response: Nov./Dec. 2021

New Wineskins for New Times

United Methodist Women updates for change.

New Wineskins for New Times
Women celebrate the “Power of Bold” as they dance during the United Methodist Women Assembly 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins." Mark 2:21-22 (NIV)

Our church, our nation, and our world have undergone warp-speed change in the past year, let alone the past 53 years since The United Methodist Church came together. Questions may abound, but one thing is clear for all with eyes to see: God is doing a new thing among us today.

And United Methodist Women is again saying yes to being a part of God’s new thing and taking steps to fulfill our purpose in some new and some improved ways.

In other words, we are making new wine and new wineskins to fulfill our role in God’s mission.

This is an exhilarating time for United Methodist Women. In 2022 we’ll be rolling out an exciting array of new initiatives and innovations of current programs and resources as we refresh our brand message, logo and name to reenergize members and encourage new women to check out our wonderful sisterhood as a place to nurture our soul, grow in our faith and make a difference in our world.

“Brand” is a term most often associated today with commercial marketing, but in reality, everyone has a brand. “Brand” is just a term to describe what people can expect to experience when they encounter you. “Branding” are the things we do—our look, our actions, our messages—that help let people know what they can expect to get when we are in the room.

For years United Methodist Women conference, district and local leaders having been asking for help in recruiting new members. The United Methodist Women rebrand launch will do just that by providing members with new and/or updated tools, resources and templates for the job.

We’ve spent the past quadrennia praying for discernment and conducting research. We surveyed and talked with United Methodist Women leaders, members, women in the church who are not members and Christian women of other traditions, and we’ve delved into research conducted by United Methodist Communications for the denomination and the Pew Research Center, which follows trends on religious observation in the United States. 

The program innovations, new initiatives and brand refreshment are based on that prayerful study of our programs and research.

So what’s new?

We started off looking at current programs to assess what was working, what needed innovation and what was no longer effective.

Take Mission u. For over a century we have been gathering annually in various venues and configurations—sometimes ecumenical—to better understand how to live our faith in the world by studying for spiritual growth and learning about contemporary issues and neighbors in different geographic areas. Over the years, this program has become a hallmark of United Methodist Women. Yet, the world has changed dramatically over the past 120 years, and Mission u has adapted to fit the times. As demands on women’s time have increased and conferences have grown in size, there has been a shift to offering more frequent, shorter Mission u events. In 2020 and 2021, many conferences offered Mission u virtually for the first time, bringing studies to women in a convenient (and COVID-safe) format. 

Innovations to Mission u respond to the women’s new realities. Beginning in 2022, Mission u will be introducing three new curricula each year—one for children, one for youth and one for adults—all focusing on a shared biblical theme. The new Mission u curricula will be more accessible and adaptable for use in small groups, local churches, vacation Bible schools, retreats and other settings. Through these vibrant, relevant, justice-oriented and biblically centered curricula, Mission u will continue its commitment to learning together for the transformation of the world.

New program initiatives

Soul Care retreats are examples of a new program initiative. Sixty-two percent of the women we talked with across all demographic categories said they were seeking spiritual growth and care. Yes, they want to take action to improve life for women, children and youth; however, as airline attendants instruct us every time we board a plane, in times of extreme turbulence—times like the ones in which we’re living—women understand that they must put on their own oxygen masks before attempting to help anyone else. 

Jesus Christ himself taught this by example when he rose early in the morning for time alone for prayer to center himself before a full day of crowds and service.

That’s what Soul Care Retreats are about: a new approach to member enrichment focused on giving care to your whole person—mind, body and spirit. Soul Care embraces both self-care and spiritual rejuvenation. Soul Care retreats offer thought-provoking speakers, music, poetry, workshops, discussions and networking as well as the opportunity to build a sisterhood together.

As the Scripture teaches us, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are a temple of the Holy Spirit, earthen vessels filled with treasure. Soul Care Retreats are designed to help us take care of this entire miraculous temple. Surveys reflected that women want to gather based on commonalities and care for their spirit. Soul Care will offer personalized and tailored experiences for women around common interests, race, ethnicity, age and more. The retreats are currently being piloted by the national office, but the retreats can be replicated for local members and leaders to welcome new women, as these special retreats are for current members who come with a friend who is not already a member. 

National membership option

Another new initiative is the national membership option. Recruiting new and/or younger women for membership has been a challenge for conference, district and local United Methodist Women leaders for years. Surveys and conversations we conducted with women over the past quadrennia showed us why. While 70 percent of current members like the way we gather, less than 30 percent of nonmembers over 55 and less than 20 percent of nonmembers under 55 found the way we gather inviting. In addition, nearly 60 percent of nonmembers under 55 said the average age of our membership was too different from their own age for them to join in.

In short, many nonmembers like what we do, they just don’t feel like United Methodist Women is a place where they can belong, particularly younger women. 

Enter the national membership option. The new national membership option will enable women who choose to to join our sisterhood via our new website. They will learn about and be able to participate in programs and events online, or in person, when they choose to.

These are some of the key changes forming the new wineskins we’re creating to serve the needs and lifestyles of women today. Other new opportunities include:

  • More targeted giving options. Members and nonmembers alike want more options to target their financial gifts to specific programs.
  • New tools for conference and district treasurers. New tools, like Vanco Faith, will be available to enable treasurers to manage, collect and distribute conference and district finances electronically.
  • Innovations in the Leadership Development Days programs.
  • Innovations in provided resources.

New wineskins for new wine

New wineskins for new wine. We’ve been talking about this and working on it for more than a quadrennium now. New wine changes and expands—but so does old wine. None of our members, new or old, stop growing and changing. We all need new wineskins. Our new wineskins will benefit everyone!    


Yvette Moore is director of public relations and marketing for United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 11/2/2021 12:00:00 AM
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