After 12 years overseeing 615 churches as Bishop of the Oklahoma Area, Bob Hayes is happy to be The Woodlands UMC’s Bishop-in-Residence, a position that allows him to continue in ministry while also leaving behind the administrative details and frantic pace of his former role.
“Just about every Sunday I was in two, three, or four different pulpits,” he says. “You never could really stay in one place too long. This job is a lot slower than that one, but it’s still ministry. I think the stress and the pressure have diminished substantially and I can now enjoy and treasure these moments that I have here with folks without having to be worried about the next stop.”
Indeed, while Bishop Hayes will preach occasionally in The Woodlands UMC services, his main desire is to get involved in the church community and to mentor and be a chaplain to the church’s staff — especially the newer ministers who are still in seminary or have recently completed their studies.
“I hope that I can use some of the things that I’ve learned in ministry to help other people,” he says. “This is a staff of several ministers, but who ministers to them? When you’re in a church this size and you’re new, sometimes you can get lost among the trees. It’s important for them to know they’re significant and that their ministry, their role, is important.”
As someone who comes from a family of ministers and has had his own 40-plus years of ministry, Bishop Hayes is uniquely equipped to advise The Woodlands UMC’s pastors. He has witnessed first-hand as the United Methodist Church experienced radical changes, from its formation in 1968 and the struggle to integrate black and white churches all the way to how technology has changed the worship experience itself.
“I’m privileged to have spent a generation or two of seeing ministry, and I marvel now because when people show up, they don’t carry a Bible,” he says. “They open up their iPad, bring their iPhone and read the scripture on the screen.”
Through all of this evolution, there is one key element that he says has stayed the same and that he would want to emphasize to every minister.
“At the end of the day, I don’t care how much technology you have,” he says. “It’s still going to come down to being relational. It’s about people, it’s about knowing that you and I are human beings and we are made in the image of God and we need to identify with each other. We need to love one another.”
Bishop Hayes is married to Delilah (Dee) and has three adult children — Joya, Robert III and Ryan — and two grandchildren.