Ohio changes system

What happens when a conference changes its departmental system? Is the church ready for another 1901 reorganization? Ohio is experimenting with innovative ways to complete the work God has given it.

J. David Newman is executive editor of MINISTRY. Previously he served as a consultant on administration to the Ohio Conference churches.

Change comes slowly in the church. The seeds of a quiet revolution were planted in Ohio in the fall of 1980. The previous article by John Fowler describes how this change developed.

The key factor in the process was the redefining of the role of the departments. Conference depart mental directors were shifted from being promoters to being consultants. Instead of "selling" what the conference thought best, the consultant now sat down with the pastor and the church to discover their needs. From this research the consultant tailored a proposal for that church.

The 1984 Annual Council moved in a similar direction when it redefined the role of the union departmental directors. Now they "serve as resource people and consultants to the departments in the local conferences/missions of the union." So far only the role of depart mental directors on the union level is defined in this way.

Peter Block differentiates between the roles of consultants and managers: "A consultant is a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organization, but who has no direct power to make changes or implement programs. A manager is someone who has direct control over the action. The moment you take direct control, you are acting as a manager." Understanding the difference is crucial if the term consultant is not to gain a bad reputation. Someone serving as a consultant helps persons or groups achieve their goals. He does not enforce the policies or programs of the higher levels of church organization.

In Ohio the new system has a dual role. While the assistants to the president function mainly as consultants, they also function as managers, as extensions of administration. Once a year the assistants sit down with the pastors and evaluate their progress in reaching their goals--not the pastor's personal goals, but the corporate goals of their churches. Each church sets its own goals in three key result areas: in the area of nurture, the church sets the number it aims to involve in missionary and church work, and the worship service attendance it wishes to reach; in outreach, the number of baptisms and increase in membership it wishes to attain; and in finances, the tithe, local church budget, and world budget it seeks to raise. This system of accountability is very important. When the Ohio Conference decided to shift from conference imposed goals to individual church goals, it negotiated with the pastors that in return each church would complete an extensive church growth planning work sheet. (See sample accompanying article.) Each church would vote acceptance of the work sheet and submit it to the conference. Then it would become the basis for the annual evaluation. Thus the pastor was evaluated, not on how successful he had been individually, but on how successful he was in motivating and leading his churches to accomplish the various goals.

The next step in the development of the system was to change the quarterly reporting system. Pastors had complained for years that conference officials were interested only in baptisms. They felt that other factors like attendance were at least as important.

The difference between what the conference required in reporting spiritual and financial accomplishments also commented on its values. Each month the conference required the churches to send in a financial report, but it wanted the church growth report only once a quarter. So Ohio changed to a monthly clerk's report that showed attendance as well as baptisms. This new report immediately revealed great discrepancies between the book membership and the attending membership. As a result, strategies are now being developed to meet this problem. Attendance as a percent of membership is a much better indicator of the quality of life in the church than either baptisms or member ship figures.

At the 1981 constituency meeting, church representatives voted to try this new system of consultants and assistants for a three-year period. In preparation for the 1984 constituency meeting, the conference committee established a management review committee. This group, comprised of four pastors and four laymen, was to review all aspects of the work in Ohio and make recommendations to the 1984 constituency. I now quote from their last recommendation:

"The major work of the committee was to decide whether to recommend to the 1984 constituency meeting the continuance and permanency of the Ohio management system. A question was asked on the survey to address that decision. The question was 'Do you think we should go back to the old departmental system?' Pastors' response was 97 percent No and 3 percent Yes. Laymen's response was 84 percent No and 16 percent Yes. The written com ments regarding this question were extremely positive in affirming the new management system.

"Recommendation No. 9--It is recommended that the Ohio Conference management plan be taken off its trial basis and be approved as the management system for the Ohio Conference. "

The constituency adopted this recommendation, and it has been written into a revised constitution.

In Ohio the seeds that were sown have matured into well-developed plants and are now bearing fruit. As the accompanying graph reveals, they have helped bring about healthy church growth. The conference hopes church growth will eventually become an integral part of the life of every congregation. Then, instead of relying on one method for securing growth, the pastor will lead his churches into using all the spiritual gifts of the members. This will result in a church "joined and held together by every supporting ligament, growing] and build[ing] itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Eph. 4:16, N.I.V.).

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J. David Newman is executive editor of MINISTRY. Previously he served as a consultant on administration to the Ohio Conference churches.

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