"How APL Has Enriched My Pastoral Ministry"

Date Posted: 10/25/2012

TAC Advancing Pastoral Leadership participants speak candidly about the program’s value to their personal growth and spiritual leadership.


Mentorship. Executive coaching. Spiritual retreats. Leadership formation comes in many forms and is lived out in multiple and personal ways. Elders with at least 30 years ahead of them in ministry are eligible to participate in a 5-year Advancing Pastoral Leadership (APL) program made possible by a grant from the Lilly Foundation. The positive experiences are as unique as the individuals in the program. Read as several APL candidates share their experiences and life lessons gleaned in this program:

FUMC Caldwell Pastor Todd Jordan appreciates the APL program for the inspiration it gives to young clergy. “Last year at this time, our church was way behind on its conference benevolences and budget. It had been a difficult year financially after losing some key givers, the recession catching up to us, and a terrible drought. Consequently giving was low for this small, agrarian community. After a session at APL -- which focused on how to lead congregations into deeper understandings of generosity, I used some of the tools I learned to lead us back on track with our budget. In addition to meeting the financial needs of our programs and meeting our conference commitments, that year we also raised $8,000 for Stop Hunger Now, sent $5,000 in to assist with wildfire relief, and sent $10,000 to assist with Spring storm relief!”


Participant Holly Wilson has had a much different “takeaway” from APL. Says Holly, “Going into APL, I was recovering from leading a failed new church start that targeted people who were spiritual but not religious. I was deeply committed to reaching this target population so I was heart-broken that this experimental new church had failed and I wondered if and how God would use me next. I had just been appointed to serve at Lakewood UMC as the Pastor of Caring and Outreach and I was clearly in a process of having my call to ministry redefined and transformed.”


Through APL, she not only regained significant confidence that was lost due to the failed church start, she also gained a clear sense of call for pastoral care ministry. Adds Holly, “An added bonus was that I received some much needed healing by being with my clergy peers, our talented facilitator, Janice Virtue, and developing trust and friendship within that circle.”


Upon reflection, Holly says, “Perhaps the greatest gift I got from APL is the gift of clarifying my identity as a pastor. By looking at how God had shaped my life (through the good and not-so-good experiences) I was able to identify some of my birth-right gifts in caring ministry. Furthermore, I was able to take some of the entrepreneurial spirit that was part of my drive for the new church start and put that into action in creating a new approach to caring ministries at Lakewood UMC. As I think back, I realize APL helped me regain my confidence for ministry, reshape my call to ministry and my pastoral identity, and reconnect me with loving, caring clergy who challenged me to be the best pastor I can be.”


Core class “alum” Jeff Powers, can see many areas where the APL program has been a great help in developing his leadership gifts, beginning with curriculum that helped him identify strengths as well as areas where he needed to grow. Says Jeff, “Over the course of time I have learned new skills in staff management, financial development, strategic planning, vision casting, preaching and conflict resolution.” He gives credit to his APL experience for ministry successes at his current appointment with Westminster UMC, including:

· 15% increase in worship attendance (after more than 20 years of decline)

· Strengthening caliber of paid and volunteer staff

· Increases in giving of more than 10%

· Development of a unifying Mission Statement: Love God. Make Friends. Serve Others.

· Launching a $900,000 Capital Campaign to retire debt and improve facilities

Notes Jeff, “In addition to the training experiences, the community of leaders in APL provide great spiritual and collegial support. I have a whole class of fellow clergy who pray for me, encourage me and offer practical, helpful advice. The mentor and coach that we receive also has been a tremendous help. With their guidance, I have an objective listener who will hear my concerns and offer dispassionate and constructive support.”

For individual reasons, these APL participants each cite ways the program has tremendously enriched their experience as a pastoral leader. Adds Jeff, “My service to the Texas Annual Conference will be more fruitful because of what I have learned from the program.”