Can You Name the Top Three Areas of Focus for 2012?
The start of a new year provides a natural opportunity to regroup and refocus on the year ahead. These Priority Buttons have been developed to keep the 2012 Priorities at the forefront as reminders of three areas of conference-wide focus going forward. This “Top Three List” resulted from the input of leaders, members, consultants and representatives on the Strategic Assessment Team. The Cross Connection will “pair” these buttons with articles in the coming year to keep you updated on activities related to progress on each priority.
Cultivate Growing, Fruitful, Missional Congregations
This strategy highlights the centrality of vital congregations to the mission And vision of the Texas Annual Conference. It includes the prior strategies of starting new churches and resourcing congregations for transformation. The distinctions in this priority include:
• Every congregation should be regularly discerning how it is cultivating growth, fruitfulness and mission. Each congregation should be prepared to give a rich account of its cultivation to inquirers (whether the District Superintendent or a new person in the community).
• The Conference should continue to start new churches and, in the process, learn from the report provided by Jim Griffiths. Additionally, this encourages the development of new models for missional congregations including (for example) partnerships with among existing congregations, parenting-church relationships, and other experiments.
• This provides a way for the Center for Congregational Excellence to focus its work of supporting and resourcing the uniqueness of congregations in their contexts, recognizing that there is no single model for growth, fruitfulness, or missional clarity.
• This focus provides and encourages storytelling and other qualitative measures of congregational vitality.
Invest in the Young
This strategy highlights the importance of a visible strategy that will strengthen Interest among “seekers” and other young people in the broader regions of the Conference. Such a strategy will require drawing on the wisdom of the elders to address it fruitfully and faithfully. The four important distinctions are:
• The term “invest” conveys a commitment to the future of the young in ways that include All that we are, have, and can do.
• “Young” includes initiatives attentive to pre-K children all the way up to and including young adults.
• The strategy embraces the young within congregations and those in broader communities, including those young people from demographic groups a congregation may not be used to engaging.
• This invites congregations to develop partnerships with institutions (e.g., education, health, food) to address holistic needs of the young.
Form Transforming Lay and Clergy Leaders
This strategy highlights the importance of equipping people to lead others in paths of Christian discipleship. It includes the prior strategy of recruiting young, gifted, diverse clergy, a strategy which has contributed positive results to the Conference. However, there are four important distinctions in this new area of focus:
• The recognition that clergy need leadership development throughout their vocation. Indeed, research indicates that there are particular sizes of congregations that present distinct leadership challenges which warrant focused leadership development.
• There are clear needs for clergy development at critical transition points, and there is much to be learned from Lovett Weems’ reports.
• The strategy emphasizes that equipping laity for leadership in their vocations in the world (not primarily for service on church, district, or conference committees) is a distinct challenge and opportunity that will strengthen congregations and Christian witness.
• Leadership development training is needed to equip new people for key positions in congregations and the Conference.