Enhancing Leadership Skills through Certifications

Date Posted: 7/10/2014

Continuing education is one of a leader’s best friends. In exchange for the commitment of time, several recent ‘grads’ feel the certification experience expands their professional expertise and knowledge.
Homework does not always go away as we get older. Teresa Rossy, Director of Learning Ministry at Chapelwood United Methodist Church, Houston started the Christian Education Certification program after her children were grown and gone in 2009 and was recognized by Bishop Huie at Annual Conference in 2014. If you ask her why she devoted summers over the last five years to this accomplishment, she is quick to cite two reasons. “For me, there are two main benefits from the certification process. One is the knowledge and level of expertise that comes from the course work. Each year after I returned to Chapelwood from Dallas, I was able to immediately implement some aspect of my training in the church,” she shares. “Secondly, you develop relationships with people in ministry all over the country, and stay in contact for support and ministry ideas.”
Managed by the General Board of Higher Education Ministry, the certification program offers classes through several seminaries across the country. Teresa did her studies at Perkins School of Theology led by Rev. Mary Tumulty and Nancy Heintz of FUMC, Conroe. 
There are five courses required for certification in Christian Education: Administration and Leadership, UM Studies, Teaching and Learning, Bible, and Theology. According to Teresa,, classes are taught by Perkins professors and professional instructors from various disciplines including psychology, education and the General Board of Discipleship, and there is a paper required each year. 
Vicky Harris of Memorial Drive UMC, Houston is the registrar and also serves on the Board of Ordained Ministry as the liaison with certification candidates. She reports, “As of Annual Conference 2014, we have 61 people who are certified, and 50 people who are in the process.” Adds Vicky, “Once you complete the five courses and have five year’s experience working in ministry, then you take the psychological exams and complete interviews which typically takes another year,” she explains.  Ross Talbert, Faith UMC in Richmond, Jeff Hobbs, FUMC Bryan and Sue Highfield, John Wesley UMC are all recent “grads.”
Academic Education Meets Practical Theology
Professional Certification for clergy and laity covers many fields, specialties, and disciplines. According to Rev. Mary Tumulty, Minister of Discipleship and Liturgy for
First UMC, Conroe, who has directed part of the certification program for some 18 years, the first certification seminar was aimed at giving the laity working in the church a seminary education so that they could be more effective in their ministry. Rev. Richard Murray at Perkins School of Theology led the push toward certification in 1965. Not long after that certification for church musicians, youth ministry, and then business administrators followed. Currently there are professional certifications for Children's Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, Ministry with the Poor, Urban Ministries, Camping and Retreat Ministries and Spiritual Formation. There are a wide variety of ministries represented in certification classes at many seminaries. Every certification program requires United Methodist Studies, Theology and Bible plus two other courses in the field.
“The certification seminars and program at Perkins continue to offer the very best in academic education and practical theology especially for our lay staff in leadership roles in our congregations.,” adds Mary. “This ministry continues to enrich our congregations through intentional and practical education and creating community for support, nurture, prayer and sharing of concerns, joys and great ideas for ministry.”
For more information, see GBHEM.org.