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S.C. lay, clergy tackle critical church issues at global UMC quadrennial training

By Jessica Connor

Eager to embrace a new era in the denomination, S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston and more than 20 S.C. laity and clergy headed to Nashville, Tenn., for the 2013 Quadrennial Training Event.

The event, which drew nearly 1,000 United Methodists Jan. 17-20, tries to help conference leaders, bishops and others understand critical issues in the church and flesh out certain key concepts.

This year, the group tackled everything from adaptive leadership to the need for trust, not only among church members, but also in God. In large gatherings and in small breakout groups, attendees learned significant ways they can better work with each other and with God. They also were able to exchange needed dialogue about their specific leadership needs and challenges.

Barbara Ware, conference lay leader, was a first-timer at the quadrennial training. She said the learning, teamed with worship, fellowship and plenty of time for small group discussion, made for a very moving and invigorating experience.

What struck me as the best ˜take away from this event was the concept that in order for the UMC to grow and be vital today and in the future, we must be willing to take risks as we adapt to new methods of ministry for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,  Ware said.

The Rev. Tim Rogers gave the training s planning committee high marks  for trying something new.

We are continually trying to find the best ways to share the Gospel in a changing culture, and adaptive leadership can be one more tool to help in that process,  Rogers said. The one item that most impressed me was an animated video “ available on YouTube “ on the science of persuasion. It was really useful. 

Donald Love said the discussion about adaptive leadership, which is a more proactive rather than reactive way of addressing issues, was really helpful for him, and it has great potential to help the conference in the future.

Too often we are searching for technical or mechanical fixes for problems and concerns that are not technical, but more a behavior challenge, so therefore our successes are short-lived, if at all,  Love said. I believe as leaders get a better understanding of this leadership concept, we will be able to help other leaders in districts and local churches in naming adaptive challenges that are most commonly experienced. 

The Rev. Kathy James, director of Connectional Ministries, agreed.

Often we try to address our adaptive challenges by making technical changes rather than looking at the deeper issues,  James said.  My hope is that the group that participated in the training will lead us in creatively addressing some of the challenges facing our annual conference. 

The Rev. Brad Gray called the opportunity refreshing and renewing. 

Learning about being ˜adaptive leaders and ˜adaptive change was interesting to me,  Gray said.  It felt different from past training events like these, mainly in that it really was not trying to sell us on a package of materials to use, but rather a theory of how to model leadership. It is not about getting all the ˜right answers, but rather to ask the correct questions. 

Gray said it is inspiring that much of what he learned is already in practice within the conference and within his own ministry, which shows him South Carolina is on the right track.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with God s help, I am really hopeful about the direction we are headed,  Gray added.

The United Methodist Board of Discipleship has sponsored the event since 2005. It is held every four years in the winter after General Conference.

Quadrennial Training s S.C. Attendees

Bishop Jonathan Holston

Rev. Kathy James

Rev. Sara White

Rev. Amiri Hooker

Rev. Cathy Joens

Herman Lightsey

Rhonda Jones

Cynthia Williams

Rev. Tiffany Knowlin

Rev. Susan Leonard-Ray

Rev. Patti Parrish

Rev. James Friday

Rev. Ken Nelson

Chris Lynch

Rev. Brad Gray

Rev. Ricky Howell

Barbara Ware

Lisa Livingston

Donald Love

Sheila Shanklin

David Braddon

Some information courtesy of United Methodist News Service article by Heather Hahn.

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