When the Rev. Junius Dotson starts his new position with Discipleship Ministries, one of the national arms of the United Methodist Church, he will find himself in an unusual position: traveling to Africa and the Philippines, looking for ideas to grow the church back in places like Wichita.
Dotson is the pastor at St. Mark United Methodist, the largest historically black church in Wichita. He will be focused on building on the successes of a denomination that continues to grow internationally but that has lost members, particularly among young millennials, back at home.
That’s one of the reasons, Dotson said, that he was hired to take over Discipleship Ministries, the arm of the church that builds new churches and develops materials to help pastors minister and build relationships.
“How do we embrace the worldwide nature of church, so the conversation is not U.S.-centric?” Dotson said. “They have much to teach us in terms of how we are engaging people.”
In Wichita, Dotson led a merger between St. Mark and Epworth, a predominantly white congregation. Before that, he led a new church in California’s Silicon Valley that has been touted for its racial diversity.
This ability to speak with people of all kinds of racial and ethnic backgrounds will be essential, as he said his new role will require him to travel 50 percent of the time.
He also worked on the Kansas Sate Sentencing Commission with people from across the state and of all political persuasions, a skill he will have to employ as he represents the denomination to a variety of stakeholders with divergent views.
Another reason he was selected is because St. Mark is a large, complicated operation, he said, so he already has some of the skills to make a smooth transition to managing 160 employees and more than a $20 million budget in his new role.
During his tenure at St. Mark, Dotson’s church grew a separate nonprofit arm that provides medical service to low-income residents, which required a separate charter and board.
Dotson has also pushed to make the church vital in people’s daily lives, he said, so that he has an answer for the increasing number of people who consider themselves unaffiliated or non-religious. He helped lead an effort to prevent violence in Wichita, using the hash-tag #NoFergusonHere, after protests erupted when the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 was not indicted.
One of the main lessons he has learned during his time in Wichita, he said, “is to keep our church focused on persons who are nominally religious and feel like the church is not relevant to their lives, being intentional about having conversations about how it can be relevant in their lives.”
Source: The Wichita Eagle | OLIVER MORRISON