The Massachusetts Conference has seen a major restructuring of its volunteer program development teams this year, transitioning from seven program commissions into four ministry councils on an experimental basis.
At the request of the Board of Directors, the Conference Annual Meeting in June, 2012, voted to remove from the Conference bylaws the provisions that established seven program commissions, thereby allowing the Conference to test out a new structure. The former commission structure had been adopted in 1988, and the Board, staff, and former committee and commission members were in agreement that it was no longer serving the mission of the Conference. Also, the Conference Volunteer Development Committee had long found it difficult to fully populate and staff the commissions.
These commissions are responsible for developing programs and resources - everything from training events to communities of practice to printed and online resources - to aid local church leaders in carrying out their ministries.
A year ago, the Board had proposed changing from seven commissions to three ministry councils, but as the idea was discussed further, that was changed to four councils, one each for Church Development, Clergy Development, Lay Development and Justice and Witness Ministries. Each of those councils includes one person designated the "communication specialist' and each has task teams or working groups functioning under its umbrella. Each also includes a representative from the Board of Directors, and each is staffed by an Associate Conference Minister.
Numerous members of the previous commissions were transitioned onto the four ministry councils last fall and winter, while other lay and clergy leaders were added to the mix. Other former commission members have been finding new homes in working groups focused on specific projects. (See lists of members in the Conference Boards and Committees Directory
The four councils have had several meetings together in addition to solo meetings as they feel their way into the new structure.
"A key feature of this new model is that the four Ministry Councils meet together on a regular basis," said Conference Minister and President Jim Antal. "This will serve the churches of the Conference because it will make the overall programming of the Conference more integrated. Not only will each Ministry Council advance its particular emphasis, each one will make the others stronger."
The Board had initially planned to come back to this year's Annual Meeting, June 14-15 in Sturbridge, with a new bylaw permanently establishing these ministry councils. However, saying that the transition is still underway, the Board will instead ask delegates to provide provisional authorization for this new setup, thus allowing another year of testing while considering whether to formalize the new structure in a bylaw.
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