A letter from the bishop - January 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Six months ago at our annual conference session, the conference leadership and I made nine commitments to you. It is important to reflect on the progress we have made and share a realistic picture of what we need to continue to do to make further progress.
We committed to assist you to set five goals that will help all of our congregations become more vital by Jan. 30, 2012.
We offered more than 10 trainings throughout the conference and provided individual assistance to any church that requested assistance. Every congregation was given a planning guide and other online tools to assist with setting goals. At the present time, more than 80 percent of the congregations have set goals. You can also find a resource to help you achieve your goals at www.umvitalcongregations.org under the achieve your goals tab. If you would like further assistance in setting or achieving your goals contact your staff Guide.
We committed to develop a comprehensive leadership development program to grow and strengthen lay and clergy leadership by June 2012.
We provide a number of leadership development ministries like the Discipleship Academy, Prodigal Worship, Discipler Groups, clergy coaching, workshops with Bill Easum and Jim Griffith, and Bishop’s Days Apart. These have been effective but we want to further develop a comprehensive approach. A conferencewide team is working with the bishop’s assistant, Rev. David Cooney, to select a consultant to review our existing programs and identify a leadership development strategy that will strengthen how we develop leaders to grow vital Acts 2 congregations that make and engage disciples for the transformation of the world.
We are committed to reducing the benevolence factor from 19.5 percent to 16 percent by 2017.
The 2012 budget is based on an 18 percent benevolence factor (the percent we apportion churches minus capital and mission expenses) and the proposed 2013 budget will be based on a 17.5 percent benevolence factor. As we continue healthy stewardship of conference resources and more congregations pay 100 percent of their apportionments, we will achieve this goal. An online resource, Why We Give, can be found here.
We are committed to assisting congregations with repurposing their buildings for mission and ministry.
Exciting ministry is happening throughout the conference. Be the Change was founded by leaders of the Baltimore-Washington Conference with a mission to end homelessness in the Washington region by creating permanent supportive housing for the homeless through partnerships and innovation. Currently Calvary House and North Capital Commons in Washington are works in progress.
Among other exciting changes, Govans Boundry UMC recently approved the re-purposing of its buildings for homeless ministry. St. Paul’s Worship Center moved into a closed church. The One Church One Home ministry in Harford County is providing housing in creative ways and First Saints UMC is using one of its parsonages to house a homeless family.
We committed to start 20 new congregations over the next 10 years.
Progress is being made towards starting new congregations. The Vine in Harford County continues to grow, and Interconnect, a new young adult church start in Anne Arundel County, is beginning to take shape. Two new congregations in Baltimore City and potentially a new congregation in the Frederick area are in the works now.
Additionally, the New Church Leadership Institute in November trained more than 20 new church planters.
iWe committed to identifying and exploring the risk factors that are leading some churches to serious decline.
We are committed to work with at-risk churches and invited them to review their risk factors and contact us if they would like to talk about how they can turn their congregation around. We are also piloting with three at-risk congregations a special program to address property issues and risk factors.
We committed to support your growth through Immersion series resources.
An Immersion series is a resource designed to assist congregations with growing worship, new believers, small groups and mission. Most recently, the Welcoming Life resource and an online Debt Reduction series were launched and are being used in congregations across the conference. The next Immersion Series on Sacred Encounters is scheduled to launch this spring and a series on leadership will be released in the fall.
We committed to strengthening the Gateway system (our online resourcing and information system). We want to continue to make Gateway as user-friendly a system as possible. You can read more about some of our Gateway improvements on page 3.
We committed to help you improve stewardship in your congregation through the United Methodist Mid-Atlantic Foundation. You can learn more about the Foundation here.
I greatly appreciate all you are doing to grow vital Acts 2 congregations and we pledge to continue to work with you to strengthen our ministry together. I pray that 2012 will be an exciting year in which blessings abound.
Keep the faith!