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Coral Springs pastor receives men’s award

Coral Springs pastor receives men’s award

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Coral Springs pastor receives men’s award

By J.A. Buchholz | Sept. 3, 2009 {1075}

The Rev. Larry Bergstrom is more than a participant in United Methodist Men. He’s an avid supporter who has been involved with the ministry for more than 20 years.

Rodney Akers, president of Florida Conference United Methodist Men, presents the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award to the Rev. Larry Bergstrom. Also pictured is the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Sara McKinley. Photo by Don Heishman. Photo #09-1295.

That dedication was honored when he received the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award at the 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event in Daytona Beach, Fla., in June. The associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Coral Springs said he had no idea he would receive the award.

“I was totally shocked,” Bergstrom said. “I had no idea it was coming. I just thought ‘Wow, you’ve got to be kidding.’ I have seen other men receive it; I never thought it would be me. I didn’t know what it took to earn it, but whatever it was, it wasn’t me.”

Rodney Akers, president of Florida Conference United Methodist Men, thinks otherwise. He presented Bergstrom with the award, which was created by the Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men in June of 2001 to honor clergy “who inspire men in ministries of evangelism, missions and spiritual growth,” according to the Southeastern Jurisdiction United Methodist Men’s Web site.

Akers said Bergstrom consistently works to connect men at his church with United Methodist Men. Bergstrom was nominated for the award by the men’s ministry at his church because of his spiritual leadership and advocacy of the men’s group.

Bergstrom said he enjoys United Methodist Men because it gives him the opportunity to connect men with other men. Those connections are often made, he said, at the annual men’s retreats coordinated by the conference United Methodist Men.

“There’s a dynamic bond that happens when men worship with other men,” Bergstrom said. “It’s a special time when they can reveal themselves to other men.”

One of the first things Bergstrom does when a man joins the church is introduce him to United Methodist Men. He said he makes attempts to get newcomers plugged in and turned on to the idea of the men’s group.

He says it works — most of the time.

Bergstrom fondly recalls one failed undertaking in which he was certain a friend would find the men’s retreat at the conference’s Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park fulfilling. Instead, he says, the friend “freaked out” after the first night and rented a U-Haul, the only available vehicle, to return home to Coral Springs the very next morning.

Mike Campbell didn’t share that man’s experience. Bergstrom convinced him to attend a men’s retreat in September 2006, after joining the church nearly a year before. Campbell is now the current president of the church’s men’s group.

“It was a phenomenal experience, and I’ve been involved ever since,” Campbell said.

Campbell still appreciates the opportunity Bergstrom gave him to learn more about men’s ministry and a new avenue of worship. While he admires Bergstrom’s commitment to men’s ministry, he said he equally treasures Bergstrom’s calm resolve, patience and listening skills.

Campbell said those qualities where on display when a change in senior pastor occurred at the church. Many thought Bergstrom would fill that role, and when it didn’t happen it was Bergstrom who calmed the commotion in the congregation, Campbell said. He remembered Bergstrom speaking passionately about the procedures of The United Methodist Church and his steadfast belief in them.

“He’s a very special individual,” Campbell said. “I was the interim youth director, and he was my confidante. He helped me learn and develop. He has balance, and I’ve just never heard him say anything negative about anyone or anything. He’s so positive.”

Those attributes are among the many reasons Bergstrom received the award, Akers said. Also considered was Bergstrom’s attendance at the men’s retreats, his involvement as a platform speaker and his leadership of the church’s Higher Ground Praise Band, which has been part of worship at the retreats.

There’s a dynamic bond that happens when men worship with other men. It’s a special time when they can reveal themselves to other men.”

Rev. Larry Bergstrom

Whether it’s performing with the band or helping out with the men’s ministry, Mark Bruck said Bergstrom has always been there for both United Methodist Men and the church.

“I really think he deserved this award,” said Bruck, an active men’s group member who has attended about 10 of the men’s retreats. “He is a leader that shines in doing whatever we need him to do.”

Bergstrom said he makes sure the men’s ministry at his church has money to help men with limited financial resources attend a retreat. Whether it’s a golf tournament or another fundraiser, he says the money is saved so others have the opportunity to experience men’s ministry.

The men’s ministry at the church also supports one mission activity a month, Bergstrom said. Sometimes it’s a workday for Habitat for Humanity, and sometimes it’s a simple as cleaning the church.

“We enjoy getting together,” Bergstrom said. “Men’s ministry is important to me and has been for about 20 years.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.