In 2014, Mennonite Brethren in the U.S. pulled together a group of more than 40 representative leaders, meeting two separate times in two locations, Kansas City and Phoenix, for two days in each location for prayer and extensive dialogue around a new preferred future for USMB. The “future story” that developed from these vision-setting gatherings was ultimately shaped into a focus on networking and for enhancing the ministry of each local MB church. This vision was affirmed at the July 2016 USMB convention in Denver.
“Empowering each local church to reach their full ministry potential” served as the new motivating vision and theme for USMB. That continues to be what we strive to help accomplish through various initiatives, messaging, encouragement and coming alongside our more than 200 local MB churches across the country.
This theme and vision spoke powerfully about encouraging and supporting each local church to truly consider its God-given ministry potential. The community concept also spoke about an approach that didn’t involve churches functioning alone, but collaboratively through networks of churches that sought to develop a synergy of their efforts, producing greater kingdom impact than were possible by churches acting alone. Our USMB tagline emerged from this core concept: Increasing Impact: Together!
Many networks have already developed, and more are developing as pastors and leaders assemble through LEAD Cohorts and onsite local gatherings to discuss how they can have greater impact together. LEAD One events have also aided in this regard. LEAD Pods bring us together through online episodes with Mennonite Brethren sharing with other Mennonite Brethren pertaining to key ideas and specific issues. Additionally, emerging “organic” connections provide MB leaders with places for encouraging one another with fresh ideas and sharing of burdens.
The focus in 2016 on the three core commitments of 1) local, national and global church multiplication/evangelism, 2) intentional disciple-making and 3) leadership development continues today. To this end, there are some new things that USMB hopes to implement soon to help augment this mission and vision over the next several years. Be watching for ways in which we can increase our capacity for the three core commitments. These are crucial ingredients as we maintain a passion for reaching people who don’t yet know Jesus and for assisting them in becoming his devoted followers.
Four principles guiding this spiritual and strategic journey from day one were:
- our evangelical and Anabaptist distinctives,
- a commitment to inclusion of the full diversity of congregations,
- the alignment of resources and structures for enhancing networking and
- the measurement standard of whether or not all actions help local churches reach their full ministry potential.
We still have a ways to go, but we’re dedicated to these same principles now and for the future.
Another desired impact of this determined vision was to eliminate organizational silos and to intentionally collaborate to serve the local church. To accomplish this, not only USMB but districts, agencies, schools and other various partners would all use this same strategic framework that encourages innovative processes and networks of churches. Silos are still present, but they have leveled off considerably over the past five years.
A National Strategy Team [NST] was called together to focus on strategic leadership issues to fulfill the future story including the vision, core commitments and providing empowering collaboration for forward progress. The NST has played a substantial role in the fulfillment of this vision. It was conceived from the beginning to not only be a group who simply shared information but also a guiding coalition that sought to invest in the fervency of our MB family, initiating and generating action to fulfill the mission and advance the three core commitments while collaborating in every possible way.
We have five years of this new vision under our belt. We’ve gained much and we have much yet to do.
Don Morris is the USMB national director. He and his wife, Janna, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they attend Cross Timbers Church.