Note: This E-pistle, which appeared online Jan. 30, continues reports about the next steps being taken as we move into the new Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. You are welcome to share these reports.

As we continue the transition into the new Indiana Conference, the next step is launching our Ministry Clusters. The Cabinets and I are hosting a series of Tip-Off Events in February and March. These events will be held within the bounds of the ten new districts, and invitations have been delivered to pastors and lay leaders from each church with information about Ministry Clusters.

At these Tip-Off Events, I will be sharing more about the Ministry Cluster model. There will be a time for church representatives (primarily pastor and lay leader) to start choosing their Ministry Clusters with some guidance from District Superintendent and other lay leaders. The selections of Ministry Clusters will help the Cabinets to finalize the district lines of the ten new districts by Annual Conference in June.

Ministry Clusters are a key component of the Imagine Indiana Plan adopted last year, and so I am eager to help launch these Clusters. As a part of the presentation, I will be answering the question, "What is a Ministry Cluster?" Here is a part of that answer:

A Ministry Cluster is a group of four to nine local churches who choose to work together to accomplish the Gospel mission in their area. It's also a group of local churches who share common ministry needs and work together to learn from each other.

Ministry clusters are designed to focus on answering two core questions:

  1. How are each of our congregations doing in our local church ministries toward accomplishing our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? and
  2. What can we do better and more effectively together in our ministries to impact our area for Christ than we can do as individual congregations?

Ministry Clusters are not about merging churches or closing churches or forcing churches to do joint programs - they are about ministry and supporting one another as we seek to be faithful in ministry. In fact, the first task we ask of each Ministry Cluster is to pray for one another regularly.

Support, resourcing

The Imagine Indiana Plan calls for our ten districts to be grouped into five bi-districts with one office or Resource Center to house two District Superintendents and other staff. As the current Cabinets and other leaders have continued to plan for these Resource Centers, we have encountered concerns that are causing us to re-think that plan.

Several leaders have pointed out that these large bi-districts would make participation in district committees, such as the Committee on Ordained Ministry, the Committee on Church Building and Location, the committees for Leader Leadership and Lay Speaking, and the rest, very difficult because each bi-district would encompass one-fifth of the entire state of Indiana.

Another concern is that our District Superintendents want to be closer to their responsibilities in each district, rather than driving one to two hours to work out of a Resource Center. Others have raised the concern that these Resource Centers add another "layer" of administration rather than having a "flat" structure. A final concern is the added cost of having five Resource Centers staffed and equipped on a full-time basis.

New option

As the conversation has continued, this new option is being considered - drop the Resource Center idea, move most of the administrative responsibilities of these Centers to the Conference Center, have a team of Administrative Assistants available there by phone or e-mail to respond to congregations (to process the information flow directly between the conference and local churches without going through the districts or resource centers) and keep the District Superintendents in their own districts with a modest part-time staff focused upon resourcing clusters and congregations.

In this model, the district would no longer be a conduit for information to the conference, because that would happen directly by improved technology. Instead, each district superintendent and any district staff would focus upon helping local churches and clusters of churches with the ministry they choose to do, hence the phrase in the Imagine Indiana Plan about "Inverting the Initiative."

The Conference Transition Team will be reviewing this issue and considering what recommendations to bring to the Annual Conference in June. I know that the Transition Team welcomes your input as they do their work. You may write the team at or Conference Transition Team, Indiana United Methodist Church, 1100 West 42nd Street, Suite 210, Indianapolis, IN 46208.

I believe it is important to keep our focus upon resourcing congregations and their Ministry Clusters, and we are all seeking the best and most effective way to do that resourcing.

The next step is launching those Ministry Clusters. Here is a list of those Tip-Off Events.

Bishop Mike Coyner and District Superintendents will meet in Tip-Off meeting about the formation of ministry clusters in each of the ten new districts. Each church is to be represented by a pastor and one or two key lay leaders. A map of those new districts can be found online. All events are on Sundays.

Conference Tip-Off Events for forming Ministry Clusters in each of the ten new districts

  •  District 2 - Feb. 15, 3 p.m. at Fort Wayne Aldersgate
  • District 5 - Feb. 15, 7 p.m. at Noblesville First
  • District 9 - Feb. 22, 3 p.m. at Santa Claus
  • District 10 - Feb 22, 7 p.m. at Edwardsville
  • District 1 - March 1, 3 p.m. at South Bend Grace
  • District 3 - March 1, 7 p.m. at Monticello
  • District 6 - March 8, 3 p.m. at Castleton
  • District 4 - March 8, 7 p.m. at Terre Haute Mt. Pleasant
  • District 7 - March 15, 3 p.m. at Muncie High Street
  • District 8 - March 15, 7 p.m. at Seymour First