Cabinet works with coach on becoming 'missional strategists'

November 21, 2015

Douglas T. Anderson, Associate Director for Church Development, Indiana Annual Conference, has been leading the New England Conference Cabinet through a coaching process since the early part of 2015.
The goal, according to Dr. Anderson, is to help develop a plan to transform the superintendency to put the focus on “strategic missional thinking.” 
Dr. Doug Anderson

“My hope is that this process will well equip and support superintendents for their critical role as missional strategists for our common mission of ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,’” Dr. Anderson said.
In total, the Cabinet will have four two-day sessions with Dr. Anderson; each with a different focus. This most recent session, Nov. 19 and 20, 2015, and the last session will include Extended Cabinet members. 
Past sessions’ topics included how to help pastors and lay leaders find a process for developing a clear and compelling vision for ministry, and discerning a process for how to coach pastors and churches well.
“Doug combines a long and effective history in church leadership with a unique perspective and sharp eye in looking at where we are and where God is calling us to be,” said Tri-State District Superintendent Jim McPhee. “Tri-State District has hosted Doug for a Resource Day (the video will soon be available on our website), and I have been preaching and sharing on the themes that he raises for us.” 
“This is great stuff for any of us who love and work with congregations,” Rev. McPhee said.
Northern Maine District Superintendent Pat MacHugh agreed, saying:
“Dr. Anderson has given us invaluable information to guide us to take a clear look at the Church in today's world. I have found it not only informative in this process, but invaluable in my preaching and teaching in the churches and with the clergy of the district as we re-vision ministry.”
The Cabinet’s most recent session with Dr. Anderson focused on utilizing a congregation’s life cycle as a tool for assessing its current reality and as a way to help the congregation find an effective strategy for developing a new life cycle.
Dr. Anderson used the analogy of a car to describe how the various aspects of a church should function together – at least at the beginning and middle stages of a church’s lifecycle:
The vision takes the driver’s seat and is focused out the windshield on the future. Relationships – the worship experience, the discipleship process, and hospitality – take the passenger or navigator’s seat and work in tandem with the vision. Seated behind relationships is programs, because programs should be directly connected to relationships. And seated behind vision is management, which comprises policy making, finances, staffing, etc., that are all ways of helping live out the mission or purpose.
But, Dr. Anderson cautioned, if churches don’t do something to start a new life cycle for themselves every 10 or 15 years, the positions in the car begin to shift, and the church begins to decline. For example, vision cedes the driver’s seat to management and the focus moves from the windshield to the rearview mirror and how things have been done in the past.
“Perhaps one of the most helpful foci for me in reframing ministry for the churches of New England has been this: ‘It's not about preference; it's not about comfort; it's about the Mission!’” said Rev. MacHugh.
Rick McKinley, Conference Director of Congregational Development said two points that were clear for him after this session were: “The importance of developing a discipleship path (a way to lead people to faith as well as reconnect people of faith) and of making the shift toward an outward-focused ministry.”
Dr. Anderson has engaged with 12-15 churches in a coaching process, but this is his first time doing this kind of work with a Conference Cabinet.
“I am impressed with the openness and what we've been sharing together,” Dr. Anderson told the Cabinet at its most recent session. “I am encouraged and hopeful about the direction and that this is going to take and we'll see traction around district superintendents being missional strategists.”
The next and final coaching session is scheduled for March 16-17, 2016.