School of Ministry put on hiatus, joins The Methodist Way

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

School of Ministry put on hiatus, joins The Methodist Way

Aug. 30, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0730}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

LAKELAND — For decades an important event in the lives of many pastors in the Florida Conference has been the annual School of Ministry.

Held every year in October at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, the school has featured worship, opportunities for clergy to play a friendly game of golf through an annual golf tournament, preaching, workshops, golf, time for prayer and reflection, networking, fellowship, and, did we mention, golf.

Florida Conference United Methodists were introduced to The Methodist Way at the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event last June. About 600 people arrived at the Lakeland Center a day before the event officially began for a series of classes on The Methodist Way’s principles. Kalon Stiggins, worship director at Community of Faith United Methodist Church in Clermont, helps lead a class on passionate worship. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #07-0657.

With attendance decreasing in the past several years, leadership of the school began to look for fresh ways to approach this model of learning and connection and have chosen a new alternative — “The Methodist Way.”

Leaders first thought of changing the meeting timeframe from October to February, but during those initial deliberations about what to do they learned of other plans taking place in the conference, according to the Rev. David Dodge, executive director of the Florida Conference Center for Clergy Excellence. The center is charged with calling, training and supporting clergy at every phase of their ministry.

Those plans centered around The Methodist Way.

The Methodist Way refers to a five-piece disciple-making process to which every congregation is called. The five pieces, or principles, were used to help spread the Methodist movement across England and the United States in the 18th century.

Each principle has its roots both in the church’s Wesleyan heritage and in the example of Jesus Christ. Each principle is also essential in making disciples of Jesus Christ — just doing one, two or three is not enough.

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church is encouraging conferences to embrace the principles, and in Florida, The Methodist Way will be rolled out in a series of five events — one for each principle — over a span of 30 months.

The first opportunity to dig deep into The Methodist Way will be workshops in April on passionate worship, one of the five principles. The other four principles are radical hospitality, intentional discipling, “salty” service and extravagant generosity.

And so, the School of Ministry is closing down and joining up.

In addition to enhancing the school, Dodge said leaders also wanted to “expand our focus away from just clergy learning experiences to one where clergy, along with church lay leadership, could come together as a team. The Methodist Way fit that perfectly.”

Right now, Dodge says conference leadership won’t be developing the old School of Ministry model where clergy gathered at the Life Enrichment Center to hear somebody speak, go to worship, participate in workshops and play golf.

“We’re not saying that we’ll never go back to the School of Ministry format or model,” he said. “But for now, we’re encouraging clergy to participate in The Methodist Way trainings.”

Dodge sees clergy attending the passionate worship training with their church leadership, especially those involved with worship. “I hope that clergy will participate and bring teams,” Dodge said.

One element that may be missed the most from the school is the fellowship found on the golf course. A long-standing tradition, Dodge said about one-third of the school’s participants each year played in the golf tournament.

“We will miss out on that fellowship and tradition,” Dodge said. “But we’re looking at ways where, perhaps, the tournament could continue as a stand-alone event.”

That element of fellowship and support — critical to supporting today’s clergy — is being taken seriously.

“We have to find ways to produce those arenas for our clergy,” he said. “Those who share in this important covenant together need to get together and be with one another. We don’t know what the answer is right now.”

Dodge said the chairpersons of the Order of Elder, Order of Deacon, and Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members will be meeting soon to plan a strategy to address that concern.

In the meantime, Florida Conference clergy looking for that registration brochure for the 2007 School of Ministry — and honing up on their putting — have been given an extra four months of preparation, at least for now.

More information about The Methodist Way can be found at


This article relates to Center for Clergy Excellence/Clergy Support.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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