Correction: This article has been updated to include the Eastern District Conference as a district conference that is supporting the IIM coordinator. Updated Nov. 13, 2023. Photo also updated.
When the USMB Leadership Council and Board met Oct. 13-14, in Hillsboro, Kansas, it took action on items related to the search for the next national director as well as a budget-related agenda.
The Leadership Council, comprised of the eight elected Leadership Board members and 10 non-voting members representing USMB districts and ministries, reviewed results of a survey designed to gather input regarding the national director.
The 23-question survey was emailed to district leaders, and U.S. Mennonite Brethren ministry leaders as well as USMB pastors who were invited to pass the survey along to five members of the congregation. A total of 183 surveys were returned.
When the Leadership Board met Saturday morning, it continued discussing the survey results, updated the national director’s job description, adopted an advertising plan and clarified the selection process. The goal is to appoint the next national director prior to USMB Gathering 2024, to be held July 23-27, 2024, in Omaha, Nebraska.
“We are very encouraged by the survey results,” says Boris Borisov, Leadership Board vice chair who is also leading the search for the next national director, in an email following the board meeting. “Given that our conference is diverse across districts, offices and ages, there was great unity around what people want in a director. This includes someone with a mature spiritual character, a vibrant faith and a deep love for the church of Jesus Christ.”
Borisov says, “We take this task (selecting the next USMB national director) very seriously and with a prayerful posture. Long before the official search process was even underway, we met for months to just pray and ask the Lord for direction. We have also taken the time to engage with many in our family throughout the entire process and will continue to do so.”
2024 budget eliminates staff position
The Leadership Board approved an income budget of $1,128,900 for 2024, which is an increase of $99,400 over the 2023 budget. This includes church receipts of $380,000, the same amount as budgeted in 2023. Other income sources include funds from MB Foundation and fundraising by the church planting mobilizer and national director. The 2024 income budget also includes reserve transfers to cover staff transitions with the retirement of Don Morris, national director, and Donna Sullivan, USMB bookkeeper, administrative assistant and event planner.
The 2024 expense budget was approved with one revision: funding for the Integrated Immigrant Ministry coordinator were deleted. The decision to eliminate the IIM coordinator came at the recommendation of the National Strategy Team, a group comprised of the five district ministers, the USMB national director and one representative each from MB Foundation and Multiply.
Funds for the IIM coordinator’s current salary and travel expenses are shared by USMB and the district conferences. When the Central, Pacific and Southern District Conferences reported to the NST that they would rather use their limited dollars for efforts that directly benefit immigrant churches in their districts than supporting a national coordinator, the NST decided to recommend discontinuing the position as of Dec. 31, 2023.
The IMM coordinator has been a part-time staff position, and Henri Ngolo has filled the position since Nov. 1, 2022, working 15 to 20 hours a week.
“Henri did a lot of good work with Congolese churches, meeting with leaders, helping a church that lost a pastor find a new leader, working to help new churches secure meeting places, etc., especially in the Eastern District Conference,” says Don Morris, USMB national director in an email following the meeting. “The work probably merits a full-time person, but USMB simply does not have the funds to do that.”
Ngolo is planning to continue connecting with Congolese churches as needed and assisting district ministers as they develop relationships with immigrant churches in their districts.
The Eastern District Conference will continue to financially support Ngolo, says Terry Hunt, chair of the Cord Committee.
Morris says USMB will continue to reimburse Ngolo for his travel expenses, as it did when Ngolo served as a volunteer in a similar capacity.
“We want to continue to serve and incorporate the many Congolese churches that we have relationships with, and there are many,” says Morris. “The Cord Committee (new name) will continue to function and seek to serve these churches as much as possible.”
Budget increase prompts review
Given a projected 19 percent increase in 2024 for Christian Leader printing and postage costs, the Leadership Council formed a task force to review the entire USMB communication ministry. Board member Staci Janzen will lead the task force that includes Kyle Goings, USMB NextGen representative, and Luke Haidle, Leadership Board chair.
The Council also reaffirmed their earlier decision to give the national director the title Christian Leader editor-in-chief to reflect their desire for the national director “to have the final say for the content of the Christian Leader,” according to the minutes. Following the board meeting, Morris clarified that this refers to times when there is differing opinions on CL content
Recommendations to Multiply
National director Morris reported that the Multiply Board of Directors was given seven recommendations from USMB intended to strengthen U.S. mobilization efforts and to enhance U.S. representation on the Multiply executive team.
Specific recommendations include hiring two U.S.-based mobilizers—one in the Pacific District and the other in the Midwest; hiring a full-time mission training program coordinator for the Midwest; adding a member to the Multiply Board of Directors that represents the 47 Latino MB churches in the U.S.; adding an executive team member from the U.S. Midwest; and making Doug Hiebert Multiply’s point of contact for U.S. immigrant ministry.
Long-term recommendations concern having the Multiply board chair and the Multiply general director represent both the U.S. and Canada; currently the board chair and general director are both Canadians. Multiply is the global mission ministry of the U.S. and Canadian MB conferences.
In other business
The Leadership Board affirmed holding a vision summit on leadership development. The summit will be held Jan. 8-10, 2024, in Phoenix, Arizona. Copper Hills Church, Peoria, will be hosting the by-invitation-only gathering convened by USMB’s Morris.
In his report, Morris gave an update on plans for USMB Gathering 2024, LEAD initiatives and the International Community of Mennonite Brethren.
The Leadership Council heard from national Board of Faith and Life chair Dave Loewen, USMB NextGen and Leadership Pipeline representative Kyle Goings, MB Foundation president and CEO Jon Wiebe, Multiply general director Bruce Enns and the district ministers present: James Moore, Jordan Ringhofer, Daniel Rodriguez and Tim Sullivan.
For two board members—Staci Janzen and Joan Warkentin—this was their first meeting. Continuing board members present were Gaven Banik, Boris Borisov, Luke Haidle, Jared Pulliam and Dave Thiessen. Absent was board member Darrin Foddrell.
In addition to the Leadership Council and Board, the Board of Faith and Life and National Strategy Team also met. MB Foundation hosted all the meetings in the recently completed addition to their ministry headquarters in Hillsboro, Kansas.
Board of Faith and Life
Meeting Oct. 11, the USMB Board of Faith and Life reviewed and discussed a variety of resources and documents it is developing for churches on dealing with sexual misconduct and responding to LGBTQ individuals.
BFL was informed that the USMB Leadership Board recently voted to discontinue appointing a member to the Everence Board of Directors. The 2022 decision by Mennonite Church USA, of which Everence is a ministry partner, to affirm LGBTQ individuals for ministry leadership positions prompted the USMB decision.
BFL also heard updates from district ministers and discussed ongoing work on the reversion clause and modes of baptism.
Elected BFL members are Tim Geddert, Dave Loewen (chair), Connie Nicholson and Jesse Swiers. Other members are national director Don Morris and district ministers James Moore (Eastern), Jordan Ringhofer (Pacific), Daniel Rodriguez (Central), Tim Sullivan (Southern) and Aaron Hernandez (LAMB), who was absent.
National Strategy Team
The National Strategy Team (NST) agenda covered six items. This group is comprised of the five district ministers, USMB national director Don Morris, MB Foundation president and CEO Jon Wiebe and Multiply staff member Galen Wiest (absent). Multiply general director Bruce Enns was present as a guest.
In addition to discussing the position of Integrated Immigrant Ministries coordinator, the NST talked about simplifying the way in which IIM activities are described. The group decided to use “CORD” to refer to all ministry to immigrant churches and “CORD Committee” instead of “Integrated Immigrant Council” to refer to the group overseeing this ministry. CORD has been the name of a program designed to provide funding to immigrant churches; the term will now be used more broadly.
NST approved the seven recommendations to Multiply and discussed the recommendations with Enns. Enns shared his appreciation of the process and resulting recommendations. He noted which recommendations fall to the Board of Directors to complete and which he and other Multiply staff will be responsible for completing.
NST discussed the Leadership Board’s decision to no longer have a representative on the Everence Board of Directors, specifically how this impacts the national director. The team worked on planning the January vision summit on leadership development and heard updates from districts and ministries represented.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and two grandchildren. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.