ACE^2: Academy of Clergy Excellence

Introducing ACE^2: The Academy of Clergy Excellence

ACE^2 is a two year self-selected peer group for clergy to bond together, learn together and dream together. Groups will design a custom plan to refresh self, church and community through sharing best practices, gaining new tools and exploring adaptive adventures for making new disciples. We invite participants to be part of a modern pilgrimage in order to experience the holy in themselves, their churches and community.

ACE2 Challenges Clergy to Bond, Learn, and Dream

"Bond, learn, and dream" was the mandate given to the participants of North Georgia’s Academy of Clergy Excellence, otherwise known as ACE2.  Thirteen groups, representing more than 80 clergy in the North Georgia Conference, will rally for two years around an essential question as the launch pad for their learning adventures. After an intensive orientation and planning retreat at Callaway Gardens in September 2018, ACE2 groups are embarking on their learning adventures near and far. 



ACE^2 Launches Clergy Peer Groups

This summer ACE^2 rallied more than 90 clergy in the North Georgia Annual Conference into 13 peer learning groups. When asked why this program generated such enthusiasm, participants said they were looking for: connection, lifelong learning, adventure, renewal, and a desire for God to do a new thing in me and my church.   



As an ACE^2 participant, what will I do?
Learning groups will meet at least four times a year for two years to focus on refreshing self, church and community. Participants will:

  • share best practices
  • gain new tools
  • explore adaptive adventures for making new disciples

What is ACE^2 not?
ACE^2 funds are limited to custom learning experiences designed by peer groups.  Prepackaged continuing education events are discouraged. Groups are encouraged to design their own unique continuing education experience.  While Pastor’s School and prepackaged conferences are beneficial, they will not be funded by ACE^2.

What was the application process?

  • Identify a group of 6-8 North Georgia United Methodist clergy to learn and grow with over a two year period.
  • Develop a general idea of what you would like to learn in your time together.
  • Submit your general application by September 20, 2019.
  • Approved applicants will be notified by October 1, 2019.  
  • Once approved, your group will participate in a two-day orientation retreat at Callaway Gardens November 4-6, 2019. At the retreat your group will meet with a coach to refine your group plan.
  • Groups will submit their continuing education plan no later than January 31, 2020.    
  • Groups will be required to attend a mid-point retreat.


Why does my group have to be 6-8?  
From experience, a group of 6-8 is an ideal size. It is small enough to feel like an intimate group and also practical enough to travel together. It is large enough to have variety and an engaging dynamic.

I want to participate, but I don’t have a group.
It is strongly encouraged that clergy self-select; however, for those without a group ACE^2 will help facilitate group formation by making available a list of interested clergy. Participants must commit to a group of 6-8 clergy in order to participate.

I have a group, but we do not have the required number of people to participate.
Groups that fall short of the 6-8 group requirement are still encouraged to submit an application. ACE^2 will supply a list of interested clergy to add to your group from a pool of pastors who do not have a group. ACE^2 will NOT assign people to groups. Groups must self-select. Groups who do not meet the minimum required number of participants will not be approved.  

What if my group drops below the minimum participant requirement during the course of the program?
We anticipate that most groups will lose a person over the course of time for a variety of reasons - change of appointment, change in family situation, over commitment, lack of commitment to peer learning. This is one reason we require groups to start with 6-8 participants.  

If someone drops out of the group, can someone new be added?
Once groups are approved and underway, new members are not recommended. This experience is centralized around group dynamics. Adding new members can be disruptive to the group.

Can I be in more than one group?
No. This is an immersive opportunity for you and your fellow group participants. Committing to more than one group would be an over commitment of time and resources.  

I am a provisional member, can I apply?  
No. The program is designed for full connection elders and deacons. Provisional members are already part of a peer learning group.

I am in school for a DMin or PhD degree, can I apply?  
No. Once your program is complete, you may participate in ACE^2. Committing to both would be an over commitment of time and resources.  


What am I supposed to study?
Your group of 6-8 clergy will determine what continuing education you need in order to refresh your self, church and community. In order to apply, your group needs to have a general idea of what you would like to learn together. A detailed plan is not required to apply. Groups are encouraged to dream and explore learning experiences beyond church. Examples include: learn a new skill, like fly fishing; interview athletic coaches; take an improv class; study hospitality at Disney; hire a professor. The options are limitless. The North Georgia Conference is investing this money in you to refresh your spirit, church and community. Make the most of the resources provided.

Is there a project due at the end of this?  
No. ACE^2 outcomes will look different for each group. There will be multiple opportunities for you to share about your unique learning experience.  

How does group learning work?  
Once approved, your group will attend a two-day orientation, whereby groups will devise a custom detailed learning plan. The plan will include at least four meetings in person per year, in addition to electronic communication throughout the program. A total of 14 days outside your local context: 12 learning days and two reflection days are expected.


Orientation - 2 day retreat with coaches developing a custom group plan

Formation  - Group meets to formalize their proposal

We suggest as a workable model of 14 days: 12 learning days outside your local context and 2 reflection days with your group. 

We recommend groups retreat together for several days at a time.

Example of schedule: Learning /Practice in context/ Reflection

Orientation retreat- September

Learning module (6 days)

Reflection module (1 day)

Learning module (6 days)

Reflection module (1 day)

What counts as a module and/or gathering four times a year?
We prefer each group to spend 3-6 days together per learning module.  Longer retreats together are preferred, but will depend on the group.

