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What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in a Church

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As a leader, I see myself as always willing to help when it’s needed at any time. For example, on Pentecost Sunday, I was asked to assist in Holy Communion. The senior pastor had invited me to serve in his place and to assist the associate pastor. Moments like this deep in my call to administer the sacrament of Holy Communion and holy baptism. For example, if I get appointed to a small membership church or a larger church, part of my job as a pastor in charge is to incorporate my laity into assisting with Holy Communion. As the pastor in charge, I am to lead by example. I am also a leader who is open to new ideas presented by the laity. Being a pastor of a smaller congregation, I would be able to work closely with the laity to discover their gifts that could be implemented into ministry. For example, when I was enrolled into Contextual Education I, I saw the need for them to have some type of grief group. As an intern, I was viewed as a layperson and my supervisor was viewed as clergy. I discovered that I have the gift of discernment. Within a two-week period, I saw I need in that community that needed to be fulfilled through the collaboration of me as a leader and the residents as participants. As a leader, I see myself as one that can do things last minute and still be successful. In January of 2013, I was asked by a fellow UMC minister if I would preach for him. I have less than a week to prepare a sermon. This is a great taste of what ministry was going to be like amid trails and tragedies that would happen in a local congregation on a weekly basis. I was happy to preach for him.

This experience showed me that I am a leader to prioritize his things the best that I can while also leaving room for life to happen. Been a pastor of a small membership church I would prioritize my week with some things that might be routine, such as worship and a weekly Bible study, while also being able to counsel or make hospital visits during the week to those in my congregation. This deepens my call to preach and order the life of the church. When I was an intern at Bethesda UMC, I learned that I was in authoritative leader without being hurtful. During my time at Bethesda, the pastor had to have foot surgery. She left me in charge. I had to learn to be authoritative because even as the intern, I was now seeing as a temporary person in charge. During that week, I lead a Bible study, prepared for worship by choosing hymns, writing prayers, and preparing for the sermon, while also making at least two home visits per day to visit those who are homebound. This experience deepened my call to all four Orders that Elders are called to do.

I am a passionate person who puts hard work and dedication into my ministry. In the local church, I consciously pay attention to detail, so nothing falls into the cracks. My positive attitude will create a positive environment to be a part of us we share Jesus’ love with others. As a compassionate person, I can sit and visit with those who are homebound or in hospice. I have a heart for service, serving both those in the local community and abroad. As an organized person, it will serve me well as I order the life of the local church by administration. Similar to organization, I can affectively prioritize events. In the local church, I’ve learned that as clergy, I am to prioritize events by meetings that I must attend such as Administrative Board and events that are optional run by lay persons. Being an effective minister means that I am not afraid to say no. By saying no, I am creating healthy boundaries between my parishioners and me.

Starting in January of 2018, myself and two Candler classmates started an accountability group in which we would meet weekly via FaceTime or in person to discuss the Provisional packet, but also the life of ministry. We would talk openly about our gifts and our shortcomings. More often than not, one of the other girls would have insights on one of my faults. This accountability group has been an effective way for us to be in relationship with each other while also building each other up. I am not afraid to ask for help, so when I lack in a certain area, I have people within my inner-circle who I can contact who has years of ministry experiences. For example, because of my age, I have not lost any of my immediate family. Therefore, I have not performed a funeral service, but I know how to plan one. When I am asked to do my first funeral, I will probably contact Dr. Amy Morgan or Dr. Royeese Stowe. Those two clergywomen perform some of the best funerals that I have ever seen. For right now, it’s okay that I don’t have it figured out. Some of my lack of ability will decrease as I gain experience. I am confident that I have people who will encourage me as I am gaining more experience.

1. What do you think are the 3 most important virtues for ministry? Why did you choose these 3 virtues? What are you doing in your ministry to nourish and cultivate these 3 virtues? (Note: Examples of virtues would include love, compassion, patience, courage, etc.)

