Atlanta Summit Provides Venue for Peer Mentoring

Post a Comment » Written on December 15th, 2008     
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ATLANTA, GA (December 15, 2008) – A recent peer mentoring summit gave African American urban church planters of the Evangelical Covenant Church an opportunity to discuss issues unique to their experience, says Catherine Gilliard, president of the African American Ministers Association (AAMA).

The association co-sponsored the event held December 2-4 with the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism (CGE).

This was the first time the AAMA co-sponsored the event. “In our conversations during strategic planning sessions, the executive committee of the AAMA focused our discussions on how we could strengthen the connections and support of our member churches to the Covenant’s ministry and mission,” Gilliard says. She observed that an annual summit “would be a perfect place to create a process of  ‘entering in’ – a front door experience – that would be positive and supportive.”

One of the issues discussed during the three days was how to help ministers address cultural nuances within the African American church experience as they relate to the cultural experiences of others.

John Notehelfer, CGE interim director, led a discussion around the theme “In It Together,” unpacking the three words in the context of the Covenant’s history. He encouraged leaders to engage with the rest of the denomination in discussing political and theological issues often raised by factors like race, gender, and age.

“We are at our best when we allow the Holy Spirit to shake us and allow the Holy Spirit to shake others, and then we provide safe places for the discussions to take place,” Notehelfer told the gathering. He distributed a paper he had written entitled “Living Into Our Name” as the reference from which he framed his comments.

Debbie Blue, Executive Minister of Compassion, Mercy and Justice; Harold Spooner, executive vice-president of Outreach Ministries for Covenant Ministries of Benevolence (CMB); and Ron Dixon, Associate vice-president of Outreach Ministries for CMB gave presentations on how urban church planters could connect with the ministries they lead.

Participants also were encouraged to build strong relationships with conference superintendents and avail themselves of resources available through the conferences.

The opportunity for ministers to encourage, pray, and share information with each other also was important, Gilliard says. “We continue to search for the proper balance of sharing denomination information and peer mentoring discussions because we’ve learned the value of allowing the participants to guide these discussions.”

Facilitators for the summit were Don Davenport, CGE associate director of church planting, and Robert Owens, Southeast Conference superintendent.

“I have a vision for hosting these summits for our other ethnic association church planters” Davenport says. “There are unique challenges for ethnic church planters which often requires more time in conversation.”

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