As you know, beginning July 1 Gena Anderson will be leaving the staff of the church to stay at home with their daughters. Thankfully, Jeff, Gena, Julia and Georgia will still be an active part of our church family. This week an important decision was announced by Dr. Tim Bruster regarding the search for Gena’s replacement: “I am pleased to announce that Casey Langley, who is currently serving as Director of Youth Ministries, will fill this position.”
Dr. Bruster says that when the Staff Parish Relations Committee and the executive staff looked at the staffing needs of the church, they determined that a comprehensive program of discipleship is our greatest need. “Some of what Gena was doing in her job will carry over into the new position, such as ministry to young adults,” he adds, “however, the SPRC has renamed the position Associate Pastor of Discipleship to reflect this important shift in focus.”
“Many of you know that I grew up in the church but that I came to know Jesus and experienced new understanding of faith when I was seventeen,” Casey says. “What changed then was that it stopped being something I claimed and became something by which I lived. I believed so deeply in the love of God that I would have followed Jesus anywhere. I had become a disciple.”
Today, 12 years later, Casey says that while she express her faith much differently (“I would still follow Jesus anywhere. I followed Jesus to Fort Worth!”), her language and understanding is different than it was then: “I talk about God differently,” she says. “I pray differently. I worship differently. I read the Bible differently. I understand missions differently. Since the beginning of my journey of discipleship, the ways I have responded to God’s love have grown and changed. I don’t presume to be finished. I suspect that the rest of my life will present new opportunities, new people, new places, and new words through which I can express my love and obedience to God.”
Then a new opportunity emerged. When Casey learned that Reverend Gena Anderson will be taking family leave beginning this summer, she prayerfully met with Dr. Bruster and expressed a sense of calling to a new ministry and asked to be considered. When the SPRC and Dr. Bruster considered this request and the committee interviewed Casey, they all agreed it would be a perfect fit and continuation of Casey’s ministry here at First Church Fort Worth.
“I am incredibly excited that in this new position, I will be able to focus primarily on helping people, no matter their stage of faith or age, to experience more fully the life of discipleship,” Casey says. “That means I will work on developing a plan for what growth might look like in an individual’s life. I will also work with other ministry areas to create new opportunities that feed people at different places on the journey and to connect people to existing ministries within our truly special church. More simply put,” she adds, “I’m going to focus on discipleship and transformation within the individual life and the family life.”
Discipleship is a term that encompasses our learning and faith practices that strengthen our relationship to God and the way with live in relationship to others. The word disciple simply means follower. The question of discipleship is how am I doing in becoming a more faithful follower of Jesus? “Casey has already been leading our youth and families in their discipleship development and has been engaged in that ministry beyond the youth and families to other areas of the church,” says Dr. Tim Bruster. “She is a gifted pastor who will lead our discipleship ministry with passion and excellence.”
To begin our immediate search for a new Director of Youth Ministries, the Staff Parish Relations Committee is engaging the services of a search firm called Youth Ministry Architects (not an architectural firm at all!) to help in our search. “We have had a very good experience with this firm, who helped us design our youth ministry and who helped us in the hiring of both Brendan Frenzel and Casey Langley,” Dr. Bruster notes. “The search committee will be made up of members of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, representatives from the youth ministry area, Mike Marshall and me. Casey will also be instrumental in the search.”
“This already is and should continue to be an exciting time for our youth ministry, Casey says. “We have the chance to hire someone new to become part of our FUMC Youth Family. Brenda will continue as the Youth Assistant. Martin will continue as the Associate Director of Youth Ministries. In her letter to FUMCFW Youth and their Families this past week, Casey writes:
“I am completely confident that we will find the absolute right person to serve you and your family. I will play a very active role in the transition, making it smooth and comfortable. It’s also good to remember that Martin and Brenda will be part of that transition and will be sources of stability in a season of change. I trust that the Justin Building will still feel like home, important pieces of the ministry will stay in place, and a new person will bring excitement and vision that I never even dreamed of.
“God is good and God is faithful. I know that. I am feeling very grateful that I have had the privilege of serving our congregation as Director of Youth Ministries for three years. I am overwhelmed by the honor of becoming part of your families and walking through life with you. And I am especially thankful that the relationships get to carry on and grow. While I will not be your youth pastor a few months from now, I will certainly be your pastor.
“So youth: Always follow the one rule of youth group… And wherever my new office ends up being, I expect you to still hack my Facebook, draw pictures on my dry erase board, sit down and tell me your stories, and trust that my love for you does not stop. It just grows.
“As everything can’t get said at once, I suspect there are some unanswered questions. As you think of them, ask me! I’m open to all of those conversations and look forward to having them.”
As we welcome Casey to this exciting new facet of her ministry to our First Church family, we also celebrate her continuation of the solid connections she has already established with our youth and their families — now expanding to include all ages and stages. And, as we continue seeking to develop a greater sense of discipleship in our own lives, we are blessed indeed to have Casey leading this renewed focus in our church community.