The Imagine Indiana Design Team continued its work in January. If the goal of The United Methodist Church is to "Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," the center of that activity is at the local church or congregational level. The Imagine Indiana Design Team continues to focus on that goal and how to assist congregations in achieving it as the 12-member team writes its report to come before both annual conferences later this spring.

According to the Design Team's draft report introduction, "Creating a new Indiana Conference is all about these five practices of a fruitful annual conference (adapted from the book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase)":

1. Focus on Mission

The team plans to recommend each local church become a part of a Ministry Cluster of four to nine congregations to cooperate, collaborate and hold one another accountable.

2. Resource Local Churches

The team plans to recommend a focus on providing resources to start new faith communities, to strengthen existing churches and to provide effective leadership for all local churches, and that conference staff and resources will be deployed to respond to local churches and clusters.

3. Streamline Conference Structure

The team plans to recommend a streamlined structure of one Conference Center for the bishop and other leaders and with five Resource Centers across the state to support the work of 10 districts as they resource our more than 1,200 local churches. This is a change from a former plan of 9 districts with three Resource Centers. The new 10-district plan was recommended by both cabinets meeting in a retreat last month and adapted by the Imagine Indiana Design Team.

4. Care for Clergy

The team plans to recommend a combined benefits structure which protects current eligibility, raises clergy benefits to the higher levels of either preceding conference, and provides support systems to enhance effective clergy leadership. In addition, the team will further recommend that all clergy participate in Covenant Groups and plans for a "Well-Lived Pastoral Life" program that are being developed with a grant from the Lilly Endowment to help our clergy.

5. Make a Difference

The team believes that the new Indiana Conference can provide a vehicle for all of us to make a difference here in Indiana and literally around the world.

Using these principles of organization, the Imagine Indiana Design Team hopes to complete its draft report in February for review before releasing it in March.

The Imagine Indiana Design Team plans to introduce its plan throughout the state on March 30, with an hour-long presentation video streamed over the Indiana Area Web site. The team also plans to provide video locations in each of the Indiana Area's 18 districts for those who do not have good Internet access. Churches interested in hosting the video-streamed presentation can contact the Rev. David V.W. Owen at the Indiana Area office at 317-924-1321 or by e-mail at ImagineIndiana@InAreaUMC.org.