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Equipping people for service is a goal of the new Leadership Academy

Equipping people for service is a goal of the new Leadership Academy

A little over a year ago, seven people from the Black Methodists For Church Renewal on a Zoom call were discussing church leadership in the pandemic. As churches grappled with reduced budgets and isolation because of COVID-19 restrictions, it was paramount to find individual volunteers to step up and assume important roles.

Rev. Latricia Scriven, who serves as the Senior Pastor at New Hope United Methodist Church in Tallahassee and the Chaplain at the Wesley Foundation-Florida A & M University, recalled that as the conversation evolved, the focus turned to training and preparation.

Plenty of people may be willing to volunteer at their local churches, but that's only half the battle. Or a new pastor may take over a church for the first time and lack the experience to lead effectively.

Knowing what to do once they assume those roles doesn't always come easy, though. There was also a realization that some pastors and laity in the Florida Conference may not know what resources are available to assist those asked to take leadership positions.

Rev. Latricia Scriven

But the question begged, how could they get that message out?

"All of a sudden, we thought, hey, let's do a leadership academy. That would be cool," Rev. Scriven said.

Yes, it would.

And because of that meeting and a lot of hard work that followed, the Leadership Academy is about to become a reality. The first meeting is scheduled in January, and applications to attend will be available in November.

The training will last for six sessions and will be available for up to 20 people.

The aim will be to identify, recruit, and equip interested laity for leadership. Anyone in the Conference, clergy or laity, is welcome to apply. It is a resource available to all.

"We wanted to do all of this while engaging in the Bishop's anti-racism initiative and incorporate some of the things that came out of that into our academy," Rev. Scriven said.

Details are being finalized.

In Miami, Rev. Sherlain Stevens of Ebenezer UMC said the Academy could help volunteers who want to serve in their local churches but may not know exactly how to go about it. 

Rev. Sherlain Stevens

She brings the perspective of someone who filled important roles in her local church, including Lay Leader, before becoming a full-time local pastor.

"I knew that I was called to do something more and something specific about equipping the body of Christ. When I was nominated to the role of lay leader, I remember wondering what am I supposed to do," she said.

"I think that having a training program like this would have helped me understand and support the church ministry and the pastors. From a laity perspective, it will help those who wish to serve and help them know how to serve."

Laity leaders are more important than ever because many churches operate with reduced staff due to pandemic-related cutbacks. Volunteers are taking on increased roles that used to be handled by paid staff.

"From a pastoral perspective, a lot of people who are called as lay leaders don't really understand how the church works. Sometimes we have pastors who are so busy, and they don't have time to equip their Lay Leader fully," Rev. Stevens said.

"People don't understand what they're supposed to do, and that means the pastor has to take on more. If lay folks are equipped and prepared to serve, it will help further taking God into the community."

The Conference Director of Clergy Excellence, Sara McKinley, sees value in what Academy organizers are trying to do.

"I think it's terrific," she said. "Pastors do need the help and something like could equip people to do that."

That's what organizers are counting on.

"For someone looking to serve in the church, this academy could be a defining moment," Rev. Stevens said. "And don't worry that others might be more advanced at first. We don't all know everything."

Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for