St. Luke's United Methodist Church


4851 S. Apopka-Vineland Road
Orlando, FL 32819


St. Luke’s Transition

Frequently Asked Questions:

Leadership Transition and St. Luke’s Information

Read First: A Letter from Pastor Bill

Click here to watch Pastor Bill’s recorded message to the congregation.

Careful Leadership Succession Planning

What steps were taken to prepare for Pastor Bill’s retirement?

Church leadership began thoughtfully planning several years ago for St. Luke’s inevitable change in leadership as a result of Pastor Bill’s retirement. It was this same careful planning that brought St. Luke’s new Lead Pastor, Jennifer Stiles Williams, to the church eight years ago.

How are United Methodist Pastors appointed to local churches?

Bishop Ken Carter, The Bishop of the Florida United Methodist Conference, with recommendations of his cabinet, decides where each United Methodist pastor in Florida will be appointed for one year at a time. In April 2015 Bishop Carter announced that Jennifer Stiles Williams is the next Lead Pastor for St. Luke’s effective July 1.

Who was slated to be St. Luke’s next Lead Pastor?

It was the hope of St. Luke’s staff and Staff Parish Relations Committee that Rev. Jennifer Stiles Williams would be named St. Luke’s next Lead Pastor however official appointment announcements were not made until April 2015.

When did the Bishop begin planning for Pastor Bill’s retirement?

The Bishop was aware of Bill’s thoughts about retirement for some time, which allowed for a strategic vision for St. Luke’s future to take shape.

How many pastors will St. Luke’s have?

For the 2015-2016 appointment year St. Luke’s has one Lead Pastor, Rev. Jennifer Stiles Williams and two associate pastors, Rev. Jad Denmark and Rev. Corey Jones. Dr. David Stephens, Minister of Care, is not subject to the appointment process so he will continue to serve at St. Luke’s in his current staff role.

What are Pastor Bill’s plans after retirement?

In August 2015 Pastor Bill will return to the St. Luke’s staff  as the Director of St. Luke’s Center for Church Leadership. He looks forward to this encore career and senses it is his next calling to develop this exciting collaboration of seminary education, distance learning, global peace and reconciliation, leadership development, and community transformation. Several partners are already on board to assist in launching the new center. 

Will Pastor Bill continue to teach Exegesis?

Pastor Bill will be doing quite a bit of international travel in the year ahead, so he anticipates offering some four-week targeted classes. One of St. Luke’s appointed pastors may do the Exegesis for the sermons. Since the exegetical focus is on the text used in worship it would make more sense for the preaching pastor to facilitate this type of class.

How long does Pastor Bill plan to be the Director for St. Luke’s Center for Church Leadership?

Pastor Bill will spend the next year devoting himself to establishing the Center, which is a collaborative ministry supported by the Bishop, seminaries around the world, and others. Please watch for detailed information about the Center starting in the fall of 2015. As with any of us who engage in new projects following retirement, Pastor Bill’s health and energy will determine the length of time that he is able to effectively direct the Center, but his intention is to give about five years to the establishment of the programs there, much like he invested his time in the establishing of Shepherd’s Hope and IMPACT.

Will this new center be self-sustaining and if so what is the anticipated time frame for that to happen?

Yes. The only costs associated with the Center in the 2015 Church Budget are six months of salary and health insurance for Pastor Bill, provided at a level consistent with other Director level compensation and seniority, as well as several thousand dollars to be used for theological student stipends for a summer international internship in a cost sharing match with Candler School of Theology and the Florida Conference. The 2016 Church budget will continue the salary for another six months, but the health insurance portion will be substantially reduced in April, when Pastor Bill goes on Medicare coverage. After, if not before, June 2016, the Center will be self-sustaining from grants, and program fees paid by participants and churches.

Who else from St. Luke’s will be involved in the center? Will there be a committee?

Several persons have already indicated their interest in working as volunteers on this new ministry, it will be fall 2015 before organizational structuring will take place. Pastor Bill’s goal is to use the time from July 2015-June 2016 to connect all the pieces and discern God’s leading. Any advisory board formed would include not only persons from St. Luke’s, but also seminary representatives, Conference leaders, and others selected for their contribution to the emerging vision.

Pastor Jenn’s Health

How is Pastor Jenn’s health following her cancer treatment?

Pastor Jenn is thankful to be cancer free and back in the office leading the staff daily. She thanks the congregation and the community for all of their prayers throughout the treatment phases.

