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Profile in leadership

Rev. Cathy Pittenger with young people of Waterford Central UMC

The Michigan Conference is served by three coordinators of age-level ministries. Meet Kathy Pittenger, the new Coordinator of Children’s Initiatives.

In July 2018, the Rev. Kathy Pittenger began a brand new leadership role on the Michigan Conference staff.

As Coordinator of Children’s Initiatives, Kathy serves out of the Office of Connectional Ministries under the supervision of the Rev. Benton Heisler. Kathy can be reached at [email protected].

In this next feature in our Profile in Leadership series, we learn more about the role and the person helping to call and equip young disciples of Jesus Christ. Meet the Rev. Kathy Pittenger, in her own words …  

Please share a little personal background. 

Rich and Kathy Pittenger and their children Micah and Elijah
Kathy and Rich Pittenger married in 2004. They have two boys, Elijah (age 10) and Micah (age 5). Two cats, Shadow and Solo, are also part of the family. ~ photo courtesy Kathy Pittenger

I grew up in small communities south of Rochester, New York with my mom and dad, younger brother, Dan, and younger sister, Kellianne. As a small child, my family attended the same church as my two great-grandparents and four grandparents (and many other extended family members). My grandparents were instrumental in my childhood, especially in my faith formation.

Many of my childhood memories and values were formed at Rush United Methodist Church. My dad worked at Kodak and after my youngest sibling started school, my mom worked as the Administrative Assistant at our church. My siblings and I spent many hours there! When I was in elementary school the church hired Barbara Bruce as the Christian Education Director. Barbara is a well-known author and speaker in Christian Education circles and was a positive influence and encourager in my call into faith formation and children’s ministries. I was also blessed to have the same Sunday School teacher from the third grade until I graduated from high school. Cindy Gray was creative, relevant, a great teacher and mentor. My parents, extended family, and church family emphasized education, positive character traits, integrity, and a strong faith in God.

I attended Malone College in Canton, Ohio and earned my Bachelor of Arts in Educational Ministries. Then earned my Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Christian Education from Asbury Theological Seminary.

My husband, Rich and I were married in 2004. We have two boys, Elijah (age 10) and Micah (age 5) and two cats, Shadow and Solo.

Where have you served and what are some lessons of leadership you learned along the way?

While in college I served in two internships, one at Church of the Savior United Methodist and the other at Church of the Lakes United Methodist. My mentor, Rev. Janet Zimmerman, is an ordained Deacon who supported me through the ordination process. After graduating from seminary, I started as a direct lay hire at Waterford: Central United Methodist Church. After being commissioned as a Deacon in 2008, I was appointed there and served at Waterford CUMC for 12 years. My ministry role at CUMC was focused mainly on children and family ministry and lifelong faith formation.

Serving in leadership in the local church has many responsibilities, blessings, and challenges. Much of my leadership in the church was empowering and encouraging others to be in leadership – whether that be with children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, during Vacation Bible School, as mentors for confirmation, during special family events, or with parents for faith formation at home. I have learned about the importance of building relationships first. Another important aspect of the ministry at CUMC was building relationships in the community, and I focused on creating a partnership with a local elementary school. It was important, rewarding, and long-term work.

Please describe your role on the Conference staff and your vision for Children’s Initiatives.

I am the Children’s Initiatives Coordinator for the Michigan Conference. I understand my role on staff as one who encourages, empowers, equips, educates, walks with, and curates resources for children’s ministry leaders, clergy, and churches.

The vision of the Michigan Conference is to equip and connect churches through Christ-centered mission and ministry, bold and effective leaders, and vibrant congregations. Ministry with children fits into each of these areas. We minister to children in our churches, communities, and world. Leadership development of both children and adults who lead them is significant to Children’s Ministry. Vibrant congregations include vibrant ministry with children (with a few or many children and families, in the church and in the community).

Michigan participants in the CEF Conference in Des Moines, IA
Thirteen leaders from Michigan were among the 250 educators who attended the CEF Curious Church conference held in Des Moines, IA in October 2018. The Michigan group was led by Rev. Kathy Pittenger.  ~ photo courtesy Kathy Pittenger

What ministries will you nurture and what issues will you address in 2019?

In 2019 I plan to focus on leadership development (mainly geared for those who work with children’s ministry), curating and developing resources (Michigan Conference Children’s Ministry Facebook group and the Children’s Ministry pages on michiganumc.org), and continuing to partner with local churches in areas of children’s ministry, intergenerational ministry, discipleship pathways, and protection policy.

What is it that nurtures, guides, and excites you in your work?

I love when children discover something new and the way it makes their face light up, especially when it is in relationship to Jesus and faith. I love asking questions, thinking outside the box, looking at a challenge from several different perspectives, and being creative. I love encouraging people and being a cheerleader for Children’s Ministry Champions. I am excited for the opportunities to encourage, equip, and be a resource for the leaders who are planting seeds and making a difference in the lives of children in their churches, communities, and world.

What are the challenges you face in your ministry?

I hear questions like: “How does the church respond to soccer, hockey, dance, etc. that have taken over Sunday mornings?” and “How can the church reach out to young families that don’t come to church?” and “How do we build meaningful intergenerational relationships?” and “What is the best place for children to be when they do come to church – worship or Sunday School/Junior Church/Children’s Church?” While I may not be able to solve or fully answer these questions (and the many more like them), I hope to start and continue conversations that address them openly. I hope to connect people with others who are asking similar questions and with those who have best practices for addressing them, and creating and curating relevant resources.

Where do you see God working in The Michigan Conference and The United Methodist Church?

I spent the first five months as the Children’s Initiatives Coordinator listening to the stories, needs, and dreams of children’s ministry leaders and church leaders and I am so encouraged. God is working among us in incredible ways! From the creative ways that churches are using the “Prayground” or “Grace Space” in their worship spaces to the ways that churches are reaching out into the community by building relationships with elementary schools, preschools, and community organizations. We try to celebrate at least one church doing creative, meaningful ministry with children each week on the Michigan Conference Children’s Ministry Facebook page. I also see God working in The United Methodist Church, especially through mission and advocacy, addressing childhood poverty and literacy, and global initiatives.

Last Updated on November 1, 2023

The Michigan Conference