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Leadership Connection helps conference take next step in putting new structure in place

Leadership Connection helps conference take next step in putting new structure in place

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Leadership Connection helps conference take next step in putting new structure in place

Feb. 23, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0252}

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

LAKELAND — The conference's new Leadership Connection is seeking its inaugural group of 15 people. Their task will be to help the Florida Conference do its work in a significantly different way.

The Leadership Connection is part of the Conference Equipping Network (CEN) proposal passed at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event. The proposal called for a new structure that will include the new leadership team, as well as the dissolution of the Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM), effective as of the 2005 annual conference event.

The Leadership Connection will comprise 15 laity and clergy who will create task teams to focus on meeting ministry needs and visions. It will also work to understand current and future needs and trends of the state's population and the conference's churches, with the goal of communicating that information throughout the conference and facilitating the work of individuals and churches in meeting identified needs.

How the Leadership Connection will work

In a practical sense, the Leadership Connection will serve as a think-tank, gathering representatives from conference boards, committees and agencies to discuss trends and needs and ways to respond. It will identify people who are passionate about those needs and willing to serve on task teams formed for the purpose of meeting a specific need. Once a task teams has accomplished its task or is no longer effective, it will be dissolved. Under the CCOM structure ministry teams have typically been formed to serve as long-standing ministries.

Task teams will be accountable to the Leadership Connection for meeting specific goals and objectives. The Leadership Connection will approve funding that the teams need to do their work.

The Leadership Connection will also report what has been accomplished, along with any failures and things the team has learned the previous year, to the Annual Conference and recommend topics of discussion for the Conference Table to Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker.

A major component is research. The team will gather information, identify areas of concern related to specific topics, and bring people together to conduct additional research and develop ways to resolve issues, according to the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office.

Individuals or groups can also recommend task teams be formed around issues they feel the conference needs to address, such as the lack of young adults involved in the church or the need for more effective ministry to older adults. The Leadership Connection would take that recommendation and research the issue more thoroughly to determine the level of need. If the need required action, the Leadership Connection would bring congregations and leaders together to form a task team to solve the problem.

If the issue is related to young adults, for example, the task team might include both young adults involved in the church and those who aren't, conference staff, and clergy who have found successful ways of integrating young adults into the life of the church and campus ministries.

The task team would be given resources and a specific time frame in which to complete its work. The results could include recommendations for a special summit or event, the creation of a Web site, or publication of materials to address the issue as a resource to congregations and ministries. Once the team's objectives were met, the team would dissolve and members would be available to tackle other issues they felt called to address.

Burkholder said the conference is in the interim or "in between phase" right now, but the model is already being used with a conference older adult ministry project.

A 14-member Older Adult Ministry Task Team was formed and sponsored a conference called "Tapestry: Tapping the Greatest Resource in Florida" Feb. 1-3. The team's goal is cultivating the spiritual growth of older adult populations.

Individuals or other groups are also encouraged to use the model, making it critical for the Leadership Connection to be established. Groups wanting to use the task team approach are encouraged to contact the CCOM executive committee, which is serving as a transitional system until the Leadership Connection is in place.

"We want to have the system in place so people know that the Leadership Connection and the resources of the annual conference will be available to them and so that people will have a place to discuss their ideas and to bring passions and visions to the table," Burkholder said.

As plans for the Leadership Connection move forward, Burkholder said careful thought is being given to make certain the work of specific groups and ministries mandated by the Book of Discipline continues.

Finding the right fit

For the new structure to work, Burkholder said people who are both deeply committed to the United Methodist Church and very visionary are needed and encouraged to apply for a spot on the Leadership Connection. Individuals can apply online at

The conference Leadership Committee, previously known as the nominations committee, will nominate people from the list of applicants, and that group will be voted on at the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

"We need people who deeply value and love the church, but who are driven to see it lead and act in a 21st century way," Burkholder said. "We need people who have a passion and calling for ministry, but also have the ability to see things differently and provide leadership for the church in moving toward new ways of being the church ... people who are not comfortable with the ways things are, but who are willing to be a part of trying to figure out how to lead it (church) toward a new type of relevancy in our world."

Lynette Fields agrees. Fields is a staff member at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Orlando and chairwoman of the CCOM for its final year.

"This is something we haven't done before. We are going to need people who are innovative, creative and visionary, with strong leadership skills. We need people who are knowledgeable about the church, yet aren't stuck in the past," she said. "We are searching for people who are proactive and not reactive, committed to the vision and mission of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, and want to do the work of the church in a more efficient way."

Fields said the Leadership Connection will do more than maintain the structure of the church.

"The Leadership Connection will meet the needs of the local church and the people who haven't been invited into the local church," she said.


This article relates to Conference Transformation.

*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.