The theme of our 2012 Annual Conference Session was “Making ROOM” and during those few days of June, we put a lot of effort into teaching times, workshops, and other experiences to focus upon “Making ROOM.” We discussed “Making Room” in several dimensions – making room for God in our lives personally, making room for newcomers to our congregations as we welcome them and include them, and making room for new leaders to help us reach a new generation. There was a lot of energy around that theme, and I heard lots of people talk about ways they wanted to go home and put that theme into action.

Now that we are more than 90 days past that Annual Conference Session, let me ask these accountability questions:

In what ways are you “Making ROOM” in your own life for God’s Spirit to work within you?

In what ways is your congregation improving its hospitality in order to “Make ROOM” for newcomers?

And in what ways are you personally and as a congregation “Making ROOM” for new leaders?

Let me share with you two examples of answers to those questions:

After hearing many suggestions and requests about helping younger clergy prepare for their future leadership roles in the Indiana Conference, along with the desire of our older leaders to learn from those same young clergy, I have launched what is being called “The Bishop’s Leadership Academy,” which is designed around inviting 23 younger/newer clergy each year to join me and several effective senior pastors in a “mutual mentoring” series of retreats and events to learn together.

The first group has just begun, and we have the following pastors serving as “mutual mentors” for the group: Rob Fuquay, Karen Devaisher, Kevin McKinney, Mark Fenstermacher and Phil Emerson. The younger/newer clergy leaders involved are: Amy Covington, Jim Moon, Frank Oakman, Brian Williams, Lisa Schubert, David Williamson, Michelle Knight, Rob Barton, Shalimar Holderly, Andy Payton, Alex Hershey, Peter Curts, LeKisha Reed, Brent Wright, Zack Washler, Aaron Hobbs, Mike Collins, Jared Jeanette, Chris Millay, Stacy Downing, Collin Cress, Josh Ditmer and Ethan Maple. Brian Durand, our Conference Associate Director for Leadership Development is leading the Academy with my help. I see this Academy as just one effort to help encourage, nurture, and develop younger clergy in a way that allows those younger clergy to bless and teach the veteran clergy (and their bishop, too).

I have heard from several churches that went home and tried to “Make ROOM” by offering new ministries to reach new people. Here is one story from a very small congregation in southern Indiana: “I excitedly want to let you know about Laconia UMC’s recent one-day Vacation Bible School event. First, let me tell you that Laconia (currently with an average attendance of about 15) had not had a Vacation Bible School for close to ten years, but now with the encouragement and revitalization pumped into the congregation through our “Holy Experiment,” as well as new Ministry Funds due to the “Holy Experiment,” they were eager, enthusiastic and thrilled to do it. Nothing was going to stop them! And let me tell you, it was wonderful!

We had close to 30 children attend the one-day VBS, and about as many volunteers as we partnered with four area churches! Our goal in partnering with other churches was to build unity among the other churches and denominations in the area so we could impact our community and children for Christ. We continue to pray that those seeds will grow and that each child will come to know Jesus Christ in a more intimate and deeper way than ever before. Laconia is committed to transform the world a little at a time.”

Isn’t that a great story? So, how about you and your congregation? Are you finding ways to “Make ROOM” for God, for newcomers, for children and for new leaders?

I invite you to share your answers by sending them to in.comm@inumc.org, and we will be posting them on the conference website. Then we can all read such good stories and be encouraged by them.


“In what ways are you ‘Making ROOM’ in your own life for God’s Spirit to work within you?”

– Bishop Coyner