Meet Kristina Clark, the new UNY Director of Missional Engagement
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference is excited to announce the hiring of Kristina Clark as the new Director of Missional Engagement. She will start this role on July 5, 2022.
Kristina grew up in the former Wyoming Conference where her family attended the South Gibson United Methodist Church in rural Northeastern PA. Though the congregation was small, Kristina was part of an active youth group that focused on mission and outreach.
Speaking of her youth group, Kristina said, “It was during that time I felt a strong call into ministry; however, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized God was calling me into the mission field. I always have felt closest to God whenever I am in service to others. It’s where I learn the most about what it means to love my neighbor and to freely give God’s grace and mercy to everyone.”
Kristina moved to the Upper New York Conference in 2019 with her husband Bryant Clark who is the pastor at Waterville United Methodist Church, Hamilton: Park United Methodist Church, and Oneida First United Methodist Church.
Kristina said, “Since I have been here, I have explored what mission looks like in the Upper New York Conference. During that time, I found that opportunities to strengthen missional outreach are only expanded when we connect and collaborate with other Methodist churches and like-minded organizations in our communities.”
Kristina continued, “When I saw the Director of Missional Engagement position was open, it felt like a job I had been preparing for my whole life and I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to help facilitate the change I know is possible in Upper New York!”
Kristina is not a stranger to many people throughout the Conference. She is known for her strong commitment to mission work and launching the It Takes a Village Diaper Bank mission of the Waterville United Methodist Church. This diaper bank has successfully helped thousands of people in Oneida County with diaper, formula, baby clothing, and more needs.
Kristina said, “You don’t need to have financial resources, be a large congregation, or be in a highly populated area to make an incredible impact on your community. When we started the diaper bank, there were only five of us on the mission team, and we agreed to find five local families that needed help with diapers. For the first four months of the program, that is all we did - we gave the same five families a month’s supply of diapers every month. It was so impactful for our mission to get to know these few families and for them to get to know us and build trust.
We were able to grow our ministry quickly from there because we connected with our community, educating them on the need we were meeting, and inviting them to participate alongside us. We found awesome partners in our local food pantry, library, high school, and social service programs. Soon other Methodist churches started partnering with us in a variety of ways that all became a vital part in our mission and its growth. One of my biggest takeaways from the diaper banks is that mission should never be kept inside your church. Your community is waiting for you to step outside and connect with every piece of it!”
The Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, UNY Director of Vital Congregations, was part of the committee that hired Kristina. He said, “I am excited to see this important ministry of our Conference strengthen. With Kristina’s passion and enthusiasm, we will be able to build upon the great work that has taken place in missions throughout the Conference and take it to the next level.”
The UNY Conference has a great foundation working with UMCOR on disaster relief kits; Rev. Bouwens said, “in addition to overseeing the work at the (UNY Mission Central) HUB, Kristina will help local churches who are working to assist others in everyday disasters: a medical bill that someone can’t afford to pay, homelessness, and so many other struggles that individuals, families, and communities face.”
Kristina is excited to be active with local churches.
She said, “My first goal in this position is to talk with as many people and congregations as possible. I want to hear what you are already doing in your communities and how I can help you. I want to learn what hurdles are getting in the way of taking the next step in mission. Whether you need more volunteers, assistance finding funding, help getting the word out, or anything else big or small - I want to know! After I get a sense of what is already happening, I would love to get missions and churches connected and create systems to easily facilitate collaboration.
One of our strengths as Methodists is that we are connectional. I want to use this to our advantage and plug local churches into the ministries already happening in their area or across the state. How cool would it be to connect a food ministry in Plattsburgh with one in Olean and allow them to learn from each other? Another big goal for me is to collaborate with clergy and lay in our Conference to create more faith filled opportunities for youth in the mission setting. “
With contagious enthusiasm, years of experience, and commendable skills, Kristina will be an asset to the UNY Conference. Feel free to reach out to her beginning July 5! Her contact information will be found here.
Kristina said, “One of my biggest strengths is hearing an idea and helping it come to life. Let’s chat about your biggest dreams for your church and community!
I have a background in finance, so money and data are also my thing. I also love doing research and finding programs and funding opportunities that can keep ministries sustainable.
If your church doesn’t have its own mission but you support another ministry - that is incredible. Tell me about it! Whatever it is you want to talk about with your community and mission, I’m all ears. I can’t wait to hear from you.”