Deacon Studies Program Is Life Changing for Student


merit wolfMeet Merit Wolff, Director of Connecting Ministries at Biltmore United Methodist Church in Asheville, North Carolina. “This program is life-changing,” said Merit Wolff. Wolff has worn many hats, including working in management in a variety of settings, retail, corporate trainer, weight-loss industry representative, elementary school computer teacher and stay-at-home mom. She feels God has called her to help people, encourage people and to help them find their passions and serve the body of Christ. “If it will always be in a church I am unsure,” Wolff said. “Church is hard, but I’ve always liked the challenge.” Wolff graduated in August with a Master of Arts degree in Practical Theology from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. Wolff also received the “2014 Outstanding Graduate” awarded by the faculty. Pfeiffer also offers the Center for Deacon Education, a program partnership with Wesley Theological Seminary since 2006. Wolff has been working at her church for almost a year, in her first real ministry job. “For me, it’s the community that’s built with your classmates, people in the program with you,” Wolff said, talking about her fulfilling experience at Pfeiffer. “They are lifelong friends now. We often connect, brainstorm, share ideas and cry ‘What have I gotten myself into?’.” Wolff, who hadn’t been in school for 26 years, found going back a challenge. However, the professors she worked with really helped make the program manageable for adults who have jobs, families and lives. “The coursework was challenging but I rarely felt it was unreasonable,” Wolff said. “Sometimes I had to go away from my family to get papers written; it was challenging but I had so much support and understanding.” The best thing the joint program with Wesley Theological Seminary offers its students is the ability to complete the program on weekends, according to Wolff. All of her classes were at night and on the weekends, allowing for the ability to accomplish a goal of a second career. “Any other way I couldn’t have done it, with a full-time job and two kids,” she added. Center for Deacon Education’s graduates are people who want to make a difference in the church, community and world. “We are a group passionate about sharing the love of Christ with the world,” Wolff said. Wolff cited advisor, the Rev. Kathleen Kilbourne, director of the Master of Arts in Practical Theology and the Center for Deacon Education at Pfeiffer University. Kilbourne is the person who made the center happen with Wesley. The center now attracts people from across the country. “I loved our theological classes and understandings we gained and developed,” Wolff said. “The diversity of classes offered really kept you thinking and fresh with new ideas.” Wolff personally sees her role in her community, church and the world as encourager. “I enjoy helping people find direction and pushing them in that direction,” she said. “God created us all uniquely and we are all part of the body of Christ, we have to do our part or else the body won’t function properly.” The Center for Deacon Education has been a huge resource for Wolff since she graduated. It houses a community she can pull from, depend on and touch base with. Ideas are discussed and struggles are worked through. Being embedded in the center’s unique community was all about being connected for Wolff. “You come to understand the connection and how we are one part of the Body of Christ and how we need to work together to make changes and the Gospel,” Wolff added. Seated in the nation's capital, centered in Christian faith, Wesley Theological Seminary prepares more than 700 students annually, representing more than 30 denominations, to become exemplary teachers, preachers and leaders in the world today. Visit Wesley at Established in 1885, Pfeiffer University is a globally engaged, regional university distinctive for its transformational undergraduate experiences and leadership in professional and graduate programs that fill demonstrated needs on its campuses in Charlotte, Misenheimer and Raleigh, and online. Vested in its history as a United Methodist-related university and propelled by an innovative faculty and staff, Pfeiffer prepares its students for a lifetime of achievement, scholarship, spirituality and service. Visit Pfeiffer at

Resources for Vital Congregations



Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor

GBHEM Leadership Resources


Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church

Englewood Book Review

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Ted Talks: The Golden Circle

Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability

Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability

Design Thinking

Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians


Be A Disciple

A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network

Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations


Living As United Methodist Christians

Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials

Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today

John Wesley Sermons: Anthology


Get Their Name

Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit

Canoeing the Mountains

Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People

Community: The Structure of Belonging


Institute for Emerging Issues

Congregations 4 Children


The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants

The Duke Endowment


The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:

  • Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
  • Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.

We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at


  • Resources
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