By: Christa Meland
After spending 18 years as the Minnesota Conference’s director of finance and administration, and treasurer, Barb Carroll will retire at the end of October.
Carroll is one of the two longest tenured conference staff members—and she worked with three bishops during her years of service. Those who worked closely with her say her commitment to create a collaborative and transparent budget process is one of her most significant and lasting contributions.
“Barb is clearly one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable, and competent directors of finance and administration in the entire United Methodist connection,” said Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough. “Consequently, the Minnesota Conference’s financial systems are sound, trustworthy, and have us well positioned to fulfill our mission and vision. I will personally miss working with Barb. I wish her God’s abundant blessings as she transitions to a much-deserved retirement.”
From the beginning, Carroll made it a priority to create clear communication around financial issues, and in doing so, she created the Budget Process Team, comprising both clergy and laity who work together to develop the budget and then present it to other leadership groups prior to the annual conference at which it’s voted on. Carroll also formed the audit and investment subcommittees of the Council on Finance and Administration.
“I like teaching—helping local churches with issues and providing information,” she said—and it’s been important to her that Minnesota United Methodists have a clear picture of the numbers behind the overall budget and how the money is used.
Carroll, who grew up in a small town in South Dakota, began her career as a music teacher in North Dakota. But when a state sales tax that funded arts education and extra-curriculars at schools was repealed, she saw the writing on the wall and started taking accounting classes to diversify her skill set. After earning her CPA certification and a master’s degree in business administration, she held several other finance jobs—including CFO for a nonprofit foundation in southwestern Minnesota—before joining the Minnesota Conference in 1997.
Director of Ministries Cindy Gregorson, who has worked closely with Carroll since 2008, said she appreciates Carroll’s ability to make complex financial issues understandable to people throughout the conference.
“She holds fiduciary responsibility well—she makes sure we manage our money and have adequate reserves and the appropriate processes, but she also always makes sure we have the resources to do what we need to do,” Gregorson said, noting that there used to be extensive debates about the budget at annual conference—but it’s now one of the quickest votes.
Carroll helped the Camping Office create a unified financial system for all of conference-owned camps and has played a key role in handling financial matters related to church buildings, closures, and divestments. Her focus has always been on maximizing assets so they can be reinvested in congregational development.
Gregorson also noted that Carroll effectively marshals resources toward strategic impact. For example, she worked with the Board of Pension and Health Benefits to make it possible for several benefit-related items previously apportioned to churches to be paid using pension benefit and health reserve funds.
Greg Johnson, a longtime member of the Council on Finance and Administration and someone who’s worked with Carroll since 1998, said she’s been instrumental in helping all conference stakeholders to feel included and informed when it comes to financial matters—which has thus enabled them to focus on ministry.
“She’s a very talented individual who is able to work with a large variety of people and has sound business acumen and judgment,” he said. “She acts with integrity and she does the right thing and she respects others as part of that process. She’s given us a professionalism, perseverance, and set a good example for a long period of time.”
Barb Brower, who has more than three decades of experience in non-profit financial management, has been selected as Carroll's successor. Brower assumed her position in August, and Carroll and Brower spent several months working together to ensure a smooth transition. The selection process was extensive and included a series of interviews. The Human Resources Team, the Council on Finance and Administration, and the Board of Trustees were all involved in the hiring process.
Prior to joining the conference, Brower spent nine years as director of finance and administration for St. Paul-based Scientific Societies, a consortium of seven international non-profit scientific associations. Before that, she spent seven years as controller for American Public Media Group, the parent organization for Minnesota Public Radio. Other previous positions include controller for the American Academy of Neurology, manager of treasury and operations analysis for Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, and senior accountant at Deloitte & Touche.
On the horizon
Carroll has a number of plans for retirement. She’d like to become more active within her own church, St. Andrew Lutheran in Eden Prairie, where she currently sings in the choir and subs as an organist. She’d also like to spend more time with her seven grandchildren and do some traveling with her husband, Mike. The Sequoia National Forest in California, the Oregon coast, the North Dakota Badlands, and New York City are all on her list.
Although Carroll won’t have a direct connection to the conference following her departure, she does plan to volunteer for the 2020 General Conference, which will take place in Minneapolis.
Carroll said she has greatly enjoyed working with conference staff, Bishop Ough, and churches—and she appreciates the diversity of the conference and Minnesota United Methodists’ ability to name and claim their mission and identity.
When asked what words of wisdom she’d offer to the conference as she departs, she said, “I hope members will put their trust in God and maintain an attitude of hope rather than scarcity,” adding: “I hope I have played a part in increasing the level of trust in the annual conference.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church