Laity Summit 2022 Workshops

Workshop Schedule

10 - 11 a.m. Courageous Workshops Session 1

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Courageous Workshops Session 2

1 - 2 p.m. Courageous Workshops Session 3

* If issues arise, reach out to one of the following people:

  • Donna Ernest – Great Plains Conference Office – 785-414-4242
  • Lisa Soukup – Great Plains Conference Email –

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Workshop Description and Speaker Bios

Mission, Vision and Strategy of Youth Ministry – Chris Wilterdink

Chris is the Director of Young People’s Ministries at Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church, been part of Discipleship Ministries for the last 11 years. Prior to that, Chris roles in ministry were based at the local church for over 12 years. Chris’ undergrad in English Education and Masters in Non-Profit Management have shaped his approach to ministry. Father of two awesome kids, husband to an amazing wife, and outdoor enthusiast. Several books published including “Building Spiritual Muscle” “Everyday Discipleship: Covenant Discipleship with Youth” and most recently the eBook series “Crash Courses in Youth Ministry.” Chris was also responsible for planning and preparing for YOUTH 2023, the national gathering for United Methodist Youth.

Workshop: “Mission, Vision, and Strategy of Youth Ministry” – Youth Ministry functions best with intentionality and a “why” at its core. This presentation will offer 45 minutes of organizational observations to help leaders understand the mission (the why), the vision (the what), and the strategy (the how) of youth ministry in their context. Complimentary and follow-up materials for this workshop available at no cost at

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Mercy & Justice Now: Understanding God's Call – Rev. Sarah Marsh

The Rev. Sarah Marsh, Mercy and Justice Coordinator of the Great Plains Conference, has served as a pastor, associate pastor, community organizer, and chair of the GP Mercy and Justice Team, since beginning her pastoral ministry in 2007. A native of Halstead, Kansas, Marsh has served churches in Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, and Manhattan, always with an eye towards God's mission of justice. Marsh, in collaboration with the GP Mercy and Justice Team, helped launch the conference's Doing Justice Initiative in 2020, a $2.1 million investment of seed money in establishing new justice organizations across Kansas and Nebraska. She came on Great Plains conference staff in July of 2021.

Workshop: We know God calls us to make a real difference in the world, but we also know it can be tough out there and especially now. What does the Bible teach us about what God desires for the church? How are we to figure out what to do? Explore God's two-fold mission for the church of mercy and justice in this interactive workshop with Rev. Sarah Marsh.

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Social Media Impact – Trever Rook

Trever Rook grew up in Waverly, Nebraska, but has called Lincoln home for most of his life. He has held a variety of roles, including stand-up comedian and television news producer, before becoming a pastor. Before pastoring, he spent a great deal of time running from God until Christ finally caught up with him and knocked him on his "defiant derriere." Like the apostle Paul, his past is not a clean record and he was called by Christ during a time of running. Prior to founding Neighbors Community Church, he spent 3 years serving a church in Ord, Nebraska. Living in cattle country when you’re a vegetarian makes for interesting conversations. Mister Rogers has been a very big influence in his life, inspiring the mission at Neighbors. It’s Trever's hope that we can all live in a world of kindness, where all can feel loved, included, appreciated, and even celebrated. He believes loving God and our neighbor is what we are called to do. Our God is a loving God and our neighbor is everyone.

Workshop: A real and open conversation regarding the benefits and dangers of social media. There are great things about social media, but sadly, there are also harmful issues with these platforms. How can we, as Christians, be part of a solution and not perpetuate the problem?

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At A Loss: How to Thrive and Nurture Hope During a Prolonged Crisis – Steve Sewell

From the small beginnings of being appointed as a youth pastor to being a leader in the community, Steve has made it his mission to come alongside others as they encounter adversity, change, and loss. His Christ-centered, motivating, and encouraging approach has made a difference in the lives of individuals, groups, churches, and businesses--helping them grow in their relationships with the Lord to appreciate seasons of change, loss and learning to move forward to reach their goals. Steve is enthusiastic about life purpose and caring about people, and is passionate about faith. His heartfelt approach to others is always engaging, never pushy, and always full of open-handed welcome and never fist-pounding demands. He speaks with a wealth of experience from years of his work as a hospice chaplain, bereavement counselor, community/marketplace chaplain, pastor, youth worker, author, speaker at conferences, and consultant.


  1. Discover crisis as one of anxiety, grief, loss, and learn its internal reach and outward perplexities. 
  2. Learn 4 personal, easy to apply, and life-giving principles and 3 essential relationships needed for moving through prolonged seasons of uncertainty.  
  3. Learn the single most important business principle that will transform your organization while discerning creative ways to practice the art of presence. 
  4. Explore questions, comments, and other ideas.

