Class is now in session for Healthy Church Academy

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Class is now in session for Healthy Church Academy

March 2, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0257}

n  Growing a Healthy Church 101 gets positive reviews.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The Florida Conference Healthy Church Academy (HCA) launched this year with the completion of "Growing a Healthy Church 101," the first of many courses leaders plan to offer to help laity and clergy with their work in transforming churches.
HCA was created by the Florida Conference's offices of New Church Development, Congregational Transformation and Connectional Ministries. It's designed to provide tools for new church development and congregational transformation and life-long training for clergy and laity in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

The "Growing a Healthy Church" course was held in January and attended by 60 people — 33 Asbury Theological Seminary students and 27 conference clergy and laity.

Ten courses are open for registration this year, and an additional five courses will be offered in 2006. The only required course is "Growing a Healthy Church 101." Participants may register and take other courses this year as long as they first register for either the March 11 or September 16 HCA 101 class.

Other courses include "The Church as Global Mission," "The Church: Order vs. Disorder," and "Leading Change in the Church." Class size is expected to be between 20 and 40 people.

The Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin said feedback from the first course has been very positive. Rankin is director of the Conference Council on Ministries' Missions Ministry team and dean of HCA. He said the 101 course offers a little bit of everything HCA has to offer, with one distinct goal.

"We want the learners (students) to be able to envision where their church is and where they can be," he said. "We want to change the world view in the life of the church."

HCA does that by partnering clergy and laity to instruct the courses, Rankin said, adding the dynamics of the two create a unique environment.

"The atmosphere was very invigorating," he said. "There are no hard lines between the facilitators and learners. We all learn; we all teach. There was storytelling back-and-forth and practical anecdotes of almost impossible situations of churches being turned around. This is what we hope every course will be like."

Bruce Kitson said the class fulfilled his expectations so much he's enrolled in another course this month, HCA 1201 Spiritual Formation and Disciples. Kitson serves on the Florida Conference Committee on Congregational Transformation and is a member of Community of Hope United Methodist Church Royal Palm Beach.

"The class was terrific," Kitson said. "It was energizing to listen, share and learn about practical tools and approaches to employ in the process of transforming local congregations."

After almost three years of participating on the Committee on Congregational Transformation and lamenting about the large number of declining and dying churches in the conference, Kitson said it was very uplifting to obtain "some weapons" that can be used to promote transformation and begin turning the tide from maintenance and decline to transformation.

Laralee Wiggins, a second-year student at Asbury Theological Seminary's Orlando campus, said the HCA 101 course was inspiring.

"It was wonderful. It was very spirit-filled," Wiggins said. "It wasn't purely academic."

Wiggins, who is working to become a deacon in The United Methodist Church, said she was so impressed with her first experience she is considering taking a second course.

"I think HCA is a wonderful concept for churches looking to transform," Wiggins said. "I hope it does well. I'm looking forward to being a part of it."

Rankin said he anticipates the rest of the courses will be as successful.

"These courses are nothing fancy," he said. "It's about having a healthy learning environment for churches that want to transform. If you want to transform, you can't do it alone. You have to learn; you have to go to school."

Rankin says that school is HCA and "a vital part of conference ministry."

Courses are held at the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg and Asbury Theological Seminary's Orlando campus and around the state to make the courses easily accessible. The cost is $60 for a one-day course, $120 for a two-day course and $240 for a four-day course, with the price including lunch and refreshments for each day. The amount does not include overnight lodging or textbooks.

For more information about courses, descriptions, online registration, faculty, locations, tuition and lodging visit


This article relates to Church Transformation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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