Monday, June 09, 2008

Empowering A New Generation Of Leaders

One of our Annual Conference priorities is equipping and empowering a new generation of United Methodist leaders. With a median age of 59 years old, our Conference is determined to empower a new generation to lead our church into the future that God has for us.

Dorothy Scott, one of our fine pastors, sent me this letter just after this year’s Annual Conference:

I thought you would appreciate the highlight of my annual conference experience
this year. Both the lay member and youth member from my church were experiencing annual conference for the first time. I drove Izabella Godsey, my youth member, back to Huntsville Saturday afternoon. She shared with me how wonderful and meaningful the entire experience had been for her. She talked about how this experience had her considering going into the ministry. I asked if she would be
willing to speak in church this morning, to share what this experience meant to her and what the church needed to know from Annual Conference.

This is just some of what she had to share, "Annual Conference was a very special experience for me. I learned a great deal about the United Methodist Church. We as Christians need to be about making disciples for Jesus Christ. I need to be making
disciples for Jesus Christ. From now on I intend to be about making disciples for
Jesus Christ. Thank you for making this experience possible. I hope that this experience will lead me to helping Valley to grow more Christians."

Izy has always been a wonderful example of faith. She was in the first confirmation class I led at Valley. One of the joys of being at Valley has been watching us develop a youth and children's program. I thought about this as Lovett Weems shared that
young ministers came from growing up in the church. Izy's grandparent's and aunt
had been active at Valley when I arrived. The first change I made at Valley was to develop a children's program and Izy was one of the first new children to begin coming regularly to church. Izy is currently 17 and when she turned 16 she became a more active member because she could drive herself to church and not depend on her parents for a ride. She loves opportunities for leadership and she has been in
charge of crafts at VBS for three years. I do not know what the future will hold for Izy but I believe that this conference strenghtened her faith and encourage d her toward serving Christ.

My lay member had to leave on a business trip at 8 a.m. this morning. She wrote me an email at 6:30a.m. saying that she had written up a series of educational moments
to share in the next few weeks about the ministries of our church. She and I discussed these moments during conference. They are designed to help Valley learn about what great ministry the church is about and encourage greater financial support. Jenny is a very successful and busy business woman who is in the midst of great professional transitions. She worked her entire month around being able to
come to conference. Her two children returned from our first youth mission trip on Friday. She hoped to spend time with them before having to leave for the next two weeks on business. However, in the midst of all this she took the time to take what she learned from conference and write it up so that it might be shared by her husband with the church in the next few weeks.

Both Jenny and Izy give me great faith in the future of the United Methodist
Church. This weekend strengthened and encouraged them. As a pastor when you push people to try something new it is so important that it enrich them. Thank you for making this happen for them.

Yours in Christ,
Dorothy Scott (Thankful to be serving at Valley UMC for another year)


Dorothy’s story is far from unique. This is what happens when we really focus ourselves upon the priority of a new generation of Christians. I’m recommending that next year our entire Annual Conference be focused upon the single priority of empowering a new generation, that any reports be made exclusively by those under forty, and that every church send lay delegates who are all under forty. Jenny and Izy are in every congregation. We must notice them, nurture them, and empower them for God to use them in giving our church a future. By God’s grace, we will!

Thanks for a great Annual Conference.
Will Willimon

10 comments:

roadtripray said...

Bishop Willimon,

I am in the South Carolina conference, and have served as lay delegate to annual conference the past two years. I have so enjoyed the experience and felt so honored to be able to represent my charge as a lay delegate.

I just received my first appointment as pastor to a two-point charge, and was curious who the lay delegates had been in previous years. I had not seen the woman who said she was the delegate this year. According to the conference journal, the same lay delegate and alternate delegate were selected in 2006 and 2007, and nobody registered at conference from this charge. I do not yet know whether she attended in 2008, but if she did not, that means this charge hasn't even had a lay member present for the past three conferences!

