The Rev. Mark Flynn and the Rev. Wil Cantrell not only represented Holston as General Conference delegates in Tampa this past spring. They also started a conversation about how to help young clergy collaborate and develop stronger ministries.
The first gathering of “Young Adult Peer Learning Groups” is scheduled Thursday, Sept. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Fountain City United Methodist Church in Knoxville. The Rev. Daniel Ogle, organizer, said he and his colleagues hope to bring young clergy together twice annually.
“We want to get together, encourage each other, and celebrate signs of hope so that we can be more effective in our ministries,” said Ogle, age 33, Fountain City associate pastor. “We are so spread out and we experience so many challenges. We hope in doing this that we can share some of our experiences.”
The group is targeted for clergy ages 18 to 35 “but we’re not going to turn anybody away,” Ogle said.
The structure for the semi-annual gatherings is based on Leading Edge, an annual gathering of the senior pastors of the 100 largest churches in the denomination (with total weekend worship attendances between 1,200 and 7,500).
Flynn, senior pastor at Christ UMC in Chattanooga District, and the Rev. Steve Sallee, senior pastor at Cokesbury UMC in Knoxville District, are Leading Edge participants.
“It is primarily a peer learning event where we find support and collegial conversation about common issues,” said Flynn, age 48. “I wish I had been a part of something like that when I was a young clergy.”
Flynn and Cantrell, who roomed together in Tampa during the April 24-May 4 General Conference, talked about how the same model could be used in Holston.
“We really want to create environments where we see each other as players on the same team and not as competitors for appointments,” said Cantrell, age 33, pastor at Lebanon Memorial UMC in Abingdon District.
On Sept. 20, participants will break into table groups by geography in the morning, by church size in the afternoon, said Ogle.
Morning topics include: “What is your spiritual and religious history and how does it affect your appointment in your current setting for ministry?” “What are your priorities and how do they affect the mission and ministry of your context?” The afternoon discussion will include preaching, leading, and stewardship.
At future sessions, speakers may be invited to address a given topic for small-group discussion, Cantrell said.
“I wanted to make sure that our Holston young adult clergy have the support and resources that come from the peer learning model,” Flynn said. “We have a tendency in every conference to talk about valuing young clergy opinions, but we seldom work to implement their ideas. If we are smart as a conference and really want to do whatever it takes to reach the next generation for Jesus Christ, we will listen very closely to what the young clergy think.”
The Sept. 20 gathering is free to participants, with some support from the Holston Conference Foundation. Registration is not required, but a Facebook invitation has been created. The second gathering is scheduled for April 11, 2013.
"Young Clergy Summit: Focusing on a new generation of church leaders" (UMR, 9/7/12)