A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Fact Report Identifies Patterns and Trends Affecting Church Vitality
By SHERON C. PATTERSON
North Texas Connection Editor
The good news from the Financial Advisory Consulting Team is that, upon examination, there is no financial crisis in the North Texas Conference.
But it did find patterns, trends and practices that could affect the viability of the NTC in the future.
FACT is a seven-member group of lay and clergy who are experts in church finances and administration. They travel to annual conferences across the U.S. to provide a holistic financial review and to be a resource for conference vitality and sustainability.
Bishop Michael McKee and the Rev. Jodi Smith, conference treasurer, invited FACT to do the assessment of the NTC. The complete report will be posted on the conference website.
“I was visiting with a couple of my colleagues at other annual conferences who were discussing their experience with FACT,” Rev. Smith said. “They both had a very positive experience and thought it helped their conference gain clarity around some of the issues they were facing.”
Rev. Smith knew the NTC “is in a place of relative financial strength compared with other conferences, but I thought a process like this might help us move to a place of even greater strength as well as identify areas of weakness that should be addressed.”
From phone interviews in September with lay and clergy on strengths and weaknesses in the conference, FACT and the NTC found several “dilemmas,” or “something that if not addressed, would adversely impact the Church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Rev. Smith said.
In October and December, FACT met with 30 lay and clergy on tackling the dilemmas.
Lay member Scott Smith said the FACT members were well prepared for the NTC sessions.
“They had a very good feel for who we are and our strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “As a result of this understanding, they were able to lead discussions that were focused and meaningful in helping us decide what our conference needs to be and do in the coming years to be relevant and useful to the local church.
“Those selected to serve on the local team were diverse, energetic, thoughtful and involved,” he said, and the conversations candid.
The FACT report is more than numbers, said Holly Bandel, pastor of Creekwood UMC.
“I went into the FACT experience thinking it was all about how we were doing financially as a conference. I believe out of the experience, we were able to discover some strategies that will set the NTC up well in the future not only financially, but more importantly in our total ministry together.”
She said was most moved by statistics on adult professions of faith.
“I would think the NTC would be leading in this area but that is not the case,” she said. “This piece of information and discussion has really caused me to think through what I am doing and what our church can do to invite more people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ even as adults.”
The next step will be a meeting in the spring to start “setting goals and taking steps to respond to these dilemmas,” Rev. Smith said. “We intentionally took our time sorting out the initial issues and the possible responses. The process has accountability for responding to these issues. I look forward to our continued work together.”