Stinson boldly embraces job

Now responsible for 85 churches, the Rev. Van Stinson has seen his role in the United Methodist Church change, but the mission stays the same: Work toward making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

“That’s a very bold statement, and I think bold statements are good because they ask for and demand the best of us,” said Stinson, who on July 1 became superintendent of the Baton Rouge district for the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Before the new post, Stinson was pastor at the William B. Reilly Memorial University United Methodist Church, which is adjacent to the LSU campus. He preached and led worship there for five years.

Pastoral duties are still very much a part of his everyday work life, but Stinson has found he has less time for their attention as he adjusts to the demands of his new leadership role.

“Increasingly, I’m beginning to discover how much of an administrative job this is, as opposed to my role as a pastor of a local church,” Stinson said. “My role here is made up much more of administrative tasks, of dealing with people.”

Stinson also is charged with managing files and assets of the churches in the Baton Rouge area.

Yet, at the same time, he is working toward mapping out a plan that will allow him to quickly engage with and lead worship at every church in his district.

“At some point in the first year, I hope to have made contact with all the churches,” he said.

For the University United Methodist Church, Stinson’s departure has left some congregants with a mixture of excitement and disappointment, with both feelings related to the enthusiasm that is the driving force behind Stinson’s teachings.

“We truly enjoyed having him lead our congregation,” said Kyle Wooldridge, office coordinator at University United Methodist Church. “We know he’ll be a wonderful superintendent.”

Stinson had been a pastor for nearly 20 years before becoming superintendent. A native of McComb, Miss., he first went to Ohio for seminary — he served in the Buckeye state for seven years — and it was there where he met his wife, Julie.

As a senior minister at University, Stinson said, he didn’t know he was a candidate for the position of superintendent.

“I received a phone call one morning and was invited to breakfast with the bishop the next morning,” he said about learning of his new job.

As superintendent, Stinson said he also must think of himself as chief missional strategist, which means he works with pastors and churches to plan for the Methodist Church’s goals within modern society and also in the future.

That forward thinking is very appealing to him, Stinson said. “The phrase of ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ applies very well in this case.”

The standard tenure of a superintendent is about six years, Stinson said.

For now, Stinson said he has no ambition for attaining a higher position within the church.

But the church also makes its own plans for its clergy.

“I probably will always see myself through the lens of being a pastor,” Stinson said. “And I hope and pray that that perspective is never lost amid the administrative tasks and responsibilities.”