Operating Budget

How did the church end up financially for 2014?

We are grateful for the efforts of those that gave generously but need our congregation to complete their pledge cards so we can better forecast what our giving can accomplish. St. Luke’s ended 2014 with a modest positive cash flow.


Why did the church offer voluntary early retirement packages to some staff in 2014?

With what we knew going into the last quarter of 2014 we had to exercise this option. Being responsible financial stewards requires looking to reduce expenses in many different areas.


How many operating budget pledge cards were turned in for 2015?

As of February 2015 just over 400 pledge cards were submitted out of 1500 member’s households.  This is just over ¼ of our congregation.

Commit Campaign

What gives the church leadership confidence that the congregation can achieve the COMMIT Completion Campaign goal for facilities optimization and community transformation when it is struggling to raise enough operating revenue?

Funds for annual gifts and capital campaign gifts are made from different sources.

That may sound counter-intuitive to any family receiving its annual income from paychecks and who have a basic retirement fund and a savings account for emergencies. For people in this situation – which is a lot of families – pre-deciding how much of God’s blessings to share with the church is a function of determining how much of its annual income to share. Giving a gift either from the retirement account or savings account does not make sense. So it is natural for these families to wonder how the COMMIT Campaign can achieve its goal if they assume most St. Lukers are in the same situation as them.

The reality is that some St. Lukers have accumulated more assets than what is necessary to provide for their family.

The assets come from a variety of sources. For example, some assets come from sacrifice through frugal living and making wise investments over a lifetime. Some assets accumulate because the family took the risk to start and grow a business. Still others may come from caring family members of previous generations who themselves sacrificed and risked in order to give it to the next generation.

People who accumulate significant assets than what their family requires often answer God’s call to share it with others.

One way you may witness this generosity is through significant gifts made to capital campaigns helping their church accomplish big goals. After all, it is the church where the family attends and where its family members benefit from the spiritual growth, emotional support, abiding friendships and many fond memories. Investing in the church’s future using the blessings God has bestowed upon the family becomes a source of great joy in their life. It gives them the opportunity to bless others, even people well into the future and whom they will never meet.


What is the impact on operating costs from COMMIT’s facilities optimization plans, especially when current giving is not meeting annual revenue requirements?

The Building Committee studied this issue and discovered a net annual savings because it is not necessary to pay technicians to set up contemporary worship space each week.

Over the past several years, St Luke’s has spent approximately $60,000 per year to transform the Coleman Gymnasium into a Sunday contemporary worship space (set up and tear down of plastic on floor, chairs, tables, light controls, sound and controls, temporary stage, kneeling rails, décor, altar, musical instruments).  The Building Committee has received cost estimates for the new Contemporary Worship space (electricity, custodial, HVAC maintenance, insurance) and when considering adding these new operating costs while eliminating the weekly set up/tear down in the gym, the annual savings to the church operating budget is $25,000-$30,000. As a result of building the contemporary worship space St. Luke’s is actually saving money while also making the gymnasium available on weekends adding more than 100 days a year.


What is going to be the impact to the church from Pastor Bill’s planned retirement and in what ways will it affect the church’s ability to achieve the COMMIT objectives?

St. Luke’s is blessed to have a Bishop who allows Pastor Bill to serve here as long as he has.

The appointment of Pastor Bill Barnes as Pastor Jim Harnish’s replacement over 20-years ago is the traditional Methodist way.The Bishop makes appointments each May. Methodists across the nation experience a new pastor standing in the pulpit come July. Imagine how fortunate St. Luke’s is for having Pastor Bill for over two decades when that is atypical within Methodism. It is going to be difficult watching Pastor Bill follow God’s call in retirement knowing it means we will see less of him. However, what a blessing it is that he plans to retire in Central Florida.

The Bishop deeply cares about St. Luke’s and the impact it is having in growing disciples.

He is intentional in his appointments. Just witness Pastors Jenn, Jad, and Corey being appointed to help St. Luke’s thriving congregation through their amazing gifts. The opportunity to get to know Pastor Jenn over the past eight years and serving in a variety of roles is an experience not afforded many congregations. The Bishop has never let St. Luke’s down in our service to our brothers and sisters in Christ and there is no reason to believe he will do so now during this transition.

Pastor Jenn’s appointment as co-lead pastor demonstrates the Bishop’s confidence in her.

