Super Sunday champ shares vision
HOLT, Mich. (WMC) – Move over Don Beebe and Mike Lodish. Those two share the NFL record for most appearances in a Super Bowl game, taking the field a total of six times. But that’s nothing compared to the WMC’s own Glenn Wagner. Glenn, now pastor of Holt United Methodist Church, has appeared in 16 Super Sundays! Of course, we’re talking education, not football, but Glenn is a champion nonetheless.
The Super Sundays that Glenn has quarterbacked got their start in 1994. At that time Glenn was appointed at Community UMC in North Muskegon. “Super Sunday,” says Glenn, “was the brainchild of a group of Muskegon pastors, including myself and Ron Keller, who got together as a Lunch Bunch.” The pastors wanted a learning opportunity for all the people in their congregations. District training at that time was designed primarily for chairpersons. “We were OK with that,” Glenn recalls, “but we felt like there were places people in the pews were itching and we wanted to scratch those places.” Early highlights included choir workshops, a course for adoptive parents, and a keynote by Pete Hoekstra, then head of the House Intelligence Committee, shared one week before the hostilities began in Iraq.
Why the name Super Sunday? “We picked the Sunday between the end of the NFL season and the Super Bowl,” Glenn explains, “and while the weather could have been dicey, we were usually blessed with spectacular days.” After a number of years attendance was so spectacular that a local church could no longer accommodate all the break-out sessions. That was when the event was moved to Muskegon Community College. Soon after that it was Glenn who moved, when the bishop appointed him to Holt. During that transition time there was a two-year hiatus for Super Sunday.
“But it was too good a model to let drop,” Glenn says. And soon Lansing became the home field for Super Sunday with the hosting passed around among several larger churches—Holt, Mt. Hope, and University UMCs. Now more centrally located in the state, Super Sunday draws participants from five West Michigan districts and Detroit Conference’s Upper Peninsula. “We make the event free on purpose,” Glenn notes, “so that it’s affordable for folks. But just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not high quality.”
Credentialed, gifted people share their passion and expertise in workshops. For instance, Super Sunday XVI, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 11, features the Rev. Gary Step as the keynoter on the theme of Vital Churches. Lansing District Superintendent, Robert Hundley, will lead a master class in preaching. And Dr. Brad Richmond, Director of Choral Music at Hope College, will invite listeners to engage the topic of Vitality in the Choir. See more about the leader line-up here. According to Glenn, the key to a high quality experience is advance planning. “We will begin planning for 2013 in the weeks immediately following this November gathering,” he remarks.
While the original Super Sunday may have been hatched by a group of pastors in Muskegon 18 years ago, Glenn’s vision for developing leadership through Super Sunday stays alive and vibrant because of a personal memory. Glenn started his ministry as a student pastor assigned to do youth ministry for a good-sized church in Connecticut. “I went into my first youth group in a three-piece suit ready to teach the kids all they needed to know about Karl Barth and Paul Tillich,” Glenn recalls. How was he received? “They were the rudest bunch of kids I ever met! Some of them sat on the sofa and told dirty jokes. The youth group president was drinking Jack Daniels on the back steps.” Glenn remembers leaving the meeting and asking his wife, “Why would Jesus give me such rotten people?!?” He told her and he was ready to tell the senior pastor in the morning, “I quit.”
Before he could tender his resignation, his colleague said, “Glenn, the church would be happy to send you to a Youth Specialties workshop.” Glenn went. “I came back pumped up with new life!” he laughs. “I am still in ministry today because of those gifted people who shared with me what they knew.” The man who failed to teach Tillich to teens went on to get a doctorate from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in developing leadership in the church.
Part of the key to equipping the saints is a positive approach. “I’ve gone to lots of United Methodist events lately,” Glenn notes, “where a good portion of the presentation is the wringing of hands. That doesn’t excite me very much!” Those who attend Super Sunday XVI will leave, “feeling like they can make a difference,” Glenn concludes. “We’ve got great work to do and a greater God to serve. Good things happen when we are being faithful.”
~Reported by Kay DeMoss, Weekly News Senior Writer