Editor’s Note: As the 2012 General Conference approaches, United Methodist News Service is looking at details of legislation and offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. A number of proposals are aimed at restructuring the denomination and its general ministries, so UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church. This is the response from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry. To view more Agency Q&As, click here and scroll through the list>>
1. One issue to be debated at General Conference is restructuring. What would the church miss if your agency no longer existed?
Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor has benefited from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s programs — most notably the online candidacy system and training and resources offered to annual (regional) conference Boards of Ordained Ministry for their work with candidates for ordination and continuing education, training and mentoring of clergy. Many young adults have found help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their life through our leadership and discernment programs, especially Exploration, and have been offered leadership training through Student Forum. United Methodist leaders — both lay and clergy — have benefited from United Methodist loans (about $2 million annually) and scholarships (about $3 million a year) and 520 campus ministries. We also foster educational access through the Black College Fund, the Ministerial Education Fund, Africa University and our 120 schools, colleges, universities and United Methodist schools of theology.
2. What is your agency’s primary mission? How do you accomplish this in the most effective manner?
As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the Board of Higher Education and Ministry is about giving people a helping hand and our mission is preparing a new generation of Christian leaders for the church and the world. The primary way we do this is by increasing access to education, training, technical assistance and resources. Many students at the 11 historically Black colleges supported by the Black College Fund are the first in their family to attend college. Our work with the 13 United Methodist seminaries, theological education in the central conferences, Course of Study training for local pastors, and continuing education for clergy helps ensure well-educated and trained leaders for the church.
We are also doing work globally to provide theological education to the central conferences. To name a few: the $2 million Africa Theological Education Initiative, used to support Course of Study development in French, Portuguese and English; the organization of the Association of African Theological Schools and distance-learning work with Africa University.
3. Name at least one exciting thing your agency has been involved in during the current quadrennium. How does it relate to the Four Areas of Focus?
Reaching young people has been one of the primary goals of The United Methodist Church for the last decade, and our agency has and is leading the way through our work with campus ministries and vocational discernment for young adults considering ordained ministry. At Exploration 2011, 172 young adults signed a card saying they felt called to ordained ministry and at Exploration 2009, 170 said yes to the call to ordained ministry. Many others attending both national events for those discerning God’s call on their life determined that they felt called to ministry other than ordination. A new program, Spark12, challenges young adults to create church that is relevant to them by providing young adults with the tools, mentors and networking to create ministries that they believe in.
Directed by the Council of Bishops’ Leadership Table, which endorsed the plan in 2011, a young adult team began in May 2011 to build the initiative as one way to develop principled Christian leaders, one of the denomination’s Four Areas of Focus adopted by the 2008 General Conference. The project is a collaborative effort among general church agencies, young adult leaders from The United Methodist Church and its annual conferences, and profit and nonprofit advisers. The Rev. DJ del Rosario, director for young adult ministry discernment and enlistment at the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, is the executive director of the project. The Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the Board of Church and Society, the Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Communications and the Board of Discipleship are all involved in this project.
The Rev. Emily Oliver, associate director of the Center for Clergy Excellence, Florida Annual (regional) Conference, brought a group of 35 college students and seminarians to Exploration.
Blogging, tweeting and QR codes added new levels of connection to this event for young adults considering God’s call to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church, allowing instant connections and real-time discussions about sermons, workshops and small groups.
She said Twitter allowed her to stay connected to her group throughout the event.
“I was sitting in the room listening to Adam Hamilton surrounded by only a few, but watching online my entire group of 35 based on their Twitter feeds. I could tell what they were thinking, what was resonating with them, I was tweeting back. We were almost having our own small group in the middle of worship,” Oliver said. “Just to be in the middle of that, to be able to hear who had a challenge or a pushback at the time, that makes me feel more connected.”
4. How does the average United Methodist pastor or member benefit from your agency’s work?
Every member of every United Methodist church benefits from having pastors who have been encouraged, supported and trained through programs our agency is involved in (see response to first question). Our scholarships have helped thousands of United Methodist students and our leadership programs (see response to third question) have helped those considering how God is calling them to be in ministry to find their role in the church and the world.
5. How much money and how many employees does it take to maintain the work your agency is currently doing?
We have approximately 60 employees and our budget for 2012 is about $39 million.
Learn more: Website of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry
For more information, visit the 2012 General Conference website.