Program Description

Advancing Pastoral Leadership is a ministry of the Texas Annual Conference through the Emerging Leaders Endowment and is designed to develop the capacity for strategic congregational leadership by United Methodist pastors. Created out of a deep concern for the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, the goal of the program is to assist emerging clergy leaders in developing their capacity for fruitful leadership. Over the course of five years, program participants will:

  • engage in quarterly retreats for the first two years, followed by semi-annual gatherings for three years;
  • complete a variety of assessments that will help provide a robust portrait of individual leadership gifts and challenges;
  • study the tasks of leadership and build capacity for strategic and intentional leadership;
  • assess and improve their skills for preaching, discipleship, change management, cultivating generosity and engaging with the public square;
  • enjoy the counsel and support of a leadership coach, as appropriate;
  • connect with clergy mentors who have a proven record of faithfulness and fruitfulness in ministry;
  • cultivate strong peer relationships;
  • develop a clear plan for ongoing learning and growth;
  • and reflect theologically on the nature of personal and congregational leadership.

With this program, clergy who have 30 years of potential remaining service to the church have the opportunity to develop their capacity for leadership. Nowhere else in the country do United Methodist clergy have an equivalent opportunity both to serve important missional appointments and be guided in an intentional, long-term process of leadership formation and development.

Expectations for Participation
Thanks to the generous support of the Texas Conference Emerging Leaders Endowment, selected applicants will participate in the full program at a substantially reduced cost. Tuition for the program is $2,000 per year (total of $10,000) plus all travel expenses. Participants from the Texas Annual Conference will receive a 70% scholarship, reducing total tuition to $3,000 plus travel expenses to be paid over the final three years of the program ($1,000 per year for the final three years).  Congregational and conference support for these expenses is encouraged and financial assistance will be available in cases of significant need. Because the program makes significant financial and other resource investment in its participants, it is necessary for attendees to make the following commitments:

  • pledge to attend all sessions in their entirety for the full length of the program (five years);
  • complete all assessments, reading and writing assignments, and coaching and mentoring conversations between sessions;
  • maintain an openness to learning and feedback on leadership, preaching and the arts of ministry;
  • engage their congregations in their learning and development;
  • at the direction of the bishop, serve a missional placement in the annual conference that enhances the opportunity for development;
  • and cover their responsibilities at home and to the congregation during program sessions.

Admissions Criteria
The Advancing Pastoral Leadership program is open to all United Methodist elders in the South Central Jurisdiction, who have demonstrated excellence and fruitfulness in their ministry, and have at least 30 years of potential remaining service to the United Methodist Church. United Methodist deacons who are in full-time roles in local churches are also eligible to apply.

Cohorts of 15 - 20 leaders will begin the program each year and continue together throughout the five years of the program.

The next class of the Advancing Pastoral Excellence program will begin in August of 2024. Retreats for the first two years of the program will be held at Camp Allen Retreat Center in Navasota, Texas.  The topics for the first two years of Cohort 13 are shownn below. Sessions will be held quarterly for the first two years.

  • August 19-22, 2024          Session 1: Embracing God's Call to Leadership: Understanding Yourself as a Leader
  • November 4-7, 2024         Session 2: Leading Strategically: Mission, Vision and Visionpath
  • February 17-20, 2025        Session 3: When the Old Ways Don't Work: Innovation and Change
  • May 12-15, 2025                Session 4: Finding the Courgage to Lead: Gaining Alignment and Holding Resistance
  • August 25-28, 2025          Session 5: Becoming Gospel Storytellers: Preaching that Reaches
  • November 10-13, 2025     Session 6: Making Disciples: Discipleship and Evangelism
  • February 9-12 2026)         Session 7: Making Disciples: Leadership Development and Generosity
  • May 4-7, 2026                    Session 8: Engaging the Mission field: Ministry in the Public Square
  • Year 3 - 5                           Semi-annual Retreat (Dates, location and topics to be determined by the group during its second year)

To Apply
Potential participants must complete the attached application by April 1, 2024.  Following review by an admissions committee, select applicants will be invited to an interview either virtually or in-person in Houston.

Program Leadership
Mike Bonem will serve as the facilitator and guide for Advancing Pastoral Leadership. Mike has served as a consultant and coach for churches and ministries for over 20 years and has written five books on ministry leadership. He is excited about sharing the journey of leadership development and learning with Cohort 13.  Participants in Advancing Pastoral Leadership will also have the opportunity to learn from a variety of leading pastors and  leadership experts. 

For More Information
Contact program assistant, Rebecca Adams at , Or Director of Leadership Formation, Deborah Hawboldt, at