A new staffing model launched in The Michigan Conference one year ago. Ministry Shares help staff support churches in making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Director of Connectional Ministry
Regular readers of my monthly blogs will know that I often have a theme that is tool or project-oriented. This month is no different except the nature of the tools and project have little to do with workshops, yards, and gardens. Instead, the illustrations are focused explicitly on local congregations and the clergy and lay leadership that serve within them.
Key statements in our United Methodist Book of Discipline guide our conference staff, who serve local congregations in Michigan.
- “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (¶120).”
- “The local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs (¶201).”
- The purpose of the Annual Conference is to equip and connect the local congregations for ministry (¶601).
All the Conference directors and field staff provided summaries of their ministry activities to the recent meeting of the Conference Leadership Council. I want to highlight a few of the important details of how your Ministry Shares are at work in local congregations across the entire state.
Your conference ministry staff have been in more than 130 congregations and on all the districts. Each shares leadership for congregational resilience, starting new congregations and worship experiences, skills training, steps to improved congregational vibrancy, and leadership development. They have preached in worship, led trainings, offered professional insights, and pointed you toward excellent resources and additional training experiences.
Some of those specific interactions are noted as follows:
Six persons have been trained in helping individuals understand their personal multicultural competency. A partnership with the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church will allow us to share expertise across the North Central Jurisdiction of the UMC. The first specific groups to experience this multicultural competency inventory and follow up coaching will include the Central Bay District clergy, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the district superintendents, the directors, and all the conference staff, the conference and district lay leaders and the Conference Leadership Council. This list will expand in time as others accept the invitation. Brittney Stephen leads this ministry.
Paul Perez is in the process of producing Engage Training Days, either on location or via Zoom webinars. Additionally, he is assisting several leaders who are collaborating on a Global Water Summit that will take place in January 2020 at Cass Community Church.
Safe Gatherings Training and background checks of persons who are serving with children, youth, and vulnerable adults is now an on-line training and review process. Contact Kathy Pittenger for further details about this excellent resource and process. Kathy has done workshops and provided excellent tips and training for ministry with children.
Disaster Response and Recovery Training is in place and continues to expand across the conference, districts, and local congregations. Nancy Money can address your questions about this ministry.
Nancy Arnold, in addition to AC event planning, is coordinating contracts and details for nine other events. If your ministry area is planning a large event and needs some assistance in venue and services providers as well as a checklist of “what goes into making a large event a logistics success”, contact Nancy.
“Coaching for Clergy” is a goal designed to support for every pastoral transition and/or clergy or layperson entering the conference staff. Naomi Garcia is responsible for the training and recruitment of persons who will benefit from this ministry. The Board of Ordained Ministry is also committed to assisting with healthy and productive transitions through its “New Beginnings” process.
Lisa Batten has been steadily recruiting young adult leaders toward a stated goal of having “40 persons under the age of 40 in leadership across the conference.” She has also been instrumental in the training, and implementation of 20 Mission Interns, Freedom Schools involving 50 students each at two different locations facilitated by 12 servant leaders, along with a cohort of 19 persons exploring a call to ministry through our process titled “Encounter MICall.”
Gary Step and Laura Witkowski have been active in dozens of congregations and multiple districts as well as intentionally identifying and reviewing excellent resources to be posted to the web site for local congregations to access. Dirk Elliott has been assisting multiple congregation in vital mergers, “fresh expressions,” and new starts.
Sonya Luna organized and led the multi-year successful Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, which was held at Adrian College. Almost three dozen youth were in attendance. She shares many resources and is available to consult with congregations about immigration, ESL courses, and engaging the Hispanic/Latino population in your community.
Courage to Lead are upcoming three-day retreats Jennie Browne, the Director of Clergy Excellence, will be facilitating in addition to co-leading a workshop with Laura Witkowski on “understanding our own personalities and leadership.”
Mark Doyal, our Director of Communications, has been consistently generating excellent content and resources for our congregations. The Communications Website usage is over 10,000/month, 36% are return users which is an increase from 20% in earlier months. The Facebook page has seen a growth of 64%, moving from 16th to 12th as the most- read Facebook among the pages of all conferences in the United States.
Twitter has seen consistent increased growth and Vimeo had an historic third quarter with an all-time high in June of 13,000 video views. There are excellent materials in print and online for Annual Conference and district trainings. This summer we launched MI Faith, 25 local churches interacted with the HELP button, and 30 local congregations made direct requests for communications assistance.
Four buses loaded with a total of 165 youth traveled to Kansas City, for the quadrennial gathering of United Methodist youth. Bridget Nelson lead this entourage in addition to facilitating a Youth Worker Network and providing consultations to multiple local churches and pastors.
Behind the scenes, your Treasury Department steadily accounts for and processes the more than $15,000,000 of ministry resources local congregations provide. These resources help us accomplish all the above ministry and so much more nationally and globally.
Don Emmert and the Office of Human Resources, Health Care and Benefits, compassionately provide for retirement and medical benefits, in addition to being a guiding presence, in the moments of clergy family and conference lay employee vulnerability at times of death and disability.
As you may have noticed, there are several matters in the national and denominational news that I have not mentioned. They get ample content time in a wide variety of venues. I felt it was important to remind ourselves of our primary tasks — making disciples and transforming the world. Your conference staff focuses on equipping for that task and connecting these ministries so that we “accomplish immeasurably more together for the sake of Christ than we might ever be able to accomplish on our own (Ephesians 3:20).”
“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible) Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.