Leadership Board finalizes historic partnership

USMB church planting partners with C2C US, under purview of MB Mission

Marv Schellenberg, Leadership Board chair from Wichita, Kansas, leads a discussion at the September 2017 meeting. Board members pictured are David Hardt, Bakersfield, California; Lianne Nikkel, Littleton, Colorado; and Boris Borisov, Spokane Valley, Washington.

When the USMB Leadership Board met Sept. 28-29, 2017, in Denver, Colorado, it approved a recommendation outlining a historic cooperative partnership between USMB, C2C Network and MB Mission that will enhance U.S. Mennonite Brethren evangelism and church planting efforts as well as the USMB commitment to leadership development and discipleship.

This new three-way collaboration is the latest development in the process of implementing a fresh vision and strategy for U.S. Mennonite Brethren ministry that was affirmed by delegates to the July 2016 USMB National Convention. This vision, which is intended to guide USMB through 2025, focuses on three core commitments: church multiplication and evangelism, intentional disciple-making and leadership development.

2017 was the first full year of implementation for the new vision and “things are starting to come together, says Marv Schellenberg, Leadership Board chair, in an interview after the meeting.

This past year, USMB has been exploring new ways to partner with C2C Network, the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC) church planting ministry, and MB Mission, the North American MB global mission agency, to plant churches in the U.S. and to enhance evangelism efforts in existing local Mennonite Brethren churches.

“Our biggest push this year was the collaboration between USMB, MB Mission, C2C US and our five districts,” Schellenberg says. “That was our focus, and that was accomplished. There is so much that can happen when we collaborate, and we are excited to be working together with these missional organizations.”

Partnership enhances ministry

Prior to 2017, Mission USA was the church planting ministry of U.S. Mennonite Brethren. In 2017, C2C US was formed and the project management responsibility for USMB church planting shifted to C2C US, even as leaders of the three partnering ministries—USMB, C2C and MB Mission and district leadership—continued to talk about the nuts and bolts of the partnership, including finances.

In mid-September, representatives of the three ministries met together and drafted a 13-point proposal specifically related to developing a local, national and global ministry alignment and collaboration plan. During the September board meeting, the Leadership Board carefully reviewed and extensively discussed that proposal and approved it in principle. Among the provisions included in the plan are that:

  • the USMB national director will spend some of his time to working directly with C2C US on various projects, assessments and events, and
  • USMB, C2C US and MB Mission will develop a more collaborative fundraising system. MB Mission will provide promotional administrative and design assistance.

While there is a significant financial component to this new partnership, Schellenberg says the benefits of working together with MB Mission and C2C US extend to the local church.

“This is about working together and coming alongside local churches,” Schellenberg says. “We want to take care of our existing churches and our new churches. We want to have systems in place to support our local pastors.”

2018 focus: Leadership development, discipleship

With a new church planting strategy in place, Schellenberg says that in 2018 the Leadership Board will turn its attention to disciple-making and leadership development.

“We are going to work closer with the National Youth Commission and our colleges,” Schellenberg says. “It takes all of us to do leadership training.”

One specific area that will expand is summer internships. Schellenberg anticipates growth in the number of summer internships offered and sees the possibility of expanding internships to include developing leaders in a variety of professions.

“It doesn’t have to be training to be a pastor,” he says. “We are all in ministry.”

As Schellenberg looks forward to new partnerships in leadership development, he is thankful for the ways in which MB ministries are working together and looks for that to continue.

“Everyone is starting to work together, and that’s been a key,” he says.

Citing the scholarships MB Foundation has made available through the Leadership Generation Fund (LeadGen), Schellenberg says, “MB Foundation has played a huge part in everything we’ve done. They were the first ones to lean in with us.”

Schellenberg also credits the good work of Don Morris, USMB national director, in developing and implementing the various new strategies for church planting and leadership development.

Budget reflects new vision

With revenue streams in place, the Leadership Board approved a budget for 2018 of $940,200, a 15 percent increase over the 2017 budget of $819,840.

“We’ve been blessed with sufficient funds for our budget and as a board we’ve been good stewards of the funds given to us,” Schellenberg says. “Financially we’re very sound. However, to be able to continue to do all of these ministries, we need our churches and donors to continue to support us.”

The USMB 2018 income budget includes overall fundraising of $240,000. The budget also assumes church receipts will hold steady at $410,000 and that MB Foundation will again contribute $180,000.

The largest increase on the expense side comes in mission and ministry, with significantly more funds earmarked for LEAD initiatives (from $6,000 in 2017 to $60,000 in 2018) and internships (from $1,200 in 2017 to $15,000 in 2018). Additional increases were made in leadership development scholarships (from $1,000 in 2017 to $3,000 in 2018) and National Strategy Team gatherings (from $9,000 in 2017 to $15,000 in 2018).

“All of these increases are being made to better serve our pastors and churches,” Schellenberg says.

Increases in the general operating budget includes $10,000 for a gathering of the district and national conference Boards of Faith and Life and additional funds for promotion and board travel.

