Casting New Vision for the Future
by Shawn Bakker and Chris Heckert
"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
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
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
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 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.
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.
Date posted: Nov 05, 2007