When the Forward to a New Spring initiative was adopted by the Annual Conference in October, the wheels of change were set in motion to reimagine and restructure conference resources to best energize and equip the local churches of the Central Texas Conference. Forward to a New Spring is not a new direction for the Central Texas conference. Rather, Forward to a New Spring establishes enhanced conference and district structures that shift resources closer to where disciples of Jesus Christ are best made - the local church.
|Bishop Mike Lowry has served as the episcopal leader of the Central Texas Conference since 2008.|
“[This] is absolutely not a new program or direction for the conference,” said Bishop Lowry via a video to the conference posted last Friday. “In fact, it is simply a continuance and extension of what we began together 10 years ago this month with the formal adoption of the Exodus Project. Our mission, our Wildly Important Goal to make disciples of Jesus Christ remains at the center of our ministry. Our driving values – what I like to call our Big Three – of keeping Christ at the Center, a fervent focus on the local church and developing the next generation of lay and clergy leadership – are still firmly in place.”
The conference’s driving values are evident throughout the Forward to a New Spring plan with its increased focus on discipleship (Christ at the center), strategy to move conference resources closer to local churches (focus on the local church) and by creating new district leadership roles designed to develop and grow leaders (clergy & lay leadership development).
Key components of the Forward to a New Spring plan are the establishment of District Discipleship Teams, the redrawing of district boundary lines and the formation of three district areas – East, North/West, Central/South – supervised by three District Superintendents (down from five) and supported by their District Discipleship Teams.
With the addition of District Teams beginning January 1, District Superintendents will be able to spend more time teaching, coaching and doing the work of Mission Strategist as outlined in the Exodus Project. In order to more effectively strengthen local churches in making disciples, each District Team will be comprised of...
an Assistant DS who will work directly with clergy and church leaders to expand their existing abilities and establish new ways to reach new people for Christ, as well as assist the DS in administrative matters;
a Discipleship Coach who will focus on helping churches and clergy grow in the work of discipling new and existing members;
a Student Discipleship Coordinator whose primary focus will be coaching youth directors, volunteer youth leaders, clergy, and churches on ways to improve their discipleship ministry for students; and
a District Administrator who will continue to support the DS, District Teams and local churches by fulfilling various administrative duties.
After several weeks of careful and prayerful consideration, and in collaboration with conference, district, local church and youth leadership across the CTC, District Superintendents Louis Carr (North & West Districts), Leah Hidde-Gregory (Central & South Districts Area) and Randy Wild (East District) have announced their District Discipleship Teams.
“I’d like to share my excitement for all those who have answered the call to fill these vital district positions even while continuing in their regular appointments and places of ministry,” stated Bishop Lowry. “Please keep each of them in prayer as they prepare for this new venture in service to our conference.”
Each of the team members officially begin their district duties on Jan. 1, while continuing in their current appointments/assignments. Please watch your email and the conference and district websites for more on each team member coming the week after Thanksgiving.
“I also want to express my appreciation of and for Dr. Lisa Neslony and Rev. Brad Brittain as they rotate off the Cabinet and back into the local church as the senior pastor of St. John the Apostle and St. Barnabas UMCs respectively,” Bishop Lowry continued. “While we will have time to more fully celebrate their ministry and contributions to the conference as members of the Cabinet at a later time, I would be remiss to not thank them for their service here. Both Lisa and Brad have been fantastic partners in ministry and their leadership of and service to their districts has been exemplary. We celebrate with their new congregations all the ways that they will creatively achieve our disciple making mission in their new appointments.”
Dr. Lisa Neslony will begin her appointment as senior pastor at St. John the Apostle on Feb. 1, 2021. Likewise, Rev. Brad Brittain will assume St. Barnabas’ senior pastor role on Feb. 1.
While the adoption of the Forward to a New Spring plan maintained the Central Texas Conference’s current structure of five geographic districts – Central, East, North, South and West – the plan reduced the number of District Superintendents from five to three and established three District Areas to be administered by the three DSs and their district teams. As a result, district lines were redrawn, which means that local churches are moving from one district to another. The most significant shift was to move all churches located in Tarrant County into the East District. To see a listing of which churches will be changing districts, go to ctcumc.org/newdistricts-2021. For a complete church/district listing of the conference as of Jan. 1, 2021, click here.
“Jesus is at work in the world and particularly here in our conference, and through the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit is creating something new and wonderful!” exclaimed Bishop Lowry. “We have a fantastic opportunity to reimagine the future of the church and our ministries, to try new things and experiment with new ideas and technologies and structures to reach people in new ways – people we may have never had a chance to reach before. Together we share the joy and challenge of being a part of God’s new day!”