“The need for leadership development among laity and clergy is a great opportunity for me to walk with the Indiana Conference.” – Aleze Fulbright

INDIANAPOLIS – Together sat down with the Rev. Aleze Fulbright, the new Indiana Conference Director of Leadership Development, to hear from her what she is thinking about as she serves the tasks of developing new leaders, both lay and clergy, and in strengthening current lay and clergy members in The United Methodist Church here in Indiana.

Fulbright has only been in Indiana two months having moved from suburban Dallas, Texas, where she served as an associate director of leadership development in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. As a staff person, she works directly with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the Conference Board of Laity and Campus Ministry.

She also is joined in ministry by the Rev. Samuel Padgett, who serves with her as the Associate Director of Leadership Development – Clergy. His responsibilities include the area of clergy services, which supports the work of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

She was hired because conference directors and other leaders in the conference saw a need for coordinated initiatives to train and enhance leaders, both lay and clergy, in the life of the Indiana Conference. She began her tenure in Indiana July 1.

As we began the interview, she said, “The need for leadership development among laity and clergy is a great opportunity for me to walk with the Indiana Conference.”

She sees this ministry as “an opportunity for the conference coming together with consistency and a common language to be fruitful leaders.”

Rolling out the vision Fruitful leaders

During the next few months, the Leadership Development Team which she leads, will be in a partnership with the Cabinet, Board of Ordained Ministry and Board of Laity to roll out a standard of what leadership development means for the conference. Like any new direction, Fulbright sees the real challenge as “helping everyone live into a one-conference model and define what it means to be one conference.”

Helping this development, she sees the vision for leadership development in particular to “discover, develop and deploy fruitful leaders, both lay and clergy, in accomplishing the mission ‘to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’

“These (three) are of great importance with congregations and districts that could really transform leadership in this conference.”

She talks in terms of “fruitful leaders” which the team is charged to develop. The Scriptural basis for this team’s ministry is John 15:8, where the Gospel writer quotes Jesus, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Fulbright is putting in place what she calls an “adaptive team to work from the balcony to identify the greatest leadership needs, and how to innovatively develop initiatives and strategies for congregations and clergy.” She envisions this team as twelve united individuals, including both lay and clergy, who meet regularly using the Spiritual Leadership, Inc., model of “Living, Loving and Leading.”

“I believe within our first few gatherings, we will begin making tracks so that by January 2015 great things will begin to happen,” Fulbright said.

Planning ahead

Fulbright then shared her team’s plans for the coming months. They include:

  • To work with a team of alums to enhance the Bishop’s Leadership Academy (BLA) experience.
  • To team with Bishop Mike Coyner and Jeremiah Gibbs, the Director of the Lantz Center for Christian Vocations & Formation University of Indianapolis for the Bishop’s Student Leadership Academy, formerly known as Exploration, to lead a weekend retreat for high school youth (grades 9-12) exploring with them what they are passionate about, what problems and challenges in the world get them fired up, what gifts and tools God has given them, and what amazing ideas they have for sharing Christ’s love. The cost of the three-day event will be $45 and includes overnight accommodations, Saturday meals, Sunday breakfast and all materials. (More information and registration can be found at www.inumc.org. Click on the Leadership Development tab.)
  • To begin an initiative entitled “Called to Fruitfulness.” This program identifies clergy as they celebrate their five-year interval anniversary of full connection of ministry. She has identified 95 such clergy who would be eligible to participate in Called to Fruitfulness next year. The process will begin in 2015 during the Feb. 24-25 Our Life Together Clergy Retreat to be held at St. Luke’s UMC in Indianapolis. For those clergy participating in the program, 2015 will continue with retreats for resourcing ministry, with the development of a plan for each during the next five years and conclude with worship following an eight month period. The program is designed for clergy in full connection, which includes Elders and Deacons. She also is exploring ways Local Pastors can participate in a similar program.
  • To begin a Fruitful Preaching Academy next April for pastors. The team plans to launch a pilot academy this fall.
  • To encourage each congregation in Indiana to hold an “Encourage the Call” Sunday on Sunday, May 24, 2015 or to be held another Sunday in May. May 24 was chosen because it’s Aldersgate Sunday within Methodism worldwide, which celebrates the John Wesley (founder of The United Methodist Church) and his call to ministry on Aldersgate Street in London, England. May 24 also is Pentecost – what a great testament regarding the birth of the church, with the acknowledgment of a call.

Why develop?

Fulbright said it’s essential for the church to develop leaders, both lay and clergy. She said, “The reason is that investing in clergy and laity is important to the life of the church. In the secular arena, large companies have leadership training budgets of upwards to $1 billion dollars as an investment in their employees.”

She said she “shares in the excitement for this new day in Indiana and gets excited as we begin discovering the untapped potential.”

Fulbright can be reached by email at aleze.fulbright@inumc.org.