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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fort Thomas Church to Bring Dose of Disney Magic to Town

When you think of Disney, the first things that come to mind are probably something like Mickey Mouse, princesses, braving the crowds and heat for a ride on Splash Mountain, and the great debate over whether Elsa or Anna is your favorite Frozen character (come on guys, everyone knows Olaf is actually the best). What may not come to mind at first is this: church.

So what does Disney have to do with going to church? Highland United Methodist Church (HUMC) will be hosting a program that the entire community is welcome to participate in that brings those two elements together. Steven L. Barr, the Executive Director of Disneyland and Disney World's Cast Member Church, will be visiting HUMC on January 31, 2015 to kick off a Life Beyond Imagination series at the church, and will serve as the guest preacher at both morning services on February 1, 2015.

The Life Beyond Imagination workshop at HUMC has been almost a year in the making for the church staff. They were first inspired to host Barr at their church after attending a church creativity conference last January in Orlando. Jennifer Hall, HUMC's Director of Spiritual Growth, attended the conference and experienced first-hand Barr's enthusiasm for Life Beyond Imagination. "The point of the conference was to inspire us to dream big in our ministries. There were several influential presenters who had direct and indirect connections with the Disney Organization. One of those presenters was Steven Barr of Cast Member Church. After a full day of workshops, we met Steven at one of the Disney parks and he gave us a personal tour of the attraction 'Walt Disney: One Man's Dream.' We were touched by Steven's enthusiasm for Walt's philosophy on life and by his mission to create Cast Member Church for the people of Walt Disney World. After he told us about the Life Beyond Imagination process, we knew we wanted our community to have the experience," said Hall.

Steven L. Barr, Executive Director of Disneyland and Disney World's Cast Member Church

Life Beyond Imagination was originally developed just for Disney's employees participating in the Cast Member Church. "Life Beyond Imagination was designed and developed as a tool for Cast Member Church to use to help Cast Members uncover the unique purpose for which God has created them, and then to coach them to thrive in those unique purposes. It became far more successful than I ever imagined," said Barr.

Since everything Disney touches turns to gold, it's no surprise that word quickly spread about the Life Beyond Imagination process. According to Barr, "Cast Member Church started receiving requests from other organizations to bring Life Beyond Imagination process to their own people. We have been very cautious in releasing our process since it really was designed for the 'Disney culture.' However, every time that we have stuck our toe in the water with organizations beyond Disney, we have seen incredible breakthroughs in people’s lives." When HUMC invited Barr to bring a piece of Disney and Life Beyond Imagination to Fort Thomas, he jumped at the opportunity.

It's clear that traveling to other cities, and spreading the Life Beyond Imagination process are some of Barr's favorite aspects of serving as Executive Director for Cast Members Church. "I love the idea of seeing churches filled with people who are thriving in purposes that are changing the world. I wanted to come myself, because it is important to me right now for people to learn this process from the one who developed it. That way they can ask questions of me and hopefully, I can provide them with the clarity they need to understand and thrive in the process," said Barr.

The HUMC staff is equally excited to have Barr lead the workshop himself. Pastor John Bowling said, "He is the author/designer of the Program.  To me, it's like being able to host Rick Warren when he first wrote Purpose Driven Life.

So why should you make your way to HUMC on January 31? It's simple: finding and fulfilling your purpose. "Once a person has participated in the Life Beyond Imagination process, they will have the clarity to understand their unique purpose; the will have the confidence to know that their unique purpose comes from God; and they will have the courage to actually take the steps to follow in that purpose. In essence, they will be able to wake up every morning and say, “I was born to…" said Barr.

While my pal Olaf won't be making an appearance, Barr intends to run a workshop that's infused with come good old fashion Disney magic. January 31 will feature the Living Beyond Imagination workshop. He assures us that although it will be intense at times, it will also be accompanied by Disney's signature brand of fun. "I call it a 'ONE DAY.'  I literally give six-months worth of training (the average time it takes for Disney Cast Members to participate in the process) in one day.  I will provide the tools to help someone in their purpose discovery process.  It sounds intense… and it is, but it is so much fun. We developed this originally for Disney, so it has to be fun," said Barr.

Life Beyond Imagination is a four-step process. According to Barr, participants will work through the following steps during the workshop:

  • STORY: Answers the question, WHO AM I for each  person.  We will look at the relationships, experiences, and influences that have helped shape the individuals we are and the unique message that each of us  has been created to share with others.
  • DREAM:  Answers the question, WHY AM I HERE?.  We will look at how God could use each of us to impact the world around us now and for generations to come.  We encourage and challenge our participants to dream big, because God is the giver of big dreams.  
  • QUEST: Answers the question, WHERE AM I GOING? Because each of our paths in life is different, it helps to know how God how God uniquely leads each of us down our unique path.  
  • MARK: Answers the question, WHAT DOES IT EVEN MATTER?  Every single one of us wants to leave a mark behind.  We want to know that our lives have mattered.  God also desires that for us.  But instead of leaving our fingerprints on the lives of others, He wants us to leave His fingerprints behind.  

They say you know you're in a small town when there's a church on every corner. Well, Fort Thomas certainly fits that description. One of the unique aspects of our town's churches is that they are often community-driven, and look to help the area as a whole, not just their own church body. "It is a great way for Ft. Thomas people to get together because this event isn't about a single church or a denomination.  People are searching for deeper meaning in their life and we want to help people make a spiritual connection to understand and explore that," said Pastor Bowling. The program isn't designed to be specific to one church or one type of person, and HUMC is hoping that the community will be able to apply the Life Beyond Imagination principles to their daily lives. "It boils down to this: If we want to truly make a difference in the world around us, we need to understand the unique relationship that He offers to each of us AND the unique responsibility that He designs for each of us to fulfill. Life Beyond Imagination will help someone step into the adventure of both," said Barr.

Finding and fulfilling your purpose in life may seem like an impossible task, but as Walt Disney once said, "It's kind of fun to the impossible." The HUMC staff, along with Barr, are hoping that the community will embrace the impossible during Barr's visit. "We desire discovery and inspiration for the people of our church and our community, and for people to connect with God in a way perhaps they have never dreamed of," said Hall. "We may have a lot of activity, but is it purposeful? Is it meaningful? We don't all want to play Cinderella at Disney World, but we are all dreamers!"

The cost for the one-day Life Beyond Imagination workshop on January 31, 2015 is $25/person, and you can register by visiting their Facebook page (the page was recently launched, so be sure to keep checking for updates on the event and registration details). Participants will also have the opportunity to extend their experience by signing up for groups that will meet for several weeks following the workshop. If you can't make the workshop, but still want to hear Barr speak, he will be the guest preacher at HUMC on Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 9:30am and 11:00am.

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