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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    news article

    My experience in the Leadership Academy

    May 25, 2016 / By Rev. Dr. Karen Grinnell

    I saw the flyer for the Leadership Academy in last year’s Annual Conference session packet of materials. It sounded like a good program, and I really did plan to follow up on it after I got home. But, the good intentions were soon forgotten. I was busy, and the packet of materials was filed away and forgotten.

    In the fall, my district superintendent invited me to participate in the Leadership Academy. I had three good reasons to follow up on this program: I was looking for a good use of my professional/educational compensation resources, I had never been to Casowasco Camp & Retreat Center, and the dates were open on my calendar. I still thought the program sounded interesting, so I decided to enroll. I have not been disappointed!

    The focus of this program is improvement of leadership skills. For me, that has meant a new understanding of being intentional in the way I lead my congregation. I think we all get complacent and “stuck in ruts” from time to time in our ministries, and I recognize now that I needed some prompting to bring a freshness back into my work.

    Some of the topics covered during the academy are the importance of our own spiritual formation, our Wesleyan tradition, family systems theory, and function/dysfunction of teams. Our speakers have been top-quality, and the reading list has been excellent. As always, sharing ideas and experiences with colleagues is beneficial, and the schedule allows time for learning, reflection, and rest.

    The schedule also included a trip to the Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio for the Rooted and Changing Our World conferences. These conferences offered many opportunities for personal growth as well as ideas and resources to bring back and share with my congregation. One workshop I attended was on starting small groups. The leader shared handouts used at Ginghamsburg UMC, and we practiced leading a small group at our table. I saw how these groups were different from bible studies and how they helped bring people together for Christian conversation, fellowship, and accountability. Another workshop I attended focused on how to encourage our congregation members to become disciples rather than just Sunday morning worshipers. We also visited several satellite churches under the auspices of the Ginghamsburg UMC main campus. While I would not choose to worship in every one of those satellites, I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit is present at each location, empowering the pastor and congregation to reach out to their neighbors to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

    One of the requirements of my participation in the academy is working with a coach. I’ll admit to being resistant to this part of the course, but it has become one of the highlights for me. My coach encourages me, while challenging me to think about how I will put into practice the ideas and plans formulating in my mind. Imagine my delight (surprise?) when the vision I dreamed and discerned from God actually fell into place, and my congregation embraced the new vision with me! My leadership took on a new dimension as I encouraged and empowered more lay leaders in this process.

    I highly recommend the Leadership Academy to those who want to improve their leadership skills, and I thank Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb for the priority he has placed on calling us to become better leaders within the churches to which we are appointed. Don’t just file and forget the information about this program that will be publicized in our packets at the 2016 Annual Conference session. It is an excellent use of our continuing education money, and Casowasco Camp  & Retreat Center is a beautiful retreat location. Register with the Rev. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Vital Congregations and participate in the next Leadership Academy to strengthen and rejuvenate your ministry. I believe you too will feel refreshed with f  new energy for your pastoral leadership.

    Rev. Dr. Karen Grinnell is the pastor at the Indian Falls UMC.


    Click here to learn more about the next Leadership Academy for 2016-2017.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries


    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."