Thursday, October 21, 2010

Denominational Board Sets Framework for Stratigic Planning, Adopts 2011 Budget
A framework for strategic planning for the next decade of denominational ministry, and a 2011 budget, have been approved by the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board. The group met Oct. 15-18 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The board used a consensus style of decision making, led by chair Dale E. Minnich.

Worship each day of the board meetings centered on the theme, "Hearers and Doers of the Word." A group of students from Bethany Theological Seminary led the Sunday morning worship service.

Also on the agenda were a proposal for a private conversation for the board to seek a working relationship while dealing with controversial issues such as the current denominational conversation on sexuality. The group acted on a proposal regarding the Committee on Interchurch Relations, named a new chair-elect, and received a number of reports including recent Brethren delegations to China and India, among other business.

Framework for Strategic Planning:

The bulk of the board’s time was spent on a framework for strategic planning for the next decade of denominational ministry. The document that was adopted features a preamble prayer, six broad directional goals, and a plan for next steps such as development of strategic objectives and how the resulting strategic plan will be implemented.

Previously adopted vision, mission, and core values statements ( ) are considered foundational to the effort.

"As we envision the next decade for the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren, we pray that...Christ will be at the center of all we do," begins the preamble prayer, which continues with words of intent for Brethren ministry focused on discerning "God’s yearnings for our ministries," "gathering around the Word," "God’s vision for reconciliation and healing," embodying "Jesus’ example of servant leadership," and more.

Six directional goals are to give broad guidance for denominational ministries for the next 10 years. They identify five large program areas-- "Brethren Voice," church planting, congregational vitality, international mission, and service--and an organizational goal of sustainability. In addition to a title, each directional goal includes a short description and one or two scripture references. (Find the full text of the preamble prayer and directional goals below.)

"The possibilities before us are indeed exciting," said Minnich as he introduced the framework to the board. The preamble prayer reaffirms the vision, mission, and core values of the organization, he said, and the directional goals provide guidance and priorities for church work.

Using an "appreciative inquiry" process that focuses on identifying strengths of the organization, data for strategic planning has been gleaned from a five-year evaluation of the work of the General Secretary, and a survey of seven leadership groups in the denomination: the Mission and Ministry Board, Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference, district executives, executive staff of the Church of the Brethren, the denominational Leadership Team (Annual Conference officers and General Secretary), Intercultural Ministry Team, and participants in a Young Adult Forum.

Consultant Rick Augsburger of the Konterra Group based in Washington, D.C., is providing assistance for the strategic planning. A Strategic Planning Working Group also has been named from board members and executive staff: board chair Dale Minnich; board members Andy Hamilton, Frances Townsend, and Colleen Michael; treasurer Judy Keyser; and general secretary Stan Noffsinger. This working group also was in conversation with the envisioning committee of Annual Conference as it created the framework for strategic planning.

A final strategic plan and any resulting changes in program or staffing are not expected for at least a year, Noffsinger explained during the meetings.

The "real meat" of the strategic planning process will come in the next round of work, as small groups of board members and staff develop strategic objectives to meet the new goals, Minnich said.

Budget for 2011:

The board approved a 2011 budget of $10,038,040 in expense and $10,143,620 in income for all eight Church of the Brethren ministry areas: Core Ministries, Brethren Press, "Messenger" magazine, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Material Resources, the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center, the Global Food Crisis Fund, and the Conference Office.

The budget includes a Core Ministries budget of $5,369,770 expense, $5,426,000 income, and a decision to use up to $437,000 from a bequest quasi endowment to cover what would otherwise be an anticipated deficit budget in Core Ministries. The Core Ministries are the non-self-funded program areas of the denomination, ranging from Congregational Life Ministries to Global Mission Partnerships, from the Ministry Office to Brethren Volunteer Service, and more.

As part of its decision, the board said it will review the budget at its next meeting in March to see if there is any additional margin to apply to a cost of living increase for employees, and expressed concern about the financial situation of the New Windsor Conference Center.

According to assistant treasurer LeAnn Wine, who presented the budget to the board, underlying assumptions for 2011 include no cost of living increase in employee wages for the second year in a row, a 20-percent increase in cost of medical insurance premiums over 2010, continuation of the established pattern of a slight annual decline in giving from congregations and individuals, and "challenging scenarios" for some self-funding units including the New Windsor Conference Center and Brethren Press.

This budget also is designed to give the board a year to put in place its strategic plan, before any resulting changes are made to program or staffing.

Finance and stewardship staff also reviewed year-to-date income and expense, and reported on stewardship and fundraising results through the end of September. Staff noted that donations from congregations are strong this year, and most Church of the Brethren ministry areas are "in the black" year-to-date. The exception is the New Windsor Conference Center, which continues to experience financial difficulties following the economic recession and resulting loss of bookings from groups that use the facility for meetings and retreats.