I'm definitely going to address this issue. I really don't enjoy stepping on toes, but if no one is representing the charge and keeping up the connection, we need to find someone else who cares. Now if I could only FIND someone under 40 in the church!

Peace,
Ray

Larry Wright said...

Here's a few suggestions for those pastors/churches who are struggling with this priority of empowering a new generation. We have implemented these at my church (an old, long-established congregation located in the historic district of town), and are seening some good things happen:
1. If you don't have folks in the church under 40, then you've got to target that age group and design worship, programing, and even your business meetings with them in mind. Older adults who plan/lead these areas are asked to do so as if they could be "30 something again".
2. Rotate the role of conference lay representative each year. Have a new person attend, and then make sure when they return from annual conference they give a report of their experience...not just about the business sessions and what was voted on, but their impressions of the whole event.
3. If you have youth in the church then pair them up with the adult leaders who run the various committees of the church. Make the adults in charge mentors of these youth in the spiritual/temporal matters of the church. Then give the youth a chance to run the meetings at least once during the quater.
The implementation of these things has had a wonderful effect on our overall ministry.
Thanks bishop, for calling us forward.
LW

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop
I am continually blessed by your messages. I am part time local pastor with a two point charge. I came over to the Mehtodist church 4 yrs ago from 20 yrs as a pastor in another denomination. I struggle balancing pastoring and working a job as I'm sure all part timers do. We just had our annual conference and hearing my name read when the appointments were read was an inspiring moment for me as I have struggled in last few months with why I pastor. I was reminded today why I pastor. God called me. I need that reassurance sometimes or I think I would just quit. Reading the comments of pastors who have been in ministry for awhile on your site has also encouraged me. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My dear Bishop, I was once a Methodist. Returning from service in Vietnam, I offered myself the Bishop of another state just to the west of you. He indicated that I was not sufficiently educated and sent me out of his office into the arms of the Presbyterian church. Had you been the Bishop, I would no doubt still following Wesley and Asbury.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop,
I am well aware of your policy of discouraging the trend of second career folk entering ministry. I was sitting in a United Methodist Men's retreat day in Baton Rouge where you were the guest speaker and you said as much. I had just experienced the call to ministry and was so excited. I had already applied to a Methodist seminary with which you were associated. Funny, I didn't think you could possibly be speaking to me. I was only thirty six years old.

Thank God, when I was denied admission to your school, I picked myself up and reapplied to a school just south of there. Now, I'm a member in full connection in another annual conference. I serve on a district board of ordained ministry. I've mentored people of all ages as they discern their own call into ministry. I've pointed young people to the ministry beginning with their confirmation experience. I've worked with older youth and young adults getting them acquainted with district and conference ministries in hopes that ordained ministry would be in their career sights.

I'm an old forty nine years old now. I've served churches for the past twelve years. Nobody I know expects to retire before seventy. My thirty-plus years of ministry will only be richer and more fruitful because of my experiences in a first career.

Thank the Lord, I didn't let you tell me no.

preacherman said...

Thank you for sharing this with us brother. I will be praying and praying for this new generation of leaders. It is them that is going to be leading the churches. God be with them and give this the strength to not burn out but to persever into the leaders that God want them to be.

Anonymous said...

I think Dorothy's letter was quite beautiful, but it really troubles me that you use it to state your intention to restrict delegates to one age group. Encouraging new leaders is great, recruiting and lifting them up is great. Killing off people over 40 like me (that's what it feels like when I hear the bluntness of your rhetoric) is not good for the church. We need wisdom as well as new life, it's a matter of balance.

Luke said...

Bishop- I commented on aspects of your post here:
http://lukewetzel.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/willimon-wallaby-woo-1-of-2/
and here:
http://lukewetzel.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/willimon-wallaby-woo-2-of-2/

Luke said...

So much for links. The posts are on my blog: lukewetzel.wordpress.com

I appreciate the ways in which you challenge to the church.

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