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Conference helps Korean clergy, laity to partner

The Rev. Sang E. Chun gives the benediction during worship at the Korean United Methodist Church Lay Leadership Conference in Paramus, N.J.
UMNS photos by the Rev. David Kwangki Kim.

By the Rev. David Kwangki Kim*
July 30, 2008 | PARAMUS, N.J. (UMNS)

In 1998, the Rev. Sang E. Chun sought to strengthen lay leadership within the Korean United Methodist Church by starting a lay leadership conference.

Ten years later, he was overwhelmed with the response at the 2008 event in New Jersey.

The Rev. Timothy Myunghoon Ahn leads worshippers in song.

"I couldn’t be happier seeing this event help Korean Methodists serve the church effectively and successfully with the Methodist spirit and pride," said Chun, former director of Korean, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders Ministries of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

"I’m so glad that more people come to this conference every year seeking their grace and sharing in their challenge and encouragement. They are certainly a vital power for church growth."

The three-day conference, held May 23-25 at the Arcola Korean United Methodist Church, was sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, the United Methodist Council on Korean American Ministries and the National Association of Partner Churches.

The Rev. Timothy Myunghoon Ahn, senior pastor of the Arcola congregation, welcomed 136 clergy and lay people from 29 churches.

"It is God’s grace to host this conference," he said. "God helped us to complete the $5 million education building this year and strengthened our stewardship to open our resources for the great cause. I hope every local church will be full of vitality and the living water of Jesus Christ to bring hope and salvation to the thirsty world."

The Rev. Hae-Jong Kim reflected on how the church was started 20 years ago when he was a superintendent of the Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference.

"I'm grateful to see that this church has grown to be a model for other churches," he said. "I’m sure that we will harvest with great joy the product of the seed we plant. I hope that we will continue to plant the seed of new ministries in various areas."

'Lay leadership is needed'

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park, who leads the denomination’s New York Area, challenged the conference to reach out to the younger generation and the unchurched, seeking team ministry with the spirit of collaboration of clergy and laity.

"Lay leadership is needed in our denomination. This can bring vitality and transformation of the denomination and the world. For this, we have to have a broader perspective and global vision. The world needs us, the committed leaders and churches," Park said.

"God has given us grace to continue this conference for 10 years," says the Rev. James Chongho Kim.

The Rev. James Chongho Kim, president of the National Association of Korean United Methodists, acknowledged local churches that stepped out to host the event and share their resources.

"God has given us grace to continue this conference for 10 years," Kim said. "It’s great for me to see partner churches hosting this national event since 2003. I’m so thankful for their continuing support."

The conference was designed to bring together lay people and their pastors to learn about and share ideas and principles of church growth, then to develop how they can apply their knowledge to their local church.

This year, the conference provided special sessions to increase the understanding of the faith, spirituality and heritage of The United Methodist Church; practice team ministry; enhance lay leadership; and model church ministry for the next generation.

"I was challenged by the Barnabas Ministry, which helps newcomers and encourages Christians to have a right relationship with the Lord and the believers," said Yulhoon Yom, lay member of the First Korean United Methodist Church in Chicago. "Since I have been involved in the welcoming committee of my church, I want to apply this ministry to our church more effectively and thoroughly."

Yom found it helpful to share and hear ideas from other lay people and pastors. "I’m also challenged by the thriving ministries like the English Ministry and Culture School that integrates the first and second Korean generations in the local church," Yom said.

Mira Kim, a small group leader of Arcola Korean United Methodist Church, said the workshops and small group sessions will help participants get more involved in various ministries. "I sensed that people came with the hope and passion to serve the Lord and the church by the Holy Spirit. And I noticed that they were really earnest with their enthusiasm for the ministry," she said.

A deepening partnership

Providing the message in the closing worship service, Jay Lee, lay leader of Dream Church in California, used the biblical story of Jonah to challenge both clergy and lay people to deepen their spirit of collaboration and partnership.

The Rev. Hae-Jong Kim reflects on the church’s successes and challenges.

"Little selfish wiles cannot solve the main problem in our great storm of life," Lee said. "We have to respond to that situation as Jonah said, 'Pick me up and throw me into the sea.' Leaders take responsibility. They surrender to God and follow his direction."

Describing the partnership of clergy and laity, Lee used a metaphor of carpooling on a lane reserved for high-occupancy vehicles.

"I want every local church to feel a thrill as they get involved in the ministry together as if they are driving on the HOV lane without traffic," he said. "We are in the same boat and we are headed in the same direction. I pray that the lay people respect the clergy and the clergy love the lay people deeply, going together to win souls throughout the world."

The 2009 Lay Leadership Conference is to be held at the First Korean United Methodist Church in Chicago.

*Kim is director, Korean Resources editor, United Methodists in Service, United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: the Rev. David Kim or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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