Conference Superintendent Rev. Karen Stigall reflects on the transition from Red Bird Missionary Conference to the new Central Appalachian Missionary Conference, new activities, and what revitalization means for the conference, the community, and evangelism in Central Appalachia.
Tell us about your role in the conference and your background. I serve as the conference superintendent for Red Bird (soon to be CAMC) and also the superintendent for the Southeast Kentucky District of the Kentucky Conference. My role is to provide leadership development for the conference and to help resource and equip leaders in disciple-making. I’m a preacher’s kid, and this is a second career, but it is a calling. As I entered into ministry, central to my call was transformation.
Speaking of transformation, tell us about the conference name change and why it is so exciting. What’s exciting about it is that it bubbled up from the pastors. It was bottom up and not top down. They felt like their ministry was often restricted in people’s minds to Red Bird Valley, when really our call is all the people of Central Appalachia. Our history is so important and it makes us who we are, and also giving pastors and churches in all the area we serve a community (inclusive) identity is important. The vulnerability that our clergy shared as a desire to feel geographically included was inspiring. It helped open up a safe space for looking at other ministry together, moving forward.
So, this is one of the ways the conference is transforming itself. What else do you see happening? Our goal is revitalization and breathing new life into our ministry. But we must remember that this doesn’t happen at an agency level, or even at a conference level necessarily. It happens when one person in one church talks to another person in the community.
We’ve talked about the transformation. I love hearing about how it’s a grass roots movement at the local church; still, the conference has some work to support the work being done. Can you tell us about that? This was an eighteen month long process. We had a coach, and we worked on strategic plans and process. God wants us to be intentional about how we grow; about how to best spread His teachings. We want to equip and empower our pastors not to be reliant on the conference, but instead have an expectation of personal development, self-improvement, and then a church development. Being intentional for the Lord.
So how are you creating an atmosphere of independence, but with collaboration? The operational team in small, but they are doing some really amazing work. They meet once a week, for four or six hours at a time. They’re working on their personal relationship with Christ, and their relationships with each other. They are building covenant and learning together. Now, they are starting to build their leadership capacity. Then how can they equip others to go and lead local churches. It is a slow process, but we are transforming people, one day at a time. Our intention is to make disciples, who make disciples, and then those disciples turn into leaders, and so on.
Tell us more about the collaboration with the Annual Conference and Churches. I want to be clear that we aren’t saying “here’s the key and we’re going to have an easy fix.” This is a journey that we are all walking together, and it isn’t an easy fix. We’re all in it for the long haul. We’ve got three elders, and they are beginning to step out and form their own teams. We had one, and now we have potential to have three.
So, what’s next? We’re hoping that our name officially changes in November; we’re on the agenda for jurisdictional conference. We voted at annual conference in 2019 to change our name, to restructure, and to relocate. Those three key decisions are propelling us forward. Next, we’ve divided the conference into three regions, and each of those regions is led by an elder. The elders will work with local pastors on leadership development. We hope to create covenants, and with it, corresponding accountability. Covenants are little and big things. Our covenants help us choose how we are going live and work together. They are intentional in committing to treating one another with Christ-like respect. On the light side we wrote in our covenant that there will be coffee at every meeting, but we also commit to showing up on time. We also commit to being vulnerable with each other and tell the other what’s going on—and always extending grace to each other. I call it graceful accountability.
How can people be involved or help? The first and best thing is to partner in prayer. We are committed to making disciples who build God’s Kingdom. We need the ongoing leadership of the Holy Spirit.We also need mission teams who can help us as we redesign space at the Conference Center that will support outreach ministries.We have deeply invested in youth and young adult leadership development.We need folks who will commit to praying for the young people of The Central Appalachian Missionary Conference. We have invested in creating a disaster preparedness plan.You can donate to our ongoing flood bucket ministry. We have some upcoming projects with youth groups and some projects in food security. Also, invite us to come to your local church so we can share the story of God’s miraculous work in the new Central Appalachian Missionary Conference!If you would like to bring a work team to the Conference or invite us to come to your local church contact Rev. Jim Savage at firstname.lastname@example.org.