What is required of the reflection component?  
Learning modules inform, but process transforms.  While there are no specific outcomes or projects required for the group, times of reflection and reconnection will be included in the process.  

How do the groups work? Who is the leader?
Groups will be assigned a coach for the first year to help the group with its vision and leadership. Groups will need to coordinate roles within the group in order for the group to function smoothly. Roles might include: primary contact, treasurer, travel coordinator, videographer/photographer, etc. The negotiating of roles will vary for each group.

How does this affect my Sunday duties?
We often do not spend time worshiping and learning from other settings on Sunday mornings.  We recommend participants to have two continuing education Sundays, in addition to vacation Sundays.  We also highly recommend that the weekend after a module that the participant not have preaching duties.  

Will this satisfy my continuing education requirement for the conference?  
Yes. It will satisfy your credits for the years that you participate in this group.  



What does it cost to participate?
Approved ACE^2 participants are expected to commit $500 from their continuing education budget provided by their appointment during the two years of participation. Clergy, particularly extension ministers, who might not have access to these funds will be handled on an individual basis. 

How does the funding work?  
ACE will allocate funding for groups ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 per participant.  Groups that demonstrate diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, life stage, appointment context, as well as, theological diversity are encouraged.  Funding levels for each group will be communicated before the orientation retreat.

Who gets the money?
The North Georgia Conference will manage the funds.  Groups will be reimbursed for expenses as modules are completed.  More details about the distribution of funds will be shared during orientation.  

Who will keep track of the money?
It is recommended that the group appoint a treasurer to keep track of expenses and to communicate with the conference ACE^2 coordinator as needed regarding expenses.  

What if a person drops from the group?  
Contact the ACE^2 coordinator if this happens. That proportion will be deleted from the group's budget. If attrition puts a planned module in jeopardy, additional funds can be negotiated.

Can a group seek additional grant money outside of ACE^2 for their group?  

Additional questions?
Please contact the Conference ACE^2 Coordinator
Rev. Leigh Martin  

Important Dates for Current Groups

Orientation retreat- September 17-19, 2018

Year 1 plan due- October 2018

$500 participant fee for year 1 due- January 2019

Mid-point retreat- Atlanta area- October 2019

Year 2 plan due- January 2020

$500 participant fee for year 2 due- January 2020

End of ACE gathering- TBD

Funding ends December 31, 2020


2018-2020 ACE^2 Learning Groups

Border Walls and Bridges:  How do we prepare the table to be a place of welcome for everyone in order to have crucial conversations?                                                                                   Ash McEuen 
Joel Rodriguez
Juan Quintanilla 
Steve Alred 
Martha Dye 

Care Bears: How does caring for self, others and the world lead to transformation?
Brent Huckaby
Meg Morrison
Jennifer Hansen
Lindsay Geist
Andy Woodworth
Brian Funderburke

Conversations Along the Journey: How do we have civil conversations in a divided world?
Beth Shugart
Matt Murphy
Lori Osborn
Zack Martin
Byron Thomas
Max Vincent

Intellectually Curious, Socially Conscious & Holy: How do we embrace diversity and welcome the other into our midst? 
Tonya Lawrence 
Brian Tillman
Dana Everhart 
Nora Colmenares
Rodrigo Cruz 
Vance Ross
Joseph McBrayer

Intentional Pilgrims: How do we repurpose the ancient practice of spiritual disciplines in order to recognize the value in what is old and seasoned in our spiritual lives while enduring practices with new approaches?  
Kathie Statsko
Deborah Holloway
Liza Marler
Mark LaRocca Pitts
Cindy Conner
Dan Dixon

Job's Friends:  How do we share with other clergy the value of covenantal peer groups over the course of ministry?
Robert Brown 
Terry Walton
Rob Lanford Jr. 
Jody Alderman
Chuck Hodges 
Bob Winstead 

Parts Unknown: How do we make the unknown known to our churches as we seek to discover and participate in what the church may look like in the next 25 years?
Julie Schendel
Tara Paul
Shannon Karafanda
Heather Jallad
Matt Nelson
Owen Skinner
Eric Mays
Ted Rollins

Prayer and Place: How does one become a person of prayer, instead of a person who prays?
Jordan Thrasher 
Thomas Martin
Allen Johnson
Josh Amerson 
Katy Hinman
Emily Bagwell 
Blair Setnor

Purer Space: How do we create purer spaces in our lives together through authentic and trusting relationships?
Dane Wagner 
Mac Enfinger
Michele May
Debbie Carlton
Eddie Bradford

Rest and Renewal: How can I pour myself out, knowing I will be refilled?  
Leonard Akers
James Gwin
Travia Speer
Shelia Preacher
Chris Mullis

Serenity Sisters: How do we as female pastors integrate mind, body, spirit, and environment for the purpose of personal renewal and deepen our relationship with God and others?
Elaine Crawford 
Joyce Banks 
Heather Flaherty 
Elizabeth Ackerman 
Nancy Long 
Candy Thacker

Shema: Listen & Obey:  How do we listen to self, God and others?
Dana Ezell
Leslie Watkins
Melissa Sexton
Cassie Rapko 
Allyson Lawrence 
Kimberly Evans
Katie Mattox

Walking Women of the World: How do we strengthen our mind, body and spirit, recognizing the spirituality of our physical selves and walking into the authentic individuals God created us to be?
Millie Kim 
Pam McCurdy
Anika Jones
Nancy Johnson 
Cyndi McDonald
Karen Lyons
Terri Lemons