New webpage, materials celebrate 'Great Start' in the Great Plains

David Burke


A new webpage and promotional materials are out in hopes of convincing potential clergy that they can have a great start in the Great Plains Conference.

The Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford, clergy recruitment and development coordinator, said the Great Start project began as a way to recruit seminary students for the conference.

Flyers with QR codes that link to video testimonials are being distributed during visits to 10 United Methodist seminaries. Photo by the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford

“We wanted to have an opportunity to showcase some of the stories of what God is doing in ministry through churches and congregations and pastors in the Great Plains Conference,” Crawford said.

She and other representatives of the conference visit 10 seminaries a year, she said, and are now able to distribute a flyer promoting what the two-state region has to offer in quality of life and ministry opportunities.

In each flyer is a QR code directs the reader to interviews with five pastors from the Great Plains:

  • Rev. Isaac Chua, pastor of Logan UMC in Laurel Center, Nebraska.
  • Rev. Anne Gahn, pastor of Lexington First UMC in Nebraska.
  • Rev. Doug Gahn, pastor of Cozad UMC in Nebraska.
  • Rev. Bill Gepford, pastor of Fremont First UMC in Nebraska.
  • Rev. Jamie Norwich McLennan, Lincoln First UMC.

More interviews and videos from pastors in Kansas will be posted in coming weeks.

“We wanted to help introduce people who may be new to the possibility of ministry to hear some of the stories of those who are serving in ministry now,” Crawford said.

The pastors are asked why they chose to serve in the Great Plains, what is rewarding about ministry in the conference, and examples of the Holy Spirit moving in their ministries.

Among the insights shared in the videos:

  • Chua, praising the Transition into Ministry program: “That transition team helped me remove a lot of pitfalls. … I can look out for things that are helpful for me to know.”
  • Anne Gahn, on the congregation in her first appointment at Lexington: “I think through the process of prayer and retreat and all this study together, I saw them kind of turn into people who were really aware of things going on around them, that I’m not sure if they would have before.”
  • Doug Gahn, on the bond he feels at his church: “Whatever church you go to, you get invited by families to join in their sacred moments, whether it’s a baptism or a wedding or a funeral or a confirmation. Those are moments that families share that are benchmarks in their life, and I get to be a part of it.”
  • Gepford, saying the Great Plains has been on the “front line” of the United Methodist movement: “A lot of people think of Kansas and Nebraska as kind of flyover states, but they forget that we’ve been heavily involved in the movements that are shaping our denomination for decades.”
  • McLennan, who says the people at her church make a difference: “When you gather together with people of God who enjoy being a community that worships and studies and works together for God’s kingdom, it’s so rewarding. … The power of people coming together is rich.”

A vertical banner used in display spaces featuring pictures of other clergy from throughout the conference should be completed this fall.

Crawford said the video interviews are inspiring “whether they’re a homegrown person or whether they’re from somewhere else.”

“I think hearing the stories of what people are doing in ministry can help inspire us to grow our imagination for what God might want to do in and through us locally,” she said. “I love sharing the stories of the good works folks are doing.”

Contact David Burke, communications content specialist, at

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