WORKSHOP: Using Social Media for Evangelism and Global Outreach

websocialmedia600Two-thirds of the world’s population uses social media, however two-thirds of the world’s population do not attend church. This is where social media serves as a connector – on the worldwide web as well as in a classroom at the World Methodist Conference.

An international medley of participants from as far away as Canada, South Africa, Norway and the Bahamas bonded quickly around the ever-expanding topic of social media in the afternoon workshop led by author, consultant and speaker LaKesha Womack.  One District Superintendent introduced herself as “Techie Becky,” admitting that technology is challenging to keep up with these days, while another attendee described the social media platform as the “marketplace of the gospel.”

“I would select the verses of the great commission as our text for today,” shares LaKesha, “because social media helps us accelerate taking the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth – once we know how.” She acknowledges the importance of balancing social media with face-to-face personal connections, but urges all organizations using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and the like to strategically pursue ways to begin conversations. “In church, pastors are accustomed to bringing a message and considering it done, but social media provides the opportunity to respond and engage in a dialogue. Yes, that can be time consuming, so I would suggest only asking a probing question when you have time to interact. That is the beauty of social media when you can share a conversation with people wherever they are geographically and spiritually.”

socialmedia600webStrategic aspects of social media

While LaKesha recommends having a presence on Facebook and Twitter as a starting point due to their popularity, she is also seeing churches and faith-based organizations use Google Hangout and Skype to connect students or others in various locations into a common Bible Study. Others are using Periscope when a short-term video feed is needed to an event or learning opportunity that someone might not otherwise be able to access. “Not that many churches pursue a presence on LinkedIn,” she adds, “but it really could be a useful resource to connect members who might be looking for a job, who might offer a service other members need, and to locate certain skill sets needed by an organization or church.” “Pinterest is so popular with females,” adds one of the participants, “I would think women’s ministries would seriously consider having ideas and curriculum and spiritual resources there for those audiences.”

“Just as a helpful hint to those just starting out into the social media waters, there are basically three options with Facebook,” adds LaKesha. “You can (1) have a personal page and up to 5000 friends, (2) you can start a “group” and an infinite number of people can ‘like it’ or (3) you can create a business page which allows you to have ads, see insights on your visitor demographics, and boost posts that can be targeted to certain ages, times or areas.”

socialmedia600webshot2Bottom line, she recommends organizations mix up the content to include links to sermons or other messages, video, articles, questions, and pictures.  Consistency and clarity are important when placing content on social media outlets. “Another idea is to schedule some content posts through Hootsuite so there will be fresh content around the clock for global audiences to discover when they are awake and you are asleep.”

In a discussion about Twitter, LaKesha explained the use of the hash tag to social media newbies. “The hash tag, or pound sign, followed by onewmc2016 is the one we are using for this event,” she shares, “and these serve as an aggregator of all postings under a certain topic. Event planners – and attendees — can review what all is being said about the event in entries that feature 140 characters or less. It is important to pick a hash tag phrase that is easy to remember and follow.”

Adds LaKesha, “I always recommend organizations have a web presence in addition to social media, if possible, because you will own that in the event the social media platforms go away for some reason. The social media outlets should always serve as a feeder to your website.”

LaKesha, who also has a blog talk radio show, enthusiastically encourages others to connect with her: or or

Wesley Men: A New Wesleyan 100

There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them, except in the form of bread.

– Charles Dickens

hickle600web3Rev. Steve Hickle shared a vision during his workshop Thursday afternoon titled: Wesley Men: A New Wesleyan 100. As Faith Outreach Director of Stop Hunger Now, he’s working with others to build a movement to end hunger in our lifetime. “We’re going to discover that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone” he said. And his organization has been building coalitions toward that end for the past 10 years.

They’ve engaged nearly two million volunteers in packaging meals over that decade, and have delivered about 275 million meals in that time, distributing them to 1,500 places in over 70 countries. “Every place that receives these meals is a partner of ours and they take a lot of responsibility in getting those meals to where they need to go…  I’m a United Methodist, and I have been acquainted with what is now the Wesley Men’s group” (until recently they were called World Fellowship of Methodist and Uniting Church Men.) They’ve been working side-by-side for 4 years toward this moment. “We’re able to say to the whole Methodist family here in Houston that we can build a Wesleyan movement to end hunger.”

