Making The Leap in the Western Jurisdiction

December 03, 2015

*By Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr.
"When you know your 'why,' your 'what' has more impact," said the Rev. DJ del Rosario, lead pastor at Bothell United Methodist Church (UMC), in Bothell, Washington, during the opening session of the Western Jurisdiction's "Making The Leap" experience.  He asked those gathered, "What does it take for us to dream bigger?"
Sixty-two pastors, mostly from the Western Jurisdiction, gathered in Sacramento, California, for the "Making The Leap" experience.  Organizers say the event came as a result of a conversation between the Western Jurisdiction's College of Bishops, and the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Development Team (WJLDT), about the need to properly train pastors to lead large membership churches. 
The Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth, convener of the WJLDT, says, "Our definitions of large church varied around the table, and as we continued in that conversation, we realized that what we were really talking about were not just large in number, but large in complexities."  He added, "Making The Leap' is really an experience for those being considered for, or considering, service in a large membership, or more complex congregational setting."
Plenary sessions during the three-day experience were led by the pastoral teams from Bothell UMC, Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, Idaho, and Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, California. Some of the topics included community engagement, self-care (work/life balance), preaching, visioning and ministry plan implementation, stewardship and finance, inter-cultural leadership competencies, and understanding systems.
The Rev. Anna Crews Camphouse, pastor of Walnut UMC in Walnut, California, says, "The Western Jurisdiction is a unique setting for ministry no matter where you are because it is not a culture where people are expected to go to church…people don't say which church do you go to, they ask why do you go to church?" She added, "People are making disciples in areas that are truly mission fields."
The Rev. Michael Wondel, lead pastor at First UMC in Sikeston, Missouri, traveled with two pastors from Southeast Missouri for the experience. "I moved to my appointment in July…it was a significant change for me," he said.  He says he wanted to learn, "what are some issues that we need to identify to help people transition, and do that well." Wondel says he gained helpful ideas from the presenters for his transition, and current context.   
Partnerships are emerging as a result of the experience.  The Rev. George Bennett, pastor of UMC Merced in Merced, California, says, "I want to introduce some of my leaders to a church that's in the process of getting to be a big church."  He is going to partner with Bothell UMC for follow-up trainings "a day in the life," or "a week in the life," with the two congregations. "I need folks to see what it's like to get from here to there." 
Bennett added, "This is an event that is fostering the hopes of our annual conference, the hopes of our jurisdiction…we don't have to sit around and bemoan the shrinking of mainline denominations all the time when you're in an environment with people who have energy to grow."
*Hygh is director of communications for the denomination's California-Nevada Annual Conference that includes 360 churches and 78,000 United Methodists in Northern California and Northern Nevada.