Churches in the Missouri Conference now have some more help as they look for ways to connect to their communities. Rev. Lia McIntosh has been named the Missional Strategist for the Missouri Conference.
The job combines two centers – the Center for Congregational Excellence and the office of Mission, Service and Justice Ministries. For Congregational Excellence, she will be working with new church plants and church revitalizations, coaching and teaching. For MSJ she will be focused on social justice, churches in areas of poverty and urban issues. It is expected that often
both areas will intersect.
“We’re very excited to have Lia’s coaching and organizing skills in the area of Congregational Excellence,” said Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase. “Those gifts, along with her passion for social justice, will help us more strategically and intentionally consider how we serve economically challenged areas in our conference.”
McIntosh grew up in North County in St. Louis, not far from Ferguson. She attended the University of Missouri-Columbia for a Bachelor’s degree in business, and then earned her MBA at the University of Missouri St. Louis. She worked for 12 years in marketing with Procter and Gamble, primarily working in the area of pharmaceuticals.
She married Kevin 18 years ago and moved to his home area of south Kansas City. She had grown up in the Lutheran church, and had not been around women in church leadership. That changed when she became part of her husband’s church, St. James UMC. There she became acquainted with and inspired by strong African American women who were pastors, like Rev. Londia Granger Wright and Rev. Yolanda Villa.
“There’s a history of women answering their call to ministry at St. James,” McIntosh said. “I discerned my call in a Disciple Bible study there.”
She attended Saint Paul School of Theology, and was appointed pastor to Meadowbrook UMC in Gladstone while in seminary. While still a seminary student, she heard a presentation from Bob Farr, Missouri Director of Congregational Excellence, in which he talked about the potential of becoming a church planter.
“That really spoke to my desire to reach new people for Christ,” she said.
Her first full-time appointment was planting Renaissance, in an economically challenged area in South Kansas City. There she was involved in social justice issues, including voter registration and payday loans. After a few years the church became part of a two-point charge with St. Luke, and McIntosh was tasked with pastoring a new, younger, African American congregation and a 50-year-old church of older, primarily white people. The churches worked together with regular shared worship services and shared holiday events.
In 2015, McIntosh followed her call to be immersed in social justice, and requested an appointment to extension ministry to be part of Communities Creating Opportunity in Kansas City.
“My role with social justice related to how we bring people together to transform the world,” McIntosh said. With that organization she served as an advocate at the state capitol, working on issues such as minimum wage, early childhood education and the unionization of fast food workers.
“I believe the church is called to be a mediating institution in a community. It should serve as a bridge between where we are today, and where we are called to be,” McIntosh said. “As people of faith we’re comfortable doing charity work, but community organization is about creating a systematic change.”
McIntosh believes that when the government, business and public sector (including churches) come together, the strength of a community is maximized. When she talks about community organizing, she is primarily focused on four areas.