I had my first "District Day" on Friday in the new Central District, and tomorrow I head up to Fort Wayne for a District Day with the new Northeast District. On these district days (I will be in all 10 districts in the next few weeks), I meet with the DS and the district team.
This whole idea of a district team is new to us here in the new Indiana Conference. Instead of the old model of one DS and maybe a secretary or administrative assistant, where everything revolved around that one leader and helper, now we have a whole team in each district. The team includes:
- the District Superintendent who has responsibility for the whole District
- the Associate DS, who is one of our former DSes, each serving as a helper in two districts
- the District Assistant, who is the district center office manager and the person who coordinates all of the administration in the district
- the Church Development staff person from the Conference who is assigned to that district under the direction of Mark Gough
- the Connectional Ministries staff person from the Conference who is assigned to that district under the direction of Jim Bushfield
- the Ministry Cluster leaders, typically a clergy and a lay person as co-leaders, who lead the gatherings of the churches in each cluster
- the Elders, Deacons, and Local Pastor coordinators for each district who help all clergy get into Clergy Covenant Groups and to feel support and care
- other district staff as determined by DS to build around the strengths and needs of the DS
In the Central District, this team included the Director of Metro Ministries and it also included three other persons assigned by the DS to help with specific roles needed in that particular district.
Of course each district also has a whole set of elected leaders of the district committees and organizations (such as the District Lay Leader, District UMW President, District UMM President, District Chair of Ordained Ministry, etc. These person are equipped by the DS and district team.
This new model of a District Team is very exciting and very necessary. It recognizes that the small group model of one leader for the district simply is not adequate in our new, larger districts. It also gives each DS and each district a chance to have a supporting cast who cover aspects of district life which no one person can cover.
Perhaps most importantly, this team concept reflects the Biblical model that Jesus himself used. I am more and more aware that Jesus called a team of disciples, and he also sent his followers out to serve in teams of at least two at a time. It is also important to notice that the first four persons Jesus called as his disciples were two sets of brothers who were already a team working together in a fishing enterprise. Too often we have ignored this Biblical model of teamwork. Too often we clergy have been guilty of trying to do the ministry alone. Too often the laity have allowed clergy to over-function and then to burn out.
Teamwork is the key. It is the key to any sports team. And it is the key to effective ministry. That’s why I am traveling to each district and meeting with their district teams.