Advancing a New Plan

At the beginning of 2021, facing a pandemic and a bishop election, our synod staff shared with Synod Council that there would be a “bishop transition” no matter who was elected. The four-year strategic plan begun in 2017 would be expiring either way. The staff has been working—based on our core values of Jesus, Generosity, Relationship, and Reconciliation—on a new four-year strategic plan for the synod, and last month the Synod Council excitedly approved it.

Here’s the short version of that plan which will guide our ministry work for the next four years:

  • Develop & Equip Leadership Teams to undergird the process.
  • Interim Support including development of strategy and ongoing support network.
  • Intentional Care of Rostered Ministers including introducing some sort of chaplain for rostered ministers and families.
  • Develop a Team for Introducing Spiritual Direction into the culture of the synod including invitations for practicing individual and congregational discernment.
  • Re-envision the Call Process according to the synodical core values with an added emphasis on pastoral care of candidates and congregations.
  • Develop a Synodically Authorized Ministers (SAM) Program and begin training cohorts.
  • Connect Regularly with and Provide Training for Congregation Councils, Presidents, and Treasurers—building on work which was begun during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Develop Cultural Competency as a part of the Vitality & Discipleship work of the synod.
  • Develop Evangelism as part of the Outreach & Justice work of the synod.
  • Develop a Systemic Approach to Revitalization/Holy Closure through the use of synodical administration.

In addition, as revealed in our 2018 Communications Audit, we know we need to increase our social media and digital presence and fill the ministry priority and the staff slot for Social Justice and Advocacy Ministry that has been vacant this whole calendar year.

The church was already changing at light speed, and this interminable pandemic has changed it even more. We are, like all of you, committed to adapting our synod work approach to this changing environment with continued priority of Vital Congregations and Whole and Healthy Leaders. I and our staff are excited about these new priorities outlined above. Please understand that those bullet points are just the new things. There will still be Candidacy, Campus Ministry, Supply Pastors, and so many of the things that we were already doing. We’re not retreating in these uncertain times; we are advancing!

Changing priorities also mean reorganizing the staff around these priorities. This one-pager details the main changes in staff responsibilities beginning in 2022.

We’re so pleased that the Synod Council has called Pastor CeCee Mills as an Assistant to the Bishop for Call Process and Shared Ministry. She as well as Pastor Sara in Candidacy and I as a generalist will share a full-time administrative assistant, 2016 L-R graduate Sarah Greene, who starts October 18. My current admin, Kathy Muth, will be retiring at the end of this year. We’ll miss her! We will install Pastor CeCee as an assistant to the bishop at our Wednesday Zoom call at 11 a.m. on October 27.

I’m immensely grateful to Sandra Cline, our Call Process Coordinator for six years, without whom I couldn’t have navigated that constant and central piece of synodical responsibility. As that full-time position will go away in the new structure, she will begin a well-deserved retirement at the end of this year. If in early 2022 I seem not to know so much what’s going on everywhere, it’s because the synod’s mysterious ubiquitous powers go with her. We owe her a lot. I know I do.

We’ll also revamp our technology and communication staffing based on the Communications Audit which revealed that we do a great job of communicating to “insiders” but not so well to others, especially via digital media. We discerned that we need a Digital Communication Assistant (full-time) supervised by Catherine Fink, beginning 2022. We will say goodbye and thank-you to Rick Godby after 20 years of service in communications and IT. He has been pivotal in the new website, and he’s famous now for producing our “Seriously” video and others. Holly Zemke has agreed to be our other staff position to help with general administration and Deacon Tammy’s administrative needs.

Lastly, Carissa Abraham, currently assisting Candidacy and Leadership (Sara and Tammy) will move to being Assistant for Social Justice and Advocacy including Racial Justice as well as Youth Ministry (Tammy will still work with youth leaders). We have farmed out some of Pastor Danielle’s (DEM) portfolio to others so that with Carissa she will fill the half-time void of the unfilled SJAM person on our staff beginning in 2022.

So that’s where we are. Or technically, where we’re headed for the beginning of 2022, as we strive to reflect our core values of Jesus-Centered, Generosity, Relationship, and Reconciliation and our guiding principles of Vital Congregations, Whole and Healthy Leaders, Collaboration, and Prophetic Voice. For the sake of the Gospel. For the sake of the world. We are blessed to walk with you—the congregations and leaders of the NC Synod. We exist as synod because of and for you. We’re excited about our new plan, and we’ll do our best!

Walking with you,

NC Synod Bishop

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