They’re calling this initiative Fast, Pray, Give.

Andy Morris, the Executive Director of Fast, Pray, Give referenced a resolution passed at the World Methodist Conference in 2006 saying we need to fast, pray, and give to end world hunger. “The men’s affiliate took that charge on as something they needed to do and when we started to look at how to achieve those goals we needed a partner.” Stop Hunger Now was the obvious choice. “It was started by a Methodist minister,” Morris continued. “They do a lot of what we need to do to attack the systemic causes of hunger by feeding children in schools so they can learn, can finish their education and earn a better income. They are then able to become self-sustaining. We’re breaking the systemic causes of hunger.” Their organization is now, for the first time, asking people to sign up at to help. “Our goal is to reach 5 million Methodists in the next five years.”

WT_3RectangleFPGHickle said Fast, Pray, Give “is this remarkable, accessible, grass roots way for many, many, people to be engaged in ways that will enrich their spirits and enrich their sense of how important it is to share food with hungry people. We see a lot of spiritual health and vitality coming out of this as we see people moving beyond their concerns for their own places and stretch around the world.”

Individuals can give directly through, but if your church would like to do something hands-on, Stop Hunger Now may be the answer. “We have locations in 21 locations around the U.S. to be able to bring a mobile meal packaging experience to your church,” Hickle continued. “Anything within 2 hours of our many locations is doable. If it’s further than that, we can talk.”

For Hickle, this is only the beginning. They are also looking into clean water initiatives and sustainable agriculture projects. “There’s much we can do together, but as long as we’re disconnected we’ll never be able to get it done.”

Opening Worship: One God

USEaaaaaaaaIMG_0529In keeping with the theme, One: God, Faith, People and Mission, the first gathering was titled Opening Worship: One God. The service was set before a beautiful background and filled with music that lifted the spirits of those who were weary from travel or hard work to get to the moment of worshipping together.

The Festival Choir of Christ Church UMC, Sugarland provided gathering music and the conference worship team continued to raise the audience to their feet singing songs common to everyone.

Greetings were offered by Peggy Larney of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma followed by introductions by Bishop Ivan Abrahams.

The group was welcomed by:

  • Program Chair Sarah Wilke of the Upper Room Ministries,
  • Ann Connan, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women,
  • Bishop Scott J. Jones, Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church,
  • Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, 10th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  • Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, Eight Episcopal District of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and
  • Dr. HiRho Y. Park, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the united Methodist Church.

swedenflagThe processional of flags from across the world was set to the Charles Wesley hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”  It fit perfectly to highlight the expanse of the World Methodist Conference and all the voices that could be heard joining the singing.  An especially moving moment occurred when the audience members were asked to sing “How Great Thou Art” in their own language and the voices melded beautifully.

Jennifer Wiseman, Ph.D. an astrophysicist and Rev. Dr. David Wilkinson, Professor, St. John’s College, Durham University shared a lesson focused on Psalm 8 and expanse of the universe. Some points they offered:

  • Most scientists agree that 13.8 billion years ago the universe was created with a burst of energy.
  • Psalm 8 says that the heavens were created by God’s figures.
  • How mighty is God who created this expansive universe – expansive beyond our ability to comprehend?
  • Twenty-five years ago, scientists learned there are other planets orbiting stars at a distance that could allow habitation. Are there other habitable planets?
  • How is it possible for God to love this little planet and the people on it to the extent He knows and loves each of us?
  • Yet, as Christians, we know God’s love through Jesus Christ.
  • We try to make God small but God is BIG.
  • God is awesome using the order of nature to patiently create a world that is still in the creating process.
  • Science is a gift to celebrate. Understanding can heal us by instilling awe and wonder.

startalkersThe topic of nature and God’s magnificent creation continued with a performance led by a group from the Iglesia Metodista del Peru. The message was to restore what man has done to God’s beautiful work.

Archbishop Michael Kehinde Stephen of the Methodist Church Nigeria offered the closing blessing.




Registration – Wednesday

registration4502Conference attendees were asked to pre-register online for the WMC. At the Hilton- Americas Hotel, volunteers gave them their programs and conference bags. The volunteers, all recruited from local churches, worked hard to make their transition to their new Houston home a pleasant one. One volunteer offered, “It was amazing to me to meet so many people from all over the world and to realize that we all share a common tradition and to really feel the tie that binds us together as one faith.”




