Cabinet Report | District and Resourcing Plan to recruit and equip transformational leaders to make disciples of Jesus Christ and grow vital congregations for the transformation of the world

GNJ’s 3 Priorities maximized through districts

  1. Deepen Faith
  2. Develop Leaders
  3. Grow Vitality

COVID, financial challenges and future changes in The United Methodist Church, have required the cabinet to assess our districting, resourcing, and staffing to fulfill and grow the mission of GNJ. Over the past two years the cabinet has considered what is in the best interest of the mission and ministry of our congregations and the mission of GNJ. For seven years, we have been seeking to grow more vital congregations from 28% to 51%. Thanks be to God; the work has borne fruit. In 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, GNJ had 50% vital congregations. Just 1% away from our 2023 goal. Our clergy and congregations have been working together to increase congregational vitality and you are making progress. In 2020, we went from 50% to 46% vital congregations, and considering the challenges of the pandemic, you have stepped up and worked hard to maintain our commitment to making disciples and growing vital congregations for the transformation of the world. To God be the glory.

But all our congregations have not been able to take these next steps in their growth, vitality and sustainability, and the cabinet has supported and adjusted to address the financial challenges to grow vital congregations to 70% and even beyond. For example, we recommended and supported reducing how much we apportion churches for shared ministries from17.4% to 15.2%. We surpassed the goal of 15.6% three years early. We are also providing more grants to congregations and outreach ministry and together the shared ministry giving rate has grown from 78% to 88%. To God be the Glory!

We have learned the following:

We find that churches make progress when resourcing (planning and training) is closely linked with follow up by staff, including superintendents. This follow-up includes consultation and coaching over a two-year period. Additionally, congregational development vitality workshops make a difference. We have learned that initiatives such as PaCE groups, team vital, clergy coaching, and Hope Center training have developed strong and forward-thinking leaders.

  • We have a strong group of leaders who can set an inspiring and relevant vision and organize people and ministry to reach the vision.
  • We have some leaders who want to lead the congregation toward vitality and are looking to grow their skills to increase congregational vitality and sustainability.
  • And unfortunately, we have a group of leaders that are providing strong leadership and working toward change and vitality, but congregational leaders are not enthusiastic about making the changes necessary to grow the vitality of the congregation.

While there is much to celebrate, we have challenges. Based on these learnings, and that 50% of our congregations have identified the ministries to be more vital, and that 50% of our congregations are challenged to be more vital, and furthermore, based on the reduced membership, sustainability and financial challenges faced by as many as 35% of our congregations, we need to adjust finances and strategy at the GNJ leadership level to help more of our congregations become sustainable and vital. The superintendents supported and made a conscious decision to reduce superintendents and staffing to assist congregations with catching up on the underbilling of congregations. This will take five years.

The changes include the following:

  1. Reducing districts and implementing a plan of redistricting.
  2. A staffing plan that helps the next wave of congregations to become more vital and sustainable.

Rational for the Staffing plan

The cabinet in consultation with conference leadership has already made changes to staffing:

  1. The conference approved a reduction in superintendents for the 2021 budget and the 2022 recommended budget continues this reduction to six superintendents.
  2. We have reduced other staffing including program staffing.
  3. We have committed to end the sins of racism and sexism that calls for all superintendents, bishop, and program staff to work towards this Holy Spirit inspired vision.
  4. We have committed to grow the vitality and sustainability of our congregations and this requires two or more years of intense work with congregations providing planning, consultation, and coaching, and assigning a staff person to a ready and willing congregation for two or more years.
  5. Organizing all GNJ resources under our Journey of Hope plan. Through planning, consultation, and coaching, GNJ will train and resource congregations, laity, and clergy to focus on developing leadership, growing the five markers of vitality, and ending the sins of racism and sexism.
  6. There will be two regions and staffing patterns to implement the leadership academy and congregational development. Each region will have 3 superintendents, two full time equivalent resource directors (former connectional ministry staff) and 12-18 circuit leaders/elders . These regions will be led by a regional team leader (a DS) and will work together as a team to grow the leadership and congregations within a region. Each staff person will be assigned a group of churches to work with over a two-year period of time to grow vitality and end the sin of racism. We will evaluate progress every two years with a goal of reaching 70% vital congregations within five years building on our past success.

