Forum encourages USMB ministries


MB Foundation hosts forum emphasizing being "mission-true"

MB Foundation news storyForum table groups

Representatives from nine Mennonite Brethren ministries gathered Dec. 13, 2016, in Denver, Colorado, for Mission Drift Forum. MB Foundation called and hosted the forum and invited five national ministries—Fresno Pacific University, MB Foundation, MB Mission, Tabor College and the U.S. Conference (USMB)—along with the five USMB district conferences to send at least three leaders each for the daylong event.  MB Foundation covered the expense of food and lodging for attendees. All but the LAMB District were represented, with a total of 26 people attending.

The idea for the forum grew out of the MB Foundation Board of Directors’ review of the book, Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches.  The board encouraged the staff to bring the Mission Drift topic to denominational leaders and agencies.  According to the authors, mission-true organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs.  They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do.  The purpose of the forum was to encourage Mennonite Brethren agencies to remain “mission true” and to urge them to establish guardrails to prevent drift.

Mission Drift authors note that without careful attention, faith-based organizations drift from their founding mission. This drift off course often happens in small and subtle ways. Left unchecked, it eventually becomes significant. 

Forum speakerChris Horst, (pictured left) who co-authored Mission Drift with Peter Greer, facilitated the morning discussion. Horst, who lives in Denver, is the director of HOPE International, a global nonprofit focused on addressing physical and spiritual poverty through microfinance. He is an author, published regularly in Christianity Today.

Horst provided clarity on the material contained in the book. He shared ideas and facilitated challenging conversation between representatives of the different agencies present. 

He relayed many nuggets: “Change does not equal drift.” “Success does not equal survival.” “What our culture doesn’t want is to be tricked. Our ministries should be radically different from our culture.”

Special guest Larry Nikkel, former chair of the USMB Board of Faith and Life, facilitated roundtable discussions in the afternoon to help agencies diagnose their present realities and identify guardrails to protect against drift. 

“I appreciated the opportunity to gather with other MB leaders and discuss important issues concerning our conference,” says Pat Coyle, chair of the Pacific District Conference, in an email interview after the forum. “I came away encouraged that we have a strong commitment to the gospel as well as keeping the goal of reaching people for Christ always before us.  My prayer is that as we continue these types of discussions, the common strategies we’re working toward will bring an even greater sense of purpose, unity and growth.” 

Rusty Allen, vice president of athletics and enrollment management at Tabor College, says, “The Mission Drift Forum gave us a chance to refocus on our mission, and we enjoyed hearing ideas from other agencies as to how we can effectively guard against drift.” 

Attendees shifted gears in the evening to discuss mission drift from the perspective of our collective MB family in the United States.  Don Morris, USMB national director, helped participants to frame that discussion by asking questions like:  Who is your agency accountable to? How does that work? Where do you think we are most vulnerable to mission drift as a national family? 

 “The Mission Drift Forum was well received by those in attendance, including myself, indicating that the topic was and is highly relevant for our MB family,” says Morris. “I appreciate so much MB Foundation’s investment in our MB leaders by providing this forum on how to protect ourselves from mission drift.”

While mission drift was the theme for the day, another theme began to resonate across the group as well.  This was simply the importance of being in fellowship with one another and the high value placed on gathering together as an MB family. 

Russ Claassen, Southern District Conference youth minister, says, “One of the biggest takeaways for me is simply the importance of this group of people, representing these organizations, being able to get together in person for intentional conversation and relationship.”

Gary Wall, Pacific District Conference minister, echoed this thought when he told the group: “I think we’ve drifted in terms of unity, brotherhood and support of one another. The commitment to ‘one another’ was foundational to the health of our conference and the vibrancy of our mission efforts in a prior era.” 

“Perhaps the Mission Drift Forum will play a small part in revitalizing our commitment to each other and our commitment to remain mission true,” says Jon C. Wiebe, MB Foundation president and CEO.

Photos provided by MB Foundation


Photo 1: Mennonite Brethren ministry representatives discuss questions of mission and drifting away from that mission in table groups with everyone around each table representing the same agency.

Photo 2: Chris Horst, who co-authored Mission Drift with Peter Greer, facilitated the morning discussion.



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