Large Church Leaders to Gather in Georgia


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pastors, staff and congregational leaders from some of the largest United Methodist churches will gather in April to exchange thoughts, learn new leadership skills and develop new ideas through discussion, worship, study and networking.

The 2014 Large Church Initiative (LCI) conference, “Continuum: Engaging All Generations,” will be hosted April 28-30 by Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Johns Creek, Ga. Discounted early-bird registration is available until March 15.

“This is a grand opportunity for pastors and their leadership teams to think more strategically about developing a continuum of ministry on how to engage five generations of people,” said the Rev. Steve Wood, lead pastor at Mount Pisgah UMC. “ … Most United Methodist churches are populated by people in the first or second generation and really have struggled to be relevant to the emerging generations.”

Leaders of United Methodist churches with more than 1,000 members or an average worship attendance of more than 350 gather each year for the conference sponsored jointly by the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) and the Large Church Initiative Committee, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Timothy Walker, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Midland, Texas.

“Through multiple offerings in workshops, through hallway conversations, and shared meals, pastors and staff members of larger churches share stories of success and failure, as well the effectiveness of resources as they work or not in the large church setting,” Walker said.

The Rev. Dr. Timothy L. Bias, GBOD General Secretary (chief executive), was instrumental in convening the LCI when he previously served as GBOD's director of proclamation evangelism from 1995-1999.

"This annual gathering of leaders of larger churches in our denomination is a special time for sharing and peer learning. The event creates an arena where pastors and congregational leaders share best practices in how they are building congregational systems that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This particular event at Mt Pisgah will be a good one," Bias said.

The conference will provide opportunities for church leaders to consider new strategies to help their ministries better serve people from ages 5 to 85 and be more relevant to constituencies with multi-ethnic and multi-cultural backgrounds.

“We're living in a paradigm where we continue to have to re-create and learn new things if we're to evolve and be relevant with the culture,” Wood said. “And that's certainly true in the Methodist movement if we're going to be in ministry to five generations of people that are now moving back toward a model of urbanization that none of us have ever seen before.”

While The United Methodist Church has many other venues for pastors of smaller churches provided by Annual (regional) Conferences or denominational boards, the LCI is focused on large churches, which typically have multiple services each week, often at more than one location.

Senior pastors in large churches experience a different dynamic of ministry and often need help, affirmation and direction as they develop strategies for the future that work, that are implementable and understandable and that stir passion within their staff and lay leadership, Wood said.

Other keynote speakers at Mount Pisgah, in addition to Wood, will be:

• Rev. Sharma Lewis, District Superintendent of the Atlanta/Decatur/Oxford District in the North Georgia Conference
• Chip Ingram, senior/teaching pastor of Venture Christian Church, Los Gatos, Calif., and president of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry
• Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, an author and ordained United Methodist elder who serves as president of Asbury Theological Seminary
• Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site, United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida
• Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church, a multi-site interdenominational church that meets in theaters around the Washington, DC metro area
• Michael Belk, a fashion photographer who has produced Journeys with the Messiah, a collection of fine art photographs that visually communicates the modern-day relevance of the centuries-old messages of Jesus

More than 20 workshops on topics such as Sustainable Youth Ministry, Spiritual Leaders in Vital Congregations, Start This, Stop That: Do the Things that Grow Your Church and The World Is (in) My Parish will be available during the three-day conference.

On April 28, a pre-conference event for women clergy, Executive Presence for Lead Clergywomen, will be led by Sally Williamson, author of The Hidden Factor: Executive Presence.

In addition to the Mount Pisgah worship choir, guest musical artists will include Natalie Grant, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) Female Vocalist of the Year for four consecutive years; One Sonic Society, a contemporary praise and worship collective of Christian musicians, and The Nelons, a family trio with three Grammy nominations and six GMA Dove Awards.

An early-bird registration fee of $450 per person is available through March 15, when the fee will increase to $500. Online registration will be accepted until April 15 at

For more information about the conference sessions and speakers, go to View an online video at

Contact Laurie Tyre at Mount Pisgah by email at for information about earning Continuing Education credit (CEUs) for LCI 2014.

GBOD’s mission is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, GBOD is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. Visit for more information or call the Communications Office at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 1726.