¶ 256. Program Ministries-The ministries of the local church are offered so that people encounter God’s redeeming love for the world and respond by participating in God’s action in the world. To achieve this ministry, people need to be involved in a variety of small-group settings. Some will be formed by the church council. Others will emerge with the approval of this body. Another type is historical, expressing itself in organizational structures that are related to
counterparts in annual conferences and the general Church. These
are referred to as program ministries and are related to the church council.
1. The Church School and Small-Group Ministries-In each local church there shall be a variety of small-group ministries, including the church school, for supporting the formation of Christian disciples focused on the transformation of the world. These small groups may concentrate on teaching and learning, fellowship, support, community ministries, and accountability. Members of small groups will build their knowledge of the Bible, the Christian faith, The United Methodist Church, and the societal context in which the church finds itself. In addition, small groups, including the church school, shall provide people with opportunities for practicing skills for faithful discipleship, including but not limited to worship, faith sharing, the creation of new faith communities, spiritual discernment, Bible study, theological reflection, prayer, community building, service with the poor and marginalized, and advocacy for peace and justice. Local churches or charges are encouraged to develop a policy to provide for the safety of the infants, children, and youth entrusted to their care.
a) The Church School-In each local church there shall be a church school for the purpose of accomplishing the church’s educational ministry.
The church school is challenged to create communities in which people of all ages experience God’s active presence in their lives; foster healthy, nonviolent relationships within the congregation and community; testify to the reconciling love of God through Christ; and live out their faith in the world as witnesses to the coming reign of God.
b) Accountable Discipleship-Historically class leaders provided lay pastoral leadership, and classes and class meetings were the basic structural means of Christian spiritual formation in the early Methodist societies.
Class leaders may be commissioned and classes may be organized within the local congregation for the purpose of forming persons as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ through mutual accountability and support for witnessing to him in the world and for following his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (See ¶ 103, “The Nature, Design, and General Rules of Our United Societies” [page 72], and
c) Mission and Ministry Groups-Christian discipleship is patterned after the servanthood of Jesus, who cared for the sick, fed the hungry, and befriended the outcast. People may participate in small groups in order to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized, advocate for social justice, and demonstrate their faith in all their relationships and whatever setting they find themselves in.
d) Support Groups-Where needed, the local church may organize small groups to support particular needs of congregation and community members, including but not limited to care and prayer groups, divorce recovery, grief recovery, parenting groups, and support for people who are suffering from chronic illness, including persons with mental illnesses and their families.
2. Children’s Ministries-Children’s ministries-for, with, and by children-include all ministries involving children within the life of the congregational community, including but not limited to Sunday school, vacation Bible school, nursery ministries, children’s choir and music ministries, fellowship groups, support groups, short-term study groups, children’s worship experiences, mission education experiences, intergenerational activities, and all weekday programs for children of all ages.
a) If there is a coordinator of children’s ministries, the coordinator shall be responsible for assuring that children are considered and included within the life of the congregation. The coordinator will lead the children’s council, when organized, and will work closely with clergy and other program-related staff. The coordinator will vision, plan, and advocate for children, particularly in the areas of faith development, safety, and discipleship. The coordinator will work with other leaders in the congregation to assure that policies and procedures are in place to help keep all children and the adults who care for and work with them safe. These policies and procedures include such things as background checks, having at least two adults per group, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid training. The coordinator will also advocate for mission education for children, including The United Methodist Children’s Fund for Christian Mission.
b) If there is a children’s council, it shall be responsible for planning, visioning, and advocating for children within the congregation, the community, and the world. The council will set policies and procedures related to children, oversee the planning of short-term experiences, consider children’s ministry needs within the whole
of the congregation’s ministries, and communicate with parents and the congregation. The children’s council will work closely with the coordinator of children’s ministries and church staff responsible for ministry with children, including children’s choirs and weekday
ministries. The children’s council is accountable to the group responsible for the local church’s educational ministry.
c) Weekday Ministry Board-The term weekday ministry applies to any regularly planned ministry for children. When appropriate, one or more weekday ministry boards may be organized to oversee the weekday ministry programs of the congregation. The board’s membership should be mostly professing members of the congregation, with parent, church staff, and weekday ministry staff representatives. The board will set policies consistent with the congregation’s policies, state mandates, and sound business practices. The board will guide weekday ministries as appropriate opportunities for faith development, mission outreach, Christian education, evangelism, and safety. They will advocate for inclusion of children from various socioeconomic, cultural, and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Weekday ministry board(s) accountability should be placed within the local church organizational structure with consideration to the group responsible for the congregation’s education ministry.
3. Young People’s Ministries-The term young people is inclusive of all persons from approximately twelve through thirty years of age. The term encompasses both youth and young-adult ministries and allows for age flexibility given the different age definitions for young people in various cultures around the world. The term youth ministry is an inclusive title, encompassing all the concerns of the Church and all activities by, with, and for youth. The youth ministry of The United Methodist Church shall include all persons from approximately twelve through eighteen years of age (generally persons in the seventh grade through the twelfth grade, taking into account the grouping of youth in the public schools), who are currently or potentially associated with the church or any of its activities. Youth who are professing members of the church have all rights and responsibilities of church membership except voting on matters prohibited by state law (see ¶ 226.5). The term young-adult ministry is an inclusive title, encompassing all the concerns of the Church and all activities by, with, and for young adults. The young-adult ministry of The United Methodist Church shall include all persons from approximately eighteen to thirty who are currently or potentially associated with the church or any of its activities. Young adults who are professing members of the church have all rights and responsibilities of church membership.
a) The coordinator of youth ministries and the youth council, when organized, shall be responsible for recommending to the church council activities, program emphases, and settings for youth. The coordinator and council shall use available resources and means to inform youth concerning the Youth Service Fund and shall cultivate its support; provided that prior to this cultivation or as a part of it, the youth shall have been challenged to assume their financial responsibilities in connection with the total program and budget of the local church.
b) The local church may designate one of its settings as the United Methodist Youth Fellowship.
c) In each charge conference there may be a youth council.
