This article was updated April 23, 2021 to include additional names as part of the Church Planting Network.
The USMB Leadership Board (LB) approved two new national staff positions to provide leadership in church planting and leadership development when it met March 26-27, 2021 via Zoom. The board also approved revisions to plans for the national Church Planting Council and endorsed an extensive evaluation of the Christian Leader as outlined by national director Don Morris.
Proposal for leadership development staff approved
As proposed by Kyle Goings, USMB Youth chair, the newly approved part-time leadership development mobilizer will report to the national director and LB and work in collaboration with USMB Youth. This staff member will “mobilize, oversee and maintain the leadership development programs for USMB, with an initial emphasis on establishing the National Leadership Pipeline,” according to the job description. The individual will be expected to travel regularly.
The National Leadership Pipeline (NLP) will offer summer internships to provide training and experience for teens and young adults interested in church ministry. USMB Youth anticipates working with existing leadership development programs and Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University.
A key component of the program will be a website that serves as a hub, database, job bank and communication tool. The Leadership Board also approved funding for the development of the website.
Church planting mobilizer to join staff
The LB also approved the proposal brought by national director Morris that a church planting mobilizer be hired, at least half-time, to lead the Church Planting Council and to work with networking, district church planting boards and the Church Planting Network, a new independent ministry being formed by several Mennonite Brethren church planters.
The church planting mobilizer, who will report to the national director, will be responsible for “establishing a national MB church multiplication vision through the strategy of church planting with potential work in church renewal/revitalization,” says the proposal. “A main aspect of this position is to catalyze ‘organic networks’ for pastors and churches for church planting or establishment of campuses.”
A key responsibility will be overseeing the national Church Planting Council (CPC), a new board endorsed by the LB at its October 2020 meeting. In addition to the church planting mobilizer, the CPC will include one person from each of the five district conferences plus two at-large members and the national director. The council will help facilitate a unified church planting vision, coordinate church planting projects and champion church multiplication as one of USMB’s three core commitments.
Specifically, the CPC will identify, invest in and assess potential church planters, collaborate with the five district conferences and district church planting boards, involve existing MB churches, raise funds, provide project management as needed, create church plant project teams and communicate church plant happpenings, strategies and outcomes.
The church planting mobilizer was approved as “at least half time, possibly full time.” In approving the new position, the board said it would be “open to receiving a specific proposal for a specific person once the CPC is developed.”
As part of its discussion, the LB talked about options for how to fill these two positions. The board debated options included hiring one person to fill both positions, combining the leadership development mobilizer position with another half-time position and hiring the church planting mobilizer full-time.
Goings noted the leadership development mobilizer will be required to travel, so having someone serve half-time as a youth pastor and half-time as the mobilizer would be difficult.
The LB acknowledged that both positions could be full time and concluded that creating two separate positions is “most feasible.”
Discussion about a national church planting strategy included a report from Morris about a new independent church planting resource ministry being formed by three USMB pastoral couples with church planting experience.
The Church Planting Network, a “placeholder” name until a final name is selected, will “initiate national church plant projects and provide resources relevant to planting healthy, sustainable church plants.” According to the report submitted by the organizers, “The (network) will work closely, although not exclusively, with our primary partner, the U.S. Conference of MB Churches. Assets, resources and support will be made available to USMB and non-MB church plants.”
The network organizing team consists of Fred and Esther Leonard, Fresno, California, Brad and Elfie Klassen, Peoria, Arizona, Josh and Brianne Shaw, Denver, Colorado, and Phil and Melissa Wiebe, Stansbury Park, Utah.
CL evaluation approved
The LB affirmed conducting an extensive evaluation of the CL, the USMB bimonthly magazine, during 2021. Morris brought the proposal that includes forming a CL Review Team that will review the results of a CL readership survey to be conducted in May.
Morris’ proposal states, “previously received comments about some people’s lack of engagement of the CL and recent push back about specific content has led me to believe this is a crucially important and timely exercise.”
The CL Review Team will assess the viability of CL as a whole, evaluate current staff, review current content and recommend content changes, consider a print versus online publication, evaluate the purpose of the magazine, consider the production preview process, review the CL website and C-Link and consider the future of the magazine.
Additional reports, decisions
The LB discussed ongoing concerns about efforts to “reset” the culture of Multiply, the Mennonite Brethren mission agency. Following the recommendation of the Multiply Review Task Force, a new Multiply Board of Directors was appointed in November 2020, and general director Randy Friesen resigned. The LB affirmed its intention to advocate for a fresh start that fulfills all 18 recommendations.
The board heard a report from U.S. Board of Faith and Life chair Tim Sullivan. Sullivan reported on 10 of BFL’s agenda items, including writing a document on LGBTQ+ issues. Recent articles in Anabaptist World, an independent magazine serving the global Anabaptist movement, reported that two Canadian MB provincial conferences are talking with congregations that have officially expressed openness to welcoming and including LGBTQ individuals. The LB encouraged BFL to pursue guidelines and clarity on this issue for USMB churches.
BFL discussed a request from the Central District Conference that district BFL chairs serve on the U.S. BFL; this shift would require a bylaw change. The LB discussed this request and suggested that once a year, district BFL chairs could be invited to the U.S. BFL meeting.
Sullivan reported that BFL will be calling USMB to pray for the current border crisis, is looking for new board members, is discussing changes to Article 2 of the Confession of Faith, discussed feedback on the Jan/Feb issue of the CL, and is considering the possibility of holding the National Pastors Orientation in March 2022 and then again in March 2023.
LB treasurer Tharen Spahr reported that while the 2020 USMB budget was reduced in May 2020 in expectation of reduced church giving due to COVID-19, total income was above the adjusted budget amount and expenses were below the revised budget, resulting in a positive operating balance of almost $125,000.
The LB also heard verbal reports from the National Strategy Team and the Congolese Task Force, in addition to updates from the Pacific District Conference Hispanic Council, each of the district ministers present, Multiply and MB Foundation. The International Community of Mennonite Brethren, USMB staff and several inter-Mennonite agencies provided written reports.
Prior to the two-day LB meeting, the National Strategy Team met March 24 and the U.S. Board of Faith and Life met March 25.
The fall board meetings will be held in person Oct. 27-30, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona.
By Connie Faber with files from the USMB Leadership Board March 2021 meeting.
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.