Leadership Insight from Rev. Andy Noel
Taking the baton of leadership from Rev. Lawrence Young, District Superintendent Andy Noel is now applying his background, passions and vision in the Central South District, all while pursuing a doctorate in Christian leadership from Duke Divinity.
In case you have not met the superintendent of the Central South District, he is often described as a high-energy leadership enthusiast. He loves to preach and to integrate drama and contemporary issues into the proclamation of the Word. Even if you have known him for some time, you may learn something new about him here – as well as something new about leadership by reading this Q&A.
Andy came into ministry in 1999, and prior church appointments include Bering Memorial UMC, Montgomery UMC, Associate Pastor of St. Luke’s UMC in Houston, and Atascocita UMC. Prior to his call to ministry, he had a 19-year career in information technology sales and sales management. Andy is married to former Judge Katie Kennedy, now a legal mediator, and they have two children. He graduated summa cum laude from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1980 with undergraduate degrees in English and Business. He graduated magna cum laude from Perkins School of Theology at SMU in 2003 with a Masters of Divinity.
Q) What is your leadership style?
I am a Birkman Green/Red, (and a Meyers Briggs ENTJ), which means I am an enthusiastic communicator and encourager of people under my care. I am also quite results-oriented in my position. To those I “supervise,” I communicate the goals (or the what) but not the specific implementation details (or the how). I have found that competent, caring people usually can figure out what they need to do to accomplish their goals. I become much more “hands-on” with folks new in their appointment, especially gifted, young clergy. The key is to not have a one-size-fits-all style, but to adapt one’s style to those you are leading.
Q) What are some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned over time?
As a former director over a sales team, I have found that most people are motivated to perform well. With proper education and training, and with clear goals, people will generally do well. Ministers are no different. What changes in ministry is the power of the Holy Spirit working toward a shared outcome. Our role as leaders in the Wesleyan tradition is to partner with the Spirit, with the hope of sanctification, to produce visible, enduring fruit that changes our churches and our communities. What I have learned is to be constantly communicating the goals and larger strategies of what we are trying to accomplish under the leading of the Spirit. The key is to be consistent and unswervingly clear in what our mission is all about. As a DS, my relationship with pastors is similar but not identical to the relationship between a pastor and her or his flock. They will follow you when they know that you love Jesus, love them, and know what you’re doing. So the lesson learned for me in my early days is to first communicate my care and compassion for my pastors and my love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, I strive to study our district to develop and then communicate a vision for the future.
Q) What are some of the leadership gaps in ministry and in our conference?
1. Lack of church planters
2. Frequent moves challenge our ability to be community experts
3. Lack of bi-lingual pastors
4. The structure of the BOD limits the amount of innovation we can implement.
Q) What are some of your favorite books or resources?
1. Good to Great by Jim Collins
2. Leadership Without Easy Answers by Ron Heifetz
3. Moses as Political Leader by Aaron Wildavsky
4. Bishop Hagiya’s work on Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
5. Communicating for Change by Andy Stanley (as preaching resource).
Q) What are some of the challenges and opportunities for the Central South District?
Houston is the great lab experiment of America. Over 600,000 jobs have been created in Houston since 2010, with 120,000 new jobs created in just the last year. Houston is being reinvented as folks move back into the city from the suburbs. The result is that our mission field is growing dramatically but also changing at an even faster rate. Since the Latino/Hispanic population make up a majority of our demographic, we are trying to find new ways to reach a younger, more ethnically diverse mission field. Our physical assets (land and buildings) are old and in need of repair, but skyrocketing in market value. How do we tap into this hidden value to fund needed ministry? Although we have recruited, developed and credentialed more young gifted clergy than any other conference, we are in great need of creative, bi-lingual pastors who can thrive in our somewhat antiquated polity and system of ordination. We may need new paths to ministry that can “fast track” new clergy, yet also provide the career paths and benefits currently held by elders and deacons.
I believe Houston has the capacity to yield more new followers of Jesus Christ than any other city in the country. Let’s face it…we’re the fastest growing metropolitan area in the Bible belt. Are we ready to partner with the Spirit to deliver?
Q) What are your Top 3 Areas of Focus?
1. Leaning into our conference-wide goal of developing transforming lay and clergy leadership by holding the January leadership training event; encouraging congregations to better rotate and transfer leadership authority to the next generation; and helping new clergy be fruitful and get off to a fast start in their ministerial careers.
2. Leveraging the huge land values we have in many of our urban churches, by using potential sale-leaseback structure, and utilizing shared services for trustee expenses.
3.Partnering with Conference Missions to bear fruit in Hispanic ministry.