JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Johns Creek United Methodist Church has a new minister of nurture, the Rev. Elizabeth Lobello.
Lobello said as a child, people want to imitate their parents. Her mother Peggy is a teacher, while her father Kevin is a Methodist minister. Although she never felt sacrificially called to the ministry, she always considered it in the realm of possibility.
She went to Young Harris College in 2000 to study biology. While there, she began feeling that God was calling her to the ministry. She switched her major to business, because she felt it would be useful with church administration. However, she struggled with this calling because of the sacrifices it would entail.
“Being a Methodist clergy isn’t the easiest thing in the world,” she said. “You move around every four years and usually have to deal with some difficult situations.”
She graduated from Young Harris in 2002 with an associate’s degree in business. After concluding God had not called her to the ministry, she transferred to the University of Georgia. She graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Still feeling conflicted, she applied for different jobs ranging from youth ministry to working in laboratories and sales.
She ended up working at the Bobby Dodd Institute, a nonprofit helping people with physical and developmental disabilities enter or re-enter the workforce. She taught classes in job skills, social skills and life experiences. She saw how passionate the people were at Bobby Dodd and wanted a job for which she could feel that kind of passion. Once more, she began feeling led to ordained ministry in the Methodist church. After a lot of prayer and conversation, she sensed the divine calling more fully.
In 2006, she entered the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. While there, she worked as a youth minister at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. She earned her Master of Divinity and was commissioned a provisional elder in the UMC in 2009.
Her first appointment was Douglasville First United Methodist Church, where she was an associate pastor in charge of youth. She preached a couple of times a month and led worship at both contemporary and traditional services. She taught youth and adult Bible studies, participated in mission work both locally and in Costa Rica and worked in general church administration.
Upon being ordained an elder in full connection in June, she was appointed minister of nurture at JCUMC. In this role, she oversees divorce care, support groups for depression, bipolar disorder and families who have lost children, as well as Financial Peace University. She also oversees the prayer ministry and the church’s Wednesday night programming, which is modeled after Acts 2:42’s depiction of the early church gathering for food, fellowship and religious instruction. She will also preach sometimes and lead Sunday School and Bible study.
Lobello officially began June 21. She said people in the church and the wider community have been wonderful and welcoming. She said she is excited to be part of the Johns Creek community and her door is always open to anyone in need of prayer or support.
Senior Pastor D.B. “Dee” Shelnutt has known Lobello her whole life — he has served in the same district as her father, and Lobello is friends with his daughter, Meredith. He said he wanted her to come to JCUMC because she is hard-working and easy to get along with. She is very vibrant, enthusiastic and lights up the room when she comes in, something the ministry of nurture needs.
“I heard that she was going to be ordained in June,” Shelnutt said. “Usually, but not always, when there’s an ordination, a person moves to a different position.”
Shelnutt asked the United Methodist Church district superintendant if Lobello could come to JCUMC. The bishop ultimately appointed her to the position.
Kevin Lobello, senior pastor at Griffin First United Methodist Church, said he was very proud of his daughter. Growing up, she had the temperament that would lend itself to ministry. He recalled her work in a genetics laboratory while an undergraduate and how, when he asked about her job, she was more interested in talking about the people she worked with than the scientific research done. This confirmed his earlier impression she was more interested in people’s lives than in science.
He said Johns Creek is a wonderful place to do ministry.