Reverend David Ledford, III, pastor at Vincentown United Methodist Church, invites free expression in everything he does. “Christian learning that’s fun equals a life transforming,” he said in a recent interview.
Ledford and his church tucked in an historic, agrarian village within the Burlington County township of Southampton is committed to fostering a Christian education that is inclusive and makes learning both challenging and fun. Their original sanctuary built in 1853 still stands as does their strong sense of community and investment in learning.
Born out of a confirmation class started in December 2018, a new junior youth group for ages seven through 13 began in July 2019.
“Our students didn’t want to lose the connection they built. We like to think of it as a VBS [Vacation Bible School] that never ends,” said Ledford who has been the church’s pastor for four years.
The New Jersey native originally from Bound Brook likes to instill connection. When the confirmation classes began last December, one of the first things the group did was build a covenant where no one was judged and where everyone felt comfortable expressing themselves.
From December 27 until June 9 the confirmation class met every Thursday night. Each class began with 30 minutes of worship in which the eight confirmation students (and many of their parents who wanted to stay and learn as well) were taught about what each ingredient of a worship service is all about.
“We discussed many worship topics; traditional worship, contemporary worship, special worship services for holidays and UMC Special Sundays and the Sacraments,” said Ledford.
After each lesson the children had the opportunity to act it out themselves. The worship was followed by 30-minute lesson topics ranging from the Old and New Testaments to the church history, United Methodist history, United Methodist doctrine and polity and United Methodist theology and beliefs.
By the end the confirmation class, the students were required to complete a ministry project that reflected their own talents as well as the needs of the church, the community and the world around them.
One student who was clearly paying attention was 11-year-old Kathrine, who has recently expressed an interest in becoming a pastor. Following the classes, Kathrine preached the Pentecost sermon on Confirmation Sunday.
“She did an awesome job. Her bedroom is now her church office,” said Ledford, who encourages flexibility and autonomy with the hopes of instilling confidence, courage and authority.
The other students also latched onto his passion to be good disciples as well. Jenny helps him lead sessions in Vacation Bible School; Hunter has used her artistic skills to create bookmarks for the pew Bibles; Ava is channeling her love of animals to start a food pantry for pets; Mark is collecting necessary personal items for the homeless; Emma is embracing the church’s rich history by creating a “Pastor Wall” that will display the pictures of all of the pastors who have served this church; Angelica is helping to bolster the church’s social media presence by creating and maintaining a new Instagram page; and Lawrence has created a new mailbox and is contributing to the new Junior Youth Group.
“I am so proud of these eight students who have found how God made them unique and special and then used those things to improve the ministries of this church.”
“I am extremely proud of how diverse these projects are: missional, reaching out to the world while also caring for those who come here, connectional, artistic, compassionate, hopeful and bold. All of this when put together taught our young disciples of Christ that church membership is more than church attendance. It requires action, it is social justice, and it is a commitment that should not be taken lightly.”
Vincentown UMC also offers several bible studies programs, women’s circles, a choir, men’s group and a food pantry on the first Saturday of every month.
Ledford’s passion for teaching inspired him to pursue and earn an associate degree in Teaching (Raritan Valley Community College, 2008), a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education (Kean University, 2010) and a Master of Divinity from Drew Theological School (2014). Prior to coming to Vincentown, he served churches in Berkeley Heights, Warren and Phillipsburg.
For more information, please visit www.vincentownumc.org