This model will grow the health of GNJ and save $475,000 a year in shared ministries.

The Cabinet has reviewed the results of GNJ surveys and the results of regional superintendency committee meetings. Also, the Cabinet has consulted with General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) to look at the number of districts in comparison with other conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction and across the connection. As a result, the Cabinet recommended a 6-district model to Bishop Schol.

The following are the new district names and their superintendents:

Metro-Highlands Region

  • Meadowlands District – Rev. William M. Williams III
  • Skylands District – Rev. Dr. Eunice Vega Perez
  • Raritan Shore District – Rev. Sang Won Doh

Coastal Plains Region

  • Central District – Rev. Héctor Burgos
  • Cape Atlantic District – Rev. Brian Roberts
  • Delaware Bay District – Rev. Glenn J. Conaway

Here are some frequently asked questions you might have. Find more here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the suggested new districts?

  1. Meadowlands District – It covers most churches in the New York area, eastern part of Palisades District and most of Gateway North District churches.
  2. Skylands District – It covers churches in western part of Palisades District, some churches from Raritan Valley District and all churches in the Skylands District.
  3. Raritan Shore District – It covers most of churches in the Raritan Valley District and churches in the northern part of the Northern Shore District.
  4. Central District – It covers churches in the southern part of the Northern Shore District and most of churches in the Capital District.
  5. Cape Atlantic District – It covers some churches in the Delaware Bay, Capital, and Northern Shore Districts and all churches in the Cape Atlantic District.
  6. Delaware Bay District – It covers most churches in the Delaware Bay District and some churches in the Gateway South District.

How do I find out which district my church is in?
To find an interactive map and see a list of all the churches in the new districts visit the GNJ website here.

How will these changes directly affect my local church or my role in district?
Some churches will have a new District Superintendent. All churches will get a new identification number related to the new district numbers. Starting from Jan. 1, 2022, district superintendents will convene district committees within the region to discuss best ways to ensure advancement of the mission in ways that build on each other’s strengths, are effective, and create efficiencies. Current district board and committee members expressed their intentions through survey whether they will continue to serve or not. No new members will be elected until the regular session of Annual Conference in 2022.

District Committees on Ordained Ministry will function in its current 9 district model until June 30, 2022, so as not to create confusion for clergy candidates. New District Committees on Ordained Ministry within the new 6 district structure will be formed through 2022 regular Annual Conference nomination process.

How were the new district boundaries decided?
Attention was given to the historical and cultural differences and numbers of churches and clergy in each area. Every attempt was made to achieve balance so as to ensure effective and efficient superintending and resourcing within the districts. Consideration was given to culture, history, church size, distances, and traffic patterns as well as the guiding principles articulated by clergy and laity of GNJ. Under this new structure, each district has grown by approximately 25 churches.

We are grateful and humbled to serve,

Submitted by,
Héctor A. Burgos, District Superintendent: Capital, Northern Shore
Glenn J. Conaway, District Superintendent: Delaware Bay, Gateway South
Sang Won Doh, Superintendent & Dean of Cabinet: Raritan Valley, Northern Shore
Brian Roberts, District Superintendent: Cape Atlantic, Gateway South
Eunice Vega-Perez, District Superintendent: Skylands District, Palisades
William M. Williams, III, District Superintendent: Gateway North, Palisades

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[1] GNJ Resources. The Journey of Hope ACT plan is a congregational, laity, and clergy resource to assess, plan, organize and engage vital mission congregations to grow and transform the world through 3 Journey of Hope pathways:

The Journey of Hope plan will have 3 pathways:

  • Journey to Transformational Leadership: Leadership Academy
  • Journey to Fruitful Congregations: Congregational Development
  • Journey to World Justice: Dismantling Racism, Sexism and Exclusion

These pathways will guide congregations so that they can focus on these areas

  • Strengths – the assets, values, and gifts of your congregation.
  • Sustainability – resources to sustain the mission, finances as well as disciples.
  • Vitality – measuring disciple’s engagement in the core ministries of the church.
  • Community engagement – consider how your congregation reflects and engages your community.
  • Ending the sin of racism – personal and congregational learning, growth and commitment in ending the sin of racism and engaging the community in ending racism through the acknowledgement, repentance of and addressing of past harm by word and deed, developing a process in partnership with the consultant Fearless Dialogues for two years to become trained at every level in engaging anti-racism work in ministry that builds on our 10-year intercultural competency plan to deepen understanding of racism and how to dismantle it.
  • Organization – Creating appropriate organization of the congregation for vitality.

