CABINET COVENANT

September 8th through 11th the Cabinet of the Central Texas Conference gathered for our annual fall retreat.  This is a yearly retreat wherein we re-gather, having been out for summer vacation trips and other activities.  As a part of this event we review, update and again covenant together.  Below is the Covenant with commit to/with each other for our collective ministry of energizing and equipping local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Central Texas Conference Cabinet Covenant
September 10, 2013

1.   We will make the mission of the Church (to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world) the first priority in everything we do.

2.   We recognize as a cabinet we are to be co-leaders of the vision, resource leadership development and deployment, lead/model spiritual formation, and resource and support Bishop Lowry.

3.  We will conduct our work in ways that fulfill the mission, vision and core strategies of the Central Texas Conference. Committed to doing our best to live into the spirit of the Exodus Project.

4.  We are first and foremost Conference Leaders (Superintendents, Lay Leader and Executive Directors).What is best for the whole of the conference takes precedence over what is best for our individual districts/centers.

5.  We affirm that in appointment-making our clients are: First, God-The Kingdom of God; Second, The Mission Field; Third, Congregations; and Fourth, Clergy. In this order!

6.  We will maintain confidentiality in appropriate ways.

7.  We will feel free to conduct appropriate conversations with members of the Cabinet or Task Groups of the Cabinet, but all appointive decision-making will occur with the whole Cabinet.

8.  We will be honest and vulnerable with each other in our discussions, including sharing our questions, concerns, frustrations and failures.

9.  We will encourage healthy discussion and not shy away from conflicts about ideas, strategies and issues because we believe it will result in better outcomes.

10.  We will hold each other accountable for our mission, responsibilities and assignments.

11.  We will keep talking until there is clarity about issues and decisions. Once a decision has been made, everyone will support it.

12.  We affirm that Bishop Lowry has clarified with us that we likely will not leave the cabinet at the same compensation or appointment level we currently have as cabinet members.

Signature: Bishop/District Superintendent/Executive Directors of Centers/Conference Lay Leader

Representative Granger Working with Imagine No Malaria

Tuesday, September 3rd I had the privilege of visiting with Representative Kay Granger, Congresswoman for the 12th District in which I reside.  On behalf of the other bishops of Texas (Bledsoe, Dorff, Huie and McKee) along with Bishop Tom Bickerton (who heads the Imagine No Malaria campaign for the Council of Bishops), Rev. Clayton Childers (Director of Advocacy for Imagine No Malaria from the General Board of Church and Society) and I presented Congresswoman Kay Granger a letter of gratitude and appreciate.

taken by Mattie Parker

Photo of Bishop Lowry, Rep. Granger and Rev. Childers taken by Mattie Parker

 

Congresswoman Granger has been an instrumental force in funding the Global Fund, which participates in the Imagine No Malaria Campaign.  The United Methodist Church through Imagine No Malaria is both a financial supporter of Global Fund and a recipient from the Global Fund.  We team with the Global Fund, the Gates Foundation, the NBA, and others in combating killer diseases across our globe.  Our letter in major part read:

On behalf of the United Methodist Church (UMC), our Imagine No Malaria campaign, and our members all across the country, we want to thank you for your leadership and work on H.R. 2855, the Fiscal Year 2014 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, and for your robust and faithful support of the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, especially during these times of fiscal austerity.

 As you know, a child dies of malaria every 60 seconds, a still alarming statistic but vast improvement over just a few years ago when we lost a child every 30 seconds to this preventable and treatable disease. Much of this improvement can and should be credited to the Global Fund, a critical tool in the fight against malaria. Global Fund-supported programs save lives. In fact more than 100,000 lives are saved each month in 150 countries around the world because of the work of the Global Fund. In terms of the malaria specific work being supported by the Global Fund, we would like to offer a few key highlights: by 2012 Global Fund-supported malaria programs had distributed over 270 million insecticide-treated nets, provided indoor residual spraying in dwellings 44 million times, and leveraged donor funding to finance the treatment of 260 million cases of malaria.

 The success of the Global Fund is a success of the United States. We are grateful for your bipartisan leadership. Your hard work and efforts as Chairwoman make it clear that the United States and the U.S. House of Representatives will continue to ensure that funding for malaria eradication efforts remain a key priority even during difficult times. … Your leadership in Congress remains critical to the success of global health programs worldwide and on behalf of your fellow United Methodists, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation for all you do.

Representative Granger shared with us how extensive this work is.  The Congresswoman talked about her work with Bono and others emphasizing the bipartisan nature of this United States government aid.  She noted the progress we have made against polio. Recalling how her mother was stricken by polio and she along with her sister babysat a neighboring child when others were afraid to do so. Her words echo the compassion of her heart for this effort.

We had a great visit and amid all the congressional wrangling we hear about, I want the people called Methodists to hear about one of our own engaged in a godly work.  God bless you and thank you for your leadership, Representative Granger!

Watch this video, The Global Fund, Be the Generation to Defeat AIDS, TB and Malaria ft Charlize Theron and Bono.

 

 

Saint Aldates, A Vision Alive

It was Sunday morning, August 18th, and as we dressed to go to church the music floated in the open window at Pembroke College, Oxford University.  The night before we had been debating whether to go to Wesley Memorial Methodist Church (think First Methodist Oxford) or Christ Church Cathedral (the church where both John and Charles Wesley had been ordained).  We had decided on Christ Church Cathedral located in Christ Church College across the street from where we were staying.

As we left our rooms and walked over, we passed a plain looking old English Church nestled between Pembroke College and Christ Church College.  The music we had been listening to poured out of this plain church – “How Great Thou Art” sung to drums, guitars and a fast paced beat.  I peered in an open door.  “Look Jolynn, that place is full of young people!”

We turned in front of the church, which was named St. Aldates, intending to stop at a nearby coffee shop.  (St. Aldate, the person not the church, was Bishop of Gloucester and died a martyr’s death resisting pagan invasion forces in 577 A. D.)  The music and self-evident joy was intoxicating.  We paused to read the sign board outside the church.  One of the greeters came outside to the edge of the street and invited us in.  Now that is really radical hospitality!  At first we demurred.  Weren’t we late?  No, he assured us, they were just finishing the first hymn.  The Holy Spirit spoke, and we slipped inside.

The church was reasonably full. (Something we were told was never the case in England.  We had been assured that except for special occasions all churches were mostly empty with just a scattering of older people.).  All ages were present in abundance with a fairly even mixture (though tending to the young side) age-wise.  There was an ethnic diversity that we dream of accomplishing on our best days.  Worship had a passionate intensity, depth and biblical integrity.  The sermon was faithful, thoughtful, and well delivered.  People were friendly and genuinely glad we had come without being clingy.

In the service they spoke of opportunities for service.  It turns out that St. Aldates is active in a large Christian ministry to the homeless in Oxford.  They offered opportunities for continuing spiritual development in prayer and Bible study.  While my conference was talking about a post missionary age, they prayed for a young couple who was leaving on an evangelistic and social (love, justice & mercy) mission to a predominately Muslim country.  Evangelism wasn’t something debated and defined.  It was something engaged in with sensitivity and love both right there in Oxford and around the world.  All of this was wrapped in faithful denominationally obedient Church of England cloak.

Afterwards, we learned that even though it seemed full to us (and even though they had multiple services) the members thought attendance was down because students weren’t present (school was out for the summer at Oxford).  They have a major, as in mega-major, student ministry.  “Usually” one couple told us, “it’s standing room only.”  As I mentally ticked off the five practices of healthy fruitful congregations – radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, extravagant generosity – I realize that all the elements were there.

As we walked away, Jolynn and I reflected on how we thought the Holy Spirit had led us to St. Aldates.  Out of my personal desert, I came to the well of living water.  As a couple, we came to church and God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit spoke to us that day.  Struggling in parched land of a dry and at times contentious gathering of Wesley scholars, I recalled the original Methodist movement.  Here it was at St. Aldates, in an Anglican church no less.  Go figure.  Only God could pull something like this off.   We saw a vision of what the church is to be and be about.  I saw again the vision I have for Central Texas.

This is the vision I have and have had since I came here for the Central Texas Conference.  I see vibrant, spiritually healthy, fruitful and faithful local churches spread all over the area; churches in cities and suburbs; churches in towns and fields; new churches and old churches and even in-between churches.  I can name a host of churches in the Central Texas Conference that are our versions of St. Aldates.  We have a goodly number of healthy fruitful congregations that are vibrantly serving the Lord.  Once again I thank God for the privilege of serving in the Central Texas Conference.  On deep reflection of our St. Aldates experience, this is my vision for the churches both here and all over the world.

aldates

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #8

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding G: Pastoral leadership patterns are evolving and changing.

Implications
Over the past ten years, there have been many changes affecting clergy deployment. It is important to stay abreast of the many variables that will determine the number of elders and other pastoral leaders needed in the future. Your conference has remained relatively stable in the makeup and deployment of pastoral leaders. However, it is important to remain attentive to changing patterns.

Recommendation
Develop a comprehensive clergy supply and placement strategy.
The Board of Ordained Ministry, Cabinet, District Committees on Ministry, and others need a common understanding about the changing dynamics of church demand and clergy supply to make appropriate decisions for the future. Division of tasks among groups makes sense, but the overall strategic plan needs to be developed for the whole. Some components include:

  • The changing makeup of churches by size
  • The types of ministers needed (elders, deacons, full-time local pastors, part-time local pastors, lay ministers, supply)
  • Standards for each of these types of ministry given how they will be used in placements
  • Criteria for determining appropriate placements for various types of ministers
  • The impact of minimum salary on placements
  • The needs among large churches for clergy in associate staff roles
  • The implications of new church starts on the types and numbers of clergy needed
  • Monitor carefully trends that impact clergy supply and demand

Years ago I heard a lay person comment about pastors, “Pastors are like toasters.  You unplug one and plug another in.”  He did not mean this as a compliment.  In fact, it really was a statement of grief.  He felt denied the development of meaningful friendships because his pastor was moved so often.  Today this is largely not the case.  In general terms appointments are longer.  (I am aware of many exceptions but the phase “in general terms” does accurately reflect reality.)  The Cabinet works hard to appointment people to the mission field (the area of service including but not limited to the church).

Furthermore, the Board of Ordained Ministry wrestles diligently with the complex task of preparing people for ordained ministry.  The Residency Program (for provisional deacons and elders), as one example, requires hours of tough, committed labor on the part of Board members.  Efforts are underway by the Board to improve Licensing School, enhance the discernment process, train and support District Committees, and the list goes on and on.  Countless people both lay and clergy are to be thanked for their efforts!

Yet in the midst of these common ongoing tasks we are being challenged with a new way of thinking and working.  There is an old adage that goes:  Bishop and Cabinet appoint; Board of Ordained Ministry credential.  This is true.  It is a good division of labor but silos cause problems!  We have a growing number of retirements, a gap in the 40 to 55 aged clergy, the desperate need for a new generation of younger clergy, and all this taking place in an environment with more and more church closings.  What this means is that it is harder each year to tell how many clergy we will actually need!  Collaboration between the Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry is not an option!  We have to collaborate for each to properly accomplish its mission!

Add to this the changing roles in clergy and ministry.  The day of the general associate pastor is largely over.  Senior Pastors and Pastor-Parish Relations Committees of large churches need associate pastors with a high skill level and a high degree of specialization.  Today we have a new position called (variously) teaching pastor, senior associate, executive pastor, etc. that largely did not exist 30 years ago.  The Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry have to be collaborative!

As I come to the close of this summer series of blogs, I ever am mindful of how the Holy Spirit is blowing in our midst.  It is a new day and together we are learning a new way of being.  All this is for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Our mission in clergy recruitment, training, and deployment is to energize and equip local churches through leadership development so that those local churches can more faithfully and fruitfully make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

 


 

[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #7

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding F: A few more churches served by typically part-time clergy
Implications
Your conference serves most of its churches and charges with full-time clergy. However, it is likely that part-time clergy will play an increasing role in pastoral leadership. If this develops, new systems and structures are required to account for this reality. 