In other business, the Leadership Board:

  • Approved funds ($4,000) requested by the National Youth Commission to hire someone to provide them with administrative and social media assistance.
  • Affirmed the National Youth Commission’s desire to hold a youth conference in conjunction with the USMB National Convention to be held in Salt Lake City in July 2018.
  • Extended the contract with Ed Boschman to serve as a consultant and head coach with the LEAD One coaching initiative.
  • Approved revisions and updates to the USMB Employee Handbook and Policy Manual.
 Leadership Board hears reports

The Leadership Board also received a variety of reports and updates.

Scott Thomas, C2C US national director, reported that while C2C is affiliated with 29 different denominations in North America, primarily in Canada, he will be spending 95 percent of his time working with USMB churches and pastors. This will involve working with the appropriate USMB district minister and district church planting boards to guide potential USMB church planters through a process that includes an assessment and two-year training program. Thomas said there are currently four prospective USMB church plants in process: two in the Fresno, California area, one in Minnesota and one in Draper, Utah.

The Leadership Board also heard an update from the U.S. Board of Faith and Life (NBFL), including plans to bring together members of all district Boards of Faith and Life for a two-day summit Jan. 9-10 in Phoenix, Arizona. The goal of this gathering, the first of this type, is to build bridges between the districts and to share ideas and resources, said USBFL chair Tim Sullivan.

National Director Morris reported that the National Strategy Team (NST) met earlier in September with C2C’s Thomas; Gord Fleming, C2C North American director; and Randy Friesen, MB Mission executive director, to discuss funding of current USMB church plants and Memorandums of Understanding between C2C US and the five USMB district conferences. The NST is responsible to the Leadership Board and was formed to provide key strategic planning around the three core commitments of church multiplication and evangelism, intentional disciple-making and leadership development.

USMB staff members provided written reports. The five district ministers and Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, gave oral updates.

The Leadership Board will meet next April 6-7, 2018, in Denver, Colorado.

With files from USMB Leadership Board


Merger between C2C, MB Mission creates new opportunities for USMB

It started with what MB Mission’s Randy Friesen called “The Big Idea,” a vision for global church planting that Friesen shared in an essay published in the July/August 2015 issue of Christian Leader.

“What would it look like if the best learnings of our overseas mission efforts and fruitfulness were combined with the best learnings of our domestic church planting initiatives in a truly global church planting network?” he wrote.

Friesen, MB Mission’s executive director, went on to say that MB Mission was considering a merger offer from C2C Network, the national church planting ministry of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC). If MB Mission and C2C were to merge, that would involve the mission agency in both global and North American church planting.

“Is this an opportunity to also invest in church planting alongside the churches of our U.S. Conference?” Friesen asked.

Since C2C is a ministry of CCMBC, the ball, so to speak, was in the Canadians’ court, and so CCMBC began to explore what a merger would involve. The response was generally positive, so a proposal was brought to CCMBC’s Gathering 2016, their biennial national convention, that a task force be formed to investigate options for C2C and MB Mission to work together to plant churches locally and nationally. The task force included Gary Wall, Pacific District Conference minister, and Don Morris, who at the time was the USMB interim executive director.

The task force recommended “that MB Mission assume responsibility for the mission and ministry of C2C Network,” a motion that the CCMBC Executive Board unanimously passed in January 2017 and that the MB Mission board unanimously approved in February 2017.

When questions emerged during further discussion at Canadian provincial conferences and throughout the broader community, the CCMBC Executive Board worked with the C2C Task Force to provide answers.

Delegates to the CCMBC Special General Meeting held Nov. 1, 2017, approved the recommendation that: “MB Mission assume responsibility for the mission and ministry of C2C Network. This change would be effective January 1, 2018 if approved.” The vote on the merger, taken by secret ballot passed, with 192 yes and 35 no votes.

While the merger of C2C and MB Mission brought Canadian MB church planting under the purview of MB Mission, the “Big Idea” also included bringing U.S. Mennonite Brethren church planting under the MB Mission umbrella.

For 20 years, Mission USA, established in 1996, was responsible for USMB church planting and church renewal. In its efforts to identify and equip church planters, Mission USA used church planting resources and events provided by a variety of ministries, including C2C. As the Leadership Board discussed the “Big Idea,” they decided to retire Mission USA in favor of a new collaborative church planting effort that would involve USMB, the five district conferences and C2C.

To facilitate this shift and to allow C2C to expand its U.S. ministry, delegates to Canada’s Gathering 2016 approved a recommendation that C2C be allowed to work interdenominationally in the U.S. when and as requested by USMB and other denominations.

In January 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding was adopted between USMB, MB Mission and C2C to clarify the working relationship between these entities for Mennonite Brethren church planting in the U.S. The MOU created a C2C National Leadership Team, which includes Don Morris, the USMB national director. The C2C National Leadership Team will provide guidance for C2C’s work in the U.S. and will work in the U.S. under the organizational structure and mission of MB Mission.

“For the first time we have MB Mission, C2C US and USMB working collaboratively on church planting, from fundraising to starting churches,” says Marv Schellenberg, USMB Leadership Board chair. “It’s our desire to work with a local, national and global mission focus.”

For the past year, USMB, C2C and MB Mission have been discussing the details of this new partnership, including funding and fundraising details. Discussions specifically related to fundraising culminated in the proposal brought to the USMB Leadership Board at the end of September. Conversation around other details of implementing this partnership will continue, Schellenberg says. —CF



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