NY.

Erin Patrick has been involved with church plants since February of 2015. For the past several years, she has learned from many people, including Paul Nixon from Path 1, and John Ball who has planted communities in Chicago. She has attended Leadership Academy with the Upper New York Conference, and has gone to week long trainings at Ginghamsburg, and Church of the Resurrection. As a creative personality, she started her church planting work by dreaming up and planning events that would attract “everyone everywhere, to be Relational, Open, Affirming, and Diverse “at a new faith community plant in Syracuse NY called The R.O.A.D. This NFC is a non-traditional way to connect with, and experience God in new, unique, and creative ways. As a dedicated lay person, Erin has been committed to helping others create and strengthen their relationship with God since her high school years in CCYM. As a young adult who works over 50 hours a week, Erin has experiences the weakening of faith that comes from holding jobs that seem to be unrewarding. Out of those struggles has been born LifeWorks, a new faith community plant in Skaneateles, NY which focuses on connecting people, specifically young adults working in the service industries, to each other and to God.

Instilling Purpose for Defiance: Congregational Strategies for Public Theology

Following Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go and do things we would rather not do.  The Christian gospel asks us to move from a quiet concern for the poor to a life of activism, from private worries about inequity to mutual ministry, and from leadership within the walls of the church to routines of discernment and action.  This workshop will discuss ways congregations might envision and implement ministries which impact social ills and bring the good news of the gospel out into the world.  What would it mean for your congregation to take seriously a ministry of justice, freedom and equality in the public square?  In other words, we want to “do something” to stand against injustice – what do we do?

Nancy Lynne Westfield, a deacon in the United Methodist Church, is currently Professor of Religious Education at Drew University Theological School, Madison, New Jersey.  She has been appointed to this ministry since 1999.  Her teaching and research are at the intersections of womanist studies, liberative pedagogy, mysticism, imagination and Black Church studies.  Her publications include: Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies. Nashville: Abingdon, 2008. (Edited by Westfield); Black Church Studies: An Introduction. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007, (co-authored), Dear Sisters: A Womanist Practice of Hospitality. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2001.  Her publications also include numerous articles and chapters.  She blogs of the Wabash Center web-site and is a regular contributor to HuffPost.   Lynne enjoys gardening, travel and southern cooking.

Building Spiritual Muscle through Covenant Discipleship with Youth

Is faith like a muscle, growing stronger the more it is practiced?  Is Christianity a social religion where we journey toward better versions of ourselves?  In this workshop we will together explore practical applications of showing love for God and neighbor in youth ministry.  We will learn about the works of worship, devotion, compassion, and mercy and how they can become a language to help young people describe their actions and growth in faith. This workshop will use material found in Chris’ books Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Youth and Building Spiritual Muscle, both available through Cokesbury. 

Chris Wilterdink is the Director of Program Development in the United States with Young People's Ministries. He has been a part of Discipleship Ministries for six years and currently lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, two children, and overweight beagle. Chris is a Colorado native, where he was the Youth Director at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch for ten years. He is the author of “Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Youth” and “Building Spiritual Muscle”

Teaching Stewardship in the 21st Century: Best Practices for Children, Youth, and Adults

This workshop will explore the various facets of teaching stewardship to all ages, not just during an annual emphasis but throughout the year.  Consideration will be given for how each age group learns and engages the Christian practices of responsibility and generosity. Led by Bob Winstead (bio below).

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork: Building Staff Relationships through Strategic Mission Focus

What do mission and vision for ministry have to do with staff relationships?  Based on time-tested principles, in this workshop we will discuss staff covenants, norms, and operations that guide and direct the daily work of ministry. Participants are encouraged to bring teams from the same church.

Bob Winstead is a retired United Methodist minister serves as the Executive Minister at Athens First UMC in Athens, GA, and teaches Church Leadership and Administration at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  He is the Director of the Academy of Church Business Administration, leading the professional certification process for executive pastors and church business administrators. In his spare time, Bob is a church consultant, and leads workshops in clergy care, congregational administration, and pastoral leadership. Bob has a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology, and a Doctorate of Ministry in Church Leadership from the University of Chicago.  Bob’s hobbies include playing drums, riding motorcycles, and building furniture.  Bob has three children and five grandchildren.

Additional Breakouts by...

  • John Roberto - Intergenerational Ministry
  • Lee Schott - Opening the Church to Our Hidden Neighbors (prison ministry); Cleaning Up Church Messes
  • Mary Scifres - Worship
  • Bishop Tracy Smith Malone

The mission of CEF is to develop leaders in faith formation to equip people of all ages to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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