Quadrennial training theme: Leading into the future

“You are a steward of the United Methodist witness within the bounds of the Florida Conference."
--Dr. Lovett Weems

ORLANDO—“Leading into the Future” was the theme of Dr. Lovett Weems’ message for participants in the Florida Conference’s first Quadrennial Leadership Day on June 25 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando. Weems is the director of the Wesley Theological Seminary’s Lewis Center for Church Leadership and a noted author.

The audience included Annual Conference committee members and leadership teams, who worked in breakout sessions following Weems’ presentations to develop goals, define leadership and initiate plans to fulfill the church’s mission

Dr. Lovett Weems

The keynote speaker’s topics were “Connecting Leadership and Vision” and “Looking for Clues in State and Conference Trends.” Florida population and local church data were the foundation for the latter.

“Why do mission and vision statements make so little difference?” Weems asked. His insight is that while an organization may have a wonderful vision, the norm is that church planning is done in silos by “stand alone” groups: trustees see themselves doing trustees’ work; finance members, finance work; education planners, education work.

“We must think whole before parts,” he said. “We are the BODY of Christ, not a collection of body parts. Everything you do has to contribute to the vision.”

The mission is the same throughout the denomination, he observed: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Each ministry’s vision is defined by how it will achieve the mission and what it will look like five years out, for instance.

“Everything you do has to contribute to the vision,” Weems said. “You are stewards of the vision” and need to ask: “Given our mission and where we are now, what is the next faithful step” toward fulfilling it?

Weems encouraged the audience to shift from what he defines as static planning to dynamic planning.

He described static planning as linear: Where organizations set goals, implement tactics, monitor implementation, then “you just hope to high heaven that something’s going to happen.”

Dynamic planning, Weems said, is based on innovation and learning and is more appropriate to the church. “It is not a straight line,” he said. “You have to learn how to do things you don’t know how to do” and sometimes accept failure. “We’re called to do something more than merely sustaining.”

To help inform the work of the breakout sessions, Weems shared five trends he believes are important to the health of Florida churches:

  • Florida has a strong cohort of very large churches;

  • The last 15 years have been difficult for mid-size churches (there are 70 fewer in 2015 than in 2000);

  • There is a dramatic increase in the number of small churches;

  • There is an overall decline in professions of faith (greater decline than overall UMC);

  • Finances: Between 2000 and 2015, Florida churches have been good stewards of their budgets, and on the average, adjusted for inflation, members have increased their giving by 10 percent.

Additionally, Weems pointed out that two major national patterns have impacted churches since 2000: economic recession and worship depression, or decline in attendance.

Click here for Dr. Weems’ slide presentations and videos of both sessions.

Left to right: Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson, Gulf Central District superintendent (July 1); Rev. Dora Thomas, senior pastor of Community UMC, DeBary; and Susan Gray, conference committee member, work on plans for the conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

“I felt the Conference Leadership meeting was terrific,” said Sharon Luther, a member of the Committee on the Episcopacy. “It makes such sense to connect the leadership and committee work with the vision.”

“Saturday’s Quadrennial Leadership Day was an excellent opportunity for us to hear from Dr. Weems and consider how we, as an entire Annual Conference, can collaborate together effectively toward the accomplishment of our vision and mission,” Rev. Alex Shanks, assistant to Bishop Carter said. “It was great to be in the same room, hear the same information and breathe the same collective air as together we look toward the future.”

Cross-ministry lunch work sessions offered a discovery time “to meet people across ministry area lines and reflect together on the priority goals for the next four years,” he said.

Rev. June Edwards, district superintendent for the North Central district, was energized by “a fruitful day together.

“Dr. Weems offered a compelling challenge for us all, which is we are the ‘stewards for the United Methodist witness within the bounds of the conference—if you don’t do it, who will?’” she said.

“The time with Dr. Lovett Weems was both affirming and convicting,” Rev. Jad Denmark of St. Luke’s UMC said.

“The affirmation came as Dr. Weems shared about the dynamic approach of a vision/mission. We know what the end result/goal is and we try out new ministries to get us to that goal. Sometimes these fail but we always learn and make adjustments,” Denmark said. “This is something I have learned to practice and appreciate.

“The conviction piece was when Dr. Weems shared the statistical data of our denomination and conference from 2000-2015. He shared the downward movement in worship attendance and membership,” he said. “We are losing another generation and the Latino population is growing.”

“Millennials aren’t interested in organizations that argue about who is in and who is out,” he said. Also, “we need to be in and with the Latin-Americans in our community.”

Paulette Monroe, conference lay leader, offered closing remarks for the event. Click here to read her thoughts on the day's events.


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