Spirit Alive: It's Been Quite a Year

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
June 28, 2016

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

What in the World Does a Mission and Ministry Coordinator Do?

"The most powerful work is done in response to an opportunity not in response to a problem."
Peter Block, consulting guru and author
It is hard to believe that I've been in the role of Mission and Ministry Coordinator (MMC) for nearly a year. During this time, I have appreciated your prayers, input, and interactions. It was also good to talk with so many of you at annual conference...and to receive your emails throughout the year. Thank you. Your interest and support makes my work possible, and serving in this position has proven to be a great opportunity. But what has the MMC role really meant in the life of the annual conference?
When we eliminated the position of Director of Connectional Ministries in 2011, the annual conference lost an important role in the life of the church. We lost having someone to help connect the various parts of what we do as individual congregations to the greater whole that we are a part of as United Methodists, so that we can learn and grow in ministry together. Specifically...Who is doing innovative work among us? What are the cutting edges that we need to pay attention to? How can we better maximize our individual efforts in collective ways? How do we multiply what we are doing well? These are important questions to consider as we grow into the next generation of being church in this region. We simply have to learn from each others' creativity and feed off each others' energy if we are to remain relevant to people's lives in the coming years.
In Methodism, we often talk about "connectionalism" as a fundamental part of our tradition, but I'd like for us to consider another, similar concept: Confluence.
Confluence is defined as being the place where two or more streams flow together. It is also defined as a point of juncture...or a place of gathering together into a common flow.
To me, confluence is where things converge, connect, and churn under the surface. Confluence is also where the waters come together in powerful ways to create something significant and vital. In our region, the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers creates something more powerful than either of these rivers would be on their own. As we each do our separate work of ministry, how can we help others benefit from the positive flow that results from what we do?
I see it as a fundamental part of my role as MMC in Oregon-Idaho to be at points of confluence... in order to explore, recognize, and help connect the various streams of our separate energy in ways that add to our collective movement.

To date, there have been four distinct areas that have been the focus of my attention thus far:
First, as MMC I try to serve as a catalyst (adding what I can as appropriate) in relationship to several important projects, including: (1) University Park UMC, along with their partner St. Johns Community Church, and their effort to build 26 units of affordable housing in North Portland. This effort, thanks to the determination of the UPUMC congregation and Pastor Julia Nielsen, will help us address a significant crisis in the Portland Metro area-- affordable housing. The University Park project also takes our annual conference Board of Trustees in a new direction, as they join in partnership to make this dream a reality; and (2) we are expanding our Hispanic Ministry work by starting an Hispanic New Ministry Start in Salem through the United Methodist Ministry of Salem-Keizer (UMMSK). This ministry would not be possible without the leadership of Rev. Dan Pitney, from Salem First UMC, and all the other pastors and congregations that are a part of this growing cooperative ministry. This new project represents our second Hispanic ministry to emerge in the past three years within the annual conference. Again, the work of a position such as Mission and Ministry Coordinator gives us a greater capacity to live into these kinds of new ministries.

Some of the work I've been involved in deals with connecting the edges to the center. I've tried to do this to some extent by producing local church "signs of life" video recordings regularly in Spirit Alive.
I hope to do this even more in the future, so that we can bring the edges, represented by the creativity of our local churches, to the center of our collective work. In the coming months, I plan to begin a new experiment called Living Faith: Do You Have a Minute? and post one-minute video clips twice a month from clergy and laity throughout Oregon and Idaho.

But this year has also involved spending significant time working with the Committee on Native American Ministry (CONAM) to expand our commitment with our Native American brothers and sisters, participating with our Pan-Methodist brothers and sisters from the AME, AME-Zion, and CME churches in activities, and working with Kristina Gonzalez, the Director of Leadership Development for an Inclusive Church in the Pacific NW Annual Conference, to create regular retreat settings for those involved in Cross-Cultural, Cross-Racial appointments (Did you know that we have 9 pastors involved in such appointments in OR-ID?). This summer I will be out recording more innovative ministries in Oregon and Idaho to share with you in the future. And this fall I'll travel to Eastern Idaho to work with congregations there interested in deepening their commitment to mission and ministry.
Part of the work of Mission and Ministry Coordinator involves aligning things at the center of the annual conference to better serve our local churches. Most of this effort so far has been around creating a Greater NW Area vision statement, participating in the development of the work of the Bishop Jack and Marjorie Tuell Center for Leadership Excellence, and being a resource for several joint training efforts involving all three annual conferences.

We still have much work to do to help the annual conference better serve the emerging mission and ministry needs arising in our local communities. I am very interested in being in conversation with you about how to better do this! I will be working with others to do a "connectional system audit" to see how we are currently positioned to connect our annual conference work with local churches...and I hope to create an Annual Conference Mission and Ministry resource document to share with you by the 2017 Combined Pacific NW/Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.

Finally, sometimes my time simply involves being present in places where having someone who has the words mission and ministry in their job title can make a difference in how we advance our common work. This happens at the general and jurisdictional level as well as at the local church level.

In whatever capacity, it is critical that the role of the Mission and Ministry Coordinator help us advance the innovative things we are doing as a church, so that together we can grow in ministry and discipleship and fulfill our mission.
The book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman, is helpful in this regard. As the author says: "The most effective and enduring learning involves small, successive experimentation with new approaches. When these small experiments produce successful outcomes, the resulting energy fuels the next, slightly bigger experiment. Over time, these experiments form new patterns of behavior that establish a new baseline....Research shows that it takes approximately thirty days of concentrated effort to form a new habit." It seems that part of the role of Mission and Ministry Coordinator in the annual conference is to help witness, catalyze, connect, align, and share the successful outcomes from our many small experiments in ministry, so that together we develop new, meaningful patterns of behavior that will help us become a new generation of church in this region. I hope you'll join me in this quest!
As we move into year two, I welcome your input and feedback. After all the position of Mission and Ministry Coordinator is not mine alone. It is a role that should help us catalyze, connect, align, and encourage our common work to reach new heights. To this end, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at Lowell@umoi.org or call me at (503) 802-9207. Please continue to hold this work in your prayers.

 "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the (people) to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
Antoine de St. Exupery
Blessings on your journey,
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. It seeks out where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities.

Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org