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Energizing Leadership and Mentoring – D.J. Whetter

D.J. serves as the Director of Custom Programs for the Kansas Leadership Center and is a member of the core teaching team. He oversees creation and delivery of leadership development for businesses and organizations within the state of Kansas and around the world. D.J. graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in political science and broadcast journalism. He spent 10 years in ministry with the ELCA Lutheran Church at Holy Cross in Overland Park. Before that, he anchored the 10 p.m. sportscast for 6-News Lawrence for five years. D.J. lives in Lenexa with his wife, Lori, their daughter, Addison, son Parker and their dog, Wrigley (yes…D.J. and Lori are Cubs fans). Aside from a love of all sports Chicago and the Jayhawks, D.J. loves to travel, play famous golf courses really poorly, and coach his kids in baseball and softball.

Workshop: DJ will introduce leadership as an activity because leadership is not limited to just a position. Through the activity of leadership we have the opportunity to mobilize and energize others. An avenue of leadership is asking powerful questions which leads to increased engagement and even mentorship. We know leadership can be lonely, so DJ will bring actionable ideas for you as a partner in your own leadership development journey.

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Anti-Racism in the Local Church: Creating Courageous Conversational Space – Rev. Stephen Handy and Rick Quinn

Stephen Handy is the lead pastor, visionary, strategist and partnership collaborator at McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville, TN. Rev. Handy earned a BA from Dillard University, an MBA from Tennessee State University, an MDiv from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a DMin from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He is the architect of the Downtown Neighborhood Alliance, a group of non-profits, governmental entities, and congregations focused on creating alternatives to the homelessness crisis in downtown Nashville. This group is forming a Community Development Corporation (CDC) to build affordable housing. He also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for the General Commission on Religion and Race for the United Methodist Church.

Rick Quinn is a writer and Christian educator who lives in Goodlettsville, TN. He is a graduate of Trevecca Nazarene College and Vanderbilt Divinity School. He writes mainly around the interplay of popular culture, theology, and social justice and is a contributing music reviewer at

Workshop: In the American church, the work of anti-racism is the work of the gospel. In this workshop session, Rev. Stephen Handy and Rick Quinn will be offering an invitation into the work of creating courageous space in your local contexts around the work of anti-racism. How do you assess your local context and your place within it? What is your understanding of your racial journey? How do you begin to create circles of solidarity where folks gather for vulnerable, transformative conversations and a willingness to share the work of justice and reconciliation? These and other guiding questions will shape our conversation as we share together experiences and offer experiments going forward.

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Inclusive Programming – Rev. Debra McKnight

Debra is passionate about connecting with the people and helping them grow in their faith. An advocate for social justice, women’s rights, and the LGBTQ+ community, she seeks to heal the wounds created by conservative Christianity. Before seminary, Debra lived and worked in Germany as an education counselor for active duty military personnel. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska, a Master of Education degree from Doane College, and a Master of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

While serving as an Associate Pastor at First UMC Omaha, Debra created a spiritual gathering for young adults called Wesley Pub. It was so successful, she decided to expand the gatherings into a venue for all ages…and the idea for the Urban Abbey coffee shop/bookstore/church was born. Since 2011, Urban Abbey has been offering a safe space for the community to connect with and learn from one another. During an era in which attendance at mainline protestant churches in the United States has declined, Urban Abbey has succeeded as a new church and is continually growing.

In 2020, Rev. Debra founded the Urban Abbot, an organization dedicated to helping pastors along their spiritual journey or who are interested in planting a new church.

Workshop: Join Rev. Debra McKnight to explore church and community partnerships that grow relationships. Plan a year-round outreach calendar with the community in mind that also connects to the weekly worship and church programing. This time is about finding sparks of opportunity, the folks looking to be included, expanding the way people understand a church and showing up with community organizations, in a way that matters to them and to your church. Together we can create meaningful programing, educational events and opportunities that connect people into the worship of the congregation. As you prepare to join, please make a list of organizations, clubs, schools and more in your community. 

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Radical Hospitality – Yvonne Gentile

Yvonne Gentile serves as Guest Experience and Event Management Lead Director at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. Before joining the church staff in 2011, Yvonne served as a volunteer ministry leader for 14 years, serving on the Committee on Nominations and leading both the Leadership Development and Spiritual Gifts ministries at Resurrection. She is co-author of five books: "Serving from the Heart," "Leadership from the Heart," "Leadership Essentials," "The Greeter and Usher Handbook," and "The Art of Hospitality."