The Bishop sought out Pastor Jenn to plan and coordinate worship services for the last two annual conferences within the Florida Conference. The 4D planning process she led the congregation through is now a model other Methodist churches are adopting. The opportunity to get to know Pastor Jenn over these past eight years she has been at St. Luke’s is an experience not afforded many congregations.

Change is the only constant in life and in the Methodist Church.

Transitions between pastors every June offer new opportunity for Methodist congregations across the nation. Having a new senior pastor means God is moving among the congregation. Let’s prayerfully listen for His voice. St. Luke’s congregation is strong and growing. There is no reason to think it will stop attracting new disciples for Christ. Transitions like this often result in a change in membership; the Bishop indicated as much as 10%. For some change is very difficult to accept. Regardless whom the Bishop appoints into pastoral leadership some will be anxious. Faith is our rock. Change makes our faith in God stronger. Let us move forward confident in the knowledge that WE are St. Luke’s and WE are the church.


What is the impact to the original COMMIT goals of community transformation and facilities optimization due to the $10 million reduction in construction costs?

The original impact to serve more children and grow more disciples still remains and is unaffected by the reduction in construction costs because the changes do not directly affect those goals.

That is the beauty of what the Building Committee has done and is doing. They are ensuring our objectives are met for serving children (community transformation) and creating a safe and secure campus (facilities optimization). However, they still are able to reduce construction costs by affecting the method of construction and eliminating portions of the project such as the connection hall and administrative office expansion. In doing so they are creating new possibilities by creating space for smart classrooms with equipment that will allow St. Lukers to dig deeper into the Word while sharing our faith and gifts with more people around the world.

You are making it possible for today’s St. Lukers to leave a legacy that will serve families for decades.

The person who plants an acorn knows it is unlikely that he or she will ever enjoy the shade the mighty oak eventually produces. Likewise, today’s members who are building St. Luke’s are optimizing the facilities to reach beyond our congregation’s campus. With the worship space and technology improvements St. Luke’s will be in a position to grow disciples and build the Kingdom regardless whether a faithful disciple ever steps foot on our campus. Technology is making it possible that when a member moves to another community they are able to worship and grow with St. Luke’s ministries.


In what ways will Community Transformation, and specifically the East Winter Garden Initiative, serve St. Luke’s vision for the future of Central Florida?

God’s is calling St. Luke’s to impact more children’s lives and it is happening in East Winter Garden.

When St. Lukers dug into what it meant to impact children’s lives it became readily apparent that it means changing the lives of entire communities one family at a time. One cannot change a child’s life without changing that of his or her parents. That cannot happen unless the neighborhood where the family lives also transforms. For people living in crushing poverty where hope is in short supply, St. Luke’s is experiencing amazing results. Already, 60% of the families (Circle Leaders) in the Circles program are experiencing higher incomes, greater savings and less dependence on public support. Your pledge made that happen.

In order to change communities St. Luke’s has to change how it approaches its missions.

Thanks to the resources made possible from COMMIT pledges, St. Luke’s mission teams are at the forefront of ending long-term poverty in Central Florida. It obviously cannot happen overnight, but before it can be effective, St. Luke’s had to change its approach. Gone are the days when teams of well-meaning people swoop in and tell people living in poverty what they need or what they should do. St. Luke’s is being invited into neighborhoods where before anything is done, trust is built. Bringing together everyone interested in improving a neighborhood allows transferring of social capital – connections and networks. St. Luke’s may be an organizer, but it is the neighborhood leaders who are deciding what gets done and what kind of knowledge and relationships are necessary to accomplish it. Already we are showing other congregations within Central Florida and across the nation how to address four pillars of community success simultaneously – family stabilization, education, housing and economic development.

St. Luke’s is walking with people out of poverty by helping them to uncover gifts they possess as children of an awesome God.

Once brothers and sisters discover individual spiritual gifts, they can begin developing them. Ultimately, they see how to shape their future and begin to take steps to do so. In the process, St. Luke’s volunteers permanently change the amount of hope existing in peoples’ lives. What we learn in East Winter Garden is transferrable to any of the 100 distressed neighborhoods in Central Florida. In fact, documentation of our approach and successes and failures is already being used to help others learning how to become better helping people to uncover their gifts, develop those gifts and determine their own destiny instead of making them dependent on the church’s permanent presence. Eventually, St. Luke’s will no longer need to have a presence in East Winter Garden. However, it will always benefit from the relationships it builds and be able to rely on them to help other distressed neighborhoods become strong and independent.

Community Transformation

What are the goals for community transformation?

