Re-igniting a Christian movement within the Mountain Sky Area

December 01, 2017

“The Mountain Sky Area will re-ignite a Christian movement that begins with grace, offers abundant life, and reclaims the life-changing love of Jesus Christ for ALL people.”

Goal statement for the Mountain Sky Conference

Staff, laity and clergy in the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain annual conferences met in small groups Nov. 28 throughout the Mountain Sky Area for a retreat with consultant Rev. Dr. John Wimberly to discuss our shared future together.

The Mission Shaped Futures team has shared with us over the past several months the purpose and principles guiding the developing of the Mountain Sky Conference. They include:
The purpose of the new annual conference will be achieved by aligning resources (funding, people, programs) first and foremost according to these priorities.
  1. Renew and establish vital congregations
  2. Develop leaders who are gifted at empowering local churches and laity in the Church Mission
  3. Establish new faith communities to meet the needs of our unique Mission Field
In all efforts, the principles guiding the new conference will:
  1. Assure communications and efforts are simply stated and elegantly executed in order to meet the three Priorities in an effective and efficient manner.
  2. Focus on the Mission of the Church versus the organization of the church, preservation of the conference, or denomination.
  3. Assure resources are only deployed against goals that have a strong purpose and measurable outcomes.
  4. Allow for the Holy Spirit to be active in everything that we do and give us needed flexibility in approach.
  5. Balance consideration of the rich history of the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Annual Conferences with consideration of the current and future needs of its unique Mission Field.
Clergy and laity in Bozeman, MT gather to listen to John Wimberly via Livestream.Following many focus groups conversations and meetings with people throughout both conferences, Wimberly led us through a process that challenged us as well as set us loose to dream and begin to put together concrete foundations for the conference we want to become.  He reminded us that while the 20th century is over, the way we organize ourselves for ministry is still rooted in a way of working that no longer equips us for the demands and opportunities for ministry in our current age. As a result, we focus our efforts, energies and resources inward instead of sharing the transforming power of the Gospel with those around us.

I continue to be very excited by the work that the Mission Shaped Futures team, ably led by Rev. Jeremy Scott, is doing on behalf of all of us. It is not often we get to look at what is and isn’t working and make a strategic change in order to better ourselves, our organization, and the way we respond to the world around us. Unfortunately we in the church, like many organizations, believe that we can keep doing the same things to get different results. I see the ministry possibilities throughout our area, but we are not organized to provide the skills, tools, and resources to laity and clergy so that the results of our hard work have a different outcome. I want our churches to be vital change-agents in their communities as they share the love of Christ in tangible ways. I want pulpits filled with pastors who are on fire with the love of God and God’s people. I want pews filled with laity who are claiming their unique callings to serve in the world with passion and creativity.

Wimberly helped us think critically and courageously of how we can build a model conference that can serve us well. It includes:
  • The Mountain Sky Conference should be focused externally – helping congregations to do the same
  • Built around teams, not committees
    • Staff team
    • Task teams
    • Circuits
  • Re-envisioning the district superintendent role
  • Built from the ground up
    • Congregations
    • Circuits
    • Strong Conference Governing Council with invested lay and clergy leadership
As we discussed this, he also reminded us of characteristics of successful 21st century organizations. They are:
  • Non-bureaucratic, fewer rules, more policies, more freedom as to how policies are implemented
  • Constantly training staff and members
    • IT and treasurer training
  • Externally oriented
  • More empowering, less control
  • Transparent/open/candid
  • Higher levels of risk tolerance
  • Investing in growth
  • Highly focused and aligned
We spent time in small groups, discussing some unresolved issues that need our attention NOW:
  1. Geography: How do we make HUGE feel manageable?
    • Districts and Circuits, recreating the DS position for the 21st century?
    • Regional meetings vs. Annual Conference every year
    • Technology alone is not the answer
  2. Clergy Appointments
    • Grandfathering current clergy but not new ones vs. keeping the system as is but for the entire region
    • Salary and pension parity across the new Conference
    • Dealing with clergy isolation
  3. Financial Issues
    • Spiritual leadership budget: Can more of this money remain with congregations for use in local mission?
    • Staff savings are probably not huge; maybe need to fund a slightly larger staff
    • Can circuits fund some things locally together?
    • Across the board budget cuts are a terrible way to go
    • Need projected one conference budget (NOW)
  4. How do we staff to support congregations and clergy? 
    • What do we need conference staff to be doing?
    • How can we have continual development of clergy, staff and lay leadership?
    • How to we encourage congregations, staff and clergy to be entrepreneurial, innovative, creative?
    • Can we leave some of the money at the congregational level that currently comes up to the conference?
    • Develop timeline for creation of new conference
The day filled us with vision and hope for our future. Leaders from both conferences will be meeting in January to prepare concrete plans that will be presented at our joint annual conference. They will get them to you shortly in the late winter so that there can be adequate time for your feedback and revisions.

Please keep the Mission Shaped Futures team in your prayers. They are doing important work on behalf of all of us, for our future witness as United Methodists across the Mountain Sky Area.