During the 2009 Annual Conference a new ministry priority was introduced for the North Alabama Conference. Missions was added to the priorities of New Congregations, Natural Church Development, Effective Leadership for the 21st Century and Empowering a New Generation of Christians. All five of these priorities are meant to help the Conference order and focus its work to fulfill its vision of Every church challenged and equipped to grow more disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives.
This new priority was introduced during the Connectional Ministries report on Friday afternoon of Conference. Rev. Matt Lacey, Director of Mission and Advocacy explained during the report, “God is certainly moving among us, and it is demanded of our faith that we move in the world as well. Because of this, the North Alabama Conference in 2009 is making missions a conference-wide priority. This priority will seek to engage churches, individuals, laity, and clergy within the conference, and empower them to move within and outside the conference.”
Bishop Willimon explained that while missions has always been a part of the Methodist movement and has been implied in the other four priorities of the Conference, it was after he had conversations with many young leaders in the Conference he understood the importance of the Conference specifically developing a new priority of missions to complete the picture of the current four priorities.
Beginning in 2010, this new Conference priority will be reflected in the Weekly Benchmark report.
Rev. Matt Lacey explains.
Starting January 2010, churches from the North Alabama Conference will be asked to report two additional numbers through the conference weekly benchmark report. These numbers will gauge the health of churches in, arguably, the most important field in which churches should be involved: missions and outreach.
The dashboard will ask each church two new questions: “How many people within your congregation were involved in acts of outreach this week?” and “How many people outside of your congregation were you in outreach to this week?”
While these questions may be open-ended, and the ability to quantify acts of outreach may be difficult, they will serve to frame the work of the churches in the annual conference in a way other than attendance numbers or professions of faith. This will also allow our small churches, which work incredibly hard in the mission field and are leaders in creative new ways in outreach ministry, a chance to shine across the conference.
Hopefully, these questions will also serve as an invitation to conversation among the conference; namely, “what exactly counts as an act of outreach?” As the Director of Mission and Advocacy I will welcome these questions, emails, phone calls, and conversations among our churches.
Here are some examples of ways churches are reaching out in service:
- Food Pantries
- Utility Assistance
- Homeless Ministries
- Boy Scouts of America
- Divorcee Ministries
- AIDS Outreach
- Community Childcare
- Housing Assistance
- United Methodist Women and Men Mission Drives
- Disaster Response Donations
- Meals on Wheels
- Ethnic Ministries
- Community Meals/Meetings
- Mission trips and Mission work days
I hope that the pastors, laity, and churches across the conference will see this as an exciting time to take initiative and heed Christ’s call to “go and make disciples of Jesus Christ” by serving their local communities as well as those around the world.
Bishop Willimon adds, “This is an exciting new development for us. North Alabama has an historic commitment to missions at home and abroad. Our churches are doing some fantastic work, but often their mission involvement goes unnoted. This innovation, led by Matt Lacey, is a great step forward in making missions a true priority for us.”
To help prepare your congregation to best answer these two new weekly benchmark questions, here are some ideas of how you can keep track of how many people within your congregation were involved in acts of outreach and how many people outside of you were in outreach to.
Rev. Lacey adds, “I believe most congregations already keep track of their outreach ministries. Congregations often celebrate how many meals they provided, how many families they served during Christmas or how many flood buckets they have packed.”
If you have any questions please feel free to contact Rev. Matt Lacey at email@example.com .