Love is the first virtue for ministry. Throughout Jesus’ teachings, his message was simple: to love. As the Church, we are to put love into everything that we do. If we don’t do it for Christ, then why are we doing it? Throughout the Methodist movement, John Wesley emphasized holiness of heart and life, loving God and loving each other. Love is to be central to the Church as we reach beyond the doors of the local church and share Christ with others.

Compassion is essential with having a successful ministry. Just as love was central in Jesus’ teachings, so was compassion for others. Throughout the Methodist movement, John Wesley emphasized the works of mercy, those things that we can do to share compassion with those on the margins, such as helping the needy and the poor. Showing compassion can be as simple as visiting with those who are homebound. Just as Jesus had compassion for others, the Church needs to be the place where people are cared for and nurtured as children of God.

Patience is the third virtue that is needed for ministry. In the life of the local church, patience is necessary. There are going to be times in the life of ordained ministry where despite all the planning, something goes wrong. Patience comes with practice. Being patient can simply be waiting on the music director to give his selections for an upcoming worship service, even though it’s two days away. Being patient with your staff and parishioners can be a healing thing, in which they feel a sense of wholeness.

I chose love because love is central throughout Jesus’ teachings. Love is the driving force of the Gospel accounts in which Jesus shares love with those in the margins and those in the synagogues. Similarly, the local church is to share the love of Christ with those in their pews and in the local community. Love is central in the life of the local church, everything that we do from pastoral care, to missions, to administration, love is at the center. The local community in which we live and serve is to be loved even if they don’t feel welcome inside of the church. There are some people who would not feel comfortable walking inside of the church for many reasons, so making sure that we as the body of Christ make them feel loved is important as we grow in relationship with our community. Love means that we are to get out of our comfort zones. This includes sharing love with everyone, from the single mother on food stamps to the elderly man in the park. Sharing God’s love is our mission in the community. Love has no boundaries. Sharing Christ’s love is not a select love; it is an open love. With love being open, the local church is to be the driving force and I as the pastor or associate pastor will help guide them.

Compassion was chosen because it was so prevalent in the Methodist movement. Throughout the movement, John and Charles Wesley showed compassion by visiting prisons, those people on the streets, and those people who were outcasts. Just as the Wesley’s did so long ago, the local church is to also show compassion to those in prisons, on the streets, and those who feel like they are not wanted or loved. Love and compassion are similar in nature. They work together in which they cannot function without the other. As the Wesley’s were showing compassion to the people in prison, they were also sharing Christ’s love with them as well. Compassion is to be central to the mission of the local church. It needs to be evident through the life of the local church. We must be caring for those who are in the local church and for those who are not ever going to be in a local church. Jesus didn’t just show compassion to those in the synagogues, he showed compassion to those on the streets. We as the local church should be the avenue to caring for the poor, lonely, and depressed within our own community. Showing compassion means that we must be okay with people not looking like us. This means that the local church is to stretch the boundaries on how they view others. The local church should not only be showing compassion to people that look like them, but also to those who may make you frightened or uncomfortable.

I chose patience because it is practical for ordained ministry. Throughout the life of the local church, I am going to have to be patient with my staff and my parishioners. Being patient doesn’t mean that I am going to be perfect, but that I am okay with waiting for certain things. Being patient means that not everything is going to be perfect. Being in ordained ministry, I am going to learn quickly to be patient for some things, such as miscellaneous items that can wait, versus other things, such as receiving the money to pay the electricity bill that must be paid by a certain date. In ordained ministry, I am going to learn to think of my feet, while also being patient with others as we work together. For example, when planning worship services, my organization can sometimes feel a little threating to people, but I will learn to be patient as I wait for others to turn in their appropriate parts. Being patient means that I am not there to please people. I am not going to agree to something by a parishioner, just to make that person go away. Being in ordained ministry, I am to do what is best to benefit the entire community of faith, not just one parishioner and if that means being patient to let the Spirit move, then I will wait.

