SUN CITY CENTER — It takes more than good preaching at the pulpit for a church minister to impact a community. It takes strong leadership.
The Rev. Warren Langer, 65, who departed the United Methodist Church of Sun City Center on Sunday, exhibited both during his 11-year tenure.
“What impresses me most, in addition to being super at the pulpit, is that he's a great business person,” said church member Connie Lesko. “He hires quality people and then allows them to do their jobs. That's important to me.”
During Langer's tenure as pastor, membership grew from 450 to 1,200 attendees during the winter months. The church opened the Community Wellness Center, which offers services by a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselors and social workers. And church members have coordinated mission teams to Uganda, Cuba and Peru.
But it's the growth of ministry to the Hispanic community — particularly to children in southeast Hillsborough County — of which Langer is proudest and Lesko is most impressed.
“Who would think, in the middle of a retirement community, that we would have a thriving children's program?” Lesko said. “With God, and good leadership, anything is possible.”
Through his years of ministering, the Methodist Church has moved Langer around to various assignments.
“I was a trouble-shooter,” said Langer. “They would send me into declining churches to help build them back up.”
Although the Methodist Church allows pastors to work until age 70, Langer looks forward to giving more time to assisting individuals as a health coach.
“I've reached the age to let younger ones come on board,” he said. “My wife is excited. She has 32 years of a 'honey-do' list for me.”
Langer and his wife have three grown children and five grandchildren.
During his final sermon, Langer provided an analogy between himself and Moses.
“When Moses lifted his people up to the promised land, he didn't go with them,” said Langer. “As with me, I won't be part of the church moving forward but (you) have a great future.”
Lesko and her husband have been members of SCC church for seven years and feel good about the church's future.
“Change can be challenging and scary,” said Lesko. “We will miss him (Langer), but we will be fine. He has put an incredible staff in place.
As of press time, Langer's replacement had not been announced.
Elaine Speer is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.