Houston Area Methodist Pulpits to be Filled with International Guests

abr450John Wesley, the eighteenth century founder of Methodism, said it long ago.  When locked out of Church of England pulpits due to the rejection of his evangelistic message, he took to the fields and coal mines of Britain instead proclaiming that “the world is my parish.”

Reflecting that emphasis and as a part of the World Methodist Conference, an ecumenical gathering of the spiritual heirs of Wesley happening in Houston August 31-September 4, several Methodist congregations here will in turn welcome a diverse collection of bishops, pastors, and other spiritual leaders from around the world all on a single day, Sunday, September 4.

The global conference, which meets once every five years, is being held in the United States for the first time in thirty-five years, centered at the Hilton-Americas Hotel in downtown Houston, and is expected to draw over 2500 delegates from all around the world, representing a variety of Wesleyan denominations.

“The world truly is coming to our house the last week of August,” says Dr. C. Chappell Temple, the pastor of Christ Church (UMC) in Sugar Land and one of the co-chairs of the host committee.  “In turn, we are opening our congregations to many of those delegates in an unprecedented way, and we can’t wait to see all that happens with this program.”

In addition to worship, delegates to the conference will hear numerous international speakers, participate in workshops on a variety of topics, and enjoy a cultural night on September 2 emceed by local television anchor Deborah Duncan which will feature the choir from Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a Hispanic arts group, Mariachi Tradicion de Jalisco, a liturgical dance company, Chara, and a breakdancing troupe from Gethsemane UMC, all capped off by a concert by the Grammy-nominated Christian artist, Gungor.

The joint preaching appearances on September 4 will be a part of the morning worship offerings of numerous churches and all are welcome to visit in any of the congregations.  Those churches hosting delegates include:

Ashford United Methodist Church: Reverend Tevita Finau, Methodist Church of New Zealand


Bear Creek United Methodist Church: Reverend Daniel Munnangi, Methodist Church in India


Bellaire United Methodist Church: Bishop Gary Rivas, Methodist Church Southern Africa


Bering United Methodist Church: Reverend Teresa Burnett-Cole, United Church of Canada


Blue Ridge United Methodist Church: Bishop Sylvester Williams, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Alabama


Cypress United Methodist Church: Reverend Ranganathan Prabhu, Methodist Church Singapore


Deer Park United Methodist Church: Dr. Todd Stepp, Church of the Nazarene, Indiana


Friendswood United Methodist Church: Reverend Richard Waugh, Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand


Humble First United Methodist Church: Dr. David Jebb, Methodist Church of Britain


John Wesley United Methodist Church: Dr. Christopher Walker, Uniting Church in Australia


Katy First United Methodist Church: Bishop Wee Boon Hup, Methodist Church of Singapore


Klein United Methodist Church:  Reverend David Bush, Methodist Church of New Zealand


Lake Houston United Methodist Church:  Reverend Phil Meadows, Director of Inspire, England


Lakewood United Methodist Church:  Bishop Joseph Ntombura, Methodist Church of Kenya


Montgomery United Methodist Church: Reverend Peter Benzie, Wesleyan Methodist Church in New Zealand


Pasadena First United Methodist Church: Reverend Andreia Fernandes, Methodist Church of Brazil


Pearland United Methodist Church:  Archbishop Michael Stephen, Methodist Church of Nigeria


St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church: Bishop Everald Galbraith, Methodist Church in the Caribbean


St. Paul’s United Methodist Church: Bishop Patrick Streiff, UMC in Southern and Central Europe


St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church: Dr. Leao Neto, Methodist Church in Britain


Springs Woods United Methodist Church: Reverend Charmaine Morgan, Methodist Church in Southern Africa


Sugar Land Christ Church (UMC):  Bishop Subodh Mondal, Methodist Church in India


Trinity United Methodist Church:  Bishop Raphael Opoko, Methodist Church in Nigeria


Walls Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: Bishop Darrell Starnes, AMEZ, Charlotte


West University United Methodist Church: Dr. Karen Tucker, Boston University School of Theology


Westbury United Methodist Church: Dr. Samuel Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church in Nigeria


Woodlands Christ UMC: Dr. Kimberly Reisman, Exec. Director, World Methodist Evangelism


For information on service times, please call or check the websites of the individual congregations listed.