The 2018 Studies
**Asbury will offer the Spiritual Growth study this year**
Spiritual Growth Study:
An Earth Perspective on Covenantal Living”
The 2018 Spiritual Growth Study, Embracing Wholeness is the second in a two-part series about covenantal living. Part 1, Living as a Covenant Community by Evy McDonald explores the scriptural definitions covenant in order to bridge these definitions with their application and their implications for the modern church. Part 2, Embracing Wholeness is designed to build on this work it explores the ways God has called us to live in covenantal relationship with all of creation and challenges readers to work toward stronger and healthier relationships with creation, their communities, themselves, and God. Chapter 1 begins the text with the theological and biblical foundation for our covenantal relationship with creation and moves forward into our community, our relationships, and our very selves. Each chapter explores both our personal and corporate responsibilities to those around us and addresses current issues, such as climate change, social responsibility, and justice concerns.
Chapter 2 examines with our relationship with creation, Stonecypher examines the sacred community, our relationship with others, and what the Bible and other theological voices say we ought to do in order to live faithfully. This includes topics such as the importance of worship, acts of justice and mercy, the work of being in solidarity with others, and the social responsibility of seeking happiness.
Chapter 3 discusses our relationships with ourselves and how we are indeed sacred. Stonecypher encourages her readers to consider the biblical command to love ourselves and to explore vocation, identity, play, happiness, and the fall, among other topics. The final chapters explore the more practical side of covenantal living and work toward helping the reader to develop a covenantal living plan, or rule of life.
Stonecypher is a United Methodist deacon in ministry with God’s creation seeking to bring wholeness and dignity to people, plants, animals, and the land, which others deem unworthy of care. She is the Abbess and a founding member of the Wesleyan Order of Saint Francis, a religious order called to live faithfully in solidarity with the marginalized, voiceless, and undervalued members of God’s creation through the lens of Wesleyan and Franciscan theology. Committed to ministry rooted in her place, Jessica lives in her hometown of Zanesville, Ohio, where she serves as the urban agriculture specialist at Muskingum Soil and Water Conservation District and the farm manger of marketing and administration at her family’s cattle farm.
Participant’s Guide by Jessica Stonecypher
Leaders Guide: Faye Wilson and Ellen Lipsey
“Missionary Conferences of the US”
The aim of the study is to give an overview of the three missionary conferences in The United Methodist Church, the contexts out of which they grew and their current engagements: The Alaska United Methodist Conference, Red Bird Missionary Conference, and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference are a hybrid of home and international missionary work.
What does the future look like for these conferences? Broad-ranging conversations are taking place around this question. The General Board of Global Ministries and the missionary conferences are exploring best operational and structural options for maximizing mission and ministry going forward in these unique locations. These dialogues, different in each case, have begun and will take place across the 2017– 2020 quadrennium. The objective is mutuality in mission partnership and collaboration, which provides the heartbeat of all productive mission within the United Methodist connection.
Study guide by J. Ann Craig with special contributions by Deborah Bass.
Leaders guide by Judith Pierre-Okerson.
Social Issue Study:
“What About Our Money? A Faith Response”
What About Our Money? A Faith Response explores how we relate to money within the context of our faith. Through this connection between our faith and our money, readers discover how to live closer to God and God’s people, even in our North American culture that is so deeply defined by money. She explores the biblical foundation of abundance (sufficiency), which stands in opposition to the scarcity narrative our culture tells us from the time we are very young.
The text’s seven chapters start with providing a biblical foundation for the discussion to come. Taylor then explores the systems in which we make our financial decisions, our modern-day understanding of what is available to us, and how we use/consume our resources in Chapters 2–4. Chapters 5–7 help readers take steps to implement this knowledge in their lives by looking at what belongs to God, how we can plan for the future as people of faith, and to make the connection between our faith and finances.
The focus of this study is both personal and communal. Readers will explore their own relationship with money, the money choices available to us, and how we individually and collectively respond in light of our faith. The text takes into account that we are all in different places, in different financial circumstances, health, family structure, race, age, and stage of life, and each of us has our own values and capacities.
Taylor recognizes that any discussion of money must be set within the context of culture and economic systems. Inequities and oppression based on such factors as race, sex, religion, socio-economic class, and geography are evident throughout the Bible. Today, they continue to powerfully shape people’s relationship to money, to God, and to God’s people.
