Center for Vitality: new name, new staffing for CCLEL

The Rev. Dede Roberts, director of the Arkansas Conference Center for Clergy and Laity Excellence in Leadership (CCLEL), has announced a new name for the Center she leads. It will now be known as the Arkansas Conference Center for Vitality.

“With our Conference emphasis on creating vital congregations, we felt it was time to bring the Center’s name into alignment with our overall trajectory,” Roberts said. “Between now and Annual Conference, we will be rolling out a new ministry plan with a focus on Next Steps 1, 5,6,7 and 8 of the Bishop’s Mission Plan.”

The Next Steps related to the Center for Vitality’s new ministry plan are 1) Experience Spiritual Revival, 5) Look Like the Neighborhood, 6) Grow by “1” (at least one new adult profession of faith, at least one more person in worship, at least one additional small group and at least one more ministry that reaches into the mission field), 7) Unleash Lay Leadership in Ministry and 8) Grow Excellent and Passionate Clergy. For additional information on the Bishop’s Mission Plan, visit

Blake Bradford

Blake Bradford

The Center for Vitality shift will include staffing changes as well. Bishop Gary Mueller has appointed the Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford the Center’s assistant director for clergy development, effective July 1, 2015. The new position is focused specifically on Next Step 8 of the Bishop’s Mission Plan—honing the basic competencies clergy need to help churches become more vital and engage their mission fields in meaningful ways.

“Blake’s experience in pastoral leadership and administration, as well as his work on the Board of Ordained Ministry, make him uniquely qualified for this new position,” Roberts said.

Bradford’s work will focus on nurturing spiritual leaders in the areas of personal discipleship, preaching, evangelism, mission-field engagement, stewardship and equipping laity for ministry—all hallmarks of vital congregations as laid forth in the Mission Plan.

A Little Rock native, Bradford entered the life of the church as a young adult, and was baptized at Highland Valley UMC Little Rock while a college student. After graduating from Hendrix College in Conway, he studied in England at Oxford University’s Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. For his first Master’s degree, he studied Medieval and Reformation theology with a focus on sacramental theology at Vanderbilt University. He then earned his Master of Divinity degree at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

He also holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in parish leadership from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, where his doctoral project, “Passing the Mantle,” studied the use of peer group learning and continuing education in pastoral formation.

Bradford has served in churches and mission field contexts of different sizes. His most recent appointment has been as executive pastor of St. James UMC Little Rock, where he works with clergy, staff and lay leadership to align and coordinate the congregation’s ministries. He has spent several years on the executive committee of the Arkansas Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, organizing the new Residency Program for those seeking ordination, and on the faculty for the Arkansas Course of Study School. He and his wife, Kerri, have two children, Gabi and Micah.

Current assistant director the Rev. Dr. Candace Barron will be leaving the Center and returning to an appointment in a local church.

“Candace helped lay the foundation of work with small membership churches, and led us in developing resources for establishing small group ministries in churches of all sizes,” Roberts said. “I’m thankful for her service, and excited for the congregation that will benefit from her leadership.”

Another new position has been created in the Center for Vitality to focus on online learning and training for laity. For the job description and application information, see below.


Assistant Director of the Center for Vitality: Trainer

Purpose: Responsible for the design, coordination and presentation of training and development programs for creating vital congregations and unleashing lay leadership in the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The trainer will resource lay and clergy leaders to move forward in our trajectory of creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.


  • Conduct a training needs assessment to determine training objectives for creating vital congregations and unleashing lay leadership
  • Develop and distribute resources which aid congregations to “grow by one” in professions of faith, worship attendance, small groups for discipleship, and outreach ministries in the community
  • Assist with training models and curriculum to achieve objectives of the Circuit Elder Program
  • Lead and present training classes
  • Develop resources for online learning system
  • Continually monitor different training needs and models to keep training relevant and achieve objectives

Position Requirements:

  • High degree of Emotional Intelligence
  • Strong critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Demonstrated effectiveness as a teacher/trainer
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Experience with various types of media
  • Strong computer skills
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Working knowledge of online learning platforms

Minimum Education or Experience Requirements:

  • Disciple of Jesus Christ and committed to the church
  • Bachelor’s degree in Education, Human Resources, Organizational Development or similar field of study
  • Experience in Corporate Training role
  • Must provide training portfolio on request
  • Experience in developing and training in areas of leadership and/or leading corporate change
  • Working knowledge of United Methodist polity preferred

Compensation: Salary commensurate with experience: $30,000-45,000. Benefit package of up to $12,000 for insurance and pension.

The trainer will report to the Director of the Center for Vitality. Submit resumes to the Rev. Dede Roberts,