INDIANAPOLIS – The Keeping the Vision Alive Task Force reported to the Indiana Annual Conference session June 7 in Indianapolis a very positive reception of the new Indiana Conference among laity, clergy, and district and conference staffs.

The Task Force’s assessment of the “Imagine Indiana” initiative, the goals and practices of the new Indiana Conference, noted the conference’s reduced overall expenses, successful covenant groups, informative website and improved internal communication since 2009. The Task Force calls for improvement in communication, especially to laity, about district resource centers and ministry clusters.

Highlights:

  • The conference reduced overall expenses while paying 58 percent more of General Church apportionments.
  • Nearly 65 percent of pastors and 80 percent of laity like the new arrangement for charge conferences, which now meet as clusters.
  • Ministry clusters are either very active or essentially inactive.
  • Almost all pastors participate in a covenant group and believe their group is necessary for their spiritual foundation of pastoral effectiveness.
  • Pastors are extremely positive about the conference website (www.inumc.org) and its functionality.
  • The district resource centers seem to be under-utilized.
  • Laity are generally insufficiently informed about the work of the conference and districts.

Recommendations:

  • Clergy are encouraged to fully explain to lay members their respective ministry cluster and the location and utility of their district resource centers;
  • Bishop Mike Coyner, the Conference Directors and District Superintendents need to communicate to clergy the success stories of covenant groups and ministry clusters;
  • The conference office needs to provide a handbook for ministry clusters;
  • District resource centers need to communicate what resources are available and examples of how they can be utilized; and
  • A professional firm needs to be contracted to conduct a comprehensive communication audit and create a communications plan with the help of district and conference staff.

The report emphasized that “Imagine Indiana,” the plan which united the two former conferences in Indiana, is making progress toward its goals, although work remains. Overall, pastors and laity clearly believe the effect of “Imagine Indiana” is positive to the core mission of The United Methodist Church.

The Task Force, comprised of six clergy and laity, first reported these recommendations on May 12 to the conference’s Leadership Table, after conducting personal interviews at local, district and state levels and administering a conference-wide survey to clergy and laity with the guidance of Deidre Pettinga, a marketing professional at the United Methodist-related University of Indianapolis.

The Cabinet and the Conference Directors assigned Bishop’s Assistant David V.W. Owen, Director of Connectional Ministries James Bushfield and District Superintendent David Byrum to continue the work of implementing these recommendations as a task force.

Kathryn White serves as a summer intern with the Indiana Conference Communication Team. She is a junior at Butler University majoring in strategic communication and a member of First UMC in Peoria, Ill.