Recommendation
Develop a plan to supply those churches where part-time clergy are appropriate.
Develop a specialized enlistment, training, and mentoring plan for those called to a part-time, bi-vocational, or supply ministry built exclusively around the context and needs of small membership churches. Develop a tailored program of enlistment, encouragement, and support for retired pastors willing and able to continue serving churches.

The findings and recommendations of “a few more churches served by typically part-time clergy have an air of déjà vu about them.  This was the original Methodist Movement!  We were largely a movement of lay preachers, many of them part-time.  We are going back to the future.

I believe the Holy Spirit is leading us back into a day and time of clergy and lay leadership that is “close” to the people.  Put differently, we are moving away from having a mostly classically seminary-trained clergy and back to a clergy who need the specialized training and support that comes out of the licensed local pastors and lay supply network.  We must carefully note that this is not anti-seminary education.  We will still have and need many high quality seminary-educated clergy.  Rather it is a Spirit-driven opportunity to go back to our roots.

We will have to re-think and re-apply training for local pastors and lay supply clergy.  Such training will need to be in conversation and careful interchange with a host of partners – Boards of Ordained Ministry, District Committees on Ministry, Cabinet, Seminaries, special study opportunities (including offerings from par church organizations, etc.)  Last year a gathering of Texas Conference Cabinets (cabinets of the 6 UMC Conferences currently residing within the bounds of the state of Texas) began discussions of how such education needed to be shaped both formally and informally.  In September at the SCJ Bishops Conclave, we will be continuing discussions.

In the Central Texas Conference, District Superintendents are always looking for quality leadership (both lay and clergy) who are willing to serve in a part-time or supply relationship.  We are on the front end of rethinking how we go about the full range of tailoring a program of “enlistment, encouragement, and support.”  Prayers are welcomed!


[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report

Podcast with Rev. Lance Marshall

This month’s edition of the Focused Center Podcast features an interview with Bishop Lowry and Rev. Lance Marshall who was recently appointed as a new church start pastor in the 7th street area of downtown Fort Worth.

To find out more about this project, click here.

To listen to this latest episode, click the play button below.

Play

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #6

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding E: Changes in ages of elders

Implications
In the past ten years, the United Methodist Church has shifted from being a church primarily served by middle-aged elders to one in which over half of elders are older (55 to 72 years old). This trend has depleted the number of middle-aged elders available for appointment. And it brings a challenge for the coming decade as this huge cohort of older clergy moves into retirement. Your conference has maintained a strong and growing cohort of young elders. But you have suffered the same decreased in middle-aged elders and increase in older elders seen across the denomination.

 Recommendation
Continue efforts to identify, enlist, and retain gifted younger clergy.
Apart from clergy supply and demand issues, gifted young clergy are needed for their energy, passion, and closeness to the culture of emerging generations. No conference is in danger of having too many young elders, especially given their relatively low numbers across the denomination.

When I first came to the Central Texas Conference, I visited every congregation.  It took me eight months and was one of the most marvelous experiences of my life.  Learning from so many lay leaders and clergy around the Conference, I gained immense insight and wisdom.  A common refrain I would hear (especially from lay leaders of smaller churches was “how about sending us a young person for our next pastor?” A part of my response was to ask every congregation to tell me about the last person to go into the ordained ministry or some form of dedicated Christian service from their congregations.  I heard some wonderful stories of the Holy Spirit moving in the lives of people and churches.  I also ran into a fair number (far more than I would like!) of comments that went something like this.

Lay Leader X turns to Lay Leader Y, “What was the name of that guy who became a pastor from here?”  Lay Leader Y in response, “Who are you talking about? Oh, do you mean that guy (gender neutral) back in the 60s?”  I kid you not.  I am not making this up!  The number of times I heard a dialog extremely similar to this one was a fairly high, double figure amount (it may have even reached triple figure).  Such reports even came from people serving in Wesley Foundations (our College and University ministries)!

Pastoral leadership doesn’t fall out of the sky or grow on trees.  It comes from vibrant healthy congregations.  There is a direct correlation from the way a congregation treats its pastors to its production of ordained clergy.  The effort to “identify, enlist, and retain gifted younger clergy” is everyone’s business!

