Leadership, Pastors

Q & A with Adam Hamilton

Adam’s wife, LaVon, is joining us for the session to answer any questions people may have of her.

Adam started by answering pre-submitted questions.

1. What are some lessons you’ve learned from launching new campuses?

Rez West in Olathe in 2006, now 800 attendees. breaking ground on building this Sunday, and anticipating 1,000 attendees when they open the new building.

UMC is slowing down church planting in last 100 years. Was 2 a day for 20 years- over 14,000. 1970-1990 started only 950.

COR planned to seed Rez West and let them go independent. Of 300 people, 120 came back to COR main campus. Then they attracted another 600 people. The sermon is Adam on video.

Adam pointed out how the first 5 rows watch him. Everyone else watches the video screens.

Wesley’s sermons printed in 1788, and lay preachers would preach Wesley’s sermons. How would Wesley do that today? The future of the UMC is grounded in our past.

If the campus pastor is a skilled preacher, then he or she would not make a good campus pastor (campus pastor’s preach 12 times per year).

Rez Downtown and Blue Springs is in the MO conference and Rez main campus is in the KS East conference, so they are crossing lines.

2. A participant asked a question about whether or not the Christians who oppose the mosque in NY are unchristian.

Adam supports congregations building freely. Christians must demonstrate loving their neighbors. From a leadership perspective, maybe a win-win could be found.

3. How do you change the embedded DNA of an existing church, especially with itinerant ministry?

Adam pointed out that today’s sessions are addressing this.

a. It’s hard to lead change of you’re going to be in a church for 3-5 years. This shows the need for longer tenure. Adam believes that most bishops seem to be allowing longer tenures. Adam believes his leadership really hit its stride at year 10.

b. Love the congregation above and beyond the call of duty.

c. Root changes in the church’s original DNA (he does this while leading change in the entire denomination). It anchors change in the DNA of the past.

d. The slow process of building a coalition

e. Adam is changing traditional worship to “New Traditional.” Remind choir of what worship will look like in 20 years if we don’t create change.

4. In what ways has your seminary education been helpful to you? When it comes to training church leaders, what could seminaries do better to train leaders?

Adam is the chair of the board at St. Paul School of Theology in KC.

Adam stated that his seminary gave him a toolbelt of tools. Adam’s college and seminary experiences balanced one another. He believes we need more classes on leadership, how to revive congregations. Adam reads books from the business world to stay up to date.

Bottom-up leadership doesn’t work in most places. The people need a leader- Jesus, Paul, Luther, Wesley, etc.

5. Another question that will be covered in later sessions (practical tips for leadership)

Adam introduced his wife LaVon.

6. A pastor’s wife asked how LaVon is connected at COR because many pastors wives are over-extended.

LaVon stated that she has the advantage of being at COR from the beginning and did not have to live up to existing expectations. Their daughters were young, and LaVon made raising her kids a priority. LaVon did not get involved in committees. She serves as a Christian in the church. She attends one worship service to worship. She offers input when Adam asks for it.

7. Adam asked, “What are some of the struggles we’ve had over the years?”

Balance is hard to achieve. When Adam over-committed, she was honest with him, and he listened. Pastors, listen to your spouse.

Adam shared that capital campaigns are always the worst, and he was gone every night of the week for a campaign several years ago. He was 1.5 hours late one night, and every light in the house was off. His pillow was lying outside the bedroom door.:)

8. How do you protect your children and the boundaries of the family so they do not grow to resent the church?

The benefit of a big church is that not everyone knows who they are. They raised their kids as Christians, not as pastors’ kids. LaVon is not sure if they resent the church or not, but she doesn’t think so. Adam would visit the girls at school for lunch. He went to their activities and scheduled dates with them. He made half of their Saturday soccer games.

Adam protected his day off, vacation, and sabbatical every 7 years.

Both kids questioned their faith, and one still is. There is a positive in questioning (I absolutely agree with this).

9. How do churches pay apportionments when they are in debt?

Administration budgets in the UMC must shrink. Missions excite giving.

COR pre-funds their apportionments. They pay in advance at the beginning of the year, or during the first 3-5 months. COR’s apportionments are 25% of the conference budget.

10. Does West campus pay its own apportionments?

COR has a unified budget. West cannot cover its share of the apportionments as of yet. West led its own capital campaign for land, but COR main campus helped.

11. Hour many hours are too much away from home?

Be home every night for dinner. Protect your day off. It’s a no-brainer. Take your kids on mission trips.

12. How do you the two of you experience God together, worship together?

They pray every night before they go to bed. They have never worshipped together. They started attending a small group together. They are not the leaders.

13. A pastor asked how to manage family concerns with itineracy.

One goal was to grow the church so they could stay in the same place. Both Adam and LaVon share a sense of purpose and believe in its ministry. If you forget your “why” then every sacrifice is too hard. Remind your family and congregation.

LaVon added to recognize how hard it is for your wide to move.

14. When you’re away on sabbatical, how do you keep the church moving forward?

The Lilly Foundation proved endowments, but the UMC does not pay for sabbatical. Sabbatical allows you to renew yourself. In your 8th year, you take a sabbatical, and COR pays salary during that time. It must benefit the church, and the plan must be approved by the Staff Parish Relations Committee. The Lilly Foundation will pay for a preacher to fill in while you’re gone.

Adam shared about his first sabbatical visiting the 26 largest churches in America. He came back with 46 pages single spaced of new ideas.

On his second sabbatical, he authored Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. Adam admits that he did not prepare the congregation well.

On his next sabbatical, he will retrace Wesley’s steps and write a small group study.

15. Has Adam been approached to join the episcopacy, and how do bishops respond to his ideas?

Adam’s goal is to speak at every annual conference- “Leadership Revivals”. He believes that he can have the greatest impact on the denomination as a pastor. He leads the org for the 100 largest UMC churches in the U.S. Most bishops want to see the church renewed, and most showed up.

16. How do you handle criticism?

Someone created a viral video calling Adam a heretic, along with Rob Bell. Adam smiled throughout his answer that leaders get criticized. He gets emails and phone calls every week from people who are angry. Sue, his assistant reads them and decides which ones Adam needs to see. He want to learn from valid criticism. He tells new members that it’s okay to disagree with him. He asks them to criticize him in a way that is Christian.

Maturity helps to develop thicker skin. He says that he probably hasn’t received enough criticism. He doesn’t want to get to heaven and hear, “With everything that I gave you, this is all you did?”

17.  With the complication of the current appointment system, how can clergy be able to better collaborate and be more effective?

Guaranteed appointments will disappear within the next 4 years. Super circuits take place when effective churches join together as part of a circuit across geographic lines, share resources, take mission trips together. We probably need 10,000 elders and 7,00 lay pastors to lead the church. Churches can join together and be led in new ways. Larger resources can take smaller churches under their wings and provide resources.

18. I thanked Rev. Hamilton for his leadership and example, like getting on his knees in front of us last night and modeling dedication to God. I asked, “What advice would you give to young church planters like you were in 1990 who are planting in a system that may not always be friendly to them?”

The geographic boundary between Kansas and Missouri was a conflict in the planting of COR that met on Stateline Rd. Someone in MO threatened to bring charges against Adam for reaching people in Kansas.:)

Know that less self-confident pastors will feel threatened by a new church in the area. Be prepared to feel lonely. You keep being positive even if other people are negative. He tells staff not to talk about COR with other pastors unless they ask. Don’t act you know everything. Be humble.

You will put in more hours when you start something from scratch- 70 hours per week.  He mentioned his book Leading Beyond the Walls (which is in my back pack right now. I have read it several times, and it is a great book). Keeping your relationships healthy with family and friends. Preaching effective sermons. Talk about vision every month. Delivering the coffee mugs

Have a “Whatever it takes” spirit. Market. Get your story out to people. Be a church known for serving others. Be a church that disciples people and deepen their faith.

Adam ended the session to prepare for the next session.

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