Church Leaders to FOCUS on Children This July


NASHVILLE, Tenn., January 6, 2009/GBOD/ -- In July 2009 the leaders of ministries with children are invited to attend a once every four years event called Focus. The Focus 2009 event will be held July 21-24 in Indianapolis and is sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship. This will be only the second time Focus will be held outside of Nashville, Tenn.

Focus began 30 years ago in response to the International Year of the Child. “The important thing is that children are put in our care,” says Melanie Gordon, director of younger children’s ministries with GBOD. “In order to care for our children we must stay current.” Focus brings together the people who are doing the research in a variety of areas with the people who are working with children. It enables all to receive training in working with children and keep it rooted in the Christian and United Methodist tradition.

This year the theme comes from Psalm 139 recognizing how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  There will be innovative workshops, unique worship experiences, inspiring preachers, dynamic speakers, relevant resources, and networking opportunities that will support attendees in creating, renewing and revitalizing ministries locally and globally. Past events have brought together 600-1200 persons from around the country.

The event will also support one of The United Methodist Church’s four areas of focus as it supports “creating new places for new people by starting new congregations and renewing existing ones.”

The primary audience for Focus is local church staff and laity involved with children’s ministries including Sunday school teachers and weekday ministry staff, district and conference staff, coordinators of children’s ministries and clergy. There will be many vendors offering supplies for ministries with children including Cokesbury and Ten Thousand Villages.

In addition to the workshops, worship and networking opportunities, there will be activities at the world’s largest children’s museum.

Preachers for Focus 2009 include the Rev. Dr. Leanne Ciampa Hadley an ordained United Methodist elder and president and founder of First Steps Spirituality Center. She recently received her Doctor of Ministry from Ohio’s United Theological Seminary in the area of spirituality and children and teens.

The Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems, a Bible scholar and elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will also be present as a preacher and workshop leader. She will bring a biblical message on the care of the most vulnerable children through the lens of Psalm 139.

Other preachers include the Rev. Dr. James H. Ritchie Jr. from the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference. Dr. David Elkind, a renowned child psychologist and author of The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast and Too Soon, will be the speaker at a pre-conference event.

Activities will also be provided for children and youth, providing both faith formation and time for music, art and play.

For more information or registration details, please visit the Focus 2009 Web site at or contact Melanie Gordon at

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