I will nourish these virtues in the local church by seeing what ministries are established in the local church. By seeing what ministries are already in place, I can benefit to see where layperson’s gifts are being used, so that we may share Christ’s love. I will then see where God is at work in the local community. If these two things don’t coincide, then there’s a problem. by evaluating where God is at work in the local community, the local church should build ministries to support that work. I must make parishioners aware of the ministries that demonstrate love, compassion and patience. Those ministries can include a food ministry, a sewing ministry, and the altar guild. Those ministries that display those virtues are to be continued in the life of the church. As their leader, I will also acknowledge that those ministries are being done for the sharing of Jesus, not for someone’s personal gain.

I will cultivate these virtues in the life of the church by asking God to stretch us as a community of faith to be more in-tune with the community. When the local church is in-tune with its community, partnerships can begin to be established. The local church is to be involved with the local community. That means that if the local church is in the city, then we also need to build relationships with those churches in the county. In order to cultivate these virtues, we must be willing to get out of our comfort zones and go to the places that we don’t want to go, such as a poor neighborhood. Those places that make us uncomfortable, by cultivating these virtues in these places, God will continue to stretch us. The people in the local church need to learn from people in the community. That means that we are to look from the perspective of the woman with food stamps. To cultivate these virtues, we are to not judge someone, but to use love, compassion, and patience to learn from them.

2. What change have you identified and successfully brought about in your church/congregation, campus ministry, or other organization in which you have been actively involved? What is one thing you would like to change, and how would you implement the change?

A vital and important component of the Candler Masters of Divinity degree is their Contextual Education component. The first year of Contextual Education is in a social setting, such as a hospital. My site placement was at Campbell Stone Retirement Living. Located in Sandy Springs, Campbell Stone is a low income residential retirement home. It’s residence range from ages 60 and above and are represented by many countries including the United States, Russia, Great Britain, and the Ukraine. When I arrived on site again the next semester, I felt God calling me to start a grief share group. I had already been at Campbell Stone for a semester and I had heard the cries of the residence hearts as they, as well as the staff, we’re losing fellow friends on a weekly basis. Prior to the start of the grief share group, I contacted a professional grief counselor in Atlanta. I met with her and shared my ideas. She gave me some great resources that would benefit the group such as poetry to read to the residents and a copy of a covenant that I am the residents would make in regards to the nature of the group and the idea of confidentiality. That next week, I had a meeting with the programs coordinator at Campbell Stone to discuss the amount of time the group was going to meet as well as weekly resources that we’re going to be given to the residents, such as coping mechanisms and ways to express one’s greed to others.

The change that needed to occur at Campbell Stone was this grief share groups. I just learned that there was nowhere else for these residents to go and express their greed openly. I wanted them to build relationships with fellow residents that would be comfortable for them to express their needs and concerns to each other. Degree share group was divided into for one hour sessions that met every Wednesday at 1:30 just before bingo started at 3:00. Each week, I had a different topic relating to grease. Week one was “The Loss of a Family Member” where residents expressed some of their losses and some ways that they coped with the grief over someone they loved. The second week topic was “The Loss of a Friend”. All the residents that were present have lost at least one friend since they had been at Campbell Stone. When a person is at that stage in their life, loss is extremely difficult and hard to understand, so I talked about some ways that residents could remember their friends, such as watching a television show or cooking a special baked treat that will trigger good memories about their friend. The third week was entitled “The Loss of Independence.” This session was crucial to them as most of the residents cannot drive anymore. Residents shared some ways that they overcame the anger and frustration that comes with losing one’s independence. This was helpful to the residents to hear that they’re not alone and that they have a support system right there. The last session was in titled “The Loss of Identity”. This was the hardest session for the residents. They didn’t want to face the realization that someday they might not remember who they are. I mentioned some coping strategies to them such as finding a caretaker but could also be their friend or looking through scrap books of pictures from the past. Sometimes when a person looks at a younger self and an old picture, it jobs their memory because of an important event or time in their life.

The point of this grief share group was for residents to find a sense of community with one another. Some of the residents had never met one another prior to this group meeting. I discovered that after of the grief share group is over, they would still sit together at lunch when I was on site finishing out the semester.

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