Proposal for a Special Conversation:

The board agreed to schedule a half day of private conversation at its next meeting in March, approving a recommendation from the Executive Committee. The time of private conversation will be held in order "to share their views on issues of intense conflict and discord like the current issue of human sexuality and to listen attentively and respectfully to the thoughts of their colleagues," according to the Proposal for a Special Conversation.

"The primary objective of this session would be to encourage frank and trusting sharing," the proposal said, "to build understanding of and respect for our differing points of view, and to undergird a trusting and loving working relationship among board members centered in our common focus on Christ."

Executive Committee members explained that the recommendation is in part a motion of solidarity with a denomination undergoing the current Special Response process on issues related to sexuality. The rest of the board agreed to it with some reservations, after a conversation that focused on questions such as why the board does not engage in the same Special Response process as the rest of the denomination, and whether the conversation will prove to be helpful or harmful to the board.

In other business:
  • Two international delegations reported: a delegation to China in August for the centennial of the Ping Ding mission hospital started by the Brethren, and a delegation representing the denomination at the 40th anniversary of the Church of North India (see story to come with regularly schedules issue of Newsline). The China delegation included Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships; Mary Jo Flory-Steury, executive director of Ministry, whose grandparents were mission workers in Ping Ding and whose father was born there; and Ruoxia Li, who grew up in a former Brethren mission area in China. Two hospitals were part of the celebration, Flory-Steury told the board: the hospital started by the mission, which now practices traditional Chinese medicine; and a new Friendship Hospital that also offers Western medicine. A banner from the celebration displayed the two Chinese characters used to translate the word Brethren: "friendship and heart." Wittmeyer said the phrase represents "a deep sweetness" in the way the Ping Ding community remembers the Brethren. The community would like more Brethren fellowship, he added. His office has received an invitation for Brethren to engage in a medical collaboration there. He noted that the invitation for a church to work openly in China is rare.

  • A review and evaluation of the Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) was set in motion, at the request of CIR and the Executive Committee. CIR is jointly answerable to Annual Conference and the Mission and Ministry Board. CIR chair Paul Roth presented the request "that Standing Committee and the Mission and Ministry Board review the CIR’s mission and discern what is most appropriate for the ecumenical work of the Church of the Brethren in the 21st century." The denomination’s Leadership Team will facilitate the review.

  • The board affirmed a change in designation of the Church Loan Fund to become a board-designated fund.

  • Becky Ball-Miller was chosen as chair-elect beginning at the 2011 Annual Conference. She will assist the next chair, Ben Barlow, for a two-year term as chair-elect, and then will serve as chair for two years. The term of service of current board chair, Dale Minnich, ends in July.

  • Todd Eichelberger of Bedford, Pa., was named to the board to fill the unexpired term of Willie Hisey Pierson, who became ineligible for the position when hired by Brethren Benefit Trust. The appointment will come before Annual Conference delegates for confirmation.

  • Board member Wallace Cole was named as a Church of the Brethren representative to the On Earth Peace delegation to Israel and Palestine in January.
(Find a photo album from the Mission and Ministry Board meeting at
Framework for Strategic Planning: Preamble Prayer and Directional Goals
The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren has adopted a framework to guide strategic planning for the next decade of denominational ministry. The framework includes a preamble prayer and directional goals (see below). Also included in the full document are an outline of next steps in the process, which includes the setting of strategic objectives and how to implement a resulting strategic plan.

Preamble Prayer

As we envision the next decade for the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren, we pray that...

Christ will be at the center of all we do.

We will discern God’s yearnings for our ministries by prayerfully gathering around the Word.

We will creatively imagine and live out God’s vision for reconciliation and healing.

We will help the Brethren express faith through humble service, simple words, and courageous proclamation.

We will grow into a community that more fully reflects all God’s people.

We will embody Jesus’ example of servant leadership.

We will provide opportunities for Brethren to be involved in hands-on ministry so that God’s transforming energy is released through committed service and support.

Our Brethren dedication to peace, simplicity, and community will undergird all aspects of our life and work.

May the Holy Spirit empower us as we respond to God’s yearnings.

Directional Goals

Brethren Voice:
Equip the Brethren to speak Christ’s peace and love to each other, to neighbors, to ecumenical and interfaith communities, and to national powers. "...To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79).

Church Planting:
Cultivate a growing movement of emerging mission points and church planting. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Congregational Vitality:
Strengthen the Brethren as we live into our calling as joyful communities of radical, compassionate disciples. "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds..." (Hebrews 10:24).

International Mission:
Grow the church of Jesus Christ around the world in partnership with sisters and brothers within the Church of the Brethren and beyond. "Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations" (Matthew 28:19, International Standard Version). "So that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine" (Romans 1:12).

Challenge and equip the Brethren to integrate faith and service, deepening our faith as we respond to human need. "...Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action" (1 John 3:18).

Assure that the vision for the Mission and Ministry Board is embodied in an organization that is sustainable, flexible, streamlined, and interdependent, and which calls forth committed support from congregations and individuals. "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12).

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