Virginia Clergy Leadership
The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
It is March, and spring is at hand. The Lenten season will begin on March 5, Ash Wednesday. All of us will be called to remember Jesus’ suffering and death for us and to reflect again upon our faith and life before the Lord.
During this Lenten season, we will have the 2nd Bishop’s Convocation on Prayer on March 29. I invite all of you to join this gathering. Especially, for the prayer covenant congregations this convocation will be a great opportunity to get together and learn more about the spiritual disciplines. Please pray for this convocation. Without prayer, nothing great will happen.
On Feb. 11 we launched the Virginia Clergy Leadership Program with great joy, hope and expectation. The first cohort of 20 clergy gathered at Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond and started their 18-month journey under the leadership of Russ Moxley. I was present at their first session and was touched and moved by this great group of clergy.
I deeply appreciate the members of the Clergy Effectiveness Team (chaired by the Rev. Doug Forrester) of the Board of Ordained Ministry, and Rev. Beth Downs, for their dedication in creating this program. They worked very hard with a dream for a new future for our conference. The description of this program says:
This program is rooted in the understanding and practice of leadership in Christ, so that clergy will be radically open to the transforming power of God in their lives and practice of ministry. Believing that fruitful clergy leadership is grounded in deep spiritual maturity, participants will be able to:
• Develop the interpersonal and leadership perspectives and skills to actualize missional potential in
their faith community.
• Sharpen vocational competencies in evangelism and disciple making, worship leadership and
preaching, and mission.
This group of clergy will get together for six three-day sessions spread out over 18 months. The topics of the six sessions will be: The What and Who of Leadership; Moving from Maintenance to Mission; Building and Maintaining Effective Interpersonal Relationships; Worship Leadership and Preaching; Forming Disciple of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World; Learning to Be a Lifelong Learner.
As we know, The United Methodist Church has been declining in numbers for the past 40 years. We are in an urgent need of turnaround. Many programs and training opportunities have been offered. But my conviction is that if the clergy are changed, the church will be changed. The importance of clergy leadership for vital congregations was confirmed in the “Call to Action” report and cannot be emphasized too much. The Bible also says that God’s great works always started when the leader was prepared and secured in faith. First of all, we need transformed clergy leadership.
Today we are facing many challenges. The world is rapidly changing, and many researchers say that the United States is no longer a Christian country. This land is now a mission field. That means today we need missionary pastors. But most of our clergy have not been trained that way. We are more used to managing and maintaining the church and lack passion and zeal in reaching out to people and our community.
These are the reasons and the background for creating this program. One of the challenges for the future of this program will be securing an endowment fund (about $1 million) to perpetually continue this program. When the Clergy Effectiveness Team discussed this issue, everyone agreed that God would provide for our need if the Lord is pleased with this plan. If someone donates this endowment fund, the team agreed to name this program after the donor. If we cannot find this one person, we will try to find a different way of raising this endowment fund.
I believe this program will contribute significantly to changing the culture of our conference. If the clergy who participate in this program help the churches to move forward, our future will be different. If they are equipped and prepared for the new future of our churches, transformation of our present and future will begin.
I am very, very excited about this Virginia Clergy Leadership Program and ask for your prayers and support. The most important investment we can make is to invest in people, especially to invest in developing leadership.
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho