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The Advance

Casting New Vision for the Future

by Shawn Bakker and Chris Heckert

A girl washes clothing along the Amazon River in Brazil in a flood plain that is the result of deforestation.
A girl washes clothing along the Amazon River in Brazil in a flood plain that is the result of deforestation.
Image by: Shawn Bakker
Source: New World Outlook
A young participant in a Methodist Community Center program in Olinda, Brazil.
A young participant in a Methodist Community Center program in Olinda, Brazil.
Image by: Shawn Bakker
Source: New World Outlook

New World Outlook, November/December 2007

"Buenos días! Good morning!"

The blissful four-year-old voices ring out to visitors as they enter the preschool building at the McCurdy School in Española, New Mexico. The work of The Advance, the designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church, becomes as real as the smiles on the faces of the children sitting in a circle on the floor. Providing excellent education, mentoring, and counseling for students from preschool through twelfth grade, McCurdy School is just one of numerous Advance projects that make a lasting impact on people's lives in the name of Jesus Christ. Witnessing the ministry at McCurdy School, one understands the reality of the connection made possible through The Advance. Each life that is touched is an extension of the ministry of many congregations and individuals who offer gifts through The Advance. The Advance connects the church in mission and ministry around the world.

Hope and Heritage
For projects, emergency funds, or missionaries, an Advance number indicates a relationship in which hope is shared among communities that otherwise would not be connected. The Advance makes it possible for individuals, churches, and conferences to provide food, water, education, medical care, skills, and training for others who are in need. The ministries made possible through The Advance offer hope to a hurting world and connect people of faith in ministries of transformation. Hope is realized when the digging of a well provides water to residents of Mozambique, women learn Bible lessons together in Bolivia, ex-combatants in Liberia are trained with new job skills, and relief and restoration work continues in the Gulf Coast region of the United States in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The message of hope that we all share by reaching beyond ourselves is rooted in the gospel message of Jesus Christ, who calls us to love one another and to care for those in need.

Vision Statement

The Advance exists to share the love of Jesus Christ by offering hope and alleviating human suffering. With integrity, transparency, and a commitment to The United Methodist Church's connectional vision of the world, The Advance will become the leading conduit that enables people to support projects and missionaries throughout the world in order to strengthen and sustain one another.

Mission Statement
The Advance is an accountable, designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church that ensures 100 percent of each gift is used for its intended mission or ministry. The work of The Advance fulfills both physical and spiritual needs through a variety of partnerships worldwide to reach mutual goals that provide life-changing and long-lasting impact.

Core Values
• Operate with accountability, integrity, and transparency.
• Promote compassion and service worldwide.
• Make a positive, lasting impact.

Just as sharing hope in the name of Christ is at the root of all that The Advance has been, reaching out in hope continues to shape its future with a renewed vision for its work. For 60 years, churches around the world have joined together to support one another, building churches and schools, responding to disasters, and providing missionaries to share the love of Christ in global communities. It is that rich heritage the 60th anniversary honors and celebrates with the church, lifting up stories of lives and communities transformed by Christian partnership.

Assessment and Evaluation
The path that leads to the future is rooted in the work of The Advance Committee, which began to cast a new vision in 2006. As part of its revisioning process, the committee made the decision to restructure The Advance staff to make better use of the resources entrusted to the program. The new structure will allow for the development of new methods of communication to maximize mission connection throughout the church.

Seeking to communicate the work and identity of The Advance to the church, the Advance Committee sponsored a comprehensive survey that was completed by an external research and marketing group. The data makes it clear that United Methodists are excited about sharing resources with those in need, both in the United States and around the globe. This research has helped to shape what The Advance will become. Transparency and accountability are vital guideposts on the journey toward connecting communities together in ministry.

The United Methodist Church can boast of a long history of support for The Advance. Over 75 percent of people who presently participate in Advance giving have been members of a United Methodist church for 20 years or more. In order to sustain and increase its ministries, The Advance must learn to encourage the participation of all United Methodists.

A New Approach
Still fresh from interviews and surveys with clergy and laity, members of the marketing group and the Advance staff began to sort through the collected data to gain an understanding of how people viewed The Advance. Refining the identity of The Advance does not mean making it something different; rather, The Advance's identity is evident in its history, which provided the foundation for the committee's work. A new understanding of The Advance will help the church thrive into the future.

