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Game show challenge makes debut at annual event

Game show challenge makes debut at annual event

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Game show challenge makes debut at annual event
June 19, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0317}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

LAKELAND — Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker (left) cheers as his team answsers a question correctly during The Florida Conference Challenge game show that was part of the report from the former Conference Council on Ministries at the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0199.

LAKELAND — It was a side of Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker most clergy and laity in the Florida Conference had not seen before: Whitaker raising his arms above his head and cheering when his team answered its question correctly, then resting his head in his hand when they lost in the final challenge.

Whitaker and five other unwitting delegates to the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event "volunteered" to be contestants in The Florida Conference Challenge game show. The lucky participants were asked to play just minutes before the show began. And just before the contestants began the challenge, the Never-to-be-ready Prime Time Players treated delegates to a rare performance.

LAKELAND — Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker admits defeat when his red team loses The Florida Conference Challenge game show to the yellow team at the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0200.

The game show and "players" were part of the efforts of conference staff to creatively explain the dissolution of the Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM)  and the emerging roles staff will play within the new conference structure. The CCOM gave its "report" during the morning session the second day of the gathering.

At last year's annual conference event delegates approved restructuring the conference's districts and forming church clusters. Dissolving the CCOM and developing a new structure for conference staff were also approved.

The CCOM ceased to exist at this year's annual conference event. CCOM staff will be attached to the Connectional Ministries office, led by the Rev. Anne Burkholder, but their roles will evolve and change as needs within the conference change.

CCOM staff were traditionally responsible for directing long-standing ministry areas led by teams and committees. Under the new structure, a group of 15 laity and clergy will work together as the Leadership Connection to form focused task teams that will both strategically think about specific areas of interest and concern to the conference and meet identified needs. Each team formed to work on a specific issue will develop its goals and complete its work, then cease to exist unless the need for it to continue remains. Specific teams will also be formed to accomplish tasks required by the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church or conference Standing Rules.

Leadership Connection members were elected by delegates at this year's conference event. The group will work under the direction of the Connectional Ministries office.

Within that new framework, conference staff will operate more like floaters between ministry areas, such as New Church Development or Congregational Transformation, accepting new tasks as needs arise. They will also play a significant role in researching needs of the church and society across the state and providing information about those issues to local churches so they may respond.

The overall goal is to move the conference away from maintaining programs and toward identifying and fulfilling leadership and ministry needs. The Leadership Connection will equip groups within the conference to make disciples of Jesus Christ and focus more on providing information to churches and groups, researching ministry trends and needs, developing ministries and equipping people for those ministries, and seeking and evaluating input and feedback to assist in future research. 

All of that falls within a concept leaders are calling the Conference Equipping Network (CEN). The CEN is the "web of relationships" between all of the ministry groups within the conference. It's not a specific team of people or a committee. Instead, it is the ways people who are part of the ministries that make up the annual conference relate and work together to accomplish the vision and mission of the conference. In essence, it is the Florida Annual Conference.

Burkholder and the conference staff chose to interpret the changes in a more visual way because they felt the CEN concept and shift in the role of staff might be difficult to understand.

"The hardest thing will be to explain what is different (about the new structure) from the CCOM," Burkholder said before beginning the presentation.

LAKELAND — Conference staff and volunteers visually explain the Conference Equipping Netwok concept that's part of the conference's resturcturing efforts taking effect this year. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0201.

The Never-to-be-ready Prime Time Players, better known as the conference staff, positioned themselves around the stage at the front of the arena wearing placards, each imprinted with the name of a different conference group — local church, cabinet, ministry groups, task teams. Other staff wove colored rope between the different players to connect the groups, symbolizing the groups and "web of relationships" that make up the CEN.

While the groups were being "connected," Burkholder and Lynette Fields, who served as CCOM chairwoman during the past year, narrated the visual being presented and explained the role of the Leadership Connection and task teams. They said some of the changes had already begun to take shape. Conference staff are working with new ministries, and focused task teams have formed around such issues as hunger awareness and health and wholeness.

The game show challenge that followed was a "Jeopardy"-style format led by host Jerry Herships, a ministry candidate and seminary student and member at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Windermere. Two teams — one yellow, one red (Whitaker's team) — had the opportunity to answer any of 15 questions, each valued at different amounts and divided between four categories. The team with the highest score was the winner.

LAKELAND — The Rev. Dr. Kevin James and the Rev. Vicki Walker give each other a high five when their team answered a question correctly during The Florida Conference Challange game  show. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0202.

The questions were fill-in-the-blanks with three answers, only one of which was serious and correct. One question asked, "The ministries and events of the conference under the new structure will: a). fulfill the requirements of the Book of Discipline, b). fulfill the requirements of the National Baseball League or c). impress all those other lazy denominations." Another asked, "When a need presents itself within the Florida Conference that demands a ministry response, the Leadership Connection will: a). call Pope Benedict XVBI and ask him to issue an edict, b). initiate a focused task team, or c). take a long lunch."

To play, a team member would chose a category, then a question that could be answered by any of his or her teammates. To answer, they had to first hit their buzzer.

At the final question, when the two teams could wager as many of their points as they wanted, only one team emerged victorious — and it wasn't Whitaker's.

Despite the fun approach that drew laughter and applause, Burkholder and Fields hope delegates have a better sense of the changes taking place — changes Fields hopes will empower more people in the conference to "begin new ministries that align with both the vision and mission of the conference and their own calling and passion."


This article relates to 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.