Five Minutes with Jerome Nelson
Jerome Nelson is retiring as superintendent of the Central Conference where he has served since
2005. We talked to him about what he learned in that role and what’s next for him.
What path led you to become superintendent?
I had been a banker, and then in 1985 I planted a
church in Gary, Indiana, with another person. The following year we were adopted into the Covenant. I served the church as a bivocational pastor, working a couple other small jobs in small businesses to make ends meet.
I started working with the Central Conference in 1999, when I was hired as the director of the Church and Society Commission, which did a lot of social justice work. I was the first person they hired to do that type of work.
What has been the best part of the job for you?
Being present at celebrations—installations and anniversaries and such. My wife, Joanne, joins me when I travel. She made a commitment early on to share in the ministry with me in this way. Except for a period of time when her mother was ill and came to live with us, Joanne has been right there with me. She has probably gotten to know some of the people better than I have and has developed her own relationships through the years. She made being a superintendent easier.
What has been the most challenging?
The traveling is the most difficult. Some people like
to drive—get out on the open road. But that’s not me.
How has the role changed since you began?
When I started, the superintendent was considered the “pastor to the pastor.” As time went on the role expanded to become pastor to the congregations as well—working with churches on revitalization, conflict resolution, problems they were having. The workload increased as did the travel. I needed to be present with the congregations as they faced certain challenges. Adding the position of director of congregational vitality to our staff helped ease that workload.
How did your experience as a banker help in your
role as superintendent?
It gave me management skills and experience working with and developing leaders. I also learned organizational skills.
What’s next for you?
I felt called to the position of superintendent. Vision
has always been important as I served in this role.
Now as I retire, I tell people I’m going to live out my passion. Joanne and I have bought a house in Gary, Indiana. We sold our condo in Evanston, Illinois, and I am officially a Hoosier again. We have started a nonprofit corporation and are raising money to help
the people in Gary.
Is it true that you were on the Newlywed Game?
How did you do?
We should’ve won! We had rehearsed every question. Favorite colors and places—we had it down.
Is there anything else you would like add?
I have been grateful for the opportunity to serve. I tried to be faithful to the task and hope I have been so. I’m thankful to the Central Conference for being supportive and for working together with me.