At the 4th quarter

The Rev. John Boley celebrates the work of the Conference Design Team.

REV. JOHN BOLEY
Clergy Assistant to the Bishop

Over the years we have all heard football and basketball coaches say something to the effect of – “it is my job to get the team well into the fourth quarter, and then it is up to them if they want to win.” 

There is something in this that reminds me of the work that the Design Team has done over the last three years. The Design Team has worked methodically and well to put together the Michigan Conference and get The United Methodist Church in Michigan to a place where it is more cohesive, more missional, and in a better position to help the local and connectional church make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Now it is up to United Methodists in all of the congregations, communities and connections of our great state of Michigan to take it from here – to continue great ministry already being done and to become even more effective and missional. 

I understand that there are limitations to this analogy. The Design Team isn’t getting us to the end of the game – it is getting us to the beginning of the new reality. But still, the Design Team is wrapping up its work and is disbanding as of this Annual Conference. And it has placed Michigan United Methodists in a better position than they were before – in accordance with the overwhelming desire of both annual conferences when they voted separately to come together into one Conference. 

In this two part blog, I want to highlight some of the major things the Design Team has accomplished to get Michigan United Methodism to the point where it can be more missional. These may seem like nothing more than structural shifts, yet they are critical shifts that are getting us to a better place: 

  1. One Michigan UMC and one Conference. The two conferences knew what they were doing when they separately approved each by about a 90% vote to form one Michigan Conference. We know intuitively that we are better off together than separate. We can speak with one voice, break down more barriers, and combine our strengths in a variety of justice and mercy ministries. The Conference Plan of Organization has streamlined the conference to be more efficient.
  2. Mission Alignment. The Michigan Conference has a new Vision Statement:  Christ Centered Mission and Ministry; Bold and Effective Leaders, and Vibrant Congregations. This Vision Statement is designed to state loudly and clearly that we need very vital congregations and very effective leaders, both clergy and laity. Business as usual is no longer possible. Comfortable complacency is no longer possible. The “holy rotary club” model is a thing of the past. The civil religion model is giving way to a new emerging church. It is the intent that Conference and District Leadership align in mission. With concerted and consistent efforts of leadership at every level, we can be in a better position to make disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world in the new emerging church. 
  3. Directors’ Table. The Design Team developed the concept of the Directors’ Table – meaning that all of the Directors of the Michigan Conference (Directors of 1- Connectional Ministry, 2- Clergy Excellence, 3- Congregational Vibrancy, 4- Communications, 5- Treasury and 6-) Benefits) would meet monthly with the Bishop and the Clergy Assistant and work together on conference, district and local church mission and ministry. That does not sound like a big deal, but it is. Too often in the past there has been too much silo-ing in both programmatic and administrative ministries, and much of it disconnected from the Bishop’s leadership. The Directors’ Table will go a long way toward consistency and efficiency in our collective ministry. This will be substantially aided by having all of the Directors in close proximity to each other and the Bishop in Lansing.  

There is plenty of belief that re-organizing structure is never a solution to big problems. Certainly this is mostly correct (“moving around chairs on the Titanic”).  But the Church of Jesus Christ is not the Titanic. And re-organization can instead be a constant effort at efficiency and adaptation. But it ultimately comes down to the passion for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Organization and structure cannot do that. But the Design Team has gotten us well into the 4th quarter – now it’s up to each one of us as disciples of Christ to see if we want to move ahead with more passion and compassion. 

Next month more on these different structural shifts – The Appointive Cabinet; Nine Districts; Staffing Models, and Communications.

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