Leadership Connection makes progress during first year

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Leadership Connection makes progress during first year

May 22, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
tparham@flumc.org    Orlando {0490}

NOTE: This is one of a series of articles about news related to the “Witness With Power” 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event June 1-3 in Lakeland.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

Lifelong United Methodist Frances Jennings has been a part of many church-related committees, but she’s never been as pleased as she is to serve on the Leadership Connection.

“I think it’s going great,” she said of the first year. “It’s the most exciting committee I’ve ever served on. I’m impressed with the people, and it’s a real joy.”

LAKELAND — Conference staff member Birk Mullinax holds a sign representing one connection in the Conference Equipping Network (CEN) as part of a presentation by the Rev. D. Anne Burkholder (background), conference director of Connectional Ministries, and Lynette Fields, chairwoman of the former Conference Council on Ministries, during the 2005 annual conference event. Burkholder and Fields explained the concept behind the CEN and the role and structure of the Leadership Connection. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #06-360.

Fifteen laity and clergy make up the Leadership Connection, whose formation was part of the Conference Equipping Network proposal that passed at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference event. They facilitate the creation and work of both long- and short-term task teams that focus on meeting specific, identified ministry needs of the conference.

Part of that responsibility involves gathering people from different conference groups to identify and discuss present and future needs and trends of the state’s population and conference’s churches. The team was also charged with identifying people who are passionate about those issues and willing to serve on a task team to address them. The task teams are accountable to the Leadership Connection for meeting specific objectives, and once they are done with their work, they are dissolved. The team also serves as a think-tank and is charged with making recommendations about topics for upcoming Conference Tables.

The Leadership Connection is required to make a report at each annual conference event about what has been accomplished during the year and any information it has learned about needs and trends. Team members will make this year’s report June 2 during the Connectional Ministries presentation that morning.

In essence, the Leadership Connection is conducting the ministry of the conference in an entirely new way.

Jennings, a member of Avondale United Methodist Church in the North East District, said the group spent much of its first year getting the word out about its creation and has worked with newly-formed tasks teams related to older and younger adult issues. She said other groups are waiting until after the annual conference event to come before the Leadership Connection with a request to form a task team.

“What we’re doing is new and exciting,” she said. “ … We’re not boxed in. We’re free to examine new ways of doing things.”

The Rev. Rafael Vigil agrees. He said the Leadership Connection has been a little slow getting started, but the future of the organization couldn’t look better.

“The vision is beyond what we have seen in the past,” said the pastor of First United Methodist Church, Palmetto. “We are going to require the conference and leaders to think of ministry in new ways. We have so much freedom because we’re not locked into one way of doing things.”

While the Leadership Connection is focusing on new issues, careful thought is being given to ensuring the work of specific groups and ministries mandated by the Book of Discipline of The Untied Methodist Church continues, according to the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, conference director of Connectional Ministries.

Burkholder said this first year of the Leadership Connection has been a year of formation and shaping the culture of the group. It has also been a time of research and planning the system that has to be in place in order for the Leadership Connection to do its work. Overall, she says she is happy with its growth so far.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “Some of the task team members will have the opportunity to share a brief note at annual conference about what they’re trying to accomplish.”

One of the first issues presented before the Leadership Connection was the lack of young adults present and involved in the local church, Burkholder said. A task team has formed to address that issue and shape a 2007 Conference Table around it.

Burkholder said the relationship between the Conference Table and the Leadership Connection is also beginning to emerge. Feedback from a recent Conference Table on conflict and confrontation was referred to the Leadership Connection. Now, the team will determine the next step in addressing the information.

The Florida Conference Cabinet also referred an issue to the Leadership Connection that Burkholder says relates to “how we understand our relationship to property.”

“I think hurricane and insurance issues have triggered a struggle for many of us about what our property means and what kind of investment biblically and theologically is appropriate,” she said. “Are we being called to a different way of relating to our buildings in light of the kind of world we’re moving into now?

“That’s a very, very provocative issue. It forces us to think about how we need, and perhaps how we don’t need, property, how we become emotionally tied to property, and how we link property to our spiritual lives.”

Burkholder said the Leadership Connection is excited about tackling such very difficult and complicated issues.

Rafael said the team’s work was dramatically slowed by last year’s hurricanes, but now it has a handful of applications for task team formation to consider. He said the group has been operating somewhat “under the radar,” but expects good things for its future.

“We are exploring and visioning ministry in a new, fresh approach,” he said. “It’s been a good thing, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

“Now that we’ve got the word out, it’s only going to get better in the future,” Jennings said.

Part of getting the word out includes the team’s presentation at the annual event. Themed “Got A Vision? Get Connected!,” team members are encouraging people across the conference to share their ideas, interests and skills through the Leadership Connection pages on the conference Web site at http://www.flumc.org (under the Connectional Ministries link of the Ministries tab, located at the top of the page). Interested individuals may submit applications to work with current task teams, ideas for new task teams and their gifts and skills so the team can link individuals together. Buttons imprinted with the theme will be distributed to delegates to raise awareness about the need to get and stay connected.

The entire conference event will be web cast live through the Internet for those who are not able to attend. Individuals who would like to log onto the webcast at any time during the annual gathering may do so by going to the Florida Conference Web site at http://www.flumc.org and following the instructions listed there. Details about the gathering are also posted on the site and accessible by clicking on the event graphic posted on the right-hand side of the home page.

This article relates to Florida Conference Connectional Ministries/Leadership Connection and “Witness With Power” 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

Contact Us

The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011