How did you spend your summer vacation? It is a question asked thousands of school children every September. It is question adults also ask each other. In Rev. Carol Woods’ (West District Superintendent) case I heard one of the best answers I’ve ever heard! Carol and Clint went back East to family in the Kentucky region. They have a horse there named Sam-I-Am. (Dr. Seuss fans will get the reference.) Sam-I-Am was one of those forgotten pasture horses until they picked him out for love and attention and training. They entered Sam-I-Am in a national riding horse competition. Sam-I-Am not only won his class. He won best in show! Sam-I-Am is national champion! Wow! I love that story. I think it can serve as an analogy for many churches. With love, attention and training, they can be champions for the cause of Christ. It takes clergy and laity working together in partnership. It requires deep faithfulness to the Lord. It necessitates great fruitfulness for the Lord. It emerges from purposeful commitment to the Lord. Last year we pioneered The Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) and the Small Church Initiative (SCI) in the Central and West Districts. The initial results have been of championship quality. ?Pastor Bruce Carpenter of Chatfield comments about SCI: The laity from several churches (Chatfield, Kerens, Dawson, Frost) have been challenged to pair specific needs of their respective communities with specific and realistic abilities of their churches. In the case of Chatfield UMC, at least three things have surfaced that are important outreaches to the surrounding community. ?Pastor Leah Hidde-Gregory from Frost-Italy (SCI) writes: Our laity are excited to go and be with other local church leaders, to learn and to swap ideas. For us the new information is very important, but so is the fellowship and the synergy of being with others trying to accomplish the same things we are for the kingdom. ?Pastor David Medley of Lake Shore UMC (SCI) remarks: It focuses on principles that are applied to one's unique context. It requires effort to think and apply but it fits one's setting. It is not a cookie cutter, one size fits all approach. It focuses on transforming congregational leaders who in turn promote congregational transformation through their participation in leadership. ?Pastor Rebecca Hull from Crawford (SCI) offers: In every discussion that we have had, we can identify our church somewhere in the discussion, so it is relevant to us. We see how the other churches are struggling with various issues like we are and are learning healthier ways to deal with problems, mission and ministry of the church. This gives us hope in the struggle. Jeff Jones, Director of Center Operations for the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth reports: •Currently we have 17 small churches in four SCI Workshops with approximately 90 people participating. •Applications for the next SCI Workshops are now available on the CTC website. These applications will be accepted through October 26. •The next SCI Workshops will begin in January and run for six months through June. HCI is for larger Churches and reports similar results. In my reading I ran across the following blog comment from Paul Nixon, a nationally recognized expert in building faithful and fruitful congregations. “We need major intervention. I love the work that Bob Farr and friends have done with the Healthy Church Initiative. The HCI process goes beyond tweaking. It is a full-blown systems intervention - with a philosophy and approach similar to what I follow in my own local church consulting and coaching. Churches that intend to stay in the game in the next quarter century will have to re-think everything they do - everything! They can tweak some things, but the churches that live to the year 2030 will start over again in many respects- they will plant new ministries and new faith communities within themselves and beyond - and with a revolutionary spirit.” (Paul Nixon, “Too Late for Tweaking.” The Epicenter Conversation, September 2012) I commend HCI and SCI to you. Those who are a part of the Central Texas Conference can find more information (including sign up) at the Conference web site http://www.ctcumc.org/. In Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit we can all be champion Sam-I-Ams.