This week found me on the road but in the Conference. Monday through Wednesday noon, I participated in a gathering of the Cabinets (Bishops, DSs, extended Cabinet) of the Texas and New Mexico Conferences (Central Texas, North Texas, Southwest Texas, Rio Grande, Northwest Texas, Texas, and New Mexico) at Southwestern University in Georgetown. There was a vibrant and informative exchange of ideas and “best practices.” Additionally Dr. Lovett Weems, Director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership located at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C. presented a fascinating discourse on trends for Churches, Clergy, and Context (i.e. the mission field – demographic trends in our state and conference). Some reflections and insights worth passing along are: ? The Mission of the Conference is to “enhance and extend the witness of the United Methodist Church within their geographical boundary.” ? The District Superintendent is to “be a steward of the United Methodist Church witness in their District.” ? We’ve been experiencing a worship recession (in attendance) since 2002 that is worse than the economic recession. ? The higher the minimum salary goes the fewer the number of churches are served by an elder (and there is suggestive information that the higher it goes the weaker a Conference is in fruitfulness and witness). ? Preliminary data suggest that we will have a surplus of elders up to 2016 and growing shortage after 2016 (we hope to get more exact data for Central Texas). ? The growth and health of churches averaging 126 or more in worship attendance is critical to health of smaller churches and the greater witness as a whole. ? Given the demographics of our mission field new Hispanic leadership is critical. ? Given the demographics of our mission field at least 3 groups are central to our reaching out – 1) children, 2) Hispanics, and 3) internal immigrants – that is, people moving to Texas from other states. ? Money is a lagging indicator of health and vitality. The economic model of the UMC since 1968 has been that fewer people will give more money and that cannot continue forever! ? Younger clergy leadership offers exciting possibilities. ? New Church development is essential. ? Practice innovation and experiment! It was an exciting gathering. Special thanks go to the various Assistants to the Bishop and Connectional Table leaders from Conferences involved (including CTC’s Dr. Georgia Adamson)! Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday were spent at the Bishops’ Conclave (essentially a Texas Methodist Foundation clergy group for the active bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction). We welcomed three new bishops to our gathering Cynthia Harvey, Gary Mueller, and Mike McKee. As always the learnings in leadership (we are led by Dr. Gil Rendle) are deeply challenging and helpful.