Plan Brings Conference Resources Even Closer to Local Churches
By Rev. Melinda Britt, Director of Connectional Ministries
Having journeyed through this Lenten season, I am thankful that as a follower of Christ I can live with the promises of resurrection that anchor my faith. I believe God can create new and beautiful things out of us and when I pray “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” I can count on God to do just that. As a body of believers, we rely on the process of sanctification, allowing God’s grace to create in us a new heart each day.
This same process applies to us as a conference as God helps to make adjustments in the way we are doing ministry together and the way we structure the church. We strive to live into the mission we have claimed together: “… to discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world one neighborhood at a time.”
These shifts will bring our conference resources even closer to the local church. As a conference, we will take the next 12 months to move from a basic council and committee structure to a more focused and adaptive operational team structure.
I will work with committees to make the transition by helping them assess their ministry strategies and how those fit within the mission of the conference. These new operational teams will be comprised of lay and clergy who will rely on God’s direction to help them focus on the mission of the Tennessee Conference and our four areas of emphasis: invest in young people, engage the mission field, grow fruitful and faithful congregations, and create transforming lay and clergy leaders.
One of these new teams, New Church Development, has already begun the shift to an operational team process across both the Tennessee and the Memphis Conferences under the leadership of Rev. Jacob Armstrong.
There will be much study done over the coming months to ensure disciplinary requirements are met while shifting the focus of ministry to the local church. A conference operational team will continue to examine our complex structure and form teams to create an integrated approach to resourcing the local churches from a district perspective.
Faithful inquiry tells me that we will need to incorporate the strengths of our former centralized model with ideas from new models that can address our different contexts in each of the five districts. As conference leadership listens for how the ministry and call of the local churches can be more effectively supported, some consistency in structure will be provided while recognizing the need for adaptation in each district. The hope is that an environment will be created where processes will be put into practice for the local church to become full of God’s fruit.
During the past few months, the Cabinet has completed the redistricting study and are currently mapping out the steps to have those new districts ready to move forward in ministry at the completion of Annual Conference. Secondly, the transition team of the Connectional Ministries Office personnel committee began the implementation of the approved restructuring of the conference staff by eliminating three staff positions in February. Going forward, the addition of personnel resources for the five new districts will be a result of collaboration with the Director of Connectional Ministries and the District Superintendents.
Since becoming director, I have met much optimism in the Tennessee Conference when I have discussed the upcoming changes being made to direct resources closer to the local church. It is primarily in the context of a faith community where folks develop a life changing relationship with Jesus.
My hope and prayer is that the resources of the conference will not be viewed as distant but as a part of the life of each faith community in the Tennessee Conference. I am confident in God’s promise to provide us, the Tennessee Conference, sanctifying grace in the ongoing experience of God transforming us into whom God intends this conference to be.
Please continue to pray with me for peace as we begin to live in new district connections and for wisdom in discerning this new process for offering Christ to a hurting world.