A key element we are wrestling with is the development of the next generation of clergy leadership.  I have said it before, but it is worth restating.  Thank God for the number of faithful second career clergy who have provided leadership across the congregations of The Central Texas Conference.  We have been incredibly blessed by their faithfulness and service.  And yet, it doesn’t take a genius to know that we absolutely must raise up new generations of young clergy.  This is a mission and ministry imperative!


 

[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #5

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding D: Little change in churches and charges served by an elder

Implications
The total number of elder positions has declined somewhat but not nearly so much as in other conferences. But the downward trend may continue, especially if the number of 100+ AWA churches continues to decline. The number of elders needed for new church starts and as associate pastors will impact the numbers. In 2012 there were fewer elders appointed to church staffs than in 2002. Despite these trends, there probably will not be an oversupply given the number of retirements coming.

Recommendation
Set high standards for elders to meet the challenges facing the church.
While elders may serve somewhat fewer churches in the future, the demands on them will be greater as the church seeks to deal with changing cultures and contexts. More and more churches will require the full engagement of an adaptive leader who can guide the people in facing their challenges. Priority should be given to identifying new elders who have the spiritual, personal, intellectual, and professional skills to serve effectively in their early appointments and across the full range of church sizes over the course of their ministries.

Most of us who serve in clergy leadership today were not trained to do so in this environment.  By that I do not mean to blame seminaries, or Boards of Ministry, or Bishops & Cabinets, or clergy or lay leaders.  Rather, I write to simply reflect reality.  The very nature of training and skill development needed to be a faithful and fruit people is different today than when I entered the ministry.

Back in the day (I was ordained a probationary Deacon in June of 1974), we were instructed “stay close to God and close to your congregations” and your ministry will be successful.  Pause and think for a minute.  Who is left out of that equation?  The answer is all those who are not a part of any church or Christian movement.  It assumes that evangelism and discipleship engagement through the church will be engendered through a culture that encourages people to be active in local churches as a basic part of being a spiritual person.  Such is obviously not the case today!

I tell lay people and clergy in speeches that if you think it is harder to be a pastor today than it used to be, you’re right!  It is harder today!  The culture is no longer our ally.  The demands are greater.  This makes ongoing training and learning an absolute must!  It means Boards of Ordained Ministry have to follow the stated recommendation – “set high standards for elder to meet the challenges facing the church.”

I think that is exactly what makes this an exciting time to serve.  No longer can the Board of Ordained Ministry be a union shop designed to protect clergy.  No longer can Bishops and District Superintendents simply serve as mangers.  No longer can the laity passively assume that the clergy will do ministry for and to them.  Today all of us are engaged in mission and ministry to often unbelieving society.

We are in a situation akin to the refrigerator salesmen sent to Alaska.  One replied to management, “I’m ready to come home. Nobody has refrigerators here.” The other urgently call back, “Please sent more order forms!  Nobody has refrigerators here!”  One saw only winter with little need.  The other beheld the coming spring and the great opportunity before him. With Paul let’s give thanks as we proclaim that we are “a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news!” (Romans 1:1).


[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #4

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding C: Modest increase in proportion of smaller churches

Implications
Yours in not a small church conference in that the median worship attendance of 60 is relatively high for conferences. However, with the presence of very small churches (144 with 50 or fewer AWA), it is likely there will be somewhat fewer churches in the foreseeable future. For the denomination as a whole, the decline will be about 23 percent between now and 2030. Most of these churches will be very small churches. Your loss rate should be much lower given the relatively low death rates among members of your churches of all sizes.

 Recommendations
1. Identify the small churches capable of growing for consecutive years.
Among even the smallest churches, about one-third will grow each year. So, the challenge is to identify and help those with the potential and leadership to grow and achieve the size needed to serve even more people. As churches get smaller, the likelihood that they will grow decreases, but when churches grow, the likelihood of further growth is enhanced.  

2. Provide resources to help very small churches discern their future.
Provide resources the smallest churches can use to consider ways to renew their witness or to evaluate whether they might best sustain their legacy by discontinuing their congregational ministry and using their assets to expand the United Methodist witness elsewhere. Such efforts can be simple and modest lest they overwhelm the time and energy of conference leaders due to the sheer number of these very small churches.

