The year ahead

In 2018 conference leaders are building on our strengths and creating ways to live into the opportunities before us. The Executive Board will begin a strategic planning conversation, and we look forward to calling a settled associate conference minister. We are regionalizing some programs and training, physically and through technology, to offer more accessible opportunities to connect with the ministry and resources provided by the conference office. Partnerships and collaboration will be center-stage in our justice work. We looking at ways we can redeploy some of our dollars to help struggling congregations clarify their mission and purpose. We are supporting Taos UCC in NM with designated new church start funds, and are listening to the dreams of others for new churches in strategic locations in the conference.

Reframing the weakness/threat of declining church participation among people under 30, we will focus on the spiritual formation of young people at the March 3 gathering of the Mission and Church Vitality Committee (MCVC). Bring your MCVC representative, your pastor, and your youth workers! We will hear from one of our congregations whose new members in 2017 were mostly under 40. And we will evaluate the Church 2.0 paradigm of Camp in conference-wide conversation as we listen for what God is calling us to next in the faith formation of children and youth.

Community organizing is proving to be a critical skill for leading today’s churches. Alexia Salvatierra, author of Faith Rooted Organizing, keynotes a day of training on Thursday, April 19, in Tucson. The event is free to members of the SWC! She also will be with us during our annual meeting, April 20-21 at Rincon Congregational UCC.

The Mission and Church Vitality Committee (MCVC) gathers on October 6 to offer congregation leaders, particularly moderators, treasurers and church boards, a day of best-practices training. Learn how to be the best church leader you can be in conversation with other church leaders. The changing paradigms of what it means to be a local church pastor will also be part of the conversation.

By year’s end a new Manual on Ministry (MOM) will be in play throughout the UCC. It stresses competency for authorized ministers, and articulates a theology for baptismal ministry by all followers of Jesus. This paradigm shift is rooted in “The Marks for Ministry.” Late 2018 or early 2019 the SWC will offer a retreat-model event to explore, explain, and call one another into these ‘Marks’ in deeper ways.

Our weaknesses, and the threats we are facing as congregations and as a conference are shared by all of us because we live in covenant together.  Together we can use our strengths to transform them into opportunities for witness and growth. We have an exciting year ahead of us. Thank you for being a vital member of the Southwest Conference.