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.


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.  Prepacked continuing education events are discouraged. Groups are encouraged to design their own unique continuing education experience.  While Pastor’s School and pre-packaged conferences are beneficial, they will not be funded by ACE^2.

What was the application process in 2018?

  • 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 July 27, 2018.  
  • Approved applicants will be notified by August 10, 2018.  
  • Once approved, your group will participate in a two-day orientation retreat September 17-19 2018.  At the retreat your group will meet with a series of coaches to refine your group plan.
  • Groups will submit their continuing education plan no later than October 1, 2018.  
  • Groups will be required to attend a mid-point retreat in 2019.



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.
Anyone who is eligible to participate is encouraged to submit an application. 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, overcommitment, 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 an opportunity for groups to share with others about the 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.  Following learning modules, groups will be asked to individually and collectively reflect on:

  • What is the spirit saying to (you, your church, your community) right now?  
  • How is God making (you, your church, your community) new?
  • What does the church look like in the future?  What is my role in that?

How do the groups work? Who is the leader?
Groups will be assigned a coach for the first six months 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 worshipping 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. Participants will receive a designated grant amount per person per year for the duration of two years. In addition, personal funds may also be used as desired by participants.

How does the funding work?  
ACE^2 groups are funded based on the individuals included in the group composition. There will be added financial bonuses for groups that demonstrate diversity and include younger clergy. Diversity comes in many forms: race, ethnicity, gender, age, life stage, appointment context, as well as, theological diversity. Funding levels for each group will be communicated before the orientation retreat.

Explanation of grants

  • $500 per year from participant’s continuing education budget
  • $1,500-$3,000 per year is the standard ACE2 grant per participant
  • Funds will be awarded to groups based on diversity and the inclusion of younger clergy.  

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 ACE2 coordinator as needed regarding expenses.  

What if a person drops from the group?  
Contact the ACE2 coordinator if this happens. That proportion will be deleted from the grant. If attrition puts a planned module in jeopardy, additional funds can be negotiated.

Can a group seek additional grant money outside of ACE2 for their group?  

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

Current ACE^2 Groups

$500 Participant Fee due by January 31, 2019

Make checks payable to: 

The North Georgia Conference of the UMC

In the memo line mark it for "ACE." 

Mail checks to: 

Center for Clergy Excellence/ ACE

North Georgia Conference UMC

1700 Century Circle NE Ste 100

Atlanta, GA 30345   


If you want to pay online, please do so at:



2018-2020 ACE^2 Learning Groups

Care Bears 
Brent Huckaby
Meg Morrison
Jennifer Hansen
Lindsay Geist
Andy Woodworth
Brian Funderburke

Rest and Renewal
Leonard Akers
James Gwin
Travia Speer
Shelia Preacher
Chris Mullis

Purer Space 
Dane Wagner 
Mac Enfinger
Michele May
Debbie Carlton
Eddie Bradford

Job's Friends 
Robert Brown 
Terry Walton
Rob Lanford Jr. 
Jody Alderman
Chuck Hodges 
Bob Winstead 

Intentional Pilgrims
Kathie Statsko
Deborah Holloway
Liza Marler
Mark LaRocca Pitts
Cindy Conner
Dan Dixon

Prayer and Place 
Jordan Thrasher 
Thomas Martin
Allen Johnson
Josh Amerson 
Katy Hinman
Emily Bagwell 
Blair Setnor

Shema: Listen & Obey 
Dana Ezell
Leslie Watkins
Melissa Sexton
Cassie Rapko 
Carolyn Stephens
Allyson Lawrence 
Kimberly Evans
Katie Mattox

Parts Unknown
Julie Schendel
Tara Paul
Shannon Karafanda
Heather Jallad
Matt Nelson
Owen Skinner
Eric Mays
Ted Rollins

Border Walls and Bridges 
Ash McEuen 
Joel Rodriguez
Mike Broome
Juan Quintanilla 
Steve Alred 
Martha Dye 

Serenity Sisters 
Elaine Crawford 
Joyce Banks 
Heather Flaherty 
Elizabeth Ackerman 
Nancy Long 
Candy Thacker

Conversations Along the Journey
Beth Shugart
Matt Murphy
Lori Osborn
Zack Martin
Byron Thomas
Max Vincent

Walking Women of the World
Millie Kim 
Pam McCurdy
Anika Jones
Nancy Johnson 
Cyndi McDonald
Karen Lyons
Terri Lemons

Intellectually Curious, Socially Conscious & Holy
Tonya Lawrence 
Brian Tillman
Dana Everhart 
Nora Colmenares
Rodrigo Cruz 
Vance Ross
Joseph McBrayer