By Woody Woodrick
FLOWOOD — Many Mississippi United Methodists will have to look no farther than their own pulpits to find examples of good stewardship following the completion of the first 3 “L” Academy.
The two-day workshop offered about 90 pastors the opportunity for “learning, living and leading stewardship.”
“The United Methodist Church is holistic. I plan to take back as much as I’ve learned,” said the Rev. Leon Cooper of Meridian Wesley Chapel and St. Peter United Methodist churches. “What I plan to do is use one Bible study night for teaching what I learned about holistic health and wellness.”
The workshop offered classes in all types of stewardship, ranging from finances to health to communications. The participants were divided into three groups:
• Those new in ministry
• Those reaching “middle-age” in their ministry
• Those nearing retirement
Presenters at the event ranged from leaders at the general church level to conference staff members. The event was sponsored by the Mississippi Conference Board of Pensions in consultation with the United Methodist Foundation, Board of Medical Benefits, Board of Ministry and Stewardship Table.
“I thought it was a wonderful experience where the General Church and the leadership they provided said to Mississippi ‘you are an important part of the General Church,’” said Conference Treasurer David Stotts. “The presentations from the conference level helped the local church recognize their importance as part of the connectional process.”
Ken Sloane of United Methodist Communications echoed the strength of the connection saying he hopes that “people understand how much more United Methodists are able to do because of the way we’re connected.”
Most of the session involved personal financial, physical and mental health. Ron Johnson of the Bartlett (Tenn.) United Methodist Church counseling center said he hopes participants learned that “there are things clergy can do to be good stewards of health in a difficult profession.”
“There are a number of stresses in the life of our clergy,” he said. “There are also good things, positive things, they can do to take care their health and be good models for our congregations.”
That was one of the goals of the workshop, Stotts said. “We want them to have a better model of stewardship as clergy so as to strengthen stewardship in the local church,” he said.
Basically, by giving the clergy tools to be better stewards in their own lives, the hope is they will serve as examples to their congregations. It was also designed to provide more information about conference clergy benefits for the pastors and their congregations, Stotts said, because the benefits take up a large part of the conference budget.
“The clergy who attended are stronger in their understanding of stewardship and their benefits. The conference will benefit as they share that information with their friends and church,” Stotts said.
In addition to the workshops, worship was led by the Rev. Henry Clay, Delmar Robinson and the Rev. Jerry Mitchell.
The 3 “L” Academy replaced the traditional pre-retirement retreat the conference has held for several years and is designed to become an annual event. With a limit of 90 participants, Stotts said he hopes that within five years, every pastor will have an opportunity to attend.