What does Franconia Conference do together?

by Steve Kriss, Philadelphia Praise Center, skriss@franconiaconference.org

Lani Prunes worked through Oxford Circle Mennonite Church's summer arts and education initiative that was supported through a Missional Operational Grant.

Franconia Conference: Together. Bersama, Juntos. Cúng Nhau.

This sense of togetherness, of Conference, is a relationship that is sometimes tense and sometimes harmonious, counter to the individualistic and isolationist impulses of our time. We are striving to be held together as congregations, under a common willingness to follow after Jesus, to live in this historic and contemporary Anabaptist stream, to give and receive counsel, to share our gifts and resources, all for the glory of God.

Together. Bersama, Juntos. Cúng Nhau.

Posters with these words were distributed at Conference Assembly 2011. But the question sometimes lingers—what does Conference do?

Equipping congregations

Franconia Conference, in the form of our new LEADership minister, Jenifer Eriksen-Morales, has been helping our ministry enormously these past 11 months. She began with a major review of my pastoral leadership and of the whole congregation that was so helpful in identifying strengths and issues for clarification.

—Dawn Ruth Nelson, Pastor, Methacton congregation

Franconia Conference equips healthy and growing leaders.

Primarily through the credentialing and accountability process for pastors, chaplains and ministers, Conference provides structures for leadership. The conference’s oversight platform—LEAD—is designed to equip and train congregations. Right now, there are over 120 credentialed leaders from the conference community serving in six states and three countries—probably an all-time high as congregations are calling for more pastors and the field of ministry continues to expand beyond traditional settings.

Empowering new congregations

This February, by God’s grace, Georgia Praise Center celebrated our one year anniversary. Throughout this year, Franconia Conference has graciously supported us in so many ways. We are very grateful for the encouragement, guidance, and financial support that have been given to us. We feel strengthened and honored to be a part of one big family of Franconia Conference. We pray that with God’s blessing, our family will grow even more in the years to come. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all of our brothers and sisters in the Conference.

—Yunus Perkasa Tjeng, Pastor, Georgia Praise Center

Pastor Yunus of Georgia Praise Center, Atlanta, prays for congregation members PiPih and Ninis during an outdoor service. Georgia Praise Center received a Missional Operational Grant for their relaunch in February of 2011.

Franconia Conference works diligently to cultivate healthy and growing congregations.

Healthy and growing leaders will likely bring forth healthy and growing communities. While equipping leaders is the conference’s primary task, healthy and growing communities are tended by our relationships together. Conference staff members support congregations through transitions, reviews, and conflict—situations that up to 20% of congregations are facing at any one time! While ensuring ongoing health, Conference relationships provoke congregations toward missional experimentation and calling next generation leadership. This process becomes critical as congregations embody the Good News in our diverse settings from Vermont to Georgia.

Cross Cultural Exchange with Academia Menonita
Students from Philadelphia Mennonite High School went on college exploration, cross-cultural, and intercessory prayer trips, thanks in part to a Missional Operational Grant from Franconia Conference. PMHS Students Rashod (far left) Langston, Aaron, and Darnell (right) are pictured here with students from Academia Menonita.

Franconia Conference invites people into healthy and growing relationships with Jesus Christ.

Conference priorities include ongoing spiritual growth from cradle to grave—priorities evidenced in our congregations but also in our Conference Related Ministries, organizations that serve a cross section of people from both within and beyond our congregations. From schools to ex-offender ministries to senior living communities to service providers for people with disabilities to camps and retreat facilities, Conference Related Ministries extend the Good News alongside congregational discipleship. The formation work of Conference is also especially incarnated through conference staffing intended specifically for youth and young adults.

Through Conference’s endowed funds, Missional Operational Grants are provided to congregations for initiatives to further extend the Good News in their communities. All congregations are eligible for these funds, which are most often used for new missional initiatives that allow the life of the congregation to extend the reign of God both nearby and sometimes globally. In recent years, 10-20 initiatives have received grants annually; $68,000 has been earmarked for 2012 grants. Congregations may apply for funds through conversations with their LEADership ministers.

Equipping leaders: One significant role that Franconia Conference has played in the life of our church has been walking with us during our recent pastoral search process. Noah Kolb, as a Conference representative, was instrumental in providing a list of available candidates. As our team assessed and interviewed candidates, he was available for guidance and wise counsel along each step of the way. [And now] Franconia Conference provides further training and credentialing for this pastor. It is reassuring to us to know they are also part of evaluating and confirming this individual for service.

—Karen Moyer, pastoral search committee chair,Rocky Ridge congregation

Franconia Conference builds healthy and growing connections between congregations and the world.

Missional Operational Grants

February 2011-January 2012

Boyertown Mennonite Church
Deep Run East Mennonite Church
Doylestown Mennonite Church
Frederick Mennonite Church
Georgia Praise Center
Good Shepherd Community Church
Greensburg Worship Center
Line Lexington Mennonite Church
Nations Worship Center
New Hope Fellowship
Nueva Vida Norristown New Life
Oxford Circle Mennonite Church
Perkiomenville Mennonite Church
Philadelphia Mennonite High School
Providence Mennonite Church
Ripple Allentown
Rock Community Church
Rockhill Mennonite Church
Souderton Mennonite Church
Whitehall Mennonite Church

Historically, Conference has been both a governance body and a mission agency. Franconia Mennonite Mission Board was incorporated into conference structures around the turn of the millennium. This has not always been easy. In recent years, Conference has sought to build relationships with other Anabaptist groups across the world, especially in the UK and Haiti. At times, Conference has picked up relationships and conversation that spans the globe on behalf of congregations in places like Indonesia, Mexico, and Chile. Conference has maintained historic connections to places where mission workers were sent in the 20th Century, specifically Cuba and Mexico.

When Mennonite Church USA was formed over a decade ago, Franconia Conference joined the new national body. Conference is the primary point of connection with the denomination, participating on behalf of its congregations along with 20 other conferences across the country. This means conference staff and board members regularly attend meetings and attend to relationships that are both near and far.

Empowering ministries

Christopher Dock Mennonite High School deeply appreciates the collaborative relationship with Franconia Conference. This year we have worked together to hire and share a campus pastor/conference youth minister. Ertell Whigham and John Goshow have been a wonderful face of Conference attending Dock events such as pastors’ day, and providing counsel throughout the year. Our journey together is energizing and life-giving as we surround our youth with the support needed to prepare them to impact our churches and world.

—Conrad Swartzentruber, Principal, Christopher Dock Mennonite High School

Franconia Conference: Together. Bersama, Juntos. Cúng Nhau.

Franconia Conference is a complex organism with partnerships and ministries that span the globe, with a history of over 350 years, older than the United States itself. It’s not easily explained, multi-faceted, and in many ways blessed by years of faithfulness evidenced in risk and caution, generosity and savvy stewardship. Our story is one of togetherness, of trying to stay rightly related in the midst of dramatic changes. Our history, the story of God’s movement through the generations, is ongoing. By the power of the Spirit, may we have the courage to not only preserve but to dream, to not only remain but to go, to not only endure but to flourish.