Thursday afternoon plenary features proposal to reduce districts to 14


By Stuart Davis, Orchard-Page-Ewing UMCs, Neb.

Taking a time of personal privilege during the Thursday afternoon plenary session, Andy Hargrove (Berryton, Kan.) notified the Great Plains Annual Conference Session members that a motion would be forthcoming to provide more money for campus ministries by reducing the number of districts in the conference from 17 to 14, as of July 2015.
“At the Uniting Conference we said we would be taking bold action to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This is bold action,” Hargrove said. He noted that it would be good to take this action quickly while our current Bishop Scott Jones is here, rather than wait until we have a new episcopal leader who doesn’t have the experience with us in creating this new Annual Conference.
Hargrove noted that for at least the third year in a row there have been more clergy retiring from the Great Plains Area than entering ministry. Hargrove called for greater resources to be used to both build up campus ministry and attract candidates for ministry. “Our bureaucracy is too large. Our priority is administration while are struggling to find to qualified clergy.” He also noted that the reformed churches are making great strides in campus ministry while The United Methodist Church efforts seem static.
Bishop Jones addressed some procedural requirements that need to be met by Hargrove’s proposal. Among them is the need for review by the Council on Finance and Administration at their Friday evening meeting. Hargrove intends to present his proposal to the members of the Annual Conference Session during Saturday morning’s plenary session. The 2015 conference budget is now posted on the Great Plains Conference website.

Clergy excellence focuses on competency, offers opportunity for growth

Great Plains Director of Clergy Excellence Nancy Lambert and incoming Elkhorn Valley District Superintendent Marvin Neubauer spoke to the efforts of the Conference Clergy Excellence Team. A second preaching workshop will be coming in the fall, the Transition into Ministry (TiM) team has three candidates moving from phase one to phase two, and the Orders and Fellowship Conference (Jan 21-22, 2015, in Lincoln) will feature keynote speakers who pastor The Chapel in Brunswick, Ga., who have developed a discipleship and leadership program in their existing congregation that is working. Rather than theory, their presentation will be more of a “how it worked for us” workshop for application in Great Plains churches.

Neubauer addressed the Board of Ordained Ministry’s efforts around clergy competency, using an analogy of how hard the Husker marching band has to work to develop its talent in order to do the excellent work it does at half-time on the football field. “What qualities do we have in our clergy who are Christ-centered and have vitality in their churches? That’s what we need.”

Ten competencies will be addressed: Spiritual Vitality, Visioning, Achieving Results, Resilience, Team Leadership, Developing and Assisting Others, Negotiating Differences, Interpersonal Communication, Presentation Skills and Managing Self.

Congregational excellence and other business

Great Plains Director of Congregational Excellence Evelyn Fisher spoke to some of the resources available from her team and introduced the members of “the most enthusiastic staff you could ask for.” She suggested that members check out the Congregational Excellence Team page on the conference website and also “Rethink Home,” which has many resources and stories about what is working in ministries around the conference. She commented that attendance and membership and other numbers only tell “part of the story. We need to hear and read the other stories about churches that are doing vital ministries and exceeding their goals.” Members of churches featured in Wednesday’s opening video will be available at the Vital Congregations booth on Friday to share their stories.
Eric Ford (Wahoo, Neb.) commented that the Vital Congregations Team has “a rather large task before us,” noting that the answers on how to get there are known only to God. Vital churches need to have purpose, passion and prayer. “For without purpose and passion, we don’t have a prayer,” he said.
Vital Signs — the numbers reported each week by our congregations — are merely a thermometer, he said. They measure quantity, and Ford commented that we need to measure quality by looking at those things that are the furnace. “We need to turn up the heat, and there is a long list of what makes us vital, but it comes down to a sense of purpose, of passionate spirituality and prayer.” Hope and salvation don’t require another program, so Vital Congregations is focusing on process.
Three processes for growth were highlighted: Next Steps, ABIDE and Small Wonders. The first two are long-term processes for church teams; the last is a two-day workshop in October. (More information is available from the website.) Ford commented that they are trying to avoid having things that one person of a church attends, returns to their congregation enthusiastic but unsupported, and with ideas that worked in larger congregations that are difficult to implement in the smaller-membership churches.
“Let’s stop complaining about the church that we’ve experienced and start becoming the church we’re dreaming of,” Ford concluded.
Shane Hinderliter, conference youth director, outlined a few details of the second The One Event, which will be held Jan. 3-4, in Grand Island. “We have a large venue, there will be awesome bands and speakers and an opportunity to fellowship and learn more about the church, camps and campus ministry. Host churches and adult volunteers will be needed to make it all work.
Sara Shaw, director of conference camping ministry, said that the bar is being raised for the programs at all six sites. “We are focusing on four key relationship areas — with Christ, with nature, with each other and with ourselves.” Youth and young adults shared some of their experiences with the camps, a place where “faith and fun come together.”
After some discussion, Resolution #8, to consolidate the separate disaster funds from Kansas and Nebraska into one fund, was passed.
All the resolutions, etc., are posted on the conference website.

Honoring those who have cultivated

First retiring class of the Great Plains Conference

Bishop Scott Jones addressed 37 Great Plains Conference retirees, reminding them that there is no retirement from discipleship. He thanked God for “this next phase of their lives and the opportunities that will be placed before them as they offer their time, talent, energy and money before [God]l; help them be a blessing to others.”
The congregation blessed their journey as well, asking that they “be channels of God’s peace and grace to the world wherever” they may be. The service also featured the traditional “passing of the mantle,” this time from retiree Carol Roettmer Brewer to ordinand Claire Gadberry.
“May the world be your parish,” Bishop Jones concluded.                                                  
Those retiring included: Fred W. Anderson, Carol Roettmer Brewer, James Brewer, Young Ho Chun, Max Clayton, Theta Dame, Ira L. DeSpain, Harry P. Disbrow, III; Robert F. Edwards, John Ewton, Eleanor Foster, Roger Gillming, Diana Gaier Hill, Nel Holmes, Glenda Jardine, Jan Justice, James Keyser, George Kilmer, Jay Drumeich, Lawrence “Butch” Lambert, Sheila Lawson, Russell McAlister, Terry McGruire, Sandra Moore, Phillip Morris, James A. Newkirk, Carol Moore Ramey, Kent Myron Scott, Robert Smith, Carol Jean Stapleton, Sharon Thomas, Valjean Warman, Raynold H. Weinerman, Robert Winslow, Paul Wolf, Holly Wood and Rena Yocom.

Photo: Steve Burnett, Great Plains disaster response chair, gives the disaster response report.

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