ALCOA, Tenn. (July 18, 2018) -- What is discipleship? How can churches and members in Holston Conference do a better job of making disciples?
A new member of the Holston Conference staff is now at work helping to answer those questions.
The Rev. Susan Groseclose, age 59, was appointed associate director of connectional ministries for discipleship, effective July 1.
She is a United Methodist deacon with 31 years of experience in local churches in Alabama and Tennessee, including a connectional ministries position on the Tennessee Conference staff. Most recently, she served as pastor of worship and children’s ministries at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville from 2012 to 2018.
However, her roots are in Holston Conference.
“I have not served in Holston, but it’s good to be home,” Groseclose said recently, in her office on the second floor of the Alcoa Conference Center. “The impetus was not only to come home but to be closer to my mother.”
Groseclose’s father, the Rev. Henry Groseclose, was a Holston Conference pastor who died in 2014. His daughter Susan was born during his appointment at Wesley Memorial United Methodist in Johnson City.
She has a bachelor’s degree in special education and elementary education from East Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in Christian education from Scarritt Graduate School.
Through Groseclose, Holston Conference has an opportunity to put more gasoline into the strategic plan that has been in effect for the past year, said the Rev. Michael Sluder, director of connectional ministries.
“Susan’s position was created after conversations with the Strategy Team, especially around the topic of ‘missional hubs,’” said Sluder. “Missional hubs are really supposed to start kicking in this fall.”
One of the seven components of the “Comprehensive Strategic Plan,” adopted at Annual Conference 2017, calls for missional hubs to be formed throughout Holston Conference.
“The question is, how do we better resource local churches instead of doing big events that only a few people come to?” Sluder said. “Missional hubs are designed to bring churches together around a vision that will serve the needs of their community.”
Groseclose’s “skill set in discipleship” makes her the right person to train church leaders to discover their community assets and needs -- and then to minister to those needs through missional hubs, Sluder said.
Although her title and focus are different, Groseclose also assumes some of the responsibilities previously held by Gaye King, who served on the conference staff until July 2017. Groseclose is now responsible for children’s ministries (Change for Children grants, Safe Sanctuaries training) and older adult ministries (Jubilation spiritual retreat).
“Gaye’s position remained open for a year because we didn’t know exactly what it needed to be,” Sluder explained.
Groseclose, who has written books on discipleship and children’s ministry, said that her guiding scripture is the “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.
“Part of loving God and loving neighbor is planting seeds in rich, fertile, faith-forming environments,” she said. “It becomes our responsibility as leaders and congregation members to help persons grow and be nurtured in their faith – and provide those environments where they can grow in their faith. Thus, through the power of the Holy Spirit and intentional cultivation, we can bear fruitful, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Groseclose is scheduled to meet with the Extended Cabinet in August and has already made plans with the Older Adult Ministry Team for Jubilation 2019.
She also hopes to offer workshops throughout Holston on children’s ministry, older adult ministry, discipleship and spiritual formation, including topics such as: "5 principles of discipleship," "How to become an adaptive leader," and "Balancing the Martha and Mary in you."
By fortifying its focus on discipleship, Holston Conference is rededicating itself to the mission for The United Methodist Church, Groseclose said.
The mission statement from the denomination's Book of Discipline declares:
The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches and extension ministries of the Church provide the most significant arenas through which disciple-making occurs.
Contact the Rev. Susan Groseclose at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.