Based on consultation with the DS and the local congregation’s resource guide, a congregation can pick and choose what focus area they are wishing to work on and in what order.

GNJ Leadership Academy is a comprehensive program for laity and clergy to develop as transformational leaders and grow vital congregations.  As the academy is built over a period of years, it will become an umbrella that encompasses all resourcing.  The Leadership Academy will offer a coordinated GNJ wide learning plan that reflects the necessary programs from the Discipline, as well as meets the missional needs of the Regions.

Programming development is a collaboration between the Leadership Development Team, and other teams within GNJ who provide resourcing such as the Regional Teams, Stewardship Foundation, Board of Ordained Ministry, and Board of Laity.

Built over time, programs residing under the Leadership Academy will include

  • Residency in Ministry
  • Local Pastor School
  • Cohort Groups: i.e., Clergy Seminar, Regional Gathering of Top 25 pastors, etc.
  • Short Term Courses of 4 – 6 weeks (Lay Servant Ministry will be integrated here)
  • Foundational Leadership Training Videos (i.e., trustees, SPRC, role of lay leader, etc.)
  • Coach Training

A trait of the above resources is that they are not “one and done” workshops, but each are a set of classes or a program that builds towards outcomes.

Short Term Course Development

Key Learning Focuses for a Short-Term Course

  • UMC Tradition: Theology, Polity, History
  • Bible
  • The Five Markers of Vitality
  • Leadership
  • Cultural Competency

Courses should be of value to both clergy and laity to enroll.

2021 – 2022: Director of Leadership Development is Championing the Short-Term Course Development

  • Courses will be offered synchronous (on ZOOM)
  • Meet weekly for 1.5-hour session over 4 – 6 weeks
  • Led by laity and/or clergy
  • Content aligned and developed with the needs of each Region

2022 – 2023 Focus

  • Evaluate courses from previous year that were effective
  • Build 20-minute video segments of each of the courses to offer the course again
  • Guest leaders beyond GNJ to offer pre-recorded learning segments for additional courses

Build a certificate program

[1] Regional Teams: For a full resourcing plan, which includes but is not limited to A Journey of Hope, Ending the Sin of Racism and Sexism, developing leaders, increasing vitality, developing sustainability, engaging congregations in the community for witness and mission, Regional Staff Teams need to be enhanced. In Regional Staff Teams, resourcing is coordinated, coaches and consultants are assigned to local churches, and the administrative work of DS and other team members is organized. By including DS, Circuit Elders/Leaders, Resource Directors for the resourcing of congregations, Regional Administrators and other contributors, Regional Staffing Teams carry out the resourcing and the Journey of Hope plan within the Region. The Regional Staff Team is led by one DS who is the Regional Team Leader.

Based on make-ups, synergetic team works and robust strategic conversations, 2 Regions will be more appropriate to locate the work of Journey of Hope more closely to local churches across the conference. Each of these Regional Staff Teams will implement and measure progress on the Journey of Hope plan within the Region.

The following recommendation outlines the make-up, roles, and responsibilities of team members on the Regional Staff Teams:

Regions: 2 regions

Regional Team Make-Up

  • 3 District Superintendents, (6 total) Resource 20 churches each. One DS per region (2 total) is the Regional Team leader who convenes, guides, and evaluates the team
  • 2 Full-Time Equivalent Resource Directors, (4 total) Resource 20 churches each.
  • 24 to 36 Circuit Elders, (4 to 6 per DS which is 12 to 18 per Region). Resource 5 to 8 churches each.

(Note: Each region will discern the number of circuit elder that will best help them move forward the mission and strategic goals, within their budget allocation.)

  • 1 Regional Administrators. (2 total) 1 dedicated per region.
  • Visit here to view job descriptions.

[1] Resource Directors are champions for a particular resource. They are primarily responsible for resourcing congregations in the region; they also spend time working with their regional staff and clergy and laity within the region to develop and improve resources in the GNJ Leadership Academy. Resource Directors have demonstrated effective ministry across multiple areas of vitality and are able to resource churches as a “generalist;” however, they may be a specialist in one area of vitality and be charged with the creation of those specific resources. Focuses of Resource directors:

  • With assigned churches, coach the clergy person and other leaders as may be identified by the pastor or congregation for coaching
  • Lead/facilitate planning sessions with the assigned congregations.
  • Follow up with each congregation who have completed plans, at least 1-2 times a month for 18 months with consultation, problem solving, plan evaluations, plan modification using 4DX approach.
  • Work with and/or lead a resource planning team as assigned by the regional team leader to participate in the development of Leadership Academy classes and Journey of Hope ACT plan resources.
  • Visit here to view job description.

[1] Circuit Leader (Elder) are effective clergy within a region that serve as part-time resource persons for 5-8 congregations within a district.  Circuit Leaders (Elders) are assigned by the appointive cabinet to assist in fulfilling the vision, mission, and strategic direction of the annual conference. Circuit Leader (Elder) assignments may be based on geographical location, similar ministry contexts, or other factors.  They assist the District Superintendent with the disciplinary responsibilities.  The District Superintendent works through the Circuit Leader (Elder) and as appropriate continue to be in the consultative and appointment process with each local church and pastor. Circuit Leaders (Elders) are expected to take on an additional 20-25 hours/month in this role.  Appointments of Circuit Leaders (Elders) are made on a yearly basis and are included as part of the consultative appointment process.

Essential Functions:

  • Consult/Coach assigned congregations to ensure they have a clear and actionable Journey of Hope ACT ministry plan so that they are continually deepening faith, developing leaders, and growing vitality, sustainability, and fruitfulness.
  • Regularly check-in with clergy and coach congregations so that they are addressing ministry challenges and making appropriate progress in their ministry plan.
  • Preside regular and special Church/Charge Conferences as requested by their assigned District Superintendent. (UMC elders among Circuit Leaders can only preside Church/Charge Conference. ¶ 246.5)
  • Assist District Superintendents in assessing the mission field of the churches assigned to the Circuit Leader.
  • Visit here to view job description

[1] Merged Conferences

Rio Texas Conference: 2015, Rio Grande/Southwest Texas

Michigan Conference: 2018, Detroit/West Michigan

Mountain Sky: 2018, Yellowstone/Rocky Mountain

District Reduction

Memphis Conference: 2015, 7 to 4 districts

Kentucky Conference: 2015, 10 to 9 districts

Missouri Conference: 2015, 12 to 9 districts

Wisconsin Conference: 2015, 8 to 5 districts

Oklahoma Conference: 2015, 12 to 8 districts

Upper New York Conference: 2015, 12 to 13 districts

Western Pennsylvania Conference: 2015, 9 to 10 districts with less DSes

Tennessee Conference: 2017, 7 to 5 districts

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference: 2017, 6 to 4 districts

California-Nevada Conference: 2017, 4 to 5 districts

New England Conference: 2020, 9 to 7 districts

District Realignment (change in district boundaries)

Rocky Mountain Conference: 2016

Florida Conference: 2017

Virginia Conference: 2017

Dakotas Conference: 2017

Central Texas Conference: 2019

[1] Results of Redistricting Survey on Guiding Principles

  1. Maximize disciple-making – districts have robust, vital, and sustainable churches that have the capacity to create and strengthen other vital and sustainable congregations in the region (47%)
  2. Reflects GNJ diversity – culture, language, theology, etc. Moves GNJ closer to ending the sin of racism. (41%)
  3. Mix of large and small churches in the same district – balance and create various models for ministry (38%)
  4. Maintain as many churches as possible from a present district to be grouped together – minimize disruption (37%)
  5. Considers natural boundaries – highways, counties, environment, etc. (30%)
  6. New districts will help GNJ reach goals give greatest potential to address adaptive challenges

 

Please note

We apologize for the delay in sharing the mapping information as was mentioned in the Pre-Conference Workbook. This information will be provided on this webpage the week of Sept. 26.