Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ
Iowa Conference, United Methodist Church
Adopted at the 2013 Annual Conference
The Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church exists to encourage communities of faithful people who live out the love of Jesus as instruments of God’s grace, peace, and justice. We are lay people and pastors, churches of all sizes, ministries and programs, all connected by the Holy Spirit into one body – the Iowa Conference – in order to live out our mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
In all parts of the Iowa Conference, God is calling us to a season of resurrection. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19 NRSV). God is calling us to be reborn as a conference so that we will grow our number of communities of faith and Christian disciples, develop hundreds of new leaders for God’s transforming work, and intentionally focus resources on our common mission. Every step of the way, God is leading us outside of our churches and into our wider communities to build relationships with new people, reaching out especially – as Jesus did – to persons living on the margins of society.
This future is exciting, but it also asks us to takes bold steps of faith, together, as we love and serve our neighbors. As United Methodist disciples in Iowa we acknowledge that we are fully dependent on God’s grace. Yet with conviction we embrace those spiritual practices of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness as we seek – with God’s help – to transform the world. To live out our vision and mission, we believe as the Iowa Conference we must focus on these strategic priorities:
1. Creating World-Transforming Communities of Faith
A. Establishing new communities of faith
B. Increasing vitality in existing communities of faith
2. Equipping Ourselves and Others as Transformational Leaders
A. Equipping lay leadership to disciple others and transform the world
B. Equipping clergy leadership to disciple others and transform the world
3. Directing Our Resources to Our Common Goals
A. Developing and implementing an effective communications ministry
B. Aligning organizational structures and staffing resources for the sake of the mission and vision.
C. Increasing the financial health of the Iowa Conference
We believe we impact lives through the love of Jesus that is reflected in what we do. We do not have all the answers. We are on a journey of faith led by the Holy Spirit. We have entered into a new season of opportunity. As we travel together, we believe we are called to be unapologetically Christian and unashamedly United Methodist. We believe we are much stronger together than we are alone. We believe it is time for us all to unite to make a difference. When we follow and live out Christ’s example of generous love and compassion, the world will be transformed.
How do you see yourself engaging these priorities now and in the future?
Everybody loves a good read! Reading the Strategic Priorities of the Iowa Annual Conference may not be the most exciting stuff, but it is a necessity. It outlines the direction of the Conference and what it is doing to focus resources on our common mission For the past five years the Conference has been focusing its efforts on realigning in house conference staff and missional staff out in the field. The in-house staff has gone through its realignment and how the conference center operates has been put on a whole new level. Full time positions were cut. Contracted employment was turned into in house employment. Technology is great but when there is long term lease on tech stuff that is now out dated, and all this equipment is piled up in a room in the conference center something had to change. Equipment leases have been changed and shortened to keep up with new technology.
This year there have been five full time positions eliminated between the Field Outreach Ministers and Leadership Development Ministers. There has also been changes in the staffing and an elimination of the Bishop assistants to facilitate our strategic priorities. So now we have instead of Bishop assistants we have two new positions and they are Director of Congregational Excellence and Director for Clergy and Leadership Excellence.
The Annual Conference Budget is greatly affected by all this realignment and will be in a downward trend for the next three years. Will it keep going downward and the answer is yes. Will apportionments go down and the answer is yes. However, apportionments can be affected by those who cannot or do not pay their share. The budget reductions and the lowering of apportionments will prayerfully relieve stress on the local church and give them more freedom to take on the next phase of the strategic priorities. The final priority is to establish a conference goal and the name of that goal is, “Wildly Important Goal.” The Wildly Important Goal that the conference has set is to increase vitality in existing communities of faith. The process to achieve that goal is called Discipleship Pathways. The goal of Discipleship pathways is to teach every church in the Iowa Annual Conference in how to develop a process for intentionally forming discipleship pathways by the year 2020.
So, what is a “Discipleship Pathways?” Ken Willard, who authored Disciple Pathways in his book “Stride” tells us a Disciple Pathway is the intentional part of helping people take their next steps in becoming disciples for Jesus Christ. To do that we look at spiritual disciplines, we look at ministries in the church. What we’re trying to do is, instead of having a lot of things going on that end up being independent of each other – and they’re good things – how can we intentionally connect them so that those in our congregations have a sense that this all works together to help grow them as disciples of Jesus Christ?”
I am really looking forward to our future conversations with you as we enter the process known as Discipleship Pathways. How we can take the positives of our church and turn them into a unified mission to do ministry to our community and the surrounding area. I look for some great discussions in the future as I know we got a lot to offer and because we are Oakland UMC we got a lot to give. Great things are always going on in our church so as we focus our ministries and missions to grow in our discipleship the great things we do are only going to reach more people in the name of Jesus Christ and that is exciting!
See you Sunday,