When you give thanks to God in prayer for your many blessings, do you remember your District Superintendent? What, you say? Why would I do that?! I am very serious – your District Superintendent is a gift to your leadership.
In all my experience, I have met and been blessed by many wonderful leaders, but no matter how gifted they were, every one of them had room for improvement and development. A leader can only progress so far by herself or himself. To truly reach one’s fullest potential, guidance, mentoring, supervision, accountability and coaching are needed. Sharing wisdom and journeying in collaboration with a learned partner are beautiful gifts.
This message is mainly for our pastors, but all leaders may benefit by extension. As clergy provide supervision in the congregation, so District Superintendents provide supervision to clergy. Clergy are a part of a covenant community. Yes, we serve a local church or congregations or extension ministries, and we are “the pastor-in-charge,” but we do not do this solo. In our tradition, we are placed “under appointment” and District Superintendents provide leadership, guidance and support to our ministries. They are partners and colleagues, but they are also supervisors who hold us accountable to our covenants of Word, Order, and Sacrament.
Since I came here as bishop, it is the expectation of every District Superintendent to have a one-on-one supervisory conversation with every pastor. Do you see this as a burden or a gift? Our most effective, growing, learning, leading pastors voice deep appreciation for this opportunity and attention. They seek feedback and counsel, and hunger for the encouragement and support that comes from their Superintendent. They also gracefully and graciously receive criticism and critique, knowing that this is necessary for expanded self-awareness and self-improvement. These are emotionally intelligent leaders seeking to become the very best they can be. We are a stronger Conference as we strengthen the relationships of accountability and support.
Some resist and resent such connection. This is truly sad, as it indicates a lack of desire to grow and improve. When we come to the place where we no longer seek guidance, encouragement, and accountability, we are at the end of our productivity and purpose. Our gospels witness to this fact again and again. There is a reason we are sent out two-by two. There is meaning to Jesus’ statement that where two or three are gathered, there He is with them. There is great wisdom of pairing seasoned apostles with young leaders. There is great advantage to working together for accountability in leadership.
Our work together is to reach out and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Each and every one of us is gifted to contribute to this work. But it is only in unity and covenant collaboration that we will reach the full potential God has for us. Those gifted for supervision offer an important and vital value to our life together. Without accountability, we will never become the Church God needs us to be. So let us hold each other accountable, and give thanks to God that there are those whose job it is to offer supervision, encouragement, and accountability.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).