Connectional Table hosts annual retreat for leaders

Rene Wilbur talks about raising up new committee and board chairs at the Connectional Table's Fall Leadership retreat.

October 21, 2019

Leaders of the New England Conference’s boards, committees, and agencies gathered at the Conference Center on Oct. 19, 2019 for the Connectional Table’s annual leadership retreat. 
Connectional Table members also met the evening before to complete some business; read that story here
The Connectional Table is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations regarding requests for funding from the programming budget (Fund 2). 
As part of its responsibility for the program budget, the Connectional Table is charged with ensuring that boards, committees, and agencies are functioning in alignment with the Conference’s mission, vision and five critical values as laid out the in the Strategic Plan
The retreat is designed to resource Conference leaders in a number of ways including drafting their budget requests, accessing Conference resources, connecting across the Conference, raising up new leaders, and preparing for Annual Conference. 
As part of the day, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar shared his perspective on the importance of connectional giving – even as he acknowledged the “pain caused by the 2019 General Conference to our LGBTQAI community and their allies.” Take a listen

Annual Conference

The Rev. Erica Robinson-Johnson, Director of Connectional Ministries (DCM)/Assistant to the Bishop, reviewed the timelines for submitting reports and proposed legislation for Annual Conference. That timeline can be found here.
Each board and committee is required to submit an annual report (these are included in the Pre-Conference Materials and the Journal). 
Rev. Robinson-Johnson also reminded leaders that if they are seeking time on the floor of Annual Conference for a proposal or proposing legislation that would require a rule change, those requests need to be made in a timely manner so the agenda committee can plan and the Rules Committee can be consulted. 


Newly elected Connectional Table Co-Chair Rev. Dan Randall and Connectional Table member Steve Dry gave a presentation on preparing budget requests. 
“We are a people of story. Our lives don’t make sense unless we connect ourselves to the greater story of God’s love in Jesus Christ,” Rev. Randall said. Each group has a story to tell, he said. 
“And our budget narrative is just telling the story of our group and how we envision connecting to God’s holy work of healing the world, and how that work connects with the New England Conference’s [vision, mission and values] as a whole,” Rev. Randall said. 
Co-Chair Joan Klein said the Connectional Table wants everyone to be clear about the budget request process. The following four questions are ones each group requesting funding should be prepared to answer:
  1. How does the identity and purpose of your group/program fit into the Conference's Strategic Plan? Specifically link your mission to the Conference Mission, your Core Values with those of the Conference, and your Vision with that of the Conference. Recall that not every agency and program needs to meet all of our key objectives, but each should meet one or more well.
  2. Please describe how your mission builds asset-based relationships, inspires, supports and sustains diverse people to contribute to the well-being of the church in multi-dimensional collaborations.
  3. Please provide the measurable critical or key objectives of your work for the year 2019, and the measures and goals you hope to achieve.
  4. Present a narrative description of your proposed budget that integrates your assessment and answers to questions 1-3 with each spending component your request.
“When we evaluate the budgets, these are the questions we ask as a Connectional Table,” Klein said.  “We want everyone to know up front what is expected of you and how we are evaluating your budget.” 
The requests for 2021 funding will be due to the Conference Treasurer on March 1, 2020. 
Rev. Randall pointed out that a group’s request can also serve as a useful template or starting point for applying for grant funds from the general church or sources outside the church. 

Other funding sources

While there are many funding sources outside the church, there are some additional sources within the church beyond Conference funding of which groups should be aware. Some sources for grant funding include:
  • The general church: Discipleship Ministries, Global Ministries, Board of Church and Society, and many other agencies have grant funding available.
  • The NEAC also has a number of endowed funds; these are not reflected in the Conference’s annual mission share budget, but the DCM can help groups find sources that may align with their goals and mission. 
“While [these endowments] are not well known, we want you to use them,” Rev. Robinson-Johnson said. “Somebody gave them out of great generosity with great hope and purpose for them to be used. My hope is we drain those before we ask our churches to keep giving us more.” 

Conference resources/Connecting
“We are a connectional church,” Klein said. “We need to connect. 
The Connectional Table, she said, can be a resource for bringing together groups that are engaged in similar ministries and that might benefit from working together. 
It’s important, Klein told leaders, to keep the Connectional Table informed about what your group is doing in order to facilitate those connections. 
The Director of Connectional Ministries and your group’s conference staff liaison (included in the list of a committee or board’s members) and the Connection Table member associated with your critical values group can also be resources for groups that want to partner with others in the Conference. 
Rev. Robinson-Johnson reminded leaders that they can use the conference rooms and training center at the Methuen offices. There are also tools such as and video conferencing tools such as Zoom that groups are encouraged to utilize. Groups wishing to use the Conference Center should consult with their assigned staff person. A Conference staff member must be onsite when the building is in use. 

Raising up the next leaders

Rene Wilbur, Conference Lay Leader, spoke to participants about how to identify and prepare the person who will take their place as the chair of a group and committee when their term ends. 
Wilbur told the gathered leaders they have an important responsibility:
“[It’s] not defined by the Book of Discipline or even by Conference rules but is inherent in any conscientious leader: That is to give consideration to who might be your successor as chairperson,” she said. “And this should be done at least one year prior to the end of your term, and two years is never too early to start thinking about the approach you will take.”
Identifying potential next leaders is the first step, Wilbur said, and offered the following advice: 
  • Identify someone in whom you have observed leadership qualities.
  • Identify someone who will be eligible to stay on long enough after you step down to give significant, viable leadership.
  • Talk with the DCM and the Cabinet or staff member or member assigned to your group. They, too, have been observing the members and will have some skilled advice.
  • Get the aforementioned preparation completed early enough so you have time to engage God through prayer. “It is a time to gather your thoughts, flesh out how you will approach the individual, and think about what they need to know and what kinds of questions you may be asked. This is holy work, and responsible work. And you also have to be prepared for a ‘no’ answer and to start the process all over again.”
 Once you have a candidate who has accepted the role, Wilbur said, “be sure to include him or her in brainstorming about meeting agendas, program planning, budget requests, etc. — the fullness of all that goes into leading a board or agency. You want a smooth transition and so does your potential successor. As the current leader, you are in control of how smoothly this goes.”
In wrapping up the day’s events leading into the closing worship, Rev. Robinson-Johnson acknowledged the importance of the connection particularly because “we do not have unlimited resources,” she said.
“We have an abundance, for sure, but we are also to be good stewards of the abundant gifts that God gives us,” she said. “I am passionate about our connectional church – we cannot do this work alone as individuals or as individual committees or individual churches. We do the work that God has called us to do in community.”