TiM program equipping future church leaders


By Said Ernesto Velazquez, communications intern

The TiM (Transition into Ministry) program has changed the lives of nine clergy members in the Great Plains Episcopal Area since 2012, when the first Lilly grant was received. The TiM program is made possible through the Lilly Endowment. The Lilly Endowment strengthens pastoral leadership by funding a variety of projects that test new ways for helping new pastors move through the transition from student to pastor.

“The TiM program is an initiative for targeted leadership development for a specific group of young clergy (under the age of 35) that has relevance for all clergy and churches in the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church,” said Ashlee Alley, program director. “It is an opportunity to have a laboratory for learning and mentoring.”

TiM is an opportunity to think about how to best equip and prepare a church for new clergy persons in the midst of transitions. According to Alley, “Transition into Ministry is a program that enables individuals to grow both spiritually and develop their leadership skills in a congregation.”

Pastor Emily Cannon (pictured above) is currently serving as a TiM associate pastor at Saint Paul UMC in Lincoln, Nebraska (2013-2015). She shared the impact TiM has made in her life through ministry. During her earlier college years, Cannon received the calling to become a pastor through her volunteer work at a church. “While I was in college there was a competition for the best articulate sermon and I won first place a couple of times.” Cannon added, “I loved doing ministry in my congregation, I enjoyed being there and helping my community. When my calling happened I couldn’t think of a better way of spending 40-plus hours in a church, which was already happening at the time.”

The Rev. Bill Gepford is the associate pastor at Colby UMC in Colby, Kansas. “Transition into Ministry has been a great experience for me; I get to learn from an experienced pastor and learn from a healthy and vibrant congregation, which has shaped and molded the way in which I do ministry,” said Gepford.
Seminary prepared Gepford for the intellectual aspects of ministry like handling questions of systematic theology and Biblical hermeneutics that reside at the core of ministry. Once Gepford graduated, however, he discovered he had more to learn about ministry that could not be taught in the classroom.
Gepford credits studying under an “excellent mentor” for his learning to take intellectual knowledge gained in seminary and convictions about the love of God and apply them to the real world. He can take difficult concepts and make them accessible and transform what was predominately cerebral into what is imminently practical.  

Gepford is enjoying his time in the TiM program and is looking forward to the future. “I’m looking forward to new learning experiences, new challenges and new opportunities to continue to develop the call to ministry that God has put into my life,” said Gepford. “I am so thankful for the Great Plains Conference and its leadership for making this opportunity possible, and I would encourage all incoming young clergy to consider applying for TiM.”

Michelle Byerly is the associate pastor at First UMC in Emporia, Kansas. “I found out about TiM through fellow seminary students who were already in the program,” said Byerly. “I had the opportunity to talk with them about what they had learned and was excited about the opportunity to be in ministry in a place where I would also have good feedback and mentoring.”

To Byerly, TiM has meant a building of foundations in ministry. She knows this time will give her the tools and confidence needed to serve as an excellent clergy in the Great Plains Conference. “I have had a chance to learn and grow both in the church as well as understanding how important it is to attend to the work of God in myself as well so that I am better equipped to serve others,” said Byerly.

TiM has encouraged Byerly to grow in her leadership and pastoral role. She believes that for the long term, this experience will be something she is able to continually draw on. TiM has also impacted Byerly’s congregation. They have a strong sense of purpose as a teaching congregation and have grown in their discipleship. The congregation now has a stronger sense of connection with the United Methodist connection. “We are seeing a great desire for growth and I am excited to see where they are able to go in the time that I serve here,” said Byerly.
Pictured above are the current TiM pastors. Top row from left: Andy Frazier, Frontenac UMC; Emily Cannon, Lincoln Saint Paul UMC; Andrea Beyer, Wichita West Heights UMC; and Aaron Duell, Columbus First UMC. Bottom row from left: Bill Gepford, Colby UMC; Brenda Kostner, Stillwell UMC; and Michelle Byerly, Emporia First UMC.

You can find out more about TiM at greatplainsumc.org/abouttheprogram.

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