The 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, will provide an opportunity for The Advance to communicate its vision and mission through an interactive display and presentation. In this way, The Advance will help individuals connect with faces, stories, and images of hope being offered through its missionaries and projects. Among the tools to be introduced at General Conference are print resources; a new logo with a different look and feel; new resources from an enhanced, user-friendly website; videos featuring several projects from different areas of the world; and new ways to give to The Advance online and through designated offerings.

The Advance's New Structure

Associate General Secretary—Serves as Director of The Advance

Assistant General Secretary—Coordinates staff, directs marketing and promotions

Program Associate—Facilitates communication within Global Ministries and throughout the United Methodist connection

Project Manager—Manages the project application process and coordinates project details with Global Ministries staff

Annual Conference Liaison—Relates the work and vision of The Advance to the connectional church to  promote increased participation and giving

Mission Specialists—Relate the work of The Advance under the direction of the annual conference liaison  (two staff positions)

Gifts Administrator—coordinates gifts processing

Mission Support Liaison—Cultivates support for Covenant Relationships

Program Associate—Works with the mission support liaison to coordinate all correspondence and communication for Covenant Relationships

Media Communication Administrator—Manages The Advance website and coordinates all digital communication and media.

The Advance is a conduit that enables participants to encounter hope and love, foundations of the gospel message. The Advance connects a participating donor's interests and passion for ministry with recipients in a local community who have a firm understanding of the context of their own ministry. The gift of financial resources and the gift of service are recognized to be of equal value in The Advance, forming a partnership. Through partnerships developed by using The Advance, people in Virginia are learning about methods of sustainability from the Brazilian Methodist Church, and churches in Texas are exploring new ways of worship by sharing in ministry with The United Methodist Church in Côte d' Ivoire.

As The Advance honors the mission and ministry of its heritage, the Advance Committee will begin to share its vision for connecting the church in new ways. The 21st century presents new opportunities for connecting the global church and for communicating the needs of a hurting world.

In order to sustain the connection among projects, individuals, and congregations, every Advance project selected for support during the new quadrennium will be hosted on the new Advance website. Each project will have a profile page on the website that will display project information, photos, and hyperlinks to similar Advance-supported projects. This information will be updated annually. In addition, The Advance website will host videos and digital resources that will allow all United Methodists to share in the work of Advance projects and missionaries.

In 2008, all projects will be re-evaluated, and their sponsors will need to submit new applications to The Advance to be considered for inclusion in the new quadrennium. Applicants should first meet with their local church leaders and area bishop or regional church supervisors to determine the priorities of the larger church and community. Projects must meet the priorities established by the local church leaders and workers and in turn present good opportunities for partnership with other local congregations that wish to support the work through Advance channels. Applications can be submitted directly to The Advance by representatives of the project.

Applications will be available in four languages: English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. In order to increase efficiency and accountability, applicants will be encouraged to apply online. Applications will be evaluated by The Advance Committee and Global Ministries' cabinet and other staff members. Finally, individuals, churches, and conferences will be able to select projects for support, connecting in the name of Christ.

Estimated total Advance giving since: 1948:$1,201,211,569.

Reaching Outward
The Advance will continue to connect God's people with a refined vision, a clear mission statement, an improved staff structure, new tools for communication, and a logo that represents and communicates its identity. Throughout the year, Advance staff will visit jurisdictional gatherings, annual conferences, districts, and local churches to host 60th anniversary celebrations of this milestone in The Advance's history. The Advance office will provide resources and materials for furthering the work of partnerships that United Methodists form through The Advance. The impact of this connection will be both transformational and lasting for local congregations, Advance projects, and missionaries.

Christian witness becomes authentic through action. As The Advance reaches out to a hurting world through education, evangelism, agricultural work, building projects, water projects, and many other ways, the church's witness of God's love through Jesus Christ is made real. When churches partner with missionaries and particular projects, when annual conferences partner with other conferences, and when individuals share their resources in Jesus' name, United Methodists advance hope in the world as witnesses to the gospel.

Shawn Bakker is the Associate General Secretary and Director of The Advance. Chris Heckert is the Assistant General Secretary of The Advance.

Contact The Advance Office

The Advance office is located at the
General Board of Global Ministries
475 Riverside Dr., Rm 350
New York, NY 10115
Phone: 212-870-3790

See Also...
Topic: GBGM news GBGM programs United Methodist Church Advance
Geographic Region: World
Source: New World Outlook

Date posted: Nov 05, 2007