Connecting ‘Dem Bones’ | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
March 2016

Connecting ‘Dem Bones’

By Rori Blakeney (SEJ)

Using the Resources of the Global Church in your Local Church

Have you heard of the game Operation? It was one of my favorite games as a teen. The object of Operation was to remove all the plastic bones of the pretend patient. The catch? You couldn’t touch the sides of the openings in the patient as you removed the bones. The moment a player touched the side there was a blinding red light with a loud noise.

It was science, but fun. Funny names for bones, good-natured pressure. The game sharpened my hand-eye coordination. More importantly, the game introduced me to the idea that there was something in people beneath their skin.

Perhaps, you grew up singing James & Rosamond Johnson’s “Dem Dry Bones” while learning the story of Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones.

Does this sound familiar?

Your toe bone connected to your foot bone,

Your foot bone connected to your ankle bone,

Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone,

Your leg bone connected to your knee bone,

Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone,

Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone,

Your hip bone connected to your back bone,

Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone,

Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone,

Your neck bone connected to your head bone,

I hear the word of the Lord!

Well, the United Methodist Church is like ‘dem bones. Each bone connects to another bone to make a whole body. Those bones are connected by ligaments, tendons join bones to muscle, and the body that is our church can move with the spirit because of that connectedness. Local churches are the primary place where the UMC believes discipleship happens. That movement to create disciples in the local church is supported by other layers and systems of the church. Annual Conference, Jurisdictional Conference, Central Conference, and General Church Agency levels of the church support the movement of Disciple making with the local church. These ‘bones’ connect the UMC across the world, and support the body that is the church.

So next time you are looking for a spiritual life retreat, or resources to support a creative ministry, try connecting with your Annual Conference. In preparation for Confirmation, consider finding out if there is a Bishop’s Day or retreat that your Confirmands could be a part of. Each Annual Conference has staff ready to support you in ministry. If you are not familiar with the staff of your own Annual Conference, a list of contacts can be found here.

Jurisdictions in the USA are collections of Annual Conferences. They have additional layers of support and resources, each meeting the needs of their own geographic area. The USA is made up of five jurisdictions that each create their own support structures. Contacts for jurisdictions can be found here.

Central Conferences are collections of Annual Conferences in countries outside the USA where the UMC is present. There are currently seven Central Conferences. Europe contains three central conferences, Africa also contains three, and the Philippines is it’s own Central Conference. Together, these Central Conferences provide a rich tapestry and connection of United Methodists who are following Christ and making disciples for the transformation of the world. Information about central conferences can be found here.

The Agencies of the UMC provide a wide variety of connection points and support for local church ministries. Discipleship Ministries is specifically tasked as the primary Agency to support and challenge the local church in disciple making through leadership development and church vitality. Discipleship Ministries houses Young People’s Ministries (YPM), who specifically supports youth and young adult related ministries. YPM offers many connectional resources, like, where UMC related, youth-friendly mission sites are listed. YPM also hosts events that introduce youth to the global nature of the UMC, like the Global Convocation (2018) and the YOUTH event (2019). You probably found this blog post on YPM’s homepage, so poke around and discover how connecting with this level of support can strengthen your ministry, and the church body.

When we connect with one another we are a stronger, healthier and more vibrant church. Discover how connections with other parts of the church body benefit you today!

Related Field Guides

Get connected with these coaches on the Field Guide Network who specialize in the topic of this article: