An Insider's Scoop on a Conference in Transition


Not that I’m counting or anything, but as of today there are 142 days until my job as a general Assistant to the Bishop ends and I begin an appointment in a local church. While I’m beginning to look forward to my new ministry setting, I have to admit that I have found my ministry as a conference staff person very rewarding. Right now, for example, I am especially “pumped” by the vision and reprioritizing that has formed the conference leadership over the last year. I simply can’t imagine finishing out my role as the general A2B without sharing it with you!

You may remember that conference leaders made some big announcements and commitments at last June’s annual conference session. The theme for the session was “Embracing Change” and we declared that significant changes in how we went about our business on the conference level were in the works. But I’m not convinced we’ve done a good job telling you about what’s happened since last June. You may be asking why we haven’t been more transparent about all this good stuff. I have wondered why myself. It’s not because there has been a lack of hard work, activity or progress. I think it’s mainly because we are charting new territory that feels unfamiliar and uncertain and we’re a bit tenuous about how it all is going to fit together or work out.

But one thing I’ve decided as a short-timer: you need to know what’s taking shape on the conference level even if we haven’t got everything sorted out and pinned down! It’s too good to keep under wraps. So I’m going to start blogging away. I have to confess that I’ve never blogged before, but it sounds like an effective and informal way to let you in on the refocused efforts of our conference that I see in as an A2B. I figured that if I was finding a lot of hope in the visions, plans and actions of the conference leadership, you might very well experience hope as well!

Trust me, the conference really is focused on devoting its energy and resources on growing healthy, vital congregations throughout Oregon and southern Idaho. This is what I really want to talk about, because after a number of years working as a conference staff person, it feels different this time. Not only are we saying that healthy, vital local churches are our priority, we are making a number adjustments and changes based on this commitment.

One of the most promising expressions of this priority is the development of a major new conference undertaking that we have labeled “The Vital Church Project,” a comprehensive undertaking that involves three “Initiatives.” They are: 1) the Healthy Vital Church Initiative (HVCI), 2) the New Start Initiative (NSI) and 3) an Initiative that hopes to collaborate with all the existing continuing education opportunities provided in the conference to laity and clergy leaders. The code word we’re using for this Initiative is “Vitality U.”

Carefully, quietly, strategically the Vital Church Project has taken shape as these Initiatives have been planned and slowly rolled out across the conference. In my next blog, I want to tell you more about what’s going on with the Healthy Vital Church Initiative, a proven leadership development process for energizing and revitalizing churches that we have borrowed from the Missouri Annual Conference and are adapting to our own unique context. Missouri’s process is still evolving, but after three years they can point to quantifiable transformations in both the conference and many of its local churches. After a few months of trying it out here in Oregon and Idaho, we are also catching a glimmer of the potential this remarkable process has in store for us. More on that next week.

Let me just conclude by saying that the great thing about blogging is that it allows something of a conversation. You can respond by writing comments, and I hope you will. After all, as a connectional church we are in this together. Your thoughts, ideas, concerns and questions widen the ownership of renewal and the power of God’s Spirit to make all things new!

Scott Harkness
Scott Harkness is a pastor in Roseburg, Oregon. He is a reserve delegate to the 2012 Western Jurisdiction Conference and will be attending General Conference as an additional reserve delegate and observer. Previously Scott has served the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference as Director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop.