National ministry strategy will bring needed focus
By Connie Faber
Don Morris, pictured left,USMB interim executive director, describes the 2016 National Convention as an historic event. Why? Because this occasion will initiate a fresh season of ministry—a new future—for U.S. Mennonite Brethren congregations and the national conference.
“The 2016 National Convention will mark the starting point of this new Future Story,” says Morris. “I believe we can be completely confident that God has placed his blessing on this new vision. This new vision is designed to give us a new focus for the next 10 years or so. There are significant changes involved in this compared to how we have been doing things. I think it reflects what our churches are wanting and needing.”
The details of this new national ministry strategy have not been made public—that will happen July 29-30 during the National Convention held in Denver, Colo. But each local USMB church will receive a one-page summary of the national ministry strategy by July 1.
Core commitments foundation of Future Story
The summary highlights three core commitments on which the Future Story is based:
- local, national and global church multiplication/church planting/evangelism,
- intentional disciple-making and
- developing leaders.
A key element of the new national strategy will be encouraging churches to network with one another in efforts around one or more of the core commitments.
When asked earlier this month why he is excited about the Future Story, Leadership Board vice chair Marv Schellenberg says it’s the togetherness that will come with this strategy.
“Everyone will be working together,” says Schellenberg. “The local churches and our agencies will be working with our three core commitments. We’ll be more focused and when you are focused there is synergy and synergy brings collaboration. That’s what working together is all about.”
Steve Schroeder, Leadership Board chair, agrees and adds that the Leadership Board will have better clarity as to their role.
“We won’t be providing services to churches but rather brokering resources, says Schroeder. “That will help the Leadership Board streamline the decisions we make and focuses our vision.”
Networking key to new strategy
Schroeder goes on to say he is excited that the new strategy will encourage and enable pastors to network with USMB pastors across the country. “Pastors will collaborate beyond their districts,” he says. “The current structure isn’t designed for this.”
Schroeder adds, “The theory is—and I think that it will work—that when we eliminate layers of organizational bureaucracy, people will be free to dream and implement things we aren’t currently seeing in our districts. It will free up grass root movements around shared ministries.”
The Future Story will be introduced during the first of two business sessions Saturday and time will be given during both of the workshop sessions that afternoon for delegates to discuss the new vision for ministry with Leadership Board executive members.
The full eight-page Future Story will be available at the convention. Morris emphasizes that this document represents a “fluid” picture that will involve transitional steps.
Schroeder says the Future Story is not a “big splashy program” but reflects a discernment that it is time to move in a new direction. He talks about a large ship making a five-degree turn. “You hardly notice the turn, but over time you end up at a different place,” says Schroeder.
Schellenberg agrees, adding, “This will change the direction we are headed.”
The Future Story is the outcome of a two-year process guided by consultant George Bullard. Bullard led two working retreats in the fall of 2014 that were attended by about 40 individuals. He also gave oversight to the writing team and strategic thinking group that worked at refining the vision outlined by retreat participants. The USMB district ministers were involved in the final revisions to the Future Story document that will be distributed at the convention.
“We listened to lots of people,” says Schroeder. “This represents lots of wisdom.”
Schellenberg adds, “This was driven by our churches and our leaders. The Leadership Board kept out of this. It was led by our district ministers and local church leaders — they had huge input.”
To learn more about the National Convention or to register for the event, visit www.usmb.org. Early registration will close July 1; the cutoff date for hotel registration is July 11.