Workshop: Radical hospitality is more than simple friendliness. Intentional radical hospitality creates memorable moments that enable people to experience God's love through us, drawing them in to faith. In this workshop we'll discuss creating a culture of radical hospitality that will help your congregation thrive. You'll learn the principles and best practices of exceptional hospitality that are applicable to churches of all sizes. 

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Connecting Neighbors – Rev. Hollie Tapley

The Rev. Hollie Tapley, a Deacon in Full Connection, has been in ministry since 1986. A native of Alabama, Hollie is a graduate of Auburn University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and completed her Methodist Studies for Ordination at Candler School of Theology. During her 36 years of ministry, disaster response and missions has been her passion. In her spare time, Hollie serves on the Regional Council Coordinating Committee/Senior Advisory Committee for Kansas Homeland Security, Volunteer Chaplain with the Topeka Fire Department, Nebraska Governor’s Disaster Recovery Task Force, the Local Impact Task Force, and the Nebraska Flood Mitigation Task Force. In Kansas, Hollie serves on the Kansas Wesleyan University’s Academic Advisory Council for Emergency Management, Kanas Emergency Management Association, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Covid Testing Task Force, and the Kansas Governor’s Covid Vaccination Task Force. It is an honor to serve the Great Plains United Methodist Conference as the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator.

Workshop: If a Disaster happened in your immediate neighborhood, would you know what to do? Connecting Neighbors, an UMCOR training, provides the framework for personal and church facility preparedness. This workshop will discuss preparation plans for your immediate and extended family, including a "go box.” Ready Church is another component of this workshop, where we discuss how to protect the church facilities and the individuals on-site during a disaster. Lastly, we will talk about how to use your facility during and after a disaster.

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Church Budgeting in Uncertain Times – Garney Hill

Garney Hill is the church business administrator for Heart of Christ UMC in Wichita, KS.  He has been on staff since May 2019, when the new church was established. My main function is to ensure that the church finances stay within budgets. Prior to being on staff at Heart of Christ, Garney served on staff at Saint Mark UMC for 18 years as the Executive Director of Business Affairs and the CFO for the EC Tyree Health & Dental Clinic, which was a ministry he was instrumental in helping grow.

Garney thinks of his time on staff as a ministry, not a job. He has been able to bring his past business experiences into the ministry environment. This has helped ministry leaders understand how to mix business and faith.

Currently, Garney owns a dry cleaning business and works for a non-profit that deals with foster care for young men from the age of 16-18. He has 20 years of banking experience and over 20 years of business development experience. All these jobs have been instrumental in helping him to navigate with ministry leaders and help them think outside the box.

Garney is a graduate of Washburn University with a BA in Public Administration. He also graduated from National Church Business Administration School at Southwestern Baptist Theological College, Ft. Worth, TX.

Workshop: Learn about cultivating good stewardship within your congregation, ideas for generating income outside the church, providing financial transparency for members, and supporting the pastor's vision.

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The Power of Connection – Beth Graverholt

Beth (Menhusen) Graverholt was raised in Mankato, KS where she attended Montrose and Harmony United Methodist Churches. While attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study Nutrition and Dietetics, she worked as an AmeriCorps member providing fitness and nutrition education to schools with significant low-income populations in Lincoln. Beth became involved in Motive-the United Methodist Ministry at UNL during her senior year, where she experienced a call to ministry. In the winter of 2015, she approached the campus minister and District Superintendent with a vision for a new ministry center which would serve the neighborhoods surrounding UNL’s East Campus and engage college students in worship and volunteer opportunities. Partnering with Motive, the Blue River District, and Christ United Methodist Church, this ministry center, ConnectioN Point, was launched in August of 2016 while Beth was still a lay person. Later, she became licensed as a local pastor and graduated in June of 2021 from lliff School of Theology. This year she is pursuing commissioning as a Provisional Elder in the Great Plains Conference while continuing to serve as the Associate Pastor at Christ UMC, Director at ConnectioN Point, and the Blue River District Coordinator for Outreach and Social Justice.

Workshop: One of United Methodism’s greatest gifts is our connectional structure. Hear from Pastor Beth Graverholt about how the Great Plains connection has empowered her to launch ConnectioN Point, an urban ministry center in Lincoln, NE. In this workshop you’ll be inspired and gain new ideas for forming partnerships across our connection to help make the biggest impact possible in your community.