(1) The council shall be made up of no less than three-fourths youth. Nominations for members of the council (both youth and adults) shall come from the youth group (or related structure). The nominations will then be sent to the committee on lay leadership for approval and then to the charge conference for approval.
The council shall be composed of:
(a) At least one young adult.
(b) The coordinator of youth ministries (or related position) and other related staff as ex-officio members with voice but not vote.
(c) Any youth serving on a district, conference, jurisdictional, or general Church board or agency.
(d) Any adult serving on a district, conference, jurisdictional, or general Church youth council or organization.
(2) All offices of this council shall be held by youth. No member shall serve for more than four consecutive years.
(3) The council shall meet at least semi-annually. It may meet additionally at the request of the pastor, coordinator of youth ministries (or related person), or an officer of the committee.
(a) To assist the coordinator of youth ministry (or related position) and other related staff in planning and developing activities, program emphases, and settings for youth in the local church.
(b) To assist the coordinator of youth ministry (or related position) in finding and encouraging qualified adults and interns to work with youth in the local church.
(c) To develop a covenant for all adult volunteer youth workers.
(d) To encourage and facilitate the furthering of education for the coordinator of youth ministries (or related position) and related staff.
(e) To encourage and educate youth on possible careers in professional ministry and how to consider any vocational calling and opportunity to serve.
(f) To be a resource for other churches interested in starting or revitalizing youth ministry within their own local churches.
(g) To further educate youth and adults on The United Methodist Church as a connectional church by encouraging and supporting the participation of youth and adults in district, annual, jurisdictional, and central conferences, and other general Church ministries.
(h) To promote and educate persons about the Youth Service Fund.
(i) To promote the camping and retreat ministries within the local church.
(j) To empower youth to be full participants and active leaders in The United Methodist Church.
(k) To consult with the pastor/staff parish relations committee in: 1) developing written job descriptions; 2) nominating; 3) evaluating the job performance of the coordinator of youth ministries (or related position) and any other volunteer and paid staff related to youth ministry in the local church.
(l) It is strongly recommended that the council develop a program budget for their ministry.
d) The coordinator of young adult ministries and the young-adult council, when organized, shall be responsible for recommending to the church council the activities, program emphases, and settings for young adults.
4. Civic youth-serving agencies and Scouting ministries offer another setting for ministry to children, youth, their leaders, and their families. These opportunities would include the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire USA, 4-H, or other appropriate organizations in the central conferences. The God and Country award program may be available to all appropriate age-level participants of the local church education program including the church school, youth ministry, and Scouting ministries.
a) Each local church may have a local church scouting coordinator (or the central conferences equivalent) who shall relate to the church council, the superintendent of the church school, the coordinator of children’s ministries, the coordinator of youth ministries, and all the various youth-serving agency structures. The local church scouting coordinator (or the central conferences equivalent) may relate to the district scouting coordinator and annual conference scouting coordinator who are resource and training advisors. All churches shall be encouraged to have a signed partnership agreement with all the units of these agencies which are part of their ministry.
5. United Methodist Women-In every local church there shall be an organized unit of United Methodist Women. The following is the authorized constitution:
Article 1. Name-The name of this organization shall be United Methodist Women.
Article 2. Relationships-The unit of United Methodist Women in the local church is directly related to the district and conference organizations of United Methodist Women and to the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
Article 3. Purpose-The organized unit of United Methodist Women shall be a community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the Church.
Article 4. Membership-Membership shall be open to any woman who indicates her desire to belong and to participate in the global mission of the Church through United Methodist Women. The pastor(s) shall be an ex officio member of the local unit and of its executive committee.
Article 5. Officers and Committees-The local unit shall elect a president, a vice president, a secretary, a treasurer, and a committee on nominations. Additional officers and committees shall be elected or appointed as needed, in accordance with the plans of the Women’s Division as set forth in the bylaws for the local unit of United Methodist Women.
Article 6. Funds-a) The organized unit of United Methodist Women shall secure funds for the fulfillment of its purpose.
b) All funds from whatever source secured by the unit of United Methodist Women belong to the organization and shall be disbursed only in accordance with its constitution and by its order.
c) The total budget secured and administered by the organized unit in the local church shall include: (1) pledges and other money for the programs and responsibilities of the Women’s Division to be directed through regular channels of finance of United Methodist Women; and (2) funds to be used in mission locally, which shall include amounts for administration and membership development.
d) The organized unit in the local church shall make an annual pledge to the total budget of the district or conference organization of United Methodist Women.
e) All undesignated funds channeled to the Women’s Division shall be appropriated by the division.
Article 7. Meetings-The organized unit in the local church shall hold such meetings for implementing the purpose and transacting its business as the unit itself shall decide.
Article 8. Relationship in the Local Church-The organized unit of United Methodist Women shall encourage all women to participate in the total life and work of the Church and shall support them in assuming positions of responsibility and leadership.
Article 9. Amendments-Proposed amendments to this constitution may be sent to the recording secretary of the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries before the last annual meeting of the division in the quadrennium.
Note: For a description of the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries and its subsidiary organizations, see ¶¶ 1317-1325.