Prayer involves many in review of USMB ministries, structures
By Connie Faber
As those involved in the process of reviewing U.S. MB Conference ministries and structures prepare for the second of two working retreats led by consultant George Bullard, they are asking for widespread prayer.
“We are calling for your prayers,” says Steve Schroeder, USMB Leadership Board chair. While a consultation like this has a limited number of participants—in this case 45 individuals—everyone can join in praying for the work being done, says Schroeder.
Schroeder lists four specific requests for the Nov.17-18 consultation:
- that participants will come with a humble spirit. Schroeder says this attitude was evident at the group’s first meeting in September.
- that the group will clearly sense God’s vision for U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
- that consensus for moving forward will emerge. “That we continue to put aside our own interests and seek God’s call,” says Schroeder.
- that God’s favor will fall on the group and the process. “As God leads us, I pray that we will also have favor with the rest of the denomination as we seek to inspire and lead,” says Schroeder.
- for Bullard. “While George brings his experience and wisdom,” says Schroeder, “he also needs to hear from God how to lead us in the process.”
Schroeder also invites others in the USMB constituency to join the consultation participants in 24 hours of fasting and prayer prior to the November gathering.
The USMB Leadership Board hired Bullard, president of The Columbia Partnership (TCP), a Christian ministry organization focusing on ministry vitality of leaders, congregations, denominations and parachurch organizations, last spring. Bullard attended the July 2014 National Convention held in Santa Clara, Calif.,
The decision to review the ministries and structures of the U.S. Conference was prompted by the retirement of Ed Boschman, USMB executive director. Boschman retired in July; Don Morris, director of Mission USA, is serving as interim executive director during the review.
Boschman’s retirement is a “God-giving opportunity to re-evaluate where we are as a family of churches and to discern together where God is leading us,” said Schroeder in an August 2014 interview.
The 45 individuals who were invited to participate in the review were selected because they are respected and are people of influence, regardless of elected positions, says Schroeder. “I feel like we have a good cross-section,” he says, noting a good balance in district representation, gender and ethnicity.
The Leadership Board identified just some of the participants and district ministers selected others. One-third of the group is pastors, according to Schroeder. Representatives of the USMB Leadership Board, USMB staff, MB Foundation, MB Mission, Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary are also participating.
“We’ve hired George to help us think through a vision for the future of our denomination,” says Schroeder. “Our expectation is that coming out of the two gatherings we will have a clearer and shared vision.”
Schroeder adds, “We don’t all see the future the same. It’s fuzzy for us and we need clarity from God. We want to move forward with consensus about a shared vision.”
Prior to the first retreat, held Sept. 22-23 in Kansas City, Kan., Bullard interviewed each of the identified participants, spending about one hour with each person. Bullard then distilled those conversations down to 21 observations that he shared with the participants.
Bullard uses a very methodical approach that includes small and large group discussions as well as input from individuals, says Schroeder. After reviewing trends and findings regarding healthy denominations at the beginning of the first retreat, Bullard guided the participants in identifying potential strategies that would work well for a denomination the size of the U.S. Conference. The group then narrowed down those strategies to three ministry models that participants found most viable.
In preparation for the November meeting, Bullard divided the participants into three groups and each group is reviewing and analyzing one of those ministry models. Bullard is talking with representatives from each of the groups in preparation for the next consultation. During the November retreat, to be held in Phoenix, Ariz., the groups will share their conclusions and together they will identify a preferred ministry model.
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