Peer Coaches

Rev. Jim Akins

Rev. Jim Akins has served United Methodist Churches since 1979. He was ordained in the Kansas West Conference in 1986 and has served in the Kansas East, Kansas West, and Great Plains Conferences. He retired in 2017 having spent the past three years as the District Superintendent of the Hays District and is currently serving in retirement at the Frankfort, Axtell and Beattie, Kansas United Methodist Churches. During his active ministry Jim served on District Committees on Ordained Ministry, Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry, the Conference Board of Trustees, and the Conference Commission on Religion and Race. He has received training in Arbitration and Mediation from the Lombard Peace Institute, Conflict Resolution, and Church Revitalization. Other continuing education was done in the areas of Leading in the Appreciative Inquiry process, Myers-Briggs administration and interpretation, and Intentional Transition and Interim Ministry. Jim is passionate about enabling the ministry of the laity as he coaches clergy to re-vision the possibilities for ministry in the local church. He has been married to his spouse, Mary, for 49 years. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Contact Jim: 620-404-9593 or jakins@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Maria Campbell

Ministry is an adventure. We serve a God who is still-creating and invites us to be co-creators. Each one of us needs to keep growing in our relationship with God and others throughout our lives to be effective in ministry. Maria's passion for the local church grows as change has become a reality. The local church is our mission field. It is the place where we can impact the lives of people who need to know of God’s acceptance and love. The local church is also in need of guidance to navigate turbulent waters during uncertain times. Maria believes God has prepared her to be a coach in advance of these times, so that she could help other pastors and churches explore God’s presence and the church’s mission for their future. Her personal experience of being mentored and being coached has shown me that it is a productive tool for a pastor. It increases one’s skills and greatly enhances one’s ability to lead a congregation with more objectivity. She is a Saint Paul School of Theology graduate (May 2006). She was ordained in 2009. She has served Metropolitan Avenue UMC in Kansas City, KS (2004-06) and Central UMC in Lawrence, KS (2006-12), Susanna Wesley UMC in Topeka, KS (2012 – 2019). She now serves at Heritage UMC in Overland Park as of July 2019. She is passionate about inviting people into relationship with Christ. She feels blessed to serve God by equipping God’s people to do Kingdom-building work. She is also very passionate about walking alongside others who are discerning their call and those already serving in ministry. She has been a mentor to many people as they move through the candidacy process and live their callings. She mentors individuals as well as groups. In addition, she facilitates a Clergy Community of Practice group. She is thrilled to be trained as a coach. She believes our conference is taking a ‘forward thinking’ step as it continues to find new and fruitful ways to nurture and equip clergy and laity to do the work of God in the world.

Contact Maria: 913-284-8562 or mcampbell@greatplainsumc.org


Bruce Emmert

Bruce embraced the importance of continual learning and improvement throughout his 40 years as a United Methodist pastor and denominational leader. That growth often came through coaches, mentors, and consultants who sharpened his skills and drew out his potential. His personal experience of being coached and mentored fuels his passion for doing the same for you.

He retired in 2022 as Lead Pastor of a 1450-member suburban congregation in Omaha, Nebraska, with ten full-time and eight part-time staff and an annual budget of $1.5 million. He has expertise in building, leading, and developing staff and lay leaders.

Bruce has five years of experience as an adjunct professor of preaching at St. Paul School of Theology and decades of experience as a pastor of urban, county seat, and rural congregations.

He is a Candidacy Mentor and a trained and experienced Readiness 360 Coach. He will achieve certification as United Methodist Transitional Intentional Interim Specialist in 2022.

He served as Kansas City District Superintendent of the Great Plains Annual Conference, the first chairperson of the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry, and Vice-Chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration in the 1990s. Bruce has decades of leadership experience in our Annual Conference. 

Bruce earned his Doctorate in Leadership and Biblical Preaching at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2000, his MDiv at Candler School of Theology in 1985, and a BA in Philosophy from Washburn University in 1982.

Areas of Specialty: Clergy Coaching, Life Mission Development & Goal Setting, Preaching, Leadership, and Readiness 360

Contact Bruce: 785-580-3988 or Bruce@forgemc.net


Dr. Craig Finnestad

Dr. Craig Finnestad is the founding pastor of The Water’s Edge United Methodist Church in Omaha and has served the west Omaha / Gretna / Elkhorn area for 16 years. The Water’s Edge is a large, diverse church known for its age-level ministries, small groups, and missions. Craig also works for Horizons Stewardship as a Senior Ministry Strategist—coaching churches and leaders on developing year-round generosity plans. Craig has a Master of Divinity from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry from the Asbury Theological Seminary. He is an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation and enjoys coaching pastors and church planters. He serves on the Great Plains Board of Ministry and is the Chairperson of the Missouri River District Strategy Team.

His wife, Amber, is a marriage and family therapist. They have two children: Benjamin (20) who is a junior at St. Olaf College and David (14) who is a freshman at Millard West High School.

As a coach, Craig loves listening to and dreaming with clients, exploring possibilities, setting goals, creating action plans, and celebrating successes. Craig’s favorite areas to coach on are balance in life, generosity and finances, creating a discipleship pathway, preaching, small group, and personal / spiritual growth.

Contact Craig: 402-578-9486 or cfinnestad@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Dr. Jane Florence

Jane believes that the wisdom you are seeking lies within you and a variety of approaches can be developed to help us hear the guidance. In addition to her training as a life coach, Jane is also a certified spiritual director through the Haden Institute which combines practices from religious mystics, Celtic spirituality, Enneagram and Jungian typology. Jane Florence came to the Great Plains Conference to serve First United Methodist Church-Omaha as the first female Senior Pastor in 2007. She is now serving as the first female Senior Pastor at Saint Paul UMC in Lincoln.

Prior to her move to Omaha, Jane lived all her life in Texas where she led both small and large, rural and urban congregations near San Antonio and Austin. She holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Chicago Theological Seminary. Before her call to ministry, she taught high school English and served as a school administrator. Sabbath is kayaking and spending time in nature.

Contact Jane: 402-203-9968 or jflorence@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Nancy Lambert

Nancy is a retired elder of the Great Plains Conference. She has served a very small church while in seminary, a large church as associate, and a county-seat church in addition to eight years as the Director of Clergy Excellence for the conference. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha, and St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. Her first career was as a high school teacher, and teaching is still something she enjoys.

She cares deeply about developing leaders who have the courage to lead the church into new places and new spaces.

She believes that God has called the right clergy for this time, but that we need to be willing to listen for what God is calling us to do and to become. Nancy is passionate about worship experiences that engage the senses and preaching that engages the heart and challenges the mind. She also believes that clergy have an important role in the local church of developing the laity to become leaders of the mission and ministry of the church.

Nancy has found coaching helps her focus on what is important and think through how to have difficult but sometimes critical conversations with colleagues or staff. As a coach, she helps leaders face the challenges in front of them with creativity, confidence, and conviction.

Contact Nancy: 308-830-2784 or nlambert@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Amy Lippoldt

Rev Amy Lippoldt has been serving local churches in the Great Plains Conference since 2002 and is now serving St Paul UMC in Papillion Nebraska. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, and Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Along with offering leadership to local churches, Amy has long been active at the annual conference and general church level. She was a delegate to the 2012, 2016, and 2019 General Conferences and will continue on the delegation to the 2020 General Conference.

Amy has a deep interest in leadership development and wants to see all persons, clergy and lay maximize the gifts God has given them. Amy loves seeing people grow and accomplish more than they ever expected!

Contact Amy: alippoldt@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Linda Louderback

As Linda thinks back over her journey, she realizes that God has provided her with broad range of experiences in the United Methodist church in a variety of settings and with many folks who have mentored and walked alongside her. her years as a layperson in Missouri led her to be a part of local, district, conference, general church and even the international community in ways she could never have imagined. It was during these experiences that she received extensive training in leadership development and facilitating conversations which built a foundation for the calling that God had on her life even though she did not recognize it. She is a graduate from Saint Paul School of Theology and received a D.Min. in Leadership Excellence from Wesley Seminary. In her years in ministry she has discovered that God has a great sense of humor when it comes to leading her to places she never planned to go. The small, medium, and larger congregations she served taught her lessons in ministry. Leadership and team building have always been a part of her being and passion which led her to conference level positions. Those included Director of Leadership Development, Director of Clergy & Congregational Excellence and District Superintendent of the Wichita West District. She is an avid believer that laity are the key to growing disciples and transforming the world. Leading as a team coached by the clergy will create the way for many possibilities for ministry in the local church in these changing times. In retirement, she looks forward to walking alongside pastors and congregations who continue to be the church in the communities where the message of the church needs to be seen and heard. She looks forward to coaching folks as they lead the church into a new way of making disciples and transforming the world.

Contact Linda: 316-706-8136 or llouderback@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Debra McKnight

Debra McKnight is the Founding Pastor of Urban Abbey in Omaha NE. In 2010, she was ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. She is a 2008 graduate of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, which invited her to love liturgy, explore diverse theological perspectives, push boundaries on the church’s traditional structures and experiment with preaching in a rigorous academic community. Before seminary, she earned a Masters in Education and lived and worked in Germany as an education counselor for active duty military personnel.

While Dallas boasts fine winter weather and she loved living four hours from Paris in Germany, she is glad to be home in the great state of Nebraska and grateful to be close to her Mom’s cooking.

She owns a clergy collar for parades and protests because her work focuses on social justice, liturgics and building community. While in Omaha she has led her faith community in starting a Pub church, called Wesley Pub, though she didn’t drink beer and then a coffee shop, called Urban Abbey, though she preferred tea. She is married to an Accountant named Mike and they enjoy raising their spunky daughter, Lila. Most of all, she is grateful for this unbelievable adventure.

Read more about her work at urbanabbot.org.

Contact Debra: 214-684-8458 or dmcknight@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Alice Purvis

Alice Purvis is a second career pastor whose early work was in the disability field, in both Kansas and Illinois. During that time, she completed work at Emporia State University for a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling. After sensing a call to ministry, she worked a few years on the Texas/Mexico border doing mission work then eventually returned to Kansas and received her M.Div. from St. Paul School of Theology. She has been pastoring in local churches since 2000 and in 2016 received her D.Min in Revitalizing Congregations from St. Paul. She has two adult children and has helped raise a couple of other children. She has continued to interact with the disability field and mental health field in helping her adult child who had special needs. Her interests include reading, camping and music and she enjoys teaching and pastoral opportunities within her church work.

Contact Alice: 785-220-4143 or apurvis@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Cynthia (Cindi) Stewart

Through 27 years of full-time Christian ministry, Cindi has served in youth ministry in Colorado, Kansas & Nebraska, and in pastoral ministry in Nebraska since 2003. She graduated from Sioux Falls Seminary in 2006, and she was ordained in Nebraska in 2009. Cindi has appreciated the opportunities to serve in small membership churches as well as in large church settings giving her a wide-range of experiences that have shaped her call and journey as a child of God, daughter, wife, mother and pastor!

Cindi believes that coaching is a tremendous and invaluable resource for life and in ministry. As a coach, Cindi invites clients to be proactive, intentional and strategic to “imagine the possibilities” to achieve personal and professional growth.

Contact Cindi: 402-276-3450 or cstewart@greatplainsumc.org


Rev. Steve Todd

Steve says, “Coaching is an empowering experience. Whether I’m coaching or the one being coached, I always walk away with more energy and insight than I had before the session.” Steve has been a United Methodist pastor for nearly four decades, including 14 years at a successful church plant in Lincoln NE. He’s been serving at FaithWestwood United Methodist in Omaha since 2010.

Steve began coaching pastors in 2017 after the Great Plains Annual Conference invited him to receive International Coaching Federation training through Holmes Coaching. He believes that coaching is the hidden link between education and transformation.

Steve is a coach in your corner, so you can lead with clarity and confidence.

Adjunct faculty with Holmes Coaching.

Contact Steve: Steve.Todd@FaithWestwood.com or 402-310-1097


Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff

Michael is very passionate about leading revitalization in the local church. He has been blessed to be part of leading three churches out of decades of decline into new seasons of growth. Revitalization is extremely difficult and rewarding work which cannot be done alone. Over the years, Michael has benefitted from the advice and guidance of many mentors, coaches and teachers. He would like to help you achieve your ministry goals and bear fruit for the kingdom of God.

To be more specific, Michael has experience in building a church staff; recruiting, training and deploying lay leadership; launching new worship services; forming a praise band; growing financial stewardship; leading capital campaigns and building projects; developing marketing and social media; creative worship planning; self-care and balance.

Michael studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, and spent about a decade pursuing a professional music career as a drummer. Working in the restaurant industry for years has given him practical business experience, as well. The experience of surviving a battle with testicular cancer at the age of twenty profoundly shapes his calling and outlook on life. He has dedicated the rest life to serving Jesus Christ and his church with passion, excellence and a sense of urgency.

Michael has a degree in Religious Studies from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology. He is married to Steffani, a Social Worker, and they have four boys ranging from 16 to 22 years of age. He has been serving at Trinity UMC in Hutchinson, Kansas, since 2020.

Contact Michael: 785-383-3763 or mtomsondegreeff@greatplainsumc.org