A total of 632 members at the Called Session last Saturday, Nov. 13, gave a resounding, close to 100 percent vote of support for the Central Texas Conference’s new alignment plan.
The Exodus Project: A Transformational Roadmap for a Church in Transition was the single item of business on the Called Session agenda, and members meeting at First United Methodist Church of Mansfield took just over two hours to complete their task.
In a statement during the opening worship, Bishop Mike Lowry referred to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians and how the early “followers of the way” struggled to stay alive in a Roman Empire that held them in scorn. He said God is calling us to a new world filled with hope and opportunity. “Alignment does not save us,” he said. “Jesus Christ alone does that. No matter how the vote goes today, God brings us this very day a future of hope.”
Rev. Mike Ramsdell, chairman of the Alignment Task Force, led members through The Exodus Project proposal, stating repeatedly, “It’s all about the local church.” Guiding assumptions and values outlined in the proposal said that change is coming. “The question is, are we going to manage the change or is it going to manage us? … It’s about presenting a Transformational Roadmap.”
“The team’s mission has been to represent the mission of Jesus Christ in a way that would align the conference structure to better fulfill the mission and vision to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Ramsdell said.
The conference’s mission field — 33,677-square miles populated by slightly more than 3.6 million people and served by 340 United Methodist churches and fellowships — has grown in the last 19 years by 1.3 million people. However, membership in our churches has grown by only 28,911 (2 percent) and worship attendance by 4,224. “We are not achieving our potential,” Ramsdell said.
Central Texas continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. in terms of population, the presence of younger persons, and increase in diversity. Population growth projections are for as much as 4.7 million over the next 10 years. The Exodus Project sets forth a plan for doing some things differently in the future in order to achieve different results in the next 10 years and beyond.
One of the most significant steps is moving from a “static process,” where the goals is to complete a project, to one that is “outcome driven,” where positive achievements are changing our mission, our community and our world, Ramsdell said. Another new dynamic is trusting our leadership, and not hampering them through complicated processes. “It is that old structure that has held us back,” he said.
In the new organizational process, the local church stands at the intersection of the mission field and of God’s mission. The Exodus Project attempts in its proposal to create a hybrid organizational structure that moves away from static structures to flexible processes that can respond quickly and effectively to change and crises.
This flexibility is reflected in the proposed church model that incorporates the denomination’s common language and values as found in the Four Focus Areas and Five Practices of Fruitful Churches as well as benefitting from interrelational cluster groups and leadership coaching, Bible study and missional dreams.
Working in union and communion is at the center of the Conference model that exists foremost to energize and equip local churches for their mission. The Exodus Project establishes conference centers focused on the local church (Missional Support, Leadership and Evangelism & Church Growth), the Core Leadership Team, the Connectional Table and the Cabinet.
“The work of the superintendent changes substantially,” Ramsdell said. The new alignment changes the superintendents’ focus from administrative and institutional maintenance to missional engagement, enabling, empowering and inspiring others in the work of ministry. “Far more than administrations, superintendents must be transformational leaders,” the report states.
The estimated annual savings in the alignment and office reorganization is expected to be substantial. The Exodus Project outlines an overall savings of $949,547. Reducing the number of district superintendents and offices from seven to five realizes more than half that savings ($503,876). The other savings comes from reorganization of conference center personnel and reworking 2011 initial budget requests to the Council on Finance & Administration.
Adoption of The Exodus Project sets in motion a timeline that begins with naming by Jan. 15, 2011, the five district superintendents and three center directors. They will begin planning for their centers and teams and work on best practices. Staffing changes should be accomplished by May 1 with implementation of the plan and vote on best practices by the Annual Conference June 5-8, 2011 in Waco. Fine tuning will begin Jan. 1, 2012 with adjustments by June of that year, and a full review by outside consultant after June 2014.
For a complete copy of the plan approved by at the Annual Conference Called Session on Nov. 13, please click on http://ct.brickriver.com/files/oFiles_Library_XZXLCZ/CTCNovember13The_ExodusProject_JEHY9TJF.pdf