Leadership Board approves new ministry plan


Details of USMB "Future Story" to be revealed at convention

By Connie Faber

When the USMB Leadership Board met Feb. 24-25, members spent the majority of their time discussing the latest draft of the “Future Story” for U.S. Mennonite Brethren national ministries.

“We had a great meeting and accomplished a lot,” says Marv Schellenberg, Leadership Board vice-chair, in an interview following the meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. 

The Leadership Board unanimously approved the latest draft of Future Story, a new national ministry plan that focuses on local, national and global church multiplication, intentional disciple making and developing leaders.

While the board continues to keep details of Future Story under wraps, Schellenberg says specifics will be shared with delegates at the USMB National Convention in July.

As the Leadership Board has moved toward a new vision and strategy for national ministry, the board has been committed to developing national ministries that serve the local church, says Schellenberg.

“We want to see each church reach their full ministry potential,” he says.


Consultant guides ministry review

The Leadership Board hired consultant George Bullard in the spring of 2014 to guide the process of reviewing and refocusing national conference ministries. That fall Bullard facilitated two gatherings of 40 individuals representing various ministries and districts. The group developed an outline for the general direction of USMB ministries and a “writing team” began the process of outlining the Future Story.

In March 2015, that document was presented to the Leadership Board and the USMB Summit, a group comprised of representatives from MB Foundation, MB Mission, Tabor College, Fresno Pacific University and the district conferences. The Leadership Board appointed a seven-member “strategy team” to continue clarifying details of the Future Story.  The Leadership Board and Summit reviewed this second draft of the Future Story in October 2015, at which time Bullard concluded his work with USMB.

 “We have seen God’s touch in each meeting,” says Schellenberg, of the process Bullard led.  

In October the Leadership Board asked the USMB district ministers, Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, and Don Morris, USMB interim executive director, to revise portions of the document prepared by the "strategy team." District ministers are Rick Eshbaugh, Central District; Aaron Hernandez, Latin America District; Terry Hunt, North Carolina District; Gary Wall, Pacific District and Tim Sullivan, Southern District. 

At the February meeting, the Leadership Board reviewed and approved this revised draft of the Future Story. They then charged the district ministers, Wiebe and Morris with drafting the final Future Story document, including an implementation process, which will be shared this summer with National Convention delegates.


Future Story guiding decisions

Now that details of the Future Story have been fleshed out, Schellenberg says the Leadership Board is resuming its search for a USMB lead staff member. At the February meeting, the board worked on the job description for the USMB national director.  “We had put things on hold with that search while we worked on the Future Story,” says Schellenberg.

Working with Bullard helped the Leadership Board discern several things regarding the national conference’s relationship with other ministries. 

“George helped us see that we are involved in lots of things for a denomination our size,” says Schellenberg. “So we will be focusing on less.”

Narrowing the USMB ministry focus may prompt the Leadership Board to eliminate, reduce or hold steady funding for some Mennonite Brethren and inter-Mennonite ministries while other ministries may see an increase in USMB funding.

The Future Story process also confirmed that USMB ministries often “function in silos,” says Schellenberg.  “This was not new to us. But the process has helped us see value in working together more with the different entities.”


Fostering new partnerships

One area in which USMB has been exploring new relationships is in church planting. The Leadership Board heard updates on discussions with MB Mission and the Canadian Conference of MB Churches, specifically C2C, regarding working together in U.S. church planting projects. MB Mission is the North American mission agency that seeks to plant churches among least-reached people groups. C2C is the Canadian Conference’s church planting ministry.

“It’s good to see people working well together,” says Schellenberg of the possibility of partnering with other MB agencies in church planting.


Celebrating a strong fiscal year  

David Hardt, Leadership Board treasurer, reported that USMB has “ended the 2015 year in the best position it has been in for years,” according to board minutes, while the 2016 budget is “strong to date.”

December 2015 year-end reports show that income was higher than budgeted while expenses came in under budget. Contributions from USMB congregations totaling $419,185 exceeded the budgeted income of $410,000. Total income, including significant contributions from MB Foundation, was $929,139; income was budgeted at $876,740. Total expenses were under budget; expenses were budgeted at $830,075 while actual expenses were $816,779. 

“All praise belongs to God for this healthy budget,” says the board minutes. “Our family of churches is faithful, and our God is faithful.”


In other business   

The Leadership Board considered a proposal from the 2015 National Youth Convention (NYC) planning team to expand their work beyond planning for the every-four-year national youth gathering to also include resourcing and equipping  youth workers and encouraging service among youth groups. A new leadership structure—called the National Youth Commission—would be put into place to oversee and coordinate these three priorities as well as “all things youth ministry for our U.S. Conference,” says the planning team’s proposal. The proposal also includes a request for one-time start-up costs for this new commission as well as increased ongoing financial support. The Leadership Board discussed the requests and asked for additional information.

At the October 2015 meeting, the Leadership Board began discussing the value of funding a U.S. office for Kindred Productions, a ministry of North American Mennonite Brethren churches that publishes and distributes resources unique to the Mennonite Brethren faith.

The board resumed this discussion at the February 2016 meeting and reviewed a report from Kindred Productions. They discussed whether the future direction of USMB would benefit from having a U.S. Kindred office. The board determined that beginning in 2017, USMB will no longer fund a U.S. office, and they will let the Canadian Conference decide whether or not they want to cover the expense of maintaining a U.S. office.  

The Leadership Board reviewed the list of nominations and vacancies for USMB boards that will be voted on by delegates to the National Convention in July, including the Leadership Board, Board of Faith and Life and MB Mission board. The board also affirmed Larry Nikkel, Wichita, Kan., as the USMB representative to the Everence board. Everence is the stewardship agency of Mennonite Church USA, an Anabaptist denomination, and has long-standing ties to other denominations with historic Anabaptist roots including USMB.  

The Leadership Board commended Steve Schroeder, who finishes his term of service with the board in July, for his leadership as board chair. “Steve has done an awesome job,” says Schellenberg, “and we want to acknowledge his leadership and service.”

The Leadership Board heard reports from Morris covering his work as the interim USMB executive director and Mission USA director. Other USMB staff members submitted written reports but were not invited to the meeting. The five district ministers and MB Foundation’s Wiebe also gave updates.


BFL discusses issues

The USMB Board of Faith and Life (BFL) met Feb. 23-24 in Phoenix.

BFL continued discussing follow up initiatives to the revised Article 13 of the Confession of Faith. The details of these initiatives will be reported at the July convention.

The board is working to clarify the status of resolutions passed by former conventions and to address the process and assumptions of future resolutions. The board had a vigorous and lengthy conversation about the resolution on women in ministry. Discussion of resolutions will be ongoing.

The board also discussed how best to assist pastors with issues they are facing as they provide counsel related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and how best to engage young people in helping them differentiate between biblical and cultural views.  

Photo by Lori Taylor: Tim Sullivan, left, and Don Morris, right, lay their hands on Steve Schroeder's shoulders. This was the last Leadership Board meeting that Schroeder will attend. He has served as the board chair and was commended for his service and leadership.          


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