In any—and every—cross-section of demographics and circumstance, it is spiritually vital to ask, from the grounding of our faith, “What about our money?” Regardless of our circumstance, our relationship to money shapes our relationship with God and God’s people.
Susan K. Taylor has invested much of her life exploring the intersections of faith and money. Taylor weaves money and faith together in her own life, as a mother of two (now young adults); a partner in Just Money Advisors, a financial planning and investment management company that specializes in socially responsible and community investment strategies; regular writer on money and spirituality; vice-president of Faith and Money Network’s board of directors; treasurer for Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, which mobilizes a religious response to global warming; and an active member in her Louisville, Kentucky, church.
Participant’s Guide by Susan K. Taylor
Leader’s Guide by Crys Zinkiewicz
“Is It Just Money?”
Is It Just Money? is designed to engage youth in an exploration of money as it relates to faith and justice. This collection of activities and discussions will provide the study leader with the resources to help youth—ages thirteen to eighteen—deepen their understanding of the complex questions that surround making, having, giving, and using money.
The following principles guide the conversations and shared work throughout the sessions:
- God has provided plentifully for the needs of the people of earth.
- Human action has caused these resources to be unfairly distributed.
- Our faith calls on us to respond to the immediate needs of others.
- Our faith calls on us to reform systems that promote and further inequity.
In Session One, “Is It Just Money?,” participants will explore what the Bible and our faith tells us about the value of money and its right use. In Session Two, “A Healthy Bottom Line,” participants will examine the difference between wants and needs, and the difference between an abundance mindset and a scarcity mindset. It asks youth to think about how we can free up our excess resources to make life better for those in need.
In Session Three, “The Luck of the Draw,” participants are invited to see and learn about the poverty around them, and as Christians committed to justice, to become allies to and workers with those who struggle with the reality of poverty every day. In Session Four, “What Does It Cost?,” participants are asked to recognize the hidden “downline” costs of goods and services— the impact on workers and the environment—and take these costs into account when they make purchasing decisions.
Throughout the sessions, eye-opening role-playing activities, games, and questionnaires, (along with real-life examples of individuals who’ve shared what they have generously with those in need) reinforce the concept that God wants us all to be healthy, happy, well fed, sheltered, and safe, and in service to the people and creatures with whom we share the earth.
The authors, Tom and Anna Burkett, are a father-daughter team. Anna Burkett is a 2017 graduate of Goucher College and a world language teacher who has written curriculum for the annual Baptist Youth Camp. Tom Burkett is a middle school teacher who has been active on issues of political, social, and racial justice for more than four decades. He has authored curriculum for a variety of organizations at the national, state, and local level.
Money Matters teaches children about the concept of money, the importance of generosity, and how God intends for us to use money as an expression of love for others. Over the course of the four sessions, children will learn through biblical examples how to be responsible custodians of money and how they can use their resources to be a part of God’s plan.
In the introductory session, participants will discover the origins and purpose of money and how it has developed through the ages. In Session 1 they will come to an understanding that wants and needs are very different things—and explore the importance of being content with what they have. In Session 2 they will learn that generosity is giving to others from what we have so that we can be a blessing and be blessed. In Session 3 they will recognize that intentional giving—also know as tithing—can take many forms, not just monetary. In Session 4 they will discover that when we are engaged in giving, even our small contributions can do great things.
Each session contains suggestions for children’s literature to incorporate that correspond with the central topics. These are reinforced through games, arts-and-crafts projects, and other hands-on learning experiences including “The Open-Hand Activity,” in which participants will experience the physical tension that greed and fear produce, along with the relaxed feeling that generosity produces. Scriptural references are used throughout this study to further enhance the participants’ understanding of money through the lens of our Christian faith.
The author, Denise Synder, holds a bachelor’s degree in special education, a master’s in elementary education, and certification as a preschool teacher in Delaware. She urges leaders of this study to recognize that children do not learn in the same manner or timeframe and come from varied backgrounds and cultures. She encourages leaders to adapt the materials and means of expression recommended in this study to suit the needs of their group.
In addition to her career in childhood education, Synder has served in many capacities within The United Methodist Church and in United Methodist Women at the local, district, and conference levels. She currently serves in the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference as the Dover District lay leader and as associate conference lay leader. She was elected president of United Methodist Women’s Northeastern Jurisdiction for the 2016–20 term.