By Jessica Brodie
They took the plunge in 2014 and put skin in the game in 2015. Next up, United Methodist Men across South Carolina are planning to make their mark with a massive men’s ministry weekend that draws 1,500 attendees for Christ—10 times the attendees they had in 2013 and the largest gathering of men in the full denomination.
The “Make Your Mark”-themed weekend retreat is set for Feb. 19-21, 2016, at Christ United Methodist Church, Myrtle Beach.
“We’re asking the question, ‘As a man of God, what kind of mark will you make on the world?’” said Herman Lightsey, president of the South Carolina Conference UMMen. “We don’t want the numbers for the numbers. We want them to come to the beach so we can expose them to the word of God and to the things we feel will help them go back to their local church and disciple men that God can use, and that is the bottom line of all of this: discipling men God can use for building up the church.”
The weekend will feature as keynote Dr. Zan Holmes Jr., who started the Disciple Bible Study program for the UMC, plus anchor speakers Bishop Jonathan Holston and Christ UMC pastor the Rev. Jeff Dunn. Back by demand, University of South Carolina football team head chaplain Adrian Despres will return to speak, along with other popular men’s speakers. Twelve workshops will be offered on a variety of topics, from diversity to small groups to mentoring and more. A variety of music, from contemporary to traditional choirs, and a host of free time options will round out the weekend.
“It’s a little bit of everything, and we’re even trying to mix the music up, too,” Lightsey said.
L.W. Smith said the event will be active and upbeat, with plenty of opportunity for spiritual growth and fellowship.
“The speakers are speaking to men about things Christ has changed in their lives,” Smith said. “And from the man side of it, it’s just kinda neat to be in the presence of 1,200-1,500 men praising God. That in itself is an experience.”
Men of God
The spiritual weekend is part of the UMMen’s effort over the past several years to take men’s ministry in a bold new direction. Not only have they decided to ramp up what they do with their weekends—shifting them from 150 attendees in 2013 to 500 in 2014, 850 in 2015 and now an estimated 1,500 in 2016—but they have also added new opportunities for men to come together and learn what it truly means to be disciples.
Two years ago, they added “teaching church” events to their lineup, which bring men together to learn and discuss a variety of topics that are at the fore in varying communities. These have shifted from what Lightsey called “a nuts and bolts-type” learning event to men going out and getting involved in their communities for Christ.
Last year, they took all this a step further and hosted the Bishop’s 100 Mighty Men of God, which was a gathering to get men to commit to be leaders in their church and district.
More plans are in the works to help men go beyond merely enjoying fellowship and attending events to be true men of God—and transform the local church in the process.
“If we’re just gonna meet every year and see how many men we can get, then there’s other things men want to do. I could spend more time fishing,” Lightsey said. “But the end result is that this fruit develops by seeing men God can use in local churches.”
David Holcombe, member of Covenant UMC, Greer, is one of the men the UMMen’s new focus has reached. Holcombe has been active in his local church as a youth leader and Sunday school teacher, but when he was asked to emcee a teaching church event at Covenant, his life was forever changed.
“It has completely transformed my life,” Holcombe said. “Before, my only mentor at the church was my pastor, and sometimes it’s difficult for a layperson to walk up and have an intimate relationship with your pastor. They got a lot going on. But as I got involved, I met a group of men who could mentor me, who I could share ideas with, share what’s going on in my life good and bad, and they could give advice, share their life with me.”
Now, Holcombe said, he can pick up the phone and call three or four men who will be there for him any time—and vice versa.
“I used to put a lot of my value in what people outside the church thought of me, the title I had, the company I worked for, but now I’m so far away from that it’s ridiculous,” Holcombe said.
Along with others now actively involved in men’s ministry, he has a new passion for helping other men see the importance and how it can benefit their lives, their church and their families.
“I’m excited about where it’s going to go,” Holcombe said.
Spiritual weekend good first step
A good first step for many men is attending the Make Your Mark UMMen spiritual weekend in February, said Holcombe, Lightsey and Smith.
Event registration is $65/man ($15/wife) before Dec. 31, and $90/man ($20/wife) after. Clergy registration is $40/man.
Three hotels will serve as host hotels, with special rates of $75/night double occupancy: Clarion Hotel, Staybridge Suites and Country Inn and Suites. A nearby oceanfront hotel, Springmaid, also has a special rate of $99/night for double occupancy.
To register for the event and find hotel information, visit www.ummsc.org.
Speaker Lineup for Make Your Mark Men’s Spiritual Weekend
- Dr. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr: Pastor Emeritus of St. Luke Community UMC in Dallas, Texas. Also known for his major role as narrator and host of the UMC’s Disciple Bible Study video series.
- Bishop Jonathan Holston: South Carolina Resident Bishop.
- The Rev. Jeff Dunn: Senior pastor of Christ UMC in Myrtle Beach. In 1998, Dunn moved to Myrtle Beach to start Christ Church, which has grown from 12 members to approximately 1,541 members. Christ UMC has an average of 1,040 worshipping on Sunday morning.
Speaker and/or Workshop Leaders:
- Robert Noland: Freelance writer, editor, songwriter and Christian music artist. His book, “Knights Code,” challenges and inspires men to follow Christ and to be His ambassadors in the world.
- Jeremy Kingsley: Author, leadership expert, master storyteller, inspirational and motivational speaker who will help men Make Your Mark as leaders in the home, church and community.
- Adrian Despres: Chaplain for University of South Carolina football team and motivational speaker who encourages all to pursue their biggest treasure: to know and follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly.
- Andre Davis: Former nine-year professional football player, now inspirational speaker and co-founder of 2 Live Beyond Initiative. Davis will share how God is leading him to make his mark in today’s world.
- Other workshop leaders include the Rev. James Salley, the Rev. Jason Everson, the Rev. Telley Gadson, Derek McGowan, Trevor Miller and more.
- Robert McMichael: Writer, lecturer, vocalist and organist with a calling to spread the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ through word and song. He is worship leader at Mount Bethel/St. Phillip UMCs in Marietta, Georgia.
- Christ UMC Praise Team: High-energy worship music with contemporary arrangements. The ministry of the praise team is to share the love of Jesus Christ through music and song.