Task Force Works to Align Conference Structure With Four Areas of Mission Focus

April 07, 2011

At Annual Conference Session last year, members adopted Item 9, Recommendation for the Suspension of Division 5 of the Standing Rules, in order to allow two years for "flexibility and innovation in realigning the work of the [California-Nevada] Annual Conference with the four areas of mission focus identified by the Council of Bishops."

The recommendation authorized Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. to create a task force to work collaboratively with Conference leaders and come up with a suggested Conference structure which would both articulate and facilitate the Conference's commitment to outcomes-based ministry related to those Four Areas of Focus:
  • Developing principled Christian leaders
  • Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations
  • Being in ministry with the poor
  • Combating diseases of poverty by improving health globally
The bishop named, as task force members:
 
Mark Bollwinkel, Samuel Hong, Mark Cordes, Walter Grubbs, Saia Fa’asisila, Rochelle Frazier, Peter Lau, Cate Noellert, Lee Hayward, Delilah Fakalata, Burt Yin, Gayle Shearman, and Bishop Brown – with staff input from Linda Caldwell, Ted Virts, Diane Knudsen, and Kristie Olah.
 
The Novak Group – our consultants
 
The Novak Consulting Group was hired to facilitate the project. The mission of the firm is to strengthen organizations, for the benefit of those they serve and of those who work in them. Originally established as Public Management Partners, in 2001, the Novak Group has provided clients ever since with "the very best thinking and execution in organizational design, development, and improvement."
 
In 2009, Julia Novak led an in-depth operational review of the General Board of Global
Ministries (assisted by Michelle Ferguson and Catherine Tuck Parrish). Subsequently, The Novak Consulting Group conducted the searches for several Cabinet-level positions in the organization, including Deputy General Secretary for Mission and Evangelism; Deputy General Secretary for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR); and Deputy General Secretary for Development and Communications.
 
The Novak Consulting Group also facilitated the Governance Task Force – comprised of members of the Board of Directors and tasked with developing a new governance model for the elected body – and currently is working with Global Ministries to develop a strategic
plan for the agency.
 
The project team for the California-Nevada Annual Conference includes the principal consultants for the GBGM 2009 Operational Audit.
 
"Our project team is comprised of skilled professionals who have a personal understanding of the mission of the Church, intimate knowledge of the General Board of Global Ministries … and an appreciation for the complex structures that govern work at the Conference and local church level," Julia Novak says. "In addition, our team has had significant success working with many [other] large, complex organizations to identify priorities and achieve consensus.
 
"We are also skilled in developing effective implementation models that ensure the goals developed for the strategic plan and change management process are measureable and actually achieved."
 
Julia Novak serves as engagement manager for the Cal-Nevada project, assisted by Associates Catherine Tuck Parrish, Michelle Ferguson, and Sarah Slegers. Julia and Michelle are both active United Methodists, serving in the West Ohio and Western North Carolina
Conference, respectively.
 
The work progresses
 
The task force first met on October 21, 2010. The group reviewed best practices in board and committee governance, and reviewed the four areas of mission focus and the Conference's current board and agency structures. The task force worked on classifying the various boards and agencies of the Conference under the umbrella of the four areas of mission focus – assigning each entity to one of the areas of focus.
 
The work has continued at monthly meetings since December (Dec. 29, 2010; Jan. 4, 2011; March 10, 2011; and April 5, 2011).
 
At the April 5th meeting the task force completed discussion on some major points concerning a proposed structure, and is in the process of finalizing its progress report for Annual Conference Session in June (15-18). From now to then, the task force will be in conversation with the existing committee leadership of the Conference and will solicit feedback on the report.
 
"It is our intention to use this information and the hard work of the task force to move into the new structure and try it out, during the second year of the Division 5 standing rules suspension," said Caldwell (at right). "We hope that during this testing period we will learn much about the opportunities and challenges this new structure brings us.
 
"Of course the ultimate test is seeing how the new structure helps us to achieve greater focus on our shared mission," she said.
 
That "shared mission" was articulated during the Council of Bishops/Connectional Table webcast yesterday (April 6, 2011) as "To redirect the flow of attention, energy, and resources to an intense concentration on fostering and sustaining an increase in the number of vital congregations effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
 
Caldwell said that's the bottom line. It isn't about designing a new structure for structure's sake – but about helping us toward the desired result: new disciples of Christ, making a difference in the world.
 
(Photo of 2010 ACS by Paul "Spud" Hilton. Photo of Linda Caldwell by Joe Readye.)