By Jessica Connor
GREENVILLE—Are you a children's minister, teacher, pastor or otherwise passionate about the faith formation of children?
You don't have far to travel to attend a national-scale church conference on ministry with children.
This summer, South Carolina will play host to Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord, a multi-day conference offered by The United Methodist Church s General Board of Discipleship.
Set for July 23-26 at Buncombe Street United Methodist Church and the Hyatt Regency Greenville, people from across the denomination will gather to hear preaching and teaching on effective and innovative children s ministry ideas to use in their congregations.
S.C. UMC Bishop Jonathan Holston is among featured leadership of the event, joined by Dr. Edward Phillips of Candler School of Theology, South African author the Rev. Trevor Hudson and North Georgia author Delia Halverson.
Preachers include South Carolina s own Dr. Robin Dease, of Claflin College, along with Dr. Leanne Ciampa Hadley of First Steps Spirituality Center, Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Rev. Michael Williams of West End UMC, Nashville, Tenn.
Workshops include inspirational worship, safe sanctuaries training, distance and ongoing learning, children s ministry certification course, service and mission, and weekday preschool training.
Melanie Gordon, director of Ministry with Children for GBOD, said she hopes South Carolina will turn out for the conference in full or even just for a day. It is so important to equip the people working with our children, who need much more than a song and craft.
(Children) need to hear our story, need to understand what holy living is in their own language, Gordon said.
Gordon said Greenville is central for attendees and an accommodating city, which is much of why they chose it as a host location.
This conference has moved around the country since the 80s, and my goal was really to find smaller cities that were walkable and friendly, and the weather was friendly, and there would be a church large enough to accommodate 350 to 500 people, and Greenville was a great place to look, Gordon said.
People can stay downtown and walk to the church, and then have things to do in the evenings.
Gordon also said the S.C. Conference has a strong commitment to children, which makes it even more of a good fit.
The Rev. Mary Teasley, Greenville District superintendent, said she is really excited about an event of such magnitude held right here in South Carolina.
This is a national event, and just because it s held in Greenville doesn t mean it's a Greenville thing; it's a General Board of Discipleship event, and to have it within just a few hours of anybody in the conference is just a great opportunity, Teasley said. Events like this will not be this close again for a very long time, so I would encourage anybody “ pastors, laypeople, anyone passionate about ministry with children through their church “ to attend.
Teasley said she is not surprised that Greenville was chosen as an event destination; the city offers a variety of activities, and Buncombe Street is a wonderful venue, she said.
She hopes even people on a modest budget will consider coming to the event on a day pass.
The Rev. Cathy Joens, congregational specialist for the Greenville and Anderson districts, urges churches to gather their staff and volunteers and head to Greenville for an day or the full event.
I ve been to several of these children s conferences in my 30 years of ministry, and they ve always been in Nashville or another state, and to think we can go within just a couple hours, not even getting on a plane, to hear workshops of this caliber “ what an opportunity! Joens said.
Rev. Gayle Quay, minister of children s education for Buncombe Street, has been working with GBOD to design and host the event for the past two years.
I can t tell you how excited we are, Quay said. Greenville is just a wonderful place, and the conference itself is going to have leaders from all over the country.
Quay said the conference will provide a childcare and youth program for people who are attending, so families can make this an opportunity for their summer vacation.
She said more than 100 volunteers from Buncombe Street and the district beyond will serve in different hospitality capacities to make the conference a success.
A pre-conference retreat for children s ministers will be held July 22 for just $25, and the overall event will include learning, mission and fun activities for the entire family.
Conference registration is $425 (lodging is separate). Day passes are also available. A group rate is available at the Hyatt Regency Greenville for $119/night (mention code: UMC2013CMC).
To sign up or learn more, email [email protected] .