Q&A with … Rev. Dr. Kimberly Pope-Seiberling, New Church Development Director

June 04, 2023
Rev. Dr. Kimberly Pope-Seiberling started as New Church Development director on May 1, 2023. She started her ministry career in the West Ohio Conference about 20 years ago as a student associate pastor. The church, which had an average weekend attendance of more than 1,000, was a new church plant. She later was pastor at an inner-city church in Cincinnati, followed by two rural churches. The past four years she and her husband, Eric Seiberling, lived in Boston and did work outside of the church focusing on business excellence. They have a grown daughter and a pet Greyhound. Her answers below have been lightly edited for clarity.
Talk a little about the New Church Development mission and your role in executing that mission as the new director. How do you see that taking shape?
The certainly is a lot of work to be done, given the current state of The United Methodist Church! The mission is to plant new churches and revitalize existing churches. When I arrived, the Northern Kentucky community was already well on its way worshiping, so they have already taken it upon themselves to do what God was calling them to do.
We’re excited that we have appointed them a full-time pastor, Rev. Caleb Wheat, who will start later in June. Then we have a group of continuing members in Trigg County in the Pennyrile District. They are doing the groundwork and will be launching a new faith community in July. Then we also have one revitalization effort, Fuente de Avivamiento, our only Hispanic church in the Lexington area. They will be getting a new pastor, Rev. Yasmel Reyes, later in June. There’s also the potential for another plant in the Lexington area. There’s another group of continuing members in Danville, in the Bluegrass District, that have done some preliminary organizational work and that we will continue to work with to help them to clarify their vision. So I’ve put over 1,200 miles on my car this first month (laughing)!

As a follow-up, what are two or three of your key goals? How are we going to get from “here” to “there”?
One of my key goals is to make sure we transition to our current reality in a way that is responsive to the continuing members and makes sense for the current size of our Annual Conference. I also want to provide an opportunity for every church to learn best practices that will help them reach unchurched people.
Lighthouse Churches are another neat thing we’re working on. They are simply churches that are looking to welcome any continuing member, or any member of their community looking for hope. In fact, we are planning to hand out signage at Annual Conference that will identify a church as a Lighthouse Church. One thing to keep in mind about our Lighthouse Churches is that we want to make sure that it is for anyone in the community who wants to connect with The United Methodist Church – not just the continuing members.
We also are talking about developing an online worship where people not connected to a United Methodist church or don’t have one close to them can connect. We are still investigating whether that is a good use of our resources. That’s a little outside the box. But we are in an age where we need to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. Some of it will be a calculated risk, but we are going to be trying new things. But if things don’t work, we’re not going to continue to do them.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to the conference right now, and how can you help address that challenge in your new role?
I think the biggest challenge right now is adjusting to our new normal. We’re definitely smaller in number and in budgetary resources than we used to be. And that’s OK! However, we have to think differently about how we use those resources. I feel like technology can play a big role in resourcing people in a way that is economically sensible.
We also have to become more collaborative across county lines, across church lines, across committee lines, across district lines. They look like challenges, but they really are opportunities to do things differently.

Is there anything else you would like to touch on and share with the rest of the Kentucky Annual Conference?
I just want to say that I’m grateful to be here. I am looking forward to getting out to meet the pastors and the laity in the local churches and help to provide them with something that will help them in the life of their faith communities.