I just finished two days of conferencing with our new Strategic Mapping Team and Dr. Gil Rendle (Senior Consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation) in which we began to explore the question of how we align our resources in both the Memphis and Tennessee conferences to be more faithful and effective in achieving our shared mission. As I have reflected on that experience, I realized it was simply the latest step in a remarkable list of things that have happened in our Nashville Episcopal Area as we live into the invitation to “Expect Greater Things.” This new Team of thirty persons is wrestling with the demanding questions of identity and purpose that we need to answer in order to experience the renewal we know God wants for us.
Here is how we got here:
- Bishop Ben Chamness set in motion the Financial Advisory Consulting Team (FACT) from the General Council on Finance and Administration and the General Board Of Pension and Health Benefits. He selected 30 persons to engage in conversation about a wide variety of topics affecting the future of our two conferences. This took place in late October 2012.
- In December 2012 the FACT Team returned with their final report and we increased the group to about 60 persons from both conferences to look at their findings. These reports have been posted on the websites of the respective conferences.
- The two most significant issues facing us immediately were:
-To develop a shared mission and vision across the conferences
-To determine future of the work of the Uniting Committee
- Before the Uniting Committee disbanded, the group invited Dr. Gil Rendle to begin consulting with us around these dilemmas and to help us think about deep change. The Uniting Committee agreed with the findings of FACT as it related to shared mission and vision, as well as postponing the conversation about uniting the two conferences.
- At that time the Uniting Committee(s) recommended we begin a process of creating a Strategic Mapping Team for the future–one Area-wide group and two conference-specific groups.
- Those participating in the FACT process nominated persons to serve on the Strategic Mapping Team. Approximately 30 persons were invited to serve.
- Methodist Health Systems provided a grant for funding the consulting fees for four days. On Friday, Jan. 25, we concluded the first two days of work with Dr. Rendle.
- Dr. Rendle will return in February 2013 to continue working with us.
- We anticipate that Dr. Rendle will be with us at both Annual Conference sessions to help us understand our next steps. We also anticipate that the Strategic Mapping Team will bring a report to each annual conference to help us map our plans for 2013-2014 as it relates to mission and vision. To do things right, it will take time.
For instance, we have created four sub-teams:
Communication–This team is working on how to widen the circles of conversation, prayer and reflection on how we focus on mission instead of institutional survival.
Conversations–This team is initiating contact with leaders in other conferences who have done similar work to learn from them what has been helpful or not so helpful in shifting conference culture to a missional focus.
FACT Analysis—This team is carefully reviewing both FACT reports to discern what recommendations can be embraced quickly and which ones are more strategic and need more discernment.
Benchmarks—This team is reflecting on the kinds of measurements that we want to identify and utilize to know how well we are achieving our missional objectives.
The first task of leadership is to draw an honest picture of our current reality.
Dr. Rendle posed these questions as we began our time:
- What does God expect you to learn through this process?
- What does God tell you to risk boldly as you engage this work?
- Do our leaders have the capacity and the will to do what they say?
We learned we need to:
- Deepen Wesleyan tradition through laity and clergy
- Think Mission Field—not mission projects
- Move from the personal to congregational to community
Other questions are:
- What resources will we bring to the table for measurements?
- How do we create a path to sustainability?
If you have read this far, perhaps you are asking: Why are we doing this work?
We are engaging in this work at this time as an Area because there is wisdom across the Area and we are stronger together than we are apart. To move toward the mission field, we must ask:
- Do we have a conference that supports structure or a structure that supports mission?
- Are we willing to lay aside our legacy agendas, programs and activities to reach the mission field?
- Are we willing to ask the hard questions with regard to budgets and commitment?
Robert Quinn, in his book Deep Change, writes: When an organization or institution has lost its connection with its own environment there is only one choice: Deep change or slow death
Rendle invites us to reflect on this notion that we must connect out of missional reasons, redefine trust, and ask: What does the mission field need?
Much has happened in the last five months. Looking back, it seems like I have been here longer than five months.
There is much to be done. So in the words of Gil Rendle, “Go slow.”
I invite you into a season of prayer around this difficult and challenging work.
Below you will find those who were nominated to serve on the Area Strategic Mapping Team.
- Angela Harris
- Bethany Huffman
- Carol Cavin-Dillon
- Cynthia Davis
- David R. Reed
- David Russell
- Debbie Robinson
- Dow Smith
- Gary Shorb
- Gerry Campbell
- Grace Phelps
- Harriet Bryan
- Holly Neal
- James Finger
- Jim Allen
- John Collett
- Johnny Jeffords
- Lynn Hill
- Max Mayo
- Michael Williams
- Opal Ransom
- Roger Hopson
- Selena Henson
- Sky McCracken
- Stephen Handy
- Susan Engle
- Whitney Mitchell
- Tom Laney is serving as convener of the Strategic Mapping Team for the Area.
Will you join us in prayer for this important work?