In 2013, St. Luke’s made a long-term commitment to walk alongside a specific neighborhood with the intent to reduce poverty in that geographic area.

  • The neighborhood that welcomed this partnership is East Winter Garden
  • The goals are to increase household income, improve school readiness, improve housing, and increase hope
  • Groundwork and research was done throughout 2013 and funding was allocated by the congregation in 2014


What is happening with our Community Transformation initiative?

Here are the highlights of the activities over the past 20 months:

  • West Orange Habitat for Humanity–Developed a joint proposal with West Orange Habitat to build 10 houses in East Winter Garden by 2018. St. Luke’s has made a commitment of $20,000 for each house for a total of $200,000. In addition, St. Luke’s is providing the construction management and the majority of the volunteers. Currently, there are two houses underway on Bethune Avenue.
  • East Winter Garden Community Development Corporation—St. Luke’s provided a small grant of $7,500 to do repairs on six houses owned by those who are elderly or disabled. In addition, we provided volunteers and supplies to paint two more houses.
  • St. Luke’s is the lead organization for Circles Orange County. Circles is a national model for family stabilization. This model matches volunteers from middle to upper middle income families with families who are living between 100% and 200% of the poverty level (which means for most of these families a dependency on public or private benefits). Through a process that involves intensive training for both the volunteers and families and structured weekly meetings, this program has been significantly effective nationally and now here locally. In the first six months, 60% of our Circles families had an increase in household income and 60% had a decrease in public benefits.
  • Maxey Elementary School—St. Luke’s has 12 weekly classroom volunteers at Maxey ES, provided backpacks for Back to School night for the past two years, helps with events, and provides gift cards and classroom supplies for all the teachers annually.
  • ArtWorks—This ministry has already been offering art in the Winter Garden community through the PAL summer camp, Lakeview Boys and Girls Club, and currently at the Boys and Girls Club that meets at the Magic Recreation Center. The Assets and Dreams project was on display at Winter Garden’s first annual Culture Arts Fest in November and for three weeks at the Winter Garden City Hall as well as at St. Luke’s. The MLK DREAM banner was part of the Winter Garden MLK festivities on January 17, 2015.
  • Volunteers and Events—St. Luke’s has provided volunteers for the Winter Garden Community Garden, both the Magic and Lakeview Boys and Girls Club, Kids’ Café, and several special events.

Is St.  Luke’s addressing a need in Winter Garden that the groups in Winter Garden working with people who are living in poverty are not addressing? If so are we working together  with  those  groups already established in Winter Garden who work with people who are living in poverty?

Yes. St. Luke’s is addressing needs through alternative models such as the Circles Campaign. These strategies complement what other organizations in Winter Garden offer.

Yes. St. Luke’s is partnering with a number of organizations in and around East Winter Garden that are also working to fight poverty. Some partners include but are not limited to: Habitat for Humanity, East Winter Garden Community Development Corporation, The Boys and Girls Club, The Magic Center, The City of Winter Garden, and The West Orange Church of Christ.

How is the Community Transformation money being used and how many people will be impacted?

As mentioned in an earlier answer, the work in East Winter Garden is an asset-based community development model. The talents, skills, and resources of the residents will be identified and celebrated. Our goal, as St. Luke’s is to help expand capacity of the individual, family or household, organizations, and ultimately the neighborhood as a whole. Unlike a traditional social service model, most of the money spent will be a catalyst for change rather than a one-time donation or grant. This will lead to long-term sustainability rather than a long-term dependency on outside resources (church, non-profit, or government).

Between 2014-2018 (a total of 5 years), $2,500,000 has been allocated for this Community Transformation Initiative in East Winter Garden.  In 2014, $236,000 of the original $470,000 that was released from the Commit Campaign for Community was spent.

Included in the $2.5 million are funds for 10 Habitat houses; education support and school readiness; Circles program focused on family stabilization and increasing household income; home repair; and neighborhood improvements.

There are 1601 people in the 1.07 square mile radius that has been identified as East Winter Garden. 334 0-14 years old

939 15-64 years old

329 65 and over

There are 524 separate households.

To learn more about opportunities to serve in East Winter Garden email St. Luke’s Serve Office.

New questions and answers will be added as they are received. If your question is not answered above please click here to email your inquiry. Anonymous questions may be left at the reception desk located in the office lobby (Building C). Please mark questions: ATTN: Transition Team and allow two business days for a response to be posted to this webpage.

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