Conference focuses leadership and ministry priorities

by Stephen Kriss,

Board and Staff Retreat
Members of Franconia Conference's board and staff discuss vision and priorities at a January 2012 retreat. Photo by Emily Ralph.

Earlier this year, Franconia Conference’s board identified  the fulfillment of its Vision and Financial Plan through the realignment of resources and the movement toward cultivating healthy and growing disciples, leaders, congregations, and connections. In response, the board and Executive Minister Ertell Whigham have discerned continuing priorities for conference staff and ministry.

These priorities are rooted in the intended outcomes of the Vision and Financial Plan along with an emphasis on building formational, missional, and intercultural communities that are witnesses of the peace and love of Jesus Christ.

According to Whigham, “This is not a house cleaning, not a reinventing, this is focusing our work together in a time of needing to more carefully, courageously, and diligently carry out our work of equipping, empowering, and embracing God’s mission from Georgia to Vermont.”

These priorities are an extension of the ongoing work and ministry of Franconia Conference, while recognizing a need to focus ministry and staffing in a way that stewards both financial and human resources.   With this focusing, Conference intends to move toward a reduction in staffing while cultivating further opportunities for ministry within and between conference congregations.

Priority #1: Developing missional initiatives

Over the last years, Franconia Conference has provided Missional Operations Grants for congregations and ministries to promote risk-taking for the sake of the Gospel.  Over the next years, Conference will renew a focus on these initiatives across conference congregations, to build relationships among congregations and to promote the development of leaders toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  These grants will be available to all congregations toward creative partnerships and new possibilities for missional engagement both distant and nearby.  These partnerships will be intent on mutuality, rooted in considerations of justice, building on strengths, and calling forth new and next generation leaders.

Priority #2: Networking and cultivating intercultural ministry relationships

This process will include an assessment of current and emerging relationships that work cross-culturally while building further capacity toward mutually beneficial relationships among ministries and congregations.  Increasingly, these relationships will be defined by reciprocity and transformation rather than paternalism and patronization.  Relationships will be built around both work and celebration and both doing and being together.

Priority #3: Building leadership capacities across geographies and generations

Committed people are Franconia Conference’s greatest resources. We are blessed and privileged with a diversity of gifts and high levels of commitment from our congregations and leaders. This is a strength to be further developed toward a goal of creating opportunities for more involvement of leaders from all congregations. Conference will focus on building further capacities in areas of mediation, peace and justice, and other ministries further working toward relevant and excellent venues for training and equipping. Conference staff will be focused toward these considerations with ongoing evaluation and performance reviews in order to be further equipped for future support of the constituent community.  Due to decreased congregational giving, however, conference staffing will likely be reduced.

While the overall projection of priorities includes a reduction in staffing and continued work at careful stewardship of conference human, spiritual, and financial resources, Whigham said when he unveiled the priorities to staff this week, “ultimately our goal is to glorify God and to bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Conference leadership will begin implementation of priorities immediately; conversations with staff were initiated earlier this year and will continue through 2012.

In a letter released to all conference delegates and credentialed leaders on May 11, 2012, board chair John Goshow (Blooming Glen congregation) and Whigham wrote:

“We believe that God is capable of fulfilling our prayers beyond our dreams.  At the same time, we believe that God is honored when we listen and lead in a way that invites us to fulfill our mission with excellence and with justice.  This is where it seems God is calling us together, what God is inviting, and where hopefully we’ll have the courage to go in the way of peace.

“We’ll continue to keep you updated as we further develop these priorities.  We plan to set up community conversations in the next few weeks for face-to-face time together. We’re going to learn some things. We’re going to make some mistakes. We’re going to have some successes. And we’re going to continue to be willing to witness of faith in Christ, till the kingdom comes.”