As I have noted in other blogs, the Central Texas Conference’s Center for Evangelism and Church Growth has made the Small Church Initiative (SCI) a major aspect of our Conference activities.  No church is too small to matter to God and to us!  Every church has mission given by God.  Faithfulness and fruitfulness is not a matter of size but a response to a God given mission.

For a number of years we have been investing major Conference resources in strengthening the small church and helping those who pastor small churches.  This is an area of historic strength for the United Methodist Church and will remain so if we are faithful.

The challenge before the small church is to adjust to a changing, post-Christian America religious setting.  Embracing the intertwining of missional outreach and evangelism (put differently in five practices language – risk-taking mission and service with radical hospitality) is THE central challenge the small church faces.  As with larger congregations, the conference strategy will continue to be one that works with the “coalition of the willing.”  What that means is abundant Conference resources have been, are and will be available to small church that desire to step up and step out in faith for God’s new day.  No one will be forced to embrace SCI or Holy Conversations or any particular faithful initiative.  Conversely, resources will not be committed to maintaining the past.  They will be available to embrace the future in faith!



[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report

Insights on Changes in Congregations, Clergy and Deployment[1] #3

(This Blog is a part of a series of blogs sharing insights from the “Findings, Implications, & Recommendations” reported by Dr. Weems about the Central Texas Conference.  This report analyzes key trends related to church size and clergy deployment over the past decade.  I will follow the reporting with some of my own reflections on these findings and recommendations.)

Finding B: Decline in congregations averaging 100 or more AWA

Implications
This decline is not new. Today there are 4,000 fewer United Methodist churches in the United States with 100 or more in worship than in 1975 when this trend began. But conferences cannot grow, even with superior large church growth, without stopping the decline of other churches.
While the decline in your conference is modest, pay attention to it. Remember that this declining pool of churches with 100+ attendance accounts overwhelmingly (over 80 percent) for apportionments, attendance, membership, and professions of faith.

Recommendations
1. Focus on mid-size churches.
District superintendents must focus on churches with 100+ AWA, no matter how few or many there are in a district. Without a deliberate effort to arrest the collapse of this group of churches, United Methodism within the district will continue to decline.

2. Give special attention to churches surrounded by population growth.
Many areas are not growing, and most United Methodist churches are not immediately surrounded by growth. Many churches continue to decline in the midst of population expansion; yet it stands to reason that those in growing areas have a greater chance for growth.

3. Evaluate the possibility of church relocations.
Congregations in existence prior to 1990 are a locus of decline in worship attendance. More than half of these congregations are losing in worship attendance. One reason is that they tend to be located where the population is no longer growing. Review the location of churches, plotting existing churches against population changes past and projected, and track the location of members. This can indicate where relocation may extend the United Methodist witness.

 

In the Cabinet we focus especially in appointment making on what we call the 126+ers.  They are the churches worshipping 126 or more on an average Sunday.  Why 126?  Because 126 in average worship is the approximate size needed to sustain a full time elder with salary, housing, health insurance, pensions, etc.  (In truth we are not at all rigid about 126.  We are simply conscious that increasing the number of churches that average approximately 126+ is crucial to the health and vitality of the Central Texas Conference.)

Interestingly enough, churches averaging less than 100 do better with a part-time appointment instead of a full-time appointment.  This appears to be counter-intuitive but deeper reflection yields insight.  A church worshipping less than 100 that tries to support a full-time pastor is often (not always – remember one cannot be rigid in applying this criteria; there are exceptions!) spending so much of its financial resources on pastoral salary and benefits that it does not have the resources left to engage in vibrant ministry.  Furthermore, with a part-time pastor, lay leadership tends to step up thus leading to healthier churches!

Church relocation is also critical.  One of our vital moves this year at Conference was the decision by Thompson Chapel UMC to relocate to a different site precisely in line with this recommendation.  These are exiting days, not only for Thompson Chapel in its faithfulness but for all of us!



[1]               Based on A Lewis Center Report on Changes in Congregations, Clergy, and Deployment 2002-2012 South Central Jurisdiction The United Methodist Church, Central Texas Conference Report