The Rev. John Boley describes changes that will enhance the life of the new Michigan Conference.
REV. JOHN BOLEY
Clergy Assistant to the Bishop
Jeremiah bought a field during the siege of Jerusalem as a powerful symbol of hope and restoration. The Michigan Conference came together as one and re-redistricted in the midst of uncertainties in the UMC as a confident witness to the ongoing mission of Making Disciples for Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.
Last month I offered some imagery: Football and basketball coaches stating something to the effect of – that it is their job to get the team into the 4th quarter, and then it’s up to the team to decide if it wants to win. This reminds me of the work of the Design Team – setting up new structure and systems to enhance ministry, but now it’s up to Michigan United Methodists to make it work.
Last month I offered examples of these changes that truly can make a difference in how we operate: One Michigan Conference, consistent mission alignment, and the Directors’ Table. Here are some more:
- One Appointive Cabinet. Over the last couple of years, the Appointive Cabinets of both conferences have been meeting together and doing appointment work together. Already it has resulted in a better appointment process, and it will improve from here. It is better because the pools are bigger – more wisdom, knowledge and experience among DS’s around the table, and a bigger pool of churches to match with a bigger pool of clergy availability. We have already made significant and good cross-conference appointments which would not have been considered in the past. In this process, consultation has increased. Better matches are more pervasive and will continue. This improvement due to coming together in the new Michigan Conference should not be underestimated.
- Nine Districts. There will be nine new Districts in the Michigan Conference, down from twelve. Much work has gone into this re-alignment seeking realistic geographic affinity for all congregations. The Districts will be larger than existing ones. The downside of this is that it will mean increased pressure on District Superintendents and offices. They will need to be more creative in the management of this, and work smarter, not harder. The upside of this is that it will give more strength of people and resources to the Districts. There is a proposed addition to the Plan of Organization providing a basic structure for all districts based on the governance model of a leadership team. And it is proposed that all Districts will have a Board of Missions as part of the Leadership Team that will manage and disburse invested funds. This consistent groundwork for more substantial districts will mean a greater focus on District mission and ministry. But even with this consistency, there is plenty of room for each District to tailor its mission and ministry to its context and be in partnership with local congregations.
- Communications: We are headed in the direction of having much more unified and streamlined communications. The web site is being updated to become a Content Management System and will be ready as of July 1st as a more dynamic and useable tool for everyone in the Michigan Conference. Email addresses have all become consistent for easy usability. Conference communications will be assisting all Districts and other ministries in use of the CMS and social media. We believe these changes will result in greater connectivity within the Conference, an essential in the changing world of the UMC.
- Forms: This year we will have a new set of forms for all congregations to use as we head into Church Conference season. These forms have become streamlined for greater efficiency and less bureaucracy. After training and a learning period, these more efficient consistent forms will relieve some burden on pastors and congregations.
- Staffing Model: The Design Team has finalized a staffing model of Directors, Associate Directors and Coordinators. Over the past six months, individuals have been appointed or hired for these positions. This staffing model has been carefully discerned to provide maximum contact with local churches to assist in their ministry.
The Design Team has worked hard to get the Michigan Conference into the 4th quarter – now it is up to passionate United Methodists to do the rest.