District News

Building On A Legacy

“The Word became flesh…and moved into the neighborhood.”  

                                                                                        John 1:14 (The Message)


Is God inspiring your faith community toward to start something new? What would you do with a little extra cash? How can your congregation make new disciples, explore new possibilities, become a center of hope in your community? And how can your Mid-Michigan District help you to create the spaces and leaders through which God’s hospitality and wholeness can thrive in the community?

Our district is a powerful connection of 86 churches and 16 multi-point charges. We exist to support one another and to encourage our ministries to flourish together. There is power in connection and in the legacies churches have built for ministry in our region. A modest mission endowment has been established in part from legacy funds to continue to vivify the church. How can these resources help your faith community reach new people?

The newly formed Mid-Michigan District Board of Missions will consider proposals that range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for projects that train and equip leaders, launch new programs or ministries, make new disciples, and help your congregation to have a wider reach within your own community. If you have an idea to share God’s love to new people we can assist you in developing your idea, identifying your resources and sharing some launch money to get things moving. 

2021 District Grant Application – to be updated soon. – Stay Tuned.

Mid-Michigan District Office

Please know that you are surrounded in prayer as you lead in this highly unusual season.  You have our immense gratitude for adapting to the daily shifts caused by the corona virus pandemic.  There are some helpful tools that you have undoubtedly already accessed and have shared with others.  Here are a few that we would offer:




The District Office is closed except for immediate staff at this time. We are still available by phone and email. The phone will be answered Monday-Thursday from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm and Fridays from 9:00 am-noon.

District Office Phone: 1-517-347-4173

District Superintendent Jerome (Jerry) DeVine  email: [email protected]

Sarah Gillette, Executive Assistant email: [email protected]


The Lens – December 2019

The Lens December 2019
The Journey Continues: An Invitation to Calm in Advent
The “day that shall come to pass” is now. The “house of the God of Jacob and Rachel” is here. O God, be with us in these moments in this place, that in days to come we may remain with you as we walk in the world. Litanies and Other Prayers for the Common Lectionary

When I was pastoring local churches, I always looked forward to the season of Advent.  While it meant more work for me and those involved on the worship team, it also provided a deep sense of tradition, reflection and gentle movement toward the mystery and gift of Christmas.  It was almost as if the intentionality of the holy season gave us all permission to become more focused on our faith journeys, and less distracted by the scattered patterns of daily life.  In my current ministry, I now rely on others to set that tone in local churches, and I support my wife Ruth as she helps create that rhythm and space in our home.  It has already begun!

Admittedly, the effort of creating the space for that journey in our home is far more labor intensive physically than if I were creating multiple worship liturgies for a congregation to journey together.  Each year we wonder if we should limit what images, decorations and symbols we should bring forth.  After decades of marriage and raising three children into adulthood, we have a great deal of “tradition” to share.  I even thought, however so briefly, that perhaps we would not go out to locate and cut a fresh tree this year.  We are still in the midst of final home remodeling, and I tried to convince myself it would be easier to skip it this year.  Then one of our sons reminded us why it is important.  The past few years some of our grandchildren have accompanied us to the tree farm and have become a part of the passing on of the Advent and Christmas tradition and meaning.

I can still visualize walking among the trees with young hands holding onto mine.  For a child some of these trees must seem as large as the giant sequoia trees.  Last year I recall having narrowed it down to two tall but slender trees [16.5 feet tall and 8 feet wide].  I turned to the grandson that was with us that year and asked which he wanted us to bring home.  At the age of five years old, there was joy on his face as we harvested the tree, wrestled it on to the back of the truck and began the journey back to our house.  He exhibited the sense that he was an important part of what was taking place. 

We had slowed down the frantic nature of the world, focused in, and were present to one another.  The previous year two of our other grandchildren helped make the selection.  They will undoubtedly have expectations of doing the same this year, so I will get my boots on and charge up the chainsaw!

As you begin your journey of Advent, I pray that

you will allow yourself to be in the “now” and “here”

as you walk with God in the world.  May this be so for you and your deepest relationships, as well as for you in your congregation and your community. 

