Strategic Mapping Team Releases Proposal and invites TAC to Listening Sessions for Feedback
By Roy Maynard
What’s the future of the Texas Annual Conference? According to church leaders conducting “listening sessions” throughout the conference in late September and October, it could be leaner, more efficient—and closer to home.
“The trends we see are a desire for a closer connection and that’s going to require a deeper commitment to decentralization,” says Rev. Matt Stone, pastor of Dayspring UMC in Tyler. “The Conference wants to regain a sense of the personal—stronger relational connections.”
Rev. Stone is part of the Strategic Mapping Team, which is conducting the listening sessions for delegates and leaders of the Conference, called Table Talks with Bishop Scott Jones and the Strategic Mapping Team.
“We imagine a church focused more completely on God’s power to disciple persons and send them out to transform the world,” the proposal reads. “We believe God wants to reach more people, more young people and more diverse people. As Christ followers we want to become more nimble, with stronger relationships, more accountability and a greater impact on our communities.”
How to achieve those goals will be the topic of discussion at the listening sessions.
“Anyone and everyone who has a stake in the future of our conference should attend one of the Table Talks,” said Rev. Karen Jones, a member of the Strategic Mapping Team. “If you are interested in making disciples of Jesus Christ, you should come. If you want to help shape the future of the Texas Annual Conference, you should come.”
The goal is to get input from local church leaders—and to ensure that the conference’s direction is in accord with the local churches.
“Throughout the summer, individual members of the Strategic Mapping Team have visited with different stakeholder groups around the conference,” Jones said.
“We have listened to your concerns and your hearts’ desires for our annual conference to better equip local churches to truly make a difference in the lives of the people in our individual communities or contexts. We have been having deep discussions and much prayer about the best ways to make that a reality. And we want you to help us to continue to shape the future of the Annual Conference through these sessions.”
Team member Royce Hickman says the proposal isn’t final—by any means.
“Our intent is to go back and say ‘Did we hear you correctly? Do you have anything else you want to share with us?’ We’ll have nine sessions where we go out and listen to folks.” he explained. “If you have ideas, we want to hear from you.”
One of the ideas being explored is decentralization.
“We have a sense that people feel close to their districts, so if we can move some of these functions out of a large central office and move it to where the rubber meets the road, we can achieve more,” he said. “And that will free up some resources at the conference office, and allow us to reduce some overhead.”
Planning for the future is never easy, Rev. Stone adds.
“We need our best thinking and our best stewardship,” he said. “That only happens when people show up and are willing to engage in a difficult but constructive conversation. This is hard work but this is the only way it gets done.”
The Strategic Mapping Team was formed after delegates to the Texas Annual Conference authorized it in May 2018.
The nine Table Talks will take place from Sept. 30 through Oct. 30. In addition, an online survey will be emailed to delegates and listening session participants via email.
Who is deciding the future of the Texas Annual Conference? You are—with your input, your values and your hard work.
But members of the Strategic Mapping Team are putting in hundreds of hours to ensure that all stakeholders are heard.
Members include Rev. Carol Bruse, Rev. Elizabeth Duffin, John Esquivel, Rev. Stephanie Griffin, Dr. Vincent Harris, Royce Hickman, Rev. Karen Jones, Bishop Scott J. Jones, Rev. Romonica Malone-Wardley, Dr. Elijah Stansell, Rev. Matt Stone, Rev. Kate Walker, Rev. Tommy Williams and Rev. B.T. Williamson.
The goal of the SMT is “to equip congregations to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
The proposal — though nothing has been finalized — “decentralizes mission and ministry throughout the Texas Annual Conference; simplifies and streamlines communication; reduces committees, meetings, and programs; and accomplishes our foci more efficiently and effectively.”
The proposal foresees a three-year transition plan. In the fourth year, congregations would be offered reduced apportionments.
For more information or to register for Table Talks with Bishop Jones and the Strategic Mapping Team, please go here.