Hispanic Leadership Academy is ultimate training ground
By Lindsay Peyton
The Texas Annual Conference is debuting a new three-year program, the Hispanic Leadership Academy. Both theological and pedagogical tools will be incorporated to help laity reach their full potential and transform into leaders in their home churches.
Rev. Dayimi Pimentel serves as Racial and Ethnic Ministries Coordinator for the Texas Annual Conference. She explained that the Academy is designed to assist members of Spanish congregations in the Conference, guiding lay leaders to take charge of missions and ministries.
The program begins on Saturday, Sept. 25 with the Generational Leadership session, which serves as training for Hispanic pastors and laity. Already, 44 individuals, both pastors and laity, have registered. After the session, the Hispanic Leadership Academy continues, limited to laity.
“We must focus on our churches being not only multicultural and multiethnic but also multigenerational,” Pimentel explained. “We believe that we are not doing all that we should in this area.”
She added that the gap results from a lack of familiarity with the new generation and their needs, what their priorities are and how to be most effective in reaching them. Key questions will address how to improve the retention of children who come to church, how to better reach tweens and how to be a more effective pastor for teenagers and college youth. In addition, participants will explore ways to promote a healthy generational turnover in the congregation.
Discussions will also center on reconciling family influence with the work of the church.
“The family and the church should not be two parallel efforts,” Pimentel said. “The church should be an extension and support of family influence.”
The Generational Leadership program aims to help pastors and lay leaders grow in their understanding of how to identify and meet the needs of different generations. “We must invest time and resources in working with the new generations, involving the whole family,” Pimentel said.
After the Generational Leadership, the Hispanic Leadership Academy sessions entitled “Encounters” begin. The first is slated for Oct 23. The next two Encounters will be held in November and January.
“We have called the first three Encounters of the course, ‘Face to Face with Jesus,’” Pimentel said. “They are focused on preparing students spiritually through talks and small group work to inspire, challenge and equip them as leaders.”
Topics of “Face to Face with Jesus” include setting priorities, grace and the church as the body of Christ. Pimentel said that the goal is to help students “make an impact in their homes, their churches and their communities.”
The Encounters end with a retreat, scheduled for Jan, 29, where participants will reaffirm their covenant to serve God. The weekend will be hosted by Revive! UMC in Pasadena.
“It includes very special moments that will surprise the participants and that — with all certainty – will mark their spiritual lives,” Pimentel said.
The following month the Academy will shift gears and the biblical and theological courses begin. First, Bishop Scott Jones will lead a class on Methodist doctrine. There will also be sessions about evangelism, transformative discipleship and the Bible.
Classes will be held monthly, except during December, July and August. The second year, participants will learn about servant leadership, the Old Testament, preaching, teaching, principles of Biblical interpretation and Synoptic Gospels.
The third year is dedicated to the Letters of Paul, Johannine epistles, apocalyptic literature and liturgy. Current challenges facing the church will also be examined.
Plans for the Hispanic Leadership Academy originated with discussions between Pimentel and the Rev. Arturo “Artie” Cadar, the pastor at Revive! The two wondered if the Hispanic Leadership Apprentice Program should continue.
Pimentel explained that the program arose to train pastors coming to the U.S. about the history, operation and governance of the UMC in their new country. Later, it was expanded to include all Hispanic church leaders who had a call to pastoral ministry.
“But, not all our church leaders have a pastoral vocation,” Pimentel said. “We believed that we should focus on training leaders who will strengthen local work and who will be leading different areas and ministries.”
Strengthening the church’s bond with youth and community is especially critical in these uncertain times, she added. The work of the church will continue, despite COVID, like house churches and online.
Pimentel, Cadar, and TAC staff member Ana Robles brainstormed and eventually formed the Hispanic Leadership Academy. Enrollment is limited to laity, who come recommended by their local pastor.
“The Academy is an opportunity for leaders to grow both in their personal and spiritual life, and therefore strengthen the local ministry, raising a generation of disciples,” Pimentel said.