By Cynthia Laird
On Saturday, August 18, 2012, approximately two hundred elected leaders from around the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi for the Fall Leadership Training entitled “The Power of WE.” Leadership training is held twice a year and allows conference leaders to gather as a whole and in groups to discuss continued programming aimed at “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This training also affords them the opportunity to hear changes within the conference as they pertain to policy/procedure and committee structure as well as coming together in prayer for the mission of the Mississippi Conference.
The gathered leaders were welcomed by Reverend Vicki Landrum, the Associate Pastor of Christ United. Reverend Steve Casteel began the day with a worship service reflecting Christian love, service, faith and leadership. The scripture of the day was Galations 6:9-10.” And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Reverend Beth Miller of Rolling Fork, MS gave the opening message and shared with us some tips for leadership by example. She shared that some leaders are noticeable because of their energy and enthusiasm as well as a take charge approach. However, she also noted that other leaders are just as effective by their examples of love and sacrifice.
Rev. Miller was inspired by the example of Osceola McCarty who valued education, even though she had not been able to pursue education herself. Ms. McCarty was a “washer-woman” as long as her health permitted, but she always set aside money for a savings account. Because of her desire to help others, McCarty gave a large portion of her savings to a scholarship fund to help students with financial hardships gain an education. Ms. McCarty’s example has not only helped students at the university, but her quiet, loving example has shown us a new dimension in leadership.
Reverend Miller concluded by saying “while WE are called and it’s WE that will get things accomplished; it starts in the heart of ME.” Our flames ignite in our hearts and the fans are flamed by the power that comes in the form of WE.
David Stotts, the Conference Treasurer explained to us the importance of Mission Shares, how the funds are handled, safeguards that are in place, and also the names and contact information for the Conference Administration Staff in the area of finance.
Reverend Lisa Garvin, Ministerial Services Director, shared with us the importance of our human resources in the conference. Her office seeks to nurture and cultivate clergy leadership, and encourage leadership in service.
Reverend Tim Thompson, Administrative Assistant to the Bishop, encouraged with his message “Bloom Where You Are Planted.” He stressed that no one knows your area like you do, and you can use that knowledge to improve worship, evangelism, spiritual formation, mission, and stewardship.
He further said that, “vital congregations happen when men and women in local churches decide they have been called by God, and that God has something for them to do.” He referenced the book “212 Degrees,” and said that at one degree less, water does not boil. However, at 212 degrees, water boils and creates steam with enough power to move a locomotive. Rev. Thompson challenged us to move one degree further in our service to the Lord.
Tim Crisler, Conference Lay Leader, emphasized the importance of service with his message “Change Makers – A Call to Action”. Reverence Steve Casteel mentioned that, along with many other contributions, Tim’s leadership has benefited the conference by encouraging and nurturing the participation of younger clergy and other leaders.
Tim stressed that the leaders were present at this training because we chose to take the valuable time to come, and because we love to serve the Lord and His church. He encouraged us to be doers and thinkers who will bring positive change and growth to the church. He called us “change makers who are called to action”. He also said that we are a team: “T = together; E = each; A = achieves; M = more.” He called us to action by sharing that an attitude used correctly is a powerful source for good, that communication is vital, and that we need a vision to see things as they should, and by the grace of God, will be.
Reverend Steve Casteel had everyone stand as we mimicked the little pig from the commercials by lifting our hands and shouting “WEEEEEEEEE!”. In this way, our common goal and community was stressed in a very fun manner. He also shared with us some new and exciting technology that has the potential to help us reach farther and better for Christ. He said that “the table has been set for us for the next four years”, and that the leaders who have gone before us “are handing us the baton to run, and we’ve got a pretty good lead”. He challenged us to move forward in our new leadership roles, and to have an impact in shaping the Mississippi United Methodist Conference now and in the years to come.
Please pray for your Methodist leaders that God would guide our every thought and action! Decisions made in the next four years will have an impact beyond that – well into the future.