Special Annual Conference Session: Congregational Excellence

The called session of the Texas Annual Conference is this Saturday at Lakeview. The Pre-Conference Journal highlights several themes that make up the proposals from the Strategic Mapping Team. I’m enclosing my comments in brackets[].

GOAL – Lead congregations to revitalize and to reach unserved resident populations. [The starting point is to realize that these are goals for the Annual Conference. The purpose of AC leadership will not be to collect apportionment money or to have meetings, but to lead congregations in reaching people. I observe that it doesn’t say, “Lead needy churches to revitalize…” The assumption – and I think the statistics easily support it – is that the vast majority of TAC churches need revitalization. This may be a hard sell. Most congregations think they’re doing pretty well. They have nice programs. They usually meet the budget. They’re full of nice people – well, the people they have are nice, at least. But most of us aren’t having a significant impact on the surrounding population. We’re not winning people to Christ. We’re not crossing cultural boundaries. It’ll take leadership to transform our ways of doing things if we’re going to start winning people to Christ. It’ll take even greater leadership to create and maintain dissatisfaction with the status quo. As long as most churches think the purpose of the church is to take care of its members, they will resist efforts to push them elsewhere.]

Objectives

  • Equip congregations to become vibrant and grow. [Yes! We want congregations were insiders and outsiders can tell God is at work. When they see God, it will attract the, Because the insiders have experienced Jesus and been filled with the Spirit, they will be able to introduce others to Jesus, resulting in growth.]
  • Identify and prioritize resident populations and start new churches. [The usual UM church planting model has been to look for new developments. This contrasts with other denominations that not only target new developments, but allow congregational freedom to divide and multiply. Although UM ecclesiology doesn’t fit well with the Homogeneous Unit Principle, I think part of the thought here is to fid ways to reach the different cultural and ethnic groups in E Texas through church planting. We have at least 60,000 Urdu speakers in the Houston area – and one Urdu speaking UM pastor. We have work to do.]
  • Implement the Congregational Development Task Force Plan.

The Conference will:
Develop a congregational vitality assessment to assist churches in identifying

  • challenges, opportunities, and needs. [This will enable our churches to answer the question: “How are we doing?” By having clear measures and assessments, we’ll be able to get beyond the “happy talk” of “I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok together.”]
  • Provide resources for congregational revitalization and transformation. [This will enable us to answer the how question: How do we change?]
  • Assist in identifying strategic opportunities for new church starts. [This is a big change. No longer will the Conference simply do this – it will assist in the work. By distributing the responsibility for church planting, not only will wisdom and knowledge increase, but so will buy-in.]

Learning and Growth [These points sound like what’s already been said. Unless this is identifying areas the Conference needs to learn. If so, it constitutes a confession that they don’t already know how to do everything. A wise move.]

  • Model and coach churches to become vibrant in ministry and to grow.
  • Provide resources and financial support for new church starts in identified strategic
  • opportunity areas.

Financial Strategy

  • Reallocate currently available funds to support strategy
  • Develop volunteer partnerships
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