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Disaster Recovery Ministry Reorganizes

Disaster Recovery Ministry Reorganizes

LAKELAND - As part of the next phase in the strategic restructuring of the Florida Conference Department of Connectional Ministries, two key service areas are aligning their efforts to better serve churches and laity.

Disaster Recovery Ministry has been reorganized to collaborate with the Ministry Protection Department on educational and networking functions that have a natural fit for goals and objectives, projects, and mission.  The reorganized Disaster Recovery group, previously part of the Connectional Relations department, will be housed in Ministry Protection, and it will report to Ministry Protection Director Mark Thomas.

Disaster Recovery staff will continue to play its traditional role in the event of storms or other catastrophic events.  The two Disaster Recovery staff members involved in the reorganization—Pam Garrison and Greg Harford—will continue to have disaster response and recovery as a top priority, and they will continue serving their network of volunteers.  In addition, the training they offer will expand to include risk management related issues that naturally coincide with their existing training.

This organizational change is the most significant since February 2010, when the Communications department was restructured to serve as Connectional Relations, and the department of Congregational Transformation was renamed Congregational Excellence.

“We are still involved in the long term change that led to the reorganizing of Connectional Relations of last year,” noted the Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, Director of Connectional Ministries.  “When we formed the Connectional Relations department, we gave it responsibilities that included the traditional communications functions, special event planning and oversight, and training, which is a large, traditional part of the Disaster Recovery function. This change will greatly expand their capacity to provide educational services on a much broader basis.”

“It is all about creating a responsive department that is focused on the learning needs of the churches and their communities,” said Gretchen Hastings, Managing Director of Connectional Relations. “There’s been increasing recognition of potential overlaps in goals and project implementation between the two departments’ educational functions, as well as exciting future opportunities to work together in a way that wasn’t considered in the past.”

Hastings said the change in focus gives the two departments the opportunity to collaborate and leverage their mutual ministry interests. “We can take a new, strategic and proactive approach to delivering protection and education, and it gives the Disaster Recovery group the opportunity to expand its ministry beyond what traditionally has been event-focused and primarily reactive to weather events.  This collaboration is expected to uncover new and unmet educational needs.”

Marilyn Swanson will continue to serve as the lead liaison for the Florida Conference’s Disaster Recovery Ministry. She said the changes will free her to spend more time in her leadership role in planning both this year’s Annual Conference event and next spring’s General Conference—both taking place in Tampa. Staff member Sandy Lovern will continue in her role in supporting these planning efforts.

Garrison, who has also been serving as interim Conference Coordinator for United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), sees the change as “a great opportunity to expand our ministry to the local churches. The mission of disaster recovery is to resource and equip local churches to prepare, respond and recover from disaster. We accomplish this goal by providing training, guidance and other resources to help our churches develop their disaster ministry. And, if we are able to do this before disaster strikes, hopefully, the response of the local church will be that much more effective.”

Garrison continued, “God created us to be compassionate, and that compassion is demonstrated by the outpouring of support from our churches when disaster occurs outside their community, as well. Churches want to do something to help, and they want to do it right now. Our goal is, and will continue to be, to provide opportunities for them to respond in ways that are both helpful and appropriate.   It’s all about getting the right resources to the right place at the right time – and, as the hands and feet of Jesus, our churches are one of the best delivery systems.”

Thomas noted that Disaster Recovery has a strong, respected identity inside and outside of the Conference. “The amount of training Pam and Greg provide to local churches and volunteers is really unparalleled in the Conference. The restructuring of Disaster Recovery, with a broadened training focus, is a natural fit with the proactive perspective of ministry protection. I think this is a more effective way to coordinate the talents and resources of both departments, and it is a superb example of good stewardship and servant leadership.”

Fogle-Miller said there are no other significant Connectional Ministries changes expected presently, noting that Bishop Timothy Whitaker’s Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) is just underway in its task of clarifying the Conference’s purpose, mission, vision and core values.  “Once we have clarified these, we will have a better idea on how to align the structure to maximize its effectiveness for achieving the vision,” she said.

News media contact: Gretchen Hastings, 800-282-8011,, Lakeland
*Hastings is executive editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.