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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Testimonies of loving, learning, and leading–AC2022 Leadership Report

    October 6, 2022 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The Upper New York (UNY) Conference Leadership Report was presented during the afternoon of Thursday Oct. 6 at the 2022 UNY Annual Conference, held virtually.

    Associate Lay Leader Jessica White and Dean of the Cabinet, the Rev. Mike Weeden, presented the mission, vision, and purpose of the UNY Conference.

    Jessica described how since 2013, various leadership teams and churches throughout the UNY Conference have been working on the process of creating Christ-following transformational leaders using the L3 model—they love, learn, and lead together.

    The Rev. Weeden discussed the MAPs (Ministry Action Plans) that the Conference Leadership Team used to help 50 percent of local congregations to become vital.

    He said, “MAPs are never set in stone…they are changed as needed—they are used to determine where a team is going and how to get there. These are not designed to communicate to large audiences. The audience is the team itself.”

    Jessica described how leadership teams meet regularly to revise their MAPs and work. “We needs to help our churches become more vital—just like Jesus did,” she said. “Like Jesus, we must discover new leaders, both lay and clergy.”

    She shared an example of how the Southern Tier Regional planning team helped a small congregation (Little Valley: First UMC) become more vital from Easter 2021 to Advent 2021.

    For quite some time, the church doors at Little Valley were closed; there was no worship or ministry happening. During the Easter season of 2021, 12 leaders were identified to help the church reopen.  Leaders studied the book of Acts together and participated in a leadership training. They held a community picnic at the church in the summer of 2021 and then Halloween Trunk or Treat the following fall.

    After visiting churches to see what worked, by Advent 2021, Little Valley opened the doors to the community. Five lay leaders rotated, leading the Sunday services. In recent months, three new couples (two in their 20s) have joined church. In July 2022, Shorty Gross was appointed to Pastor of the church.

    A panel of five UNY members both laity and clergy, moderated by Spiritual Leadership Inc. (SLI) coach Craig Robertson, spoke about worked for them and what surprised them most about using the L3 model.

    Lindsay Martin, a layperson from Cortland First UMC and a member of the Conference Operational Team spoke about how effective the L3 model is for the Conference Operational Team.

    She said, “I have had a really cool experience on this team. I would say loving is sharing, learning is learning together, and the leading is helping each other work together to develop those healthy teams.

    As you know, when you get a group of people together you aren’t always going to agree with each other and it’s okay not to, but it’s interesting  to see that if you come together and align with this mission of building healthy leaders who are helping to develop disciples, that’s what we’re working on together…the L3 culture is really important in how we introduce new things and how we try new things…generating the L3 culture promotes problem-solving together—that’s something that has influenced me not only on the team, but also in life and in work.”

    The Rev. Leanne Zeck, pastor at Bath Centenary Church, has uses the L3 model at her church. She said, “I’ve been introducing the L3 model to different committees; our goal is to create this community of disciples who make disciples…so, with my team, we have been being disciples together. We’re still not back to our pre-COVID numbers. We’re having financial issues.  But the joy of it is that we don’t have anxiety. We have energy.

    How do you have energy after over two years of COVID? This loving, learning, and leading has taken us out of the worry and placed us into the ‘God’s got this’ attitude, and we are just going to listen and follow God and stay on mission.”

    The Rev. Michele Clark, pastor at Greene UMC and North Fenton UMC in the Binghamton District, said, “It’s not new to anyone that churches have suffered in numbers and in commitment to keeping ministries moving forward. This L3 culture and trying to build it in a covert way at this moment is helping my parishioners to see just how much they do need one another with Christ always being at our center. I have been honored by the people who have said yes to helping me invoke some of these changes in my congregations.

    Craig asked to share one of the stories of one of these people

    Rev. Clark, said, “The person that comes to mind has been with the church all her life and is active in every aspect of the church—ministries, worship, Sunday school, trustee work. You name it, she has done it. When there is something that needs to be done, she immediately does it. She is now willing to step back and allow more of a team environment to unfold and her desires spread out to others within that group setting.”

    Anne Welch Wood is a layperson at Webb Mills UMC and is also the MountainView District Lay Leader.

    Anne Said, ““My path has crossed L3 through our Regional Operation team meetings. The word that comes to my mind when thinking about the L3 model is ‘fruitful.’ It is a fruitful framework and system. The loving, learning, and leading provides great joy. It provides meaning, purpose, and belonging. The community that we have built and the way that we do things together helps to share the load and multiply our energy and the Holy Spirit has done some pretty cool things.”

    Dr. Scott Johnson, pastor at Pendelton Center and Buffalo First United Methodist Churches as well as a member of the Conference Operational team and co-convener of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race has used the L3 model in multiple settings.

    He said, “When this was introduced to me, the thing I was worried about was ‘Are we going to get anything done?’ But L3 showed me some of the things we talk about in different ways and different context brought to life…Not only do we get things done, but the way we get there involves conversations that are much richer, much more engaging. You’re not hesitant to have some difficult conversations and you’re not afraid to disagree because your relational strength is there.”

    Craig ended the panel by saying, “We hope that what we shared here will be inspirational and encouraging to you all.”

    The Leadership Report concluded by Jessica leading participants through John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer.

    TAGGED / Annual Conference 2022

    With more than 125,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 800 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."