Focusing on the essentials

August 23, 2011

We are a church with high aspirations. You should see the list of all the annual conference teams. They are trying to accomplish every good idea someone has had at some time, with the really good intentions of being responsive to people and expanding the circle of those with whom we are in ministry.

The problem: we have become so wide in our scope of ministry that we are facing significant challenges in resourcing all these areas and achieving any of them with excellence.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says that the enemy of the great is the good. Too many good ideas can diffuse resources and energy from the best things. The United Methodist Church is in a time of deep discernment about these matters, and the Call to Action report (visit, prepared by a group of United Methodist leaders, points out that our critical task at this time is to re-direct energy and resources to starting and equipping local churches that are effective (faithful and fruitful) in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Minnesota Annual Conference leaders and staff have identified these priorities:

1. Start and equip churches to be relevant and effective in reaching new people, cultivating spiritual vitality, and transforming individual lives and communities.

2.  Call, credential, and commission clergy who can start and lead churches that are relevant and effective.

3. Connect churches and clergy to the wider church and create collaboration on key initiatives such as Imagine No Malaria, and retreats and camping ministry.

To accomplish these, we are putting our best time and energy this year into these three key initiatives:

  • Healthy Church Initiative: an intentional process to help clergy and congregations become more effective in their ministry and engaging their community.
  • Multi-Cultural Competency: to reach new people and connect to the changing demographics of our communities, we will increase our multi-cultural competency.
  • Imagine No Malaria: to eliminate deaths from malaria—