Clergy from across the Indiana Conference gather for Learning Day 2016, a day devoted to interactive and spiritually-charged conferencing and educational opportunities centered around leadership development.

“God is in the life-giving business. How can we regain life through kingdom work?”

Learning Day is an opportunity for clergy from across the Indiana connection to gather for an all-day, interactive and spiritually-charged seminar focusing on leadership development. This year’s event began on a prayerful note, as Bishop Julius C. Trimble asked clergy to practice vital spirituality by kneeling, if able, for a moment of profound prayer. “The primary work of the church is to be people of prayer,” said the bishop, a line he has repeated numerous times since beginning his residency as bishop of the Indiana Area in September. 

Organized by the Leadership Development and Church Development teams, with a theme of “missional leadership,” this year’s gathering was led by Reggie McNeal, a former minister and author of 10 self-help books on leadership development in the church, as well as the outside world. McNeal’s authorship consists primarily of unconventional and faith-challenging reads that encourage church leaders to focus more on leading their flock to the kingdom, rather than the church. 

On the tables were several copies of two of McNeal’s acclaimed books; “Kingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church…” and Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scoreboard for the Church.” The seminar consisted of a deep dissection of biblical scripture and trying to draw practical and applicable meaning from the Bible. It also involved shifting the way leaders view the church and our mission as Christians. “We’re called to be leaders of the church as a movement, rather than an institution.” claimed McNeal. “and navigate ways we can move from church-centric to kingdom-centric.” 

Before breaking for lunch, clergy were encouraged to gather into their respective groups to discuss some of the key points that had been shared that morning, as well as their personal rhetoric on how they see McNeal’s teachings being enacted in their parish. 

Dr. Aleze Fulbright, Director of Leadership Development, began by stating, “God is in the life-giving business. How can we regain life through kingdom work?” Fulbright challenged her clergy by asking them to explore the ways they can best ‘permeate’ the system internally, while also considering the world beyond church doors. 

Pastors Tim Johnson and Jared Kendall, took interest in McNeal’s idea of the church creating work opportunities in its community. The pastors began to share ideas, fueled by their own experiences of how the church can potential impact the local economy. Around the room, pastors shared ideas, visions, personal and pastoral experiences they felt resonated with or supported the ideas brought forth by Reggie McNeal that morning, and were excited for where these conversations may lead in the future. 

Bishop Trimble spent his lunchtime meeting, conversing, and sharing advice with pastors of large congregations and intended to have dinner with young clergy. The bishop established a less formal and more intimate atmosphere, calling for each pastor to share a little bit about the work they do and things their churches are doing that they find especially exciting. For many pastors this was their first time meeting with Bishop Trimble in person. They were elated at the opportunity to report on the impact their church was having in the world. Their stories encompassed outreach programs, from back-to-school supplies, to homelessness, to addiction ministries, from all across the state of Indiana. 

In light of recent political tensions, Bishop Trimble encouraged clergy to pay special attention to their congregation. “There will be need for our pastors to engage and provide pastoral care for those impacted by the recent political shift,” said the bishop. “We live in a society that makes our work even more important.” 

The bishop also eluded clergy to his mission of teaching vital spirituality, and suggested that they carve out time for their own spiritual care, to not discredit the importance of counseling, and to create space and advocate for mental health ministries, for their flock, as well as their own mental welfare. 

Photos from Learning Day 2016 can be found on our Smugmug account