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United Methodist Deacons Launch After-School Youth Club, Christian Community Center and Music Experience for Refugees

Beth Neil
December 13, 2016

2016 Emerging Ministry Grant Recipients Announced
2016 Emerging Ministry Grant Recipients Announced

Three deacons in The United Methodist Church have been awarded 2016 Emerging Ministry Grants from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). The purpose of this grant is to encourage United Methodist deacons and diaconal minister to establish new peace with justice ministries that reach beyond the walls of the church. This year, the grant recipients support family-oriented projects, including an after-school youth club, a music experience for immigrant and refugee children and their parents, and a Christian community center.

“The projects that were awarded the Emerging Ministry grants are particularly intentional about bringing hope to those who may be losing it, offering very practical assistance that helps people reclaim self-determination, build community, and engage church people in ministry to their neighbors,” said Victoria Rebeck, director of deacon ministry development and provisional membership at GBHEM.

The 2016 Emerging Ministry Grants were awarded in varying amounts to the following:

  • The Rev. Marilyn Beecher, Holly Hill, Florida, for the Derbyshire Place After-School and Summer Day Camp ministry for children in need ($2,225)
  • Rev. Tina Itson, Waukesha, Wisconsin, for a youth club called ‘Youth Internet Café’ for neighborhood teens in need of a safe place to go ($2,225)
  • Rev. Laura B. Douglass, Harrisonburg, Virginia, for Musikgarten for immigrant and refugee children and families ($550)

Angela and her granddaughters
Angela and granddaughters at Derbyshire Place

“Our leadership team was encouraged to receive the Emerging Ministry Grant and we are excited to start a new after-school program,” said Rev. Marilyn Beecher, deacon and grant recipient. “One grandmother, raising her granddaughters, told us, ‘My granddaughters come to Derbyshire Place because they have fun. You provide great opportunities for them to learn. Mostly, they know they are loved when they are here.’ With the support of this funding and an amazing volunteer team, we are ready to grow this program to reach more children and families in our community.”


Rev. Tina Itson
Rev. Tina Itson

Youth Internet Café is a once-a-week, after-school program for 6th through 12th graders in the local community that provides opportunities for students to get homework help, school support, healthy snacks and other asset-based activities. “As the program grows, we will also offer opportunities for students to participate in traditional youth-group type activities, such as bible study, worship and mission projects,” said Rev. Tina Itson, deacon and grant recipient. “This grant will help us to create quality publicity materials that will be distributed at the local schools to connect with students and invite them to attend the Youth Internet Café. It will also allow us to provide healthy snacks for students who attend, and supply programming materials that will keep students engaged and coming back each week.”

Harrisonburg, Virginia, located in the Shenandoah Valley, welcomes refugee families through Church World Service placement. The community currently provides immediate employment for refugees through the poultry industry, which requires minimal language skills for non-English speakers. The public school system serves children, by representing over 30 languages. The Emerging Ministries Grant is providing funding for Musikgarten curriculum training, a family-oriented music experience for immigrant and refugee children and their parents. “It focuses on parent/child interaction, and the opportunity for both to learn English simultaneously,” said Rev. Laura B. Douglass, deacon and grant recipient. “An added bonus is that the language learning incorporates an activity that can be repeated in the home. As a deacon, I am thankful for the opportunity to live out my calling as a bridge from the church to the world through the universal language of music.”

Seven applications were reviewed for this round of grants. The Division of Ordained Ministry at GBHEM awards Emerging Ministry Grants to encourage United Methodist deacons and diaconal ministers to develop cutting-edge and innovative ministries. These may be one-time events or projects, or programs that are intended to be ongoing.

“We regretted that we were not able to offer each applicant a grant,” said Rebeck. “They all deserve support for the ways they lead church people to bring Christ’s love to their neighbors in very practical ways.”

Deacons and diaconal ministers are eligible to apply for grants, which are awarded up to $5,000 to help support a new, developing ministry. A project may receive this grant only once.

“Deacons lead congregations into ministries of compassion and justice with the marginalized and forgotten in our world,” said Rebeck. “Given that many people do not choose to visit a worship service—and many of them want to do hands-on work to improve the world—deacons are in a key position to lead United Methodists to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Through apportionments, United Methodists support the start of new ministries like these that reach marginalized people with God's love. Deacons are initiating these ministries to connect the church to the needs of the world.

For more information about the Emerging Ministry Grant, contact Victoria Rebeck, director of deacon ministry development and provisional membership at GBHEM.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to prepare global leaders for a global church and the world. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.