Peace to you,


Rev. Dr. Jerome (Jerry) DeVine

District Superintendent, Mid-Michigan District


The Lens – November 2019

“I was hungry, and you …”

How would you finish that sentence?  How might federal, state and local governments finish that sentence?  In a blog entitled “Feeding the Hungry Is Our Moral and Social Responsibility” Monica Brown Moss puts forth this affirmation:

“Speaking as a Christian, I embrace this fundamental truth – what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.  Jesus fed the hungry.  He clothed the naked.  Feeding one another is part of the love we have as Christian people.”

In the passage from Matthew 25:35-46, Jesus makes it very clear that for there to be integrity in saying that we follow him then we are to embody and extend the compassionate abundance of God to other human beings.  In a world where economic and governmental systems often prevent people from getting the basic essentials for life we are to also embody and act upon God’s justice for all.  Providing basic nourishment to all persons and communities is both an act of mercy and an act of justice in our faith tradition.  The author of the blog quoted above has raised deep concern about a proposal coming from the current White House Administration that would severely limit regular access to food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

Think of all the stories in the Bible that center around providing food for others.  When messengers from God came to Abraham and Sarah to tell them they would have a son, Abraham and Sarah quickly provided them a meal to strengthen them on their journey (Genesis 18:1-15).  When Moses was told to prepare to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage in Egypt a special meal was to be prepared, and it became known as Passover (Exodus 12).  And, in that story, every family was to be provided for.  This reminds me of when so many of our local United Methodist Churches across the Mid-Michigan District provide full holiday meal boxes for low-income families in their neighborhoods.  These Christians embody God’s compassionate desire that all will be cared for.

All four Gospels have a version of the well-known story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  In John’s version of the story, Jesus tests the readiness of his disciples to share of their resources (John 6).  In Luke’s Gospel the disciples appear to want to “send the people away” but Jesus says “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9).  Then, in Mark we read that as Jesus looked upon the crowd “he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6).  In each version those who would be disciples of Jesus are called to be in relationship to the community around them, bringing the bread for life and the Bread of Life for all.

As I have traveled across the eight counties that make up our Mid-Michigan District, listening to the celebrations of each congregation I am grateful for the multiple food supply ministries you are making possible.  From food pantries to community meals, you are embodying and extending God’s compassion and justice for all.  Thank you for what you do!


Blessings—Rev. Dr. Jerome (Jerry) DeVine

District blog 11 1 2019

The Lens

The Lens – September 2019

The Lens – September 2019




It was a warm Saturday morning in August of 2010.  We had arisen early to be certain that the family, especially my mother-in-law and my wife, could make it to the arena at the Jackson County Fair (Jackson, Minnesota that is) on time.  For many it was just another day at a typical agriculturally-focused county fair, the air filled with the mingled fragrances of cotton candy and corndogs contrasted by the obligatory 4-H barns filled with farm animals.  However, for our family it was a special morning filled with heritage, legacy and memories.  We arrived on time and joined several other farm families, each of whom would receive a plaque designating their family farms as a Century Farm.  It was a proud and humbling moment as we acknowledged the hard and often sacrificial efforts of ancestors who then handed this legacy to our generation.  To-date, there have now been five generations of Ruth’s family, and now our family, who have lived on this small farm.

One definition of legacy that I found on Wikipedia states, “In historical terms, a legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time.”  Yet, a legacy is not a static thing.  It faces the forces of change just as everything does.  In the 45 years I have been travelling to the farm it has changed dramatically.  Ruth has walked that ground since she was a toddler and has seen even more changes than I have.  For example, some buildings, while holding sentimental memory, have no real use or purpose anymore, and thus have simply fallen into disrepair out of a lack of relevance.  Others have been repurposed.  The legacy is still life-giving, but has to be viewed and used in new ways.  It cannot, and should not be a romantic museum of the past.

