As a United Methodist Christian, you may want to get more in touch with our unique roots that help us grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. From the serious to the silly, here are 18 ideas to help you connect with our history, theology and practice.
1. Visit historic sites
As you plan the route of a road trip, include visits to historic United Methodist sites. We've compiled a couple of lists of some of our favorites (one | two), and United Methodist Archives and History has a comprehensive list. In certain areas, you may be able to plan a vacation that includes a visit to a historic United Methodist site every day.
John Wesley may have considered himself "a person of one book," but he was also a prolific writer and voracious reader. Grow your faith by reading good books, Wesley's sermons, classics, histories, theologies, or whatever feeds your spirit. (You could also subscribe to an awesome podcast!)
3. Ride a horse
John Wesley, Francis Asbury, and every circuit-riding preacher in the early days of Methodism, traveled thousands of miles by horseback. Many were skilled enough to read and write while riding. Don't emulate them while driving your car! Wesley even had a chamber horse—a riding simulator—in his London home to use when the weather was bad.
4. Serve somebody
From the days of the Wesleys Methodists have always practiced acts of compassion by serving others. Go on a mission trip, volunteer at the local food bank, meet the needs of your neighbor, and reach out to someone you pass on the street. Serve Jesus by serving your neighbor (see Matthew 25).
5. Join a small group
Small groups are at the heart of United Methodism. The Methodist movement began not as a church, but as a collection of connected societies, classes, and bands (oh my!). These gatherings were places where Christians would "watch over one another in love." Find others with whom you can share your faith journey.
6. Enjoy a shared meal
Few things are more United Methodist than a shared meal, sometimes called a potluck supper or covered dish dinner. If you grew up in the church, you know the joy of sampling from a table filled with Crock-Pots and casserole dishes, and enjoying these favorite family recipes with your church friends. Consider hosting a shared meal in your home!
7. Stick to a budget
John Wesley gave some amazing advice for how we should handle our money: (1) make all you can, (2) save all you can, (3) give all you can. Make this the year you take control of your money, simplify, and live generously.
8. Stand up for another
Loving our neighbors includes working to right social wrongs that oppress them. Go to a rally. Write your government officials. Attend schoolboard and town council meetings. Get involved in working for justice in your community, region, nation, and world.
9. Hold family devotions
John and Charles Wesley's mom Susanna made special time for her children each week to mentor them spiritually. Some of John Wesley's very first class meetings met on Thursday evenings, which was his time with Susanna as a child. Coincidence?
10. Join a committee
As United Methodists, we're addicted to committees. Our congregations even have committees to form committees. While we joke about it, these are some of the best ways to get involved in your congregation, district, annual conference, and beyond. Serve your church by joining a committee.
11. Give to UMCOR
The United Methodist Church offers great opportunities to participate in ministries that serve people around the corner and around the world. Give to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to participate in our relief work.
12. Deepen your devotional life
Wesley said that two means of grace every Methodist should practice are "searching the Scriptures" and prayer. The Upper Room and Cokesbury offer resources to help us grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
13. Eat spicy food
We cannot force an experience like the one John Wesley had near Aldersgate Street on May 24, 1738. But we can simulate it with a good, spicy meal that will give us a different kind of heartwarming sensation.
14. Tell your mom you love her
Although his dad was the pastor, John Wesley's mom was probably the biggest influence in his life. Her spiritual leadership taught him to encourage women and men to lead in the Methodist movement. John often sought his mother's advice. Other times, it was unsolicited advice—like her encouragement to use lay preachers—that her son followed anyway.
15. Write a hymn
Charles Wesley, John's brother, wrote over 6,000 hymns in his lifetime! Surely, you and I can write one. Change the words to favorite tune to reflect a spiritual truth. It may not be publishable, but it can be something just between you and God.
16. Follow the rules
Following in the footsteps of John Wesley, we United Methodist like to follow rules. The very first societies were given three simple rules that we sometimes summarize as (1) do good, (2) do no harm, and (3) stay in love with God. It seems best if rules come in threes (see "Stick to a budget" above).
17. Attend worship every Sunday
Hearing the Bible read, joining our voice in song, hearing a sermon, receiving communion, and praying with others, are important ways we grow individually and together. Never miss an opportunity to worship.
18. Enjoy some coffee
Although John Wesley might disagree—he knew water was the healthiest drink—we United Methodists are known for our coffee consumption. Use the Sunday morning fellowship time before and after worship (even if you're not a fan of coffee) to greet your neighbors and connect with your church family.
And if you are searching for a group of United Methodists to join you in trying these tips, you can always try the Find-A-Church tool.
This story was published on December 20, 2017.