By Woody Woodrick
One open conference staff position has been filled while another is nearing the end of the application period.
Lisa Michiels of Biloxi has been hired as director of communications for the Mississippi Conference, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward announced. The conference also seeks a new conference youth coordinator.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved with the church as we seek to reach more people, more younger people and more diverse people,” Michiels said. “I look forward to being part of the team that tries to meet that mission.”
Michiels has been involved in conference communications since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Cost in 2005. She provided communications leadership for the Seashore District immediately following the devastating storm, and then worked in a similar post for the Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Recovery until last spring.
“Her skills were displayed well (following Katrina), and then what developed with General Conference through UMCOR and United Methodist Communications proved to be invaluable,” said the Rev. Steve Casteel, director of Connectional Ministries. “She’s a very systematic and thorough person.”
Michiels played a key role in developing a DVD about Katrina recovery that was shown at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, and also spoke on behalf of the recovery effort in annual conferences around the nation.
Michiels has a background in both journalism and general communications and public relations. She has owned a newspaper, a radio station and managed non-profit organizations.
Casteel said Michiels will emphasize two major areas: strengthening and consistent re-evaluation of internal conference communications and helping be the face and voice of the conference.
Michiels will transition into the job with the Rev. Shane Stanford who has been serving as team leader for Message and Media since June. Stanford has accepted an appointment to Gulf Breeze (Fla.) First United Methodist Church.
The Rev. Eddie Willis, who is leading the search committee, said he hopes to have the conference youth coordinator position filled by June. Applications are being accepted through March 15. Willis, director of Wesley Foundation at Delta State University in Cleveland, said he has received several applications.
He said he considers the post an important role in the conference’s ministry.
“This is the time in a Christian or non-Christian’s life when they are formulating their faith and spirituality,” Willis said. “We have a chance to lead young people and young adults to a Christian lifestyle.
“I work with college students. I do counseling and preaching to students who are preparing for their first job or are about to get married. It’s such a formative time.”
The teen and young adult years are when many drift away from their church. Willis said he wants to see the Mississippi Conference and The United Methodist Church maintain a strong presence in that age group.
“I don’t want to see us lose ground in the United Methodist Church,” he said. “There have been times when I’ve been to events through other denominations and they seemed put together well, but I would like for the United Methodist Church to have quality events and quality programming.”