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Clergy Leadership Academy inspires leadership and discipleship

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

“I have always thought about ministry. Today I am a local licensed pastor, serving at The Ark, in North Sioux City. Connecting with other new pastors is really helpful,” says Christine Cappetta. Cappetta spent time with clergy colleagues, who are in their first years of ministry, digging deeper into discipleship at Clergy Leadership Academy (CLA).

Christine Cappetta

Christine Cappetta (North Sioux City Ark) shares a high-five with colleague Molly Leger during the recent Clergy Leadership Academy at Lake Poinsett Living Waters Retreat Center. Photos by Doreen Gosmire, Dakotas Conference UMC Communications.

Twice a year, roughly 25 pastors—most in their first three years of ministry—gather at a camp to learn, worship and recharge.

“The goal is to allow clergy this time apart to not only learn from each other, but to dig deeper into topics that we know impact clergy effectiveness, clergy health and clergy wholeness,” said Deb Kjerstad, who serves as director of leadership development and leads CLA. “We want to give them an opportunity for ongoing learning that is in a safe, peer-shaped environment.”

Each gathering is centered around one of Bishop Robert Schnase’s “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations”: radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity. In addition to spending time in their clergy mentoring group and learning from speakers brought in to address the topic for that retreat, clergy participants have an opportunity to lead worship services at the gatherings and receive feedback from each other.

CLA participants, meeting at Living Waters Retreat Center at Lake Poinsett Camp, explored intentional faith development. Rev. Rebecca Trefz, who serves as the director of ministries for the Dakotas Conference, shared ideas, resources, and facilitated discussion about how to make disciples not just church members.

Capetta, a busy mother and wife, shared that she is grateful to have focused time exploring her own discipleship practices. She openly admits that it is easy to get caught up in everyday life and ignore your discipleship path. It was her husband that encouraged her to enter the ministry. “He told me, this is what you are meant to do.”

The ideas and resources at CLA will help Capetta expand discipleship at the church she serves—The Ark. The Ark is part of the Embrace network. The network shares sermons, via a digital feed to churches, and connects the leaders. “I guess my own discipleship and faith journey has been developing for the past few years,” she says.

Before serving at The Ark, Christine attended church at Embrace, 57th Street campus; she journeyed from Sioux City, where she currently lives to Sioux Falls each week. “Embrace style of worship really speaks to me. We are hoping that being part of the network will help us reach young families in the North Sioux City area.”

Each participate shared resources that expand practices of personal discipleship. Sharing resources and reflection time are vital components of each CLA.

Molly Leger

Molly Leger, Arlington and Lake Preston UMCs, shares a moment with colleague Tom Sumers at the Clergy Leadership Academy.

Molly Leger, who serves congregations in Arlington and Lake Preston, came to CLA after being invited. “It is great to be here and reflect with others about discipling. Being here is helping me develop my own personal discipleship. It is easy to get busy, and life gets in the way.”

Leger is living out God’s plan for her after a career in retail management. “I ran away from my call until I accepted that it is God’s plan for me to be in ministry.”

Diversity and collaborative approaches to learning create an inviting atmosphere for CLA participants. Trefz asked participants to spend time in a conversation around personal discipleship through a Discipleship Speed Dating experience. For 45 minutes attendees answered questions and listened to responses for 10 different questions or prompts. Each person paired with someone for four minutes, two minutes for speaking or answering a question, two minutes to listen to someone respond. After four minutes, new pairs.

Autumn Krueger

Autumn Krueger, on extension ministry in Anchorage, Alaska, enjoyed the learning and sharing with other clergy at Lake Poinsett.

Autumn Krueger journeyed from Anchorage, Alaska, where she serves at Parkview UMC, to participate in CLA. “There is a diversity of thought and in experiences that help you think about your ministry. I enjoy the collaboration with others,” she says. She is on the path to becoming an ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference. Part of her journey is attending CLA as a provisional candidate.

Participants in CLA share in leading worship. Corey Enfield, is a local licensed pastor who serves at Yankton First, values the opportunity to experience worship that is led by his colleagues. “The worship experience at Clergy Leadership Academy is powerful. It is great to see how others do things and also to get feedback when you are part of the team leading worship.”

Enfield, who is currently in the Kairos program, spent time working in management for HyVee, is attending for the third time. “Leadership is so important. I appreciate the investment in leadership that the conference is making through CLA. I can take what I learn and apply it to my setting. I walk away with tools and resources that give me confidence in my ministry,” he says.

Corey Enfield

Corey Enfield (Yankton First UMC and Gayville/Volin) listening at Clergy Leadership Academy at Lake Poinsett.


Discipleship speed dating questions

What is your first memory of church?
Who is the first person you remember discipling you or teaching you about faith and how did they do it?

When in your life do you first remember faith or a relationship with a God being real or personal?

Where do you feel closest to God or best able to hear God’s voice?

Who has been someone who has impacted you the most through their mentoring/discipling you in the faith and what was it about them that made an impact on you?

If you could emulate one aspect of their character or practice of their life, what would it be?

Tell about a person who invited you to something that was a step out of your comfort zone and strengthened your faith.

Who is someone you have discipled or helped take a step of faith and what was that like?

**In your discussions where did you hear examples of intentionality?

Videos—Rob Bell’s NOOMA: “Dust” Brene Brown on Boundaries, Compassion and Empathy 

Books: Surprise the World |  Untamed (Shapvine): Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship

Crucial conversations handout


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