The Western North Carolina Extended Cabinet focused their work on a sustainable discipleship process and leadership development. This discipleship process concentrated on the importance engaging our context and building relationships; connecting new relationships with faith communities and connecting them to others; equipping, training, and preparing these new disciples to minister; and living out our lives as disciples, becoming Christ-like, and serving. All of this begins to shape the primary elements of a disciple making process.
Each district superintendent shared the plans and strategies used in their respective areas that contribute to increasing effective leaders and fruitful congregations. As these efforts were being communicated, all members of the extended cabinet shared how they see God at work throughout the conference, allowing us to celebrate the increasing number of individuals and churches that are providing faithful ministries.
The Cabinet continued their tradition of sharing the celebrations and pastoral concerns for our clergy family, as we prayed for each and offered encouragement for their continued service.
Rev. Dan Pezet, Director of New Church Development and Revitalization – led the appointive cabinet in a time of reflecting on the unique nature of each district. Introducing an initiative to offer revitalization to many of our churches that are good, but could become great, and provided a framework where each district might give intentional attention to churches that could accelerate their ministry as they move from “Good to Great.” We call this project the NEHEMIAH INITIATIVE. This initiative will invite laity and clergy who are effective in key areas of ministry to share their experience with another church. These “guides” would be willing to offer their experience with other churches to strengthen efforts related to Mission, Vision, Values; Evangelism; Worship; Preaching; Hospitality; Discipleship/Teaching; Small Group ministries; and Stewardship.
Considerable time was spent on discussing how we might best identify, utilize, and place these guides. This conversation was set in the context with those areas of our state that are showing population growth and those areas that are reflecting decline, yet we are seeing church growth and asking, “How can we get more of this?”
Dr. Lyn Sorrells, Director of the Church Legacy Initiative, updated us on the congregations considering how to take the next best step for their church. These conversations often focus on the possibility of revitalization. CLI is working closely with the Director of Congregational Development and Revitalization as their work expands.
The appointive cabinet recommitted to the core values shaping our covenant in making appointments. This includes starting with the importance of the mission of the church, which is the reason we were ordained and licensed. It is this mission that drives the discernment of appointing clergy to local congregations, and how important consultation is in understanding the various needs of individuals and churches.
Jane Wood, the Conference Lay Leader, briefly joined the appointive cabinet to share the God-sized dream of the Board of Laity, which is to see 80% of all churches within the conference becoming actively immersed in small accountability groups and Wesleyan Covenant groups, which has been the heart of our Methodist tradition. These covenant groups would emphasize inward holiness and outward compassion; the means of grace and the means of mercy. This vision was affirmed along with conversation in strengthening the partnership of clergy and laity.
In addition to Jane Wood, representatives of Candler and Duke Divinity Schools, also entered into a conversation to identify part-time congregations where student ministers might serve while attending seminary, and inviting us to encourage all our congregations to invite a seminary intern to work with our churches during the summer, offering these students an experience of what it means to serve others through the church.
Finally, the cabinet reviewed appointment matters and gave thanks for the alignment of our conference boards, agencies, and committees, all working together to strengthen effective leadership and fruitful congregations. Rev. Kim Ingram led the superintendents in a review and discussion of many of the leadership initiatives, seminars, and classes that contribute to effective leaders as we explored how these initiatives might contribute to identifying leaders needed for future appointments.
It was a meaningful time of worshipful work as we celebrated so many wonderful expressions of ministry.