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The Purple Zone – Kathy Pierce & Loren Drummond

Kathy is a member at Gibbon Faith United Church. She is the Gateway District Lay Leader, Church Lay Delegate to Annual Conference, and a Lay Speaker. Kathy spent 15 Years with hospice at Good Samaritan Hospital, recruiting and training people to sit with and care for the terminally ill, and private duty nursing. She also spent 15 years with Gibbon Good Samaritan Center, Resource Development, Nursing, Activity Director President Chapter HR PEO, President Gibbon/Shelton Community Center, Co-Director Gibbon Free Pantry, President Faith United UMW, Vice President and Journey in Faith Leader for Gateway UMW, Member Order of Eastern Star Volunteer Gibbon Heritage Center, CHI Hospital, and Eastlawn Food Pantry.

Rev. Loren Drummond is a recently retired United Methodist Elder. He is one of eleven Pastors in the Great Plains Conference who have been trained by Dr. Leah Schade in her community forming approach. These trainers have been tasked by The Great Plains Conference to work with congregational leaders, lay and clergy, as they strive to help their congregations discover the purple zone—that place where the red and blue approaches to ordering life that currently divide our society, meld into a Purple Zone. A Zone where heated partisan politics give way to community (common unity) community that’s created in and through practicing orderly dialog and engagement of our faith resources.

Pastor Loren has served congregations in the Kansas City, Five Rivers and Salina Districts. He and his wife, Joyce, have settled into their new home in Kansas City, Ks with their Chocolate Lab, Moka. They love  being back home in the KC area spending time with their 5 adult children, 11 grandkids and many friends.

Although Pastor Loren claims a retired status, his family and friends have noted their skepticism that he is truly retired. Especially, since after his first retirement from a thirty-year career working for General Motors, he went directly into parish ministry. Pastor Loren answers them by proclaiming, “ It’s not work if you love doing it!” Pastor Loren loves helping folks, through the use of their faith tools: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, to find and live into the Purple Zone—that place where faith, hope and love always win.

Workshop: How can we talk with people who differ from us politically, theologically or culturally? Are there ways we can engage issues of public concern in our congregations so that we can listen, respect and learn from each other? This workshop is based on the work of Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, author of “Preaching in the Purple Zone” and the 2021 Orders & Fellowship presenter. Loren and Kathy are trained facilitators who have developed a workshop for Conversations in the Purple Zone to equip and empower church leaders.

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Church as a Good Neighbor – Darryl Answer

Darryl Answer was born and raised in London, England. He is currently co-pastor of New Community Church, and founder of Verge Solutions LLC. Darryl has served in a variety of leadership roles within churches, non-profit organizations, and in community development. Before entering the consulting field, Darryl worked in neighborhoods as a mobilizer and connector of residents and institutions around their shared vision for community. Through Verge Solutions LLC, Darryl provides consulting and training for organizations and churches in the areas of entrepreneurial mindset (ELI), and Community development through an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) lens. Darryl and his wife, Stephanie, live in Kansas City, MO with their two children, Jaidyn and Kian.

Workshop: In this workshop, participants will gain tools and principles in how to engage their communities and congregations through an asset-based approach. The principles of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) are a helpful resource to support churches in the Great Commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself," (Mark 12:30-31).

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Congregational Growth – Bryan Hankins & Juan Carlos Veloso

Bryan Hankins has been married to Linda for 51 years. He served in the US Air Force for 26+ years and then began a new career as a government contractor for the next 19 years, until retiring in May 2015. Bryan answered God’s call to the ministry about nine years ago during Annual Conference. He is assigned as the Associate Pastor for Aldersgate UMC in Bellevue, NE. He also serves as the District Director for Lay Servant Ministries. In 2014, he participated in a two-week study tour of Israel with a group called Athletes in Action.

Juan Carlos Veloso is from Chile. He is married to Marité, and they have two daughters, Stephanie and Natalie, both studying journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Juan Carlos and Marité are retired educators with experience teaching in public education in Chile as well as in the United States. Juan Carlos is currently serving as a licensed local pastor at Grace UMC in Omaha Nebraska, and a church planter at Iglesia Comunitaria de Omaha.

Workshop: This workshop will provide ideas for congregations to grow through multilingual education by encouraging leaders to identify and encourage their members to take the classes and grow. You will walk away looking for opportunities to help people realize their dreams. Pastors Bryan and Juan Carlos can tell you about how training has helped their congregations.

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Lay Leadership Discipleship Panel with Lisa Maupin, Randall Hodgkinson and Keith Olsen

Workshop: A panel discussion amongst conference lay leadership about identifying and nurturing lay talent. In this workshop, we will brainstorm situations in the local church for identification of emerging leaders in multiple contexts. It will take courage, because we have a tendency to go back to what and who we know.

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