[The old corncrib no longer holds corn.  Perhaps a future woodworking shop!-photo by Jerry DeVine]


In this month’s Mid-Michigan District Newsletter you are learning about a new grant opportunity for local churches initiating new ministries.  This has become possible only because of taking legacy seriously.  As the new Michigan Conference was being formed and the new nine districts were being shaped, a commitment was made to provide a missionally-focused legacy fund for every district.  Every new district would have a minimum of $250,000 as a starting base for innovating ministry support moving forward.  Those funds were generated predominantly from the sale of church properties when some local United Methodist churches ceased to be worshipping congregations.  At our 2018 Annual Conference the conference members voted approval for a policy that 50% of the assets coming from the closed church, after debts have been cared for, would go into a district legacy mission fund, and 50% would go into a conference congregational vibrancy legacy fund.  Remember the definition: “A legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time.”  The financial commitments and sacrifices of generations ago that started some of our local UM churches lives on when those facilities become either a home to a new church start, or are sold and the funds become a part of launching new ministries in new ways in new places.

The Mid-Michigan District was very fortunate to have a substantial starting Legacy Mission Fund.  After providing approximately $70,000 so other districts would have their starting base of $250,000 the Mid-Michigan District still had over $600,000.  The District Leadership Team established a Board of Missions to give oversight to the handling of grant processes and for reviewing grant applications.  The Leadership Team established a Legacy Mission Fund account with the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan.  We have some funds available immediately and some that will grow over time, allowing for a legacy that is long-lived, and handed on for a new day.

If your local church or group of churches does decide to seek a grant for launching vibrant ministries please pause and remember why being a part of a connectional church matters.  We hold properties “in trust for the benefit of the entire denomination” (Paragraph 2501, 2016 Book of Discipline of the UMC).  Because of that connection we can now offer grants back to our local churches!





Tool Box August 2019

Youth Ministry Planning Tools

Planning tips and resources recommended by Bridget Nelson, Youth Ministry Initiatives Coordinator for The Michigan Conference.

YOUTH MINISTRY: Getting ready for Fall

As the fall approaches, now is the time to get your church events onto family calendars! Whatever your schedule is for youth ministry (weekly, monthly, etc), get that information in the hands of students and parents as soon as possible. Family calendars start to take shape as soon as fall sports start at the high school, so be sure to have church information in the mix! 

CONSISTENCY IS KEY: Stick to the Plan

Decide now when your youth will meet, and stick to the plan. Attendance will ebb and flow but don’t make any drastic changes until you’ve given it a chance. Be there when you say you will!


Start by getting your calendar out to families, then decide how you will do reminders each week. Weekly email? Reminder texts? Parents and students need to hear from you regularly! Make a plan and stick to the plan.


Following the REACH Summit in October, the Youth Worker Network will again be taking registrations for 2020. This group is for adults working with youth in local churches. We meet once a month to learn more about the field, encourage one another and learn from each others best practices. This is a great way to learn more about youth ministry but also to connect with others who get the joys and challenges of youth ministry!






Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries

Growing Young by Kara Powell


Michigan Conference Youth Ministry Initiatives Coordinator

[email protected] * 517-347-4030 x4095

Toolbox – June-July 2019


  • Ready to reach out to your local schools? You could start with this sample Letter to the Principal.
  • Are you wondering what position the UMC takes regarding public education?  That topic is addressed throughout the Social Principles, and most directly in the section regarding The Political Community under “Education.”
  • For more UMC-oriented ideas and thoughts on the subject, check out this page of the UMC website titled “Education and Schools,” or this page from the Book of Resolutions.
  • Are you looking for ways to motivate your congregation to get involved?  You can learn more about the Literacy Scores in your area at The Bridge, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news source for Michigan.  Check out this Detroit News article to see how Michigan’s educational achievements compare in the nation and around the world.
  • Worried about violating the separation of church and state doctrine?  This Ministry-to-Children website has some ideas to ponder.
  • Planning your children/youth ministry year? Sit down with colleagues in the conference and hammer it out together in this five-hour workshop on July 31! https://www.facebook.com/events/465778704177148/

Toolbox – May 2019

Resources for World Refugee Awareness

Plan a Refugee Awareness Sunday Using special liturgy, scripture, music, and stories.

Learn about refugees: Find Facts, stories, pictures and videos here:

Attend an event during World Refugee Week

Host the Refuge Lansing exhibit with area stores and pictures presented through display boards, books and website. http://www.refugelansing.us/

Collaborative groups-follow them on Facebook or sign up for emails

  • All Faith Alliance for Refugees (AFAR) connects the area refugee support agencies with the faith communities through emails and events.
  • Immigrant and Refugee Resettlement Coalition (IRRC)—connects area refugee support agencies with community leaders such as schools, health department, employers, landlords

Learn the needs and help local refugee related agencies in Mid-Michigan. Check out their websites for stories and facts to share. Follow them on Facebook. Invite directors to speak at your church or schedule a visit.

Advocate with lawmakers on behalf of refugee resettlement

Plan a Bible Study

Read about historic support from faith groups in the U.S. for refugees and recent decline among some white Christians, “Religion and refugees are deeply entwined in the US,” Dr. Stephanie Nawyn, MSU. https://theconversation.com/religion-and-refugees-are-deeply-entwined-in-the-us-105923

Agencies that serve refugees in Mid-Michigan are eager to answer questions and to meet with congregations. Here are some helpful contacts:

Q&A All About Protection/Safe Sanctuary Policy

Q&A All about Protection/Safe Sanctuary Policy
by: Rev. Kathy Pittenger, Children’s Initiatives Coordinator, Michigan Conference

What is a protection/safe sanctuary policy?
A Protection Policy (known by lots of names, for this conversation I will refer to it as a Protection Policy, or PP) is a document local churches adopt, implement, and follow through to protect children, youth, vulnerable adults and those who are in ministry with those populations from abuse and allegations of abuse. It’s not just for children and youth! It also protects vulnerable adults who are at risk of emotional, sexual, financial and other forms of abuse. The PP may also provide guidelines around staffing, transportation, media, overnights, and other considerations of a local church. The PP establishes guidelines and a process for how one becomes trained and authorized to work with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. It also contains information about what to if abuse is suspected or alleged.

Who would this policy protect?
The Protection Policy protects children, youth, vulnerable adults and those who are in ministry with them as well as the local church.

Which churches need protection policies, and why?
ALL churches need to have a Protection Policy. There are several reasons why churches need to have a protection policy. First, it cares for God’s children by establishing guidelines and expectations to minimize the risk of abuse in vulnerable populations. Second, it cares for those who are in ministry with vulnerable populations, both paid and volunteer, with training and guidelines for care. Third, it creates a policy to minimize the risk and limit the extend of liability for a local church. In addition to the policy, the local church must conduct thorough training and individuals must complete applications and background checks.

Is this really about ministry, or is it fear of lawsuits?
Yes. The Protection Policy is foremost about ministry and it is also about limiting liability for local churches.

I can vouch for my long-time nursery volunteer. Does she really need a background check?
Yes! And everyone needs to complete the training, application, and background check.

Does everyone need training?
Yes! Everyone who wishes to be in ministry with children, youth, and vulnerable adults needs to complete the training, application, and background check. There is good news! If you do not feel qualified or prepared to lead such a training, there are people who have been trained by the Michigan Conference Protection Policy who will lead a training at your church.

Budget? What budget?! Give me the bottom line…
The cost of creating, implementing, and following through with a Protection Policy is far less than potential litigation from not having one. There are several tools that local churches may use to create and implement their own policy. Conference staff created a Template that Local Churches may use to create their own policy. This resource is free and includes an appendix with sample forms and information about background checks. Each church needs to decide how they want to proceed with background checks. Free background checks from the Michigan criminal database may be done (with proper application) through ICHAT. Nationwide background checks may be completed for a fee that varies depending on the provider and the scope of the check. Churches also should consult their insurance company and attorney before adopting their Protection Policy to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Toolbox: Starter Kit

Toolbox: Your very own starter kit!

Our Michigan Conference staff are also glad to help! Reach out for support, guidance, and additional resources:

Rev. Kathy Pittenger
Children’s Initiatives Coordinator
[email protected]

Bridget Nelson
Youth Ministry Initiatives Coordinator
[email protected]

Mid-Michigan District