Friday, March 5, 2010

The Four Areas of Focus of the UMC

Heard about the Four Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church? United Methodists around the world are:

• Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.
• Engaging in ministry with the poor.
• Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.
• Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.

Last month, while attending the Association of Directors of Connectional Ministries I was asked to tell the story of how these areas came into being. Here’s what I shared:

“In 2004, the newly elected bishops requested that the Council of Bishops engage in a new process of accountability by regular reporting of how the mission of the church was being lived out in their episcopal areas. During the 2005 Council meetings as they conversed about the fruit-bearing ministries of local churches and annual conferences, a vision began to emerge. The bishops found the practices and qualities aligned along seven basic pathways:

1. Teaching the Wesleyan model of reaching and forming disciples of Jesus Christ;
2. Strengthening clergy and lay leadership;
3. Developing new congregations;
4. Transforming existing congregations;
5. Ending racism as we authentically expand racial and ethnic ministries;
6. Reaching and transforming the lives of new generations of children; and
7. Eliminating poverty in community with the poor.

In the fall of 2005, these Seven Vision Pathways were shared with The Connectional Table, and a conversation began. As the conversation broadened across the church, Four Areas of Focus, which incorporated the Seven Vision Pathways, were clearly articulated by the general secretaries of our boards and agencies and affirmed by The Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops.

The boards and agencies, Connectional Table and General Council of Finance and Administration worked to align goals and resources for the 2009-2012 quadrennium to support these focus areas. These were taken to the 2008 General Conference where delegates were invited to embrace them.”

When I finished with my story, Ava Berry, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Northwest Texas Annual Conference, said, “Well, I thought we were doing the Four Areas of Focus because it’s scriptural!” She then went on to explain that the Four Areas of Focus had given her a tool for talking about disciples who transform the world, and how exciting those conversations had been in various local church settings. They had given her an opportunity to explore Jesus’ teachings with United Methodists across her conference, and how these were to be lived out in local congregations. As a result, she was seeing marvelous ministries unfold, and lives being transformed.

Ava’s got it right! It’s not another program, nor a quadrennial emphasis; it’s about who we are called to be as world-changing disciples in the Wesleyan tradition. That’s why I do see the Four Focus Areas as having emerged from our local churches and the conversations that followed by COB,CT and others as a discerning of God’s spirit leading our church into a new vision and future. My hope is that every local church, annual conference and general agency will continue to be in conversation about how we partner together to bear fruit in these vital ministries.

Bishop John Hopkins, Chair of The Connectional Table, likes to share the story this way:

“We are the people of The United Methodist Church.
We believe in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We live by two kinds of holiness, personal and social.
We follow three simple rules: Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.
We work in four areas of focus: developing leaders, creating places for new people, eliminating poverty and improving health globally.”

www.umc.org/1234

So, how are the Four Areas of Focus lived out in your local church and annual conference? Here’s what Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries for Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, had to say in a brief interview at the ADCM meeting:



For more information about the Four Areas of Focus, visit: www.umc.org/fourareas