by Emily Ralph, firstname.lastname@example.org
Franconia Conference board and staff decided last month to phase out the conference’s Vision and Finance Plan. The two groups gathered at Wellspring Church of Skippack (Pa.) on January 30 for a day-long retreat to discuss vision for the next five years.
Board and staff members reviewed and discussed the conference’s “E-3” vision (Equipping Leaders to Empower Others to Embrace God’s Mission), priorities (formational, missional, and intercultural), and the Vision and Finance Plan (VFP). The group moved to consensus that the VFP, which was created in 2007 to give recommendations for decision-making about properties, staffing, and the implementation of the “E-3” Vision, had served an important function but had reached the end of its helpfulness. The VFP was due for review this year.
The VFP worked to align vision with conference resources and was adopted by delegates at the 2007 Conference Assembly, according to board member Joe Hackman, Salford congregation, an original member of the VFP team. “The plan was intended to frame the work of conference staff – to give a better picture of what conference is doing, why they are doing it, and how they are doing it,” he said.
Some of the specific goals of the VFP have been accomplished: development rights for the Indian Creek Farm are being sold with plans to pay off a portion of the mortgage on the conference’s Souderton Center property; the conference office was relocated and downsized; new modes of continuing education for credentialed leaders have been implemented.
Other goals remain important and ongoing, specifically the emphasis on healthy and growing churches, leaders, and connections. “This is what I believe,” said Noah Kolb, pastor of ministerial leadership, as he reflected on the E-3 vision. “God is looking for communities of believers who are able to follow Jesus as he followed God, who are able to read the signs . . . and respond in specific ministries. But who leads [the disciples] with a sense of knowing where to go and what to do and how to listen? . . . It is well equipped leaders.”
The board and staff agreed that the main role of conference structures and staff was to equip, resource, and connect congregations, conference related ministries, and leaders. To do this, the VFP will be phased out with new immediate, short-term, and longer range priorities established. Conference Board will develop these priorities to be reviewed and implemented by staff.
“The church is the primary vehicle for God’s expression in the world,” said board member Jim Longacre, Bally congregation, as others nodded in agreement, “not individuals, but a community.” The role of the conference, he suggested, is to do only what congregations can’t do alone.
And, added assistant moderator Marta Castillo. Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, to focus on God’s mission. “As we pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we know that the church is only an instrument in God’s hand and our work is to be a part of missio Dei [mission of God],” she said. “At this time, for Franconia Conference, it means that we have to change.”
Even in a time of change and movement, some things will remain the same, said Ertell M. Whigham Jr., executive minister. “The ageless goals are . . . equipping healthy and growing leaders. That doesn’t change—it doesn’t matter how many years have passed.”
February 22 (Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent) has been set aside as a day of prayer and discernment for conference board and staff as they continue to seek God’s vision for the conference together. Please continue to be in prayer for conference leaders; contact Sandy Landes, prayer coordinator, for more information on how you can support this day in prayer.