Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Potomac Conference, The M-Team, John Nixon II, Heather Crews, Rafael Soto, Rick Labate, Steve Leddy

The M-Team

Story by Debra Anderson

Ask any member of the Potomac Conference Pastoral Ministries Department if they enjoy what they do with and for their pastors, and you will see their faces light up.

Several years ago, the Potomac Conference administration had the vision to hire more than one ministerial director. The conference recognized that pastors are the leaders of congregations and the frontline workers for church health, growing God’s kingdom and fulfilling the mission. Therefore, a team of support for ministers was established. The group’s responsibilities include coaching, encouraging, troubleshooting and visiting pastors. In one form or another, this team connects with each pastor in the conference approximately eight to 10 times per year.

The current Pastoral Ministries Department, affectionally known as “The M-Team,” consists of Rick Labate, vice president for Pastoral Ministries; Heather Crews, associate director of the South; John Nixon II, associate director of the North; Rafael Soto, director of Hispanic Ministries; Gerson Bonilla, assistant director of Hispanic Ministries; and Steve Leddy, director of Church Planting and Evangelism. The team includes Candy Siebert and Vicky Fuentes, who serve as administrative assistants. In addition, Paul Graham serves as assistant to the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Revitalization, a pastoral position to help revitalize churches.

“I love this team,” says Labate. “The caliber of who they are and what they bring is so excellent that there should be theme music playing whenever they walk into a room.”

In a recent team meeting, the members were asked what they see is the department’s best work. Varying answers included “recognizing the challenges of our pastors and helping them feel comfortable bringing those challenges to us” and “seeing pastors thrive in ministry and not just survive.”

The team was also asked what would make them feel most satisfied. Leddy responded, “Creating a movement with our pastors where they are growing Christ’s kingdom to the extent that other conferences begin sending their people here for training.” Crews said, “To be useful. I want to know that what I do makes a difference.” Soto remarked, “For our churches to become discipleship-focused rather than just evangelism-focused. And for our Hispanic churches having second and third generations become the leaders of their churches.”

In addition to visiting pastors, the Pastoral Ministries Department team members speak in various churches every Sabbath throughout the conference. Additionally, they provide training seminars for churches, plan pastors’ meetings, conduct intern training events, recruit and vet pastors when church openings occur, and meet as a team weekly to discuss objectives for the week ahead.

“Potomac Conference’s mission statement is ‘Growing healthy disciple-making churches,’ states Labate. “For this to become a reality, pastors must be spiritually healthy and have a ministerial support system to come alongside them. In the Potomac Conference, that’s not just wishful thinking; it is a reality for pastors.”

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