“Form follows function,” they say in art, and in business. After a number of years of frustration, in attempting to utilize a Connectional Ministries form that seemed at times nonfunctional, Dale Cohen, in consultation with the Cabinet, announces a new form of supporting and training our churches that is centered upon the local church and utilizing our connectional system to the fullest. I applaud their creativity and courage and I predict that this will be one of the most important changes made in our Conference (perhaps in any Conference in Methodism) in the past twenty years. We believe that God is calling us to grow and that every Conference position should be focused on working with the Holy Spirit to produce growth.
Re-Thinking the Role of Connectional Ministries’ Staff
In a continuing effort to lead growth in the North Alabama Conference,Dale Cohen, Director of Connectional Ministries, announced today that the staff of Connectional Ministries is being deployed in exciting new ways. “Dale and our exceptional connectional ministries staff are revolutionizing the way our churches are supported and encouraged. This reorganization is one of the most exciting things I have seen, at the Conference level, in my entire ministry,” said Bishop Willimon.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Muhomba, Director of Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries, will be assigned to Pleasant Grove UMC to work with Rev. John Gates in leading Pleasant Grove into Multicultural Ministries. Dr. Muhomba and Rev. Gates will develop a thriving example of how any church can move toward greater effectiveness in ministering to their community. Dr. Muhomba will continue to work with Conference ethnic congregations (one of our areas of real growth) but on a limited basis as co-pastor of Pleasant Grove UMC.
The Rev. Matt Lacey, Director of Missions and Advocacy, will be assigned to Woodlawn UMC to work with Rev. Larry Horne in developing more missions and outreach to the Woodlawn community and serving as a “coaching church” to assist other churches who desire to grow through outreach and mission.
“In a short time Matt Lacey has greatly expanded the Missions and Advocacy ministries of the Annual Conference including Disaster Response. He will continue his leadership of many of these Conference ministries,” said Cohen.
The Rev. Lori Carden, Connectional Ministries Coordinator, will be assigned to work with the Mountain Lakes District in implementing a strategy for medium-sized congregations to effectively multiply by forming other congregations utilizing the best practices and principles of Natural Church Development.
“Lori is revolutionizing our churches through Natural Church Development. She now has nearly half of our congregations in NCD. This work will continue will now be augmented by asking Lori to play a more active role as advisor to the Cabinet in the use of NCD,” said Bishop Willimon.
The Rev. Robert Mercer, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, will be appointed to Helena United Methodist Church to serve as the Minister of Youth under the direction of Rev. Mike Edmondson. Although Robert will assist in events that are currently planned including Encounter 2010 and the Academy for Student Ministries, these and other Youth Ministry responsibilities will be transferred to Camp Sumatanga where they will have responsibility for maintaining and growing a vital Youth Ministry for the Conference.
Camp Sumatanga will also become the resource center for Children’s Ministry for the Conference. Camp Sumatanga will thus be undergirded through more opportunities for creating and providing programming in Children’s and Youth Ministries.
“We expect that Camp Sumatanga will once again be a premiere institution of learning and spiritual development for Children and Youth not only in North Alabama but from the entire Southeastern United States,” said Cohen.
Rev. Elizabeth Nall will continue to oversee Children’s Ministries and Adult Discipleship Team. “Elizabeth has formed an extensive network of children’s ministry leaders throughout the Conference, utilizing expertise from our churches, developing a score of new programs. This work is vital if we are to achieve our goals for growth,” said Cohen.
Pam Harris, Support Staff for Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries and for Children’s Ministries and Adult Discipleship will be placed as the Secretary of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Downtown Birmingham. In her new post at St. Paul’s Pam will continue to provide support for Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century and for Natural Church Development, working from a church that the Rev. Marcus Singleton is leading in a dramatic turn around.
“These moves will save the Conference thousands of dollars in a time when some of our churches are having a tough time paying their fair share of Conference apportionments,” said Cohen. “However, this is about much more. Our staff decided to turn the economic crisis into an opportunity for bold creative thinking to align ourselves more directly with our vision of challenging and equipping every church to grow more disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives.”
“Our thriving congregations are drawing upon a wide array of resources and training beyond our Conference staff,” said Bishop Willimon. “Dale’s transformation of our staff into Connectional Ministries Consultants led Dale and his staff to construct a vision of Conference ministries being led and resourced by staff now placed in local churches. After all, the local church is the basic unit of our Conference. This new arrangement really allows the Holy Spirit to work from the grass roots up, rather than the older model of top-down leadership.”
“Utilizing our healthiest churches as teaching churches, we can create a greater sense of connection as churches collaborate in teaching/learning together,” said Cohen. “Rather than relying on Connectional Ministries Staff to be ‘on retainer’ with all the concomitant costs (salaries, benefits, etc.), local church practitioners will both serve the local church and be available to consult with other churches. And if we hereby reduce Conference expenses, it will enable us to put even more money directly into missions and new church development.”
Questions about any of these changes should be directed to the Rev. Dale Cohen at (205) 226-7954 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .Will Willimon