How can you capture the creativity, innovation and energy of dynamic young pastors to gain a better understanding of their ideas and share those insights with others? The TMF Entrepreneurial Pastors Learning Community strives to do just that by bringing together a group of resourceful and imaginative pastors who have been appointed to lead large congregations.
Facilitated by Dr. David McNitzky, Senior Pastor at Alamo Heights United Methodist Church in San Antonio, the Entrepreneurial Pastors group includes 10 pastors from three different states who have been selected because of the ingenuity and determination demonstrated from early in their careers.
“The original intention was to understand why some congregations had experienced more positive results by incorporating new approaches for moving the Church forward,” says Mark Sheets, Senior Pastor at Good Shepard United Methodist Church in Kansas City. “We know there is a need for purposeful re-invention. So when you bring together a group of people who tend to think out of the box on their own, the result is some amazing discussions and great ideas each of us can share with our staffs, lay leaders and congregations.”
The group meets quarterly, inviting a wide-range of speakers from both within and outside the church, all of whom are experts in their respective fields. “A lot of church people think they can only learn from other church people,” explains Sheets. “But we’ve been able to learn a whole lot from folks outside the church. And I can take what I’ve learned, bring it back with me and use that knowledge to help grow the Church.”
The Entrepreneurial Pastors Learning Community also provides a safe and open environment to discuss challenges, provide honest feedback, and create a loop of continual peer-to-peer learning. In some cases it’s keeping up with organizational best practices. In others it’s about looking for new insights and answers to some of the tough challenges facing pastors, congregations, and the Church as a whole. But in every instance, the group is seeking more effective ideas for helping new clergy who can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the demands and responsibilities of leading a congregation.
“My job is easy,” says McNitzky, who facilitates the group. “The members of this group have become their own best teachers, coaches, and encouragers. They give me hope for the future as I experience their passion, commitment, and wisdom. The UMC is in great hands with this generation of senior pastors.”
Many in the clergy group are natural leaders and enthusiastic problem solvers. They have some other traits in common as well.
“We’re kind of a competitive group,” explains Todd Salzwedel, Senior Pastor of St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, pictured above during a worship service at the church. “We’re all kind of driven as individuals, but each of us is extremely committed to the success of everyone else in the group. It’s a collective brain trust of some very smart people who aren’t afraid to challenge each other to always look for better ideas, new approaches, and unconventional answers. Because we all want to be a part of something that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”
The Entrepreneurial Pastors Learning Community has already made a powerful impact on members of the group.
“I’ve been fortunate to develop relationships with some truly remarkable people,” says Salzwedel. “I always come back from our meetings feeling extremely encouraged, even if we’ve discussed some very tough subjects. The group has helped me to become a better pastor for my congregation.”
“It’s changed my life,” says Sheets. “When I was about 18 months into my appointment, I was having some very serious reservations. I thought that maybe it was not right for me. And I know I am not the only member of the group who’s had that experience. But after being a part of this community for the past two years, I know I am in the right spot to make a difference in my community, and that I am very blessed to be here.”