From the District Superintendent

Learning to Lead

Posted 19 June, 2018 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

As I arrived at my first appointment 35 years ago this summer, I was called and ordained; educated and graduated; excited and eager; well-equipped and totally unprepared.

This question was put to me in July; I had arrived as the pastor of the 4-church Greensville Charge just a couple of weeks before. We, the Mount Pleasant Administrative Board sat in the one-room white-clapboard frame church, in the Purdy community. There were 6 or 8 others there, almost half of the entire 22 members of the church. Mrs. Julia Jones, matriarch, asked me the question. 

Well, Miss Overby, what do you think?

The question was about the roof ... should they replace it or repair it? In that moment, I was so surprised that she asked and so unprepared for that question. Yes, I felt equipped, with practice, to preach and to lead Bible Study, eager to baptized babies, and prepared to conduct funerals. But roofs, I knew nothing about roofs. So, I turned the question back to them,  "I don't know."  I began. Then I asked. "What do you think you should do?"

In that exchange I discovered some leadership models that continue to guide me long past the time that I was 24 and untested as a clergy leader:

  • Don't be afraid to say "I don't know"
  • Give the power away: to the laity, to those who do know, to those who are invested

Those at Mt Pleasant UMC had everything they needed to make a decision; they knew their need, they knew what it would take to fix their problem, and they knew what resources they had.

In your role as lay and clergy leaders in your congregation, on the Roanoke District, across the conference, what questions have surprised you the most? What do you feel most prepared to answer and which ones reveal your lack of knowledge or experience? What leadership models do you feel equipped to exercise? Where does your leadership need to grow, mature, change? Who is looking to you for guidance, direction, or freedom to fully use their own gifts?



(the photo below is from the 1980's with Rev. Kathleen and Bishop Blackburn, to her left) 

 kath at 24

In May I:

  • Worshipped with Calvary (Salem) UMC
  • Attended District Common Table Meeting
  • Participated in Board of Ordained Ministry Executive Committee meeting
  • Participated in Peer Covenant Group
  • Participated the Bishop's Strategic Visioning Steering Team Meeting and Lifelong Learning Team meeting
  • Participated in the May Cabinet Meeting
  • Conducted Meet Your Pastor Sessions with two Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committees
  • Consulted with laity and clergy in person, by phone, and through email
  • Enjoyed family and vacation days celebrating holidays, birthdays, graduation, and anniversary