Monday, February 7, 2011

They Need A Hero

The final stop on my 2001 job search turned out to be Wesley Memorial UMC in Tampa.  Before I begin to tell you the story of how I wound up at WMUMC, I need to backtrack a bit and tell you something I still needed to learn about myself.

 By 2001 I had developed a "Hero Complex"  (The Green Lantern is one of my favs- can't wait for the movie this summer!).  The ministries that I felt called to over the years had all been seriously flawed, and I had sensed that God wanted to use my gifts to repair them.  When I went to New England Yearly Meeting of Friends in 1985, part of the reason was because I felt like the youth of that region needed more Christ-centered leadership and more personality- and I was the one who could provide those things.  Part of the attraction of my move to Springfield Friends Meeting (aside from going back to NC and getting married!)in 1986 was that the church was falling apart.  A staff member (the one in charge of youth) had left over disagreements with the Senior Pastor and had taken a part of the congregation with him.  The student ministry would need to be totally rebuilt.  I relished the thought of that.  I left SFM in 1994 (even though I was still in love with the church and the people there) after I felt God calling me to the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee, where a once thriving youth ministry was falling apart after having 3 different leaders in 2 years.  Again, I had great confidence that I was God's man for the job.  When I left there to escape The Pastor Who Shall Not Be Named in 2000, part of the reason the Union Church of Hinsdale was so appealing to me was that they needed my skills and experience so badly- no one had ever really done youth ministry there.  I loved swooping in and being the hero.  And to some extent, I had been successful at every stop.  I loved seeing tangible progress- watching a ministry rise from the ashes.  I know now that my heroism was not particularly healthy, for me or for them.  But by 2001, this had become a part of my job search DNA.

The initial information I received in my phone interview with WMUMC indicated that this was a church that was right in my wheelhouse.  The Senior Pastor, Jerry Sweat, was young and exciting, plus he had 2 kids of youth group age.  Tampa was a great fit for my family- close to my parents, close to Walt Disney World and near all of our dear friends in Kissimmee.  And the youth ministry was in complete chaos.  The previous Youth Pastor had been the wife of the Associate Pastor, and they had left WMUMC and taken a section of the church with them.  A number of key student leaders (including their daughters) were gone.  Another very active family had moved away.  The youth who remained had not been terribly excited about the direction of the ministry in the first place; now they were skeptical anything good could come from all of the turmoil. They had a great youth choir and some good volunteers in place, but overall things were a mess. It seemed like exactly the kind of situation I was seeking, and the kind of place God had often called me to.  Marilyn and I flew down for an whirlwind day of interviews in August of 2001.  Those stories- including how I got asked out on a date- are coming Wednesday.  Stay blessed!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous2/07/2011

    When you came into 1st UMC Kissimmee, we did need a hero- and you were heroic. Thank you so much for all you did to rescue our youth group.

  2. God rescued the FUMC-K group because He had amazing things in store for it. It's still doing great things today with Dwight. I was just a part of helping keep things together. All that said- thank you.


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