Two changes in the Great Plains Conference’s congregational excellence team will take place beginning March 1.
The Rev. Nicole Conard, young adult leadership and campus ministries coordinator, will become the associate director of congregational excellence, a new position.
And Jeanie Leeper, conference director of Lay Servant Ministries, will become a half-time lay leadership coordinator.
The Rev. Jeff Clinger, congregational excellence director, said Conard will continue serving the 14 campus ministries in the conference and the campus ministries board, but will pass her young adult ministries duties to the Rev. Melissa Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator.
Conard will primarily be responsible for working with district superintendents and strategy teams, Clinger said, as well as further refining the process for supporting other members of the congregational excellence team. She has already been the district liaison for Wichita East/West, Parsons, Five Rivers and Kansas City districts, and will add the Hutchinson, Salina and Missouri River districts.
A North Carolina native, Conard, 42, graduated from Elon University and Wesley Theological Seminary. She was on the pastoral care staff of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection from 2006-2012 and joined the conference staff in 2012 as a half-time Transition into Ministry program director, later becoming the young leadership development coordinator before taking her current roles. Her husband, the Rev. Andrew Conard, is pastor of Topeka Susanna Wesley UMC and chair of the Board of Ordained Ministries.
“Nicole has a deep love of Christ and the church,” Clinger said. “Nicole has gifts for pulling together people and resources to get things done.”
Conard said she was passionate about working with churches, networks and districts to provide resources.
“One of the things I enjoy most about this new role is collaborating with district superintendents and district strategy teams to make a significant impact on the communities around us,” she said. “I believe that through the power of community and faith, we can make a difference in the lives of people around us. I look forward to seeing how God continues to be at work among and through people of the Great Plains.”
Leeper, 61, a South Dakota native, will add the lay leadership duties to her role of Lay Servant Ministries director. She will be based out of her home in Ainsworth, Nebraska.
In her new role, Leeper said she hoped “to be that link for the lay voice and equipping opportunities, to encourage laity to reach their potential in what God has called them to do.”
Leeper said she was thrilled when she got the offer from Clinger.
“I could see God preparing me for this call since I started the lay servant process,” she said.
Leeper has been involved in lay ministries since 2003 at the encouragement of her husband, the Rev. Martin Leeper, currently pastor at Ainsworth-Johnstown, as well as other pastors and district superintendents.
She said she enjoys hearing the faith stories of other laity.
“When you hear somebody that God has called and you’re part of that equipping process you hear their stories, not only recognizing their spiritual gifts and calls, but the stories that grow into the potential of what God has called them to do,” she said.
Formerly a jailer-dispatcher, child protection worker, head start teacher, hardware store clerk and day care employee, Leeper was a lay pastor for 6 ½ years, serving Elba, Davenport-Bruning and Springfield-Bassett.
She served on the Prairie Rivers District strategy team and vital congregations team for the district.
“Jeanie has a real heart for training and supporting lay leaders in ministry,” Clinger said. “Having her in this role will be a great gift to the annual conference.”
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