When the USMB Leadership Board met Oct. 12-13, 2018, the board approved the 2019 budget and welcomed a representative of USMB Youth to the board as well as newly elected board members and officers. The board also discussed recent events at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, continued discussions about diversity and heard reports from district ministers and national ministry representatives.
“We had a very productive meeting,” Leadership Board chair David Hardt says. “Having the district ministers and agency and youth representatives all in one room, from a USMB family viewpoint, created a sense of unity.”
Hardt, who has served on the board for ten years, was elected chair of the nine-member Leadership Board at the July 2018 National Convention. During the convention, Larry Smith, Lenoir, NC, and Tharen Spahr, Wichita, Kan., were elected as new Leadership Board members and incumbents Aaron Box, Eugene, Ore., and Lud Hohm, Yale, SD, were affirmed for a second term. Delegates affirmed Boris Borisov, Spokane, Wash., as vice chair; Lianne Nikkel, Littleton Colo., as secretary; and Spahr as treasurer.
Expanded board brings benefits
At the spring 2018 meeting, the Leadership Board voted to expand the board to include a representative of the national youth ministry leadership team. In October, Kyle Goings, Wichita, Kan., joined the Leadership Board as the non-voting member representing USMB Youth.
Goings joins other ex-officio members Jon Wiebe, MB Foundation president, and Randy Friesen, Multiply president, as well as district ministers Rick Eshbaugh, Aaron Hernandez, Terry Hunt, Tim Sullivan and Gary Wall. In 2015 the Leadership Board expanded its membership to include these seven ministry representatives to help bridge a perceived disconnect between decisions made at the national level and the district conferences and agencies.
Adding the district ministers and ministry representatives has helped the board to better achieve its goals, says Hardt. “Since we’ve added the district ministers and agency representatives we’ve been able to cover a lot more ground, and our discussions are two-way,” he says. “It helps us carry out our vision together.”
Budget lower than previous year
Finances related to the 2019 budget were discussed throughout the two-day board meeting. While the approved 2019 budget of $812,200 is 6 percent lower than the 2018 budget of $863,700, the new budget includes an increase in the USMB contribution to the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB), a wage and benefit increase of 2 and 3 percent respectively for USMB staff and an increase in the financial support for USMB Youth, specifically for YouthCon 2019, the upcoming national youth conference.
Expenses in 2019 will be reduced over 2018 by, among other things, handling USMB social media in-house and by adjusting the amount budgeted for Mission and Ministry projects, which includes LEAD initiatives, internships and church planting, to better match the actual expenses for the current 2018 year.
The Leadership Board heard a report on church planting from Mark Burch, representing Multiply, formerly C2C Network and MB Mission. “We are still in the church planting business,” says Hardt in a phone interview following the board meeting, “and will be doing this in partnership with Multiply.”
In his report, Goings described the restructuring of the National Youth Committee, now called USMB Youth, and highlighted their three initiatives: YouthCon, Project Serve and The Network. The board affirmed members of the USMB Youth team for their commitment to connect with youth leaders from all districts and for their passion for youth. They specifically expressed appreciation for the support of First MB Church, Wichita, Kan., where Goings is the youth pastor, in giving Goings the freedom to give so much of his time to USMB Youth.
Each of the district ministers gave a report as did Jon Wiebe of MB Foundation. Don Morris, national director, reported on various USMB initiatives as well as the National Strategy Team meeting held prior to the Leadership Board gathering. Tim Sullivan updated the board on Board of Faith and Life agenda items; the U.S. BFL also met prior to the Leadership Board.
The various reports prompted discussion and action was taken in some cases.
Reports prompt discussion, action
The Leadership Board affirmed the importance of written documentation when financial commitments are made between USMB ministries as well as with other agencies.
The Leadership Board gave input on a letter regarding recent personnel and program changes at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. “We spent a significant amount of time discussing all sides and all concerns and reviewed our original reasoning,” says Hardt. The letter, signed by Hardt, Sullivan and Morris can be read here.
The board reviewed the 2018 National Convention, including the focus on diversity and the U.S. BFL resolution on separating immigrant families. Regarding the way the resolution was processed, Hardt says, “Although good intentioned, we learned some things, and we’d probably do that differently next time.”
As part of their discussion, the Leadership Board “committed to the long haul of unity within our diversity,” says Hardt, and will be inviting key USMB Hispanic leaders to the board meetings in March 2019.
“We want to support our Hispanic brothers and sisters and we want to hear from them,” Hardt says.
The Leadership Board also reviewed a proposed footnote to Article V: Salvation in the USMB Confession of Faith and approved revising Family Matters, a resource book outlining U.S. Mennonite Brethren history, theology and ministries.
“We spent a lot of time in prayer,” says Hardt, describing the format of the board meeting. “That’s something I want to make sure we continue to do. For me, it’s important to make sure that we set aside time to pray over decisions as they happen. So, we took more time throughout the meeting to pray for things as they came up.”
The Leadership Board, U.S. Board of Faith and Life and National Strategy Team will meet again March 27-30, 2019, in San Diego, Calif., following the National Pastors Orientation.