First UMC Pearland Member Named Board Chair of the Foundation for Evangelism
After serving for decades in various leadership positions, Dr. Larry Klemann is stepping into the role of Board Chair of an organization focused on raising up generations of new leaders with a passion for evangelism.
A scientist for the likes of Kraft and Nabisco, Larry Klemann worked out of the same New Jersey office for 27 years until retiring last year. Larry and wife, the Rev. Diane Klemann, a retired UMC deacon with the Greater NJ Conference, are enjoying retirement in Texas and have joined the 2400-member congregation of First UMC Pearland.
Additionally, he is stepping into his newest lay leadership role – one that feels like it grows in scope on a daily basis. “I’ve been volunteering on the Foundation for Evangelism since 2002,” he shares, “but I was recently installed as Chair of the Board of Trustees and made responsible to monitor our six standing committees and lead the executive group, chair our annual board meetings and represent the Foundation externally – a journey that has been thrilling for me for over a decade.”
Adds Larry, “While the Foundation for Evangelism is a primarily laity-run organization, I have gotten to know lay and clergy from all walks of life and been privileged to spend time with several Bishops who have enormous experience and great insight for the church.”
Investing in the Young
One of the Foundation’s major accomplishments to date is the establishment of endowments for E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism in every United Methodist seminary in America and several international locations. “Raising up new leaders certainly begins before seminary,” he adds, “so we are also working to engage youth through college ministry.” His passion centers around finding ways of awakening evangelism within the church in much the same way as he as personally experienced an awakening. “I was timid about evangelism when I first joined the work of the Foundation, but I felt called to learn – and I have discovered it is not a frightening word or concept. It’s what Jesus Christ calls us to do, and that has been a thrilling realization and awesome responsibility that has helped my spiritual growth.”
During his tenure, the Foundation has launched several annual initiatives to put more focus and priority on evangelism: 1) Annually naming a Distinguished Evangelist of the UMC, 2) Recognizing youth, lay and clergy for outstanding examples of evangelism across all Annual Conferences via the Harry Denman Awards, and 3) Celebrating churches that identify and nurture young persons called to ministry with the Culture of the Call Church Award.
“When I hear the stories and research the nominations received for these awards,” Larry adds, “I feel a growing passion for evangelism and am excited for the future of the church. Our organization is prayerful that this time in history will be a big turning point where everyone owns the responsibility of making disciples.”
Leadership has been a lifestyle for Larry, who served Bridgewater UMC in New Jersey for more than 40 years as Chair of Evangelism, Ministry Council and Administrative Board. He was also part of the leadership teams for a number of youth and adult service projects and spiritual formation retreats and a practicing Stephen Minister and trained Stephen Leader. “We were immediately drawn to First UMC Pearland when we witnessed and experienced a welcoming congregation with distinctively evangelistic hearts,” he adds. “The church has one of the most active missions programs I’ve ever seen and they just do it without even being asked, including the aspect of engaging people on a service project and introducing them to Jesus by simply sharing their own personal story. When you are confident in your own faith, you can bring Jesus into the conversation fairly quickly.”
Larry feels he is right where God wants him with regard to a new home church and new leadership role with an organization focused on resourcing partner seminaries, agencies and program innovators that are raising up generations of leaders with a passion for evangelism. He fervently believes in the power of planted spiritual seeds. “I love being able to see – and assist through the Foundation – deeply committed leaders of all ages empowered by God, doing wonderful things.”