If Only I Had Some Time with…

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Guest blog by the Rev. George Anderson

Trent@Montreat is a different kind of conference. It begins with large group worship and “mini-talks” and then breaks up into workshops where the bulk of the day is spent working with peers and under the guidance of a coach in a specific area of ministry.

Maybe it is too much to say it is provided as an answer to prayer. Maybe it is enough to say it is “an answer to a wish.” For those who think, “If only I could have some quality time to focus on…” this conference might be a way to make that wish come true. For instance:

Ministers in Churches Where Money Matters

Does any parish minister need to be convinced that financial stress is one of the largest contributors to marital problems? Soon enough ministers learn about congregations what they learn about married couples in crisis: that financial stress is a contributor to anxiety and conflict. It is hard for some churches to keep stewardship seasons from sounding like pleas for institutional survival rather than advancing a mission. If only ministers in churches facing financial challenges got to spend three and a half days with a minister like Ed McLeod and a business owner/church treasurer like Joe Miller they might gain some of perspective they need to lead rather than react. Through his three decades-plus career, Ed has shepherded stewardship campaigns that have focused on grace, gratitude and commitment. For 17 years as a church treasurer, Joe has helped guide a church in remaining both realistic and strategic in keeping the finances of his church focused on its strategic goals.

Ministers Who Are Conflicted about Conflict

For many new pastors, minor conflict is like minor surgery and they don’t want part of any of it. Ministers in healthy churches yearn for wisdom in dealing with conflict. Ministers in unhealthy churches beg for it. If only those ministers had three and a half days to spend with someone like Ernie Thompson. Ernie has had long pastorates in churches with wide theological diversity; which is to say he’s been quite good at keeping congregations together and moving forward even when members disagree.

Ministers in Churches That Are Not Supposed to Grow

Imagine ministers in churches in what too many call “no growth situations;” small, congregations in rural and urban settings; growing anyway. If only those ministers had three and a half days to spend with Tom Tewell they might envision possibilities. Tom ran a peer-group program for 17 ministers in Georgia in urban and rural churches. He met monthly providing mentoring, coaching, resources and a peer group experience. At the end of three years, 80% of the churches had grown and the net growth was 25%. The Macedonian Ministry model that Tom helped create is now being replicated around the country. From personal experience, I can tell you that a conversation with Tom always gives me direction and energy for my own ministry. OK, so Trent@Montreat doesn’t offer three years with Tom. But to have a chance to have three and a half days with him and others so as to see one’s one church with fresh eyes? That would be a gift.

Or imagine being in an urban church and getting to spend three and a half days with a minister like Bill Lee. Bill Lee accepted a call to be a youth pastor of an urban church. He had no idea as a man in his mid-20s that he signed on until retirement. A few years after he began, he was asked to replace the departed Head of Staff. Along the way, he became recognized as a city leader who helped address massive problems in the city. Five decades later, he is a year away from retiring from the church that ordained him. The church underwent multiple transformations during that span. For ministers serving churches facing tremendous community needs, if only they had three and a half days with Bill offering his friendship and guidance?

Ministers Who…

  • Feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of weekly preaching and would love to plan sermons for the whole year?
  • Want to think through the whole education ministry so that people not only learn but grow in their faith and commitment?
  • Would love to know something that can’t be taught at seminary: how to manage staff?
  • Want to know how to keep up theological and biblical study while meeting the demands of being a full time pastor?

There are ministers and lay people out there who are good at this stuff, and some of them are being made available for three and a half days. Learn more at www.montreat.org/trent.

A conference center (Montreat Conference Center), a seminary (Union Presbyterian Seminary), a Renewal organization (NEXTChurch), a pastor’s support network (Macedonian Ministries) and a congregation (Second Presbyterian Church, Roanoke, VA) are so committed to provide this kind of help that they have pooled significant resources to provide this unique opportunity at low cost. Their shared goal is to strengthen the larger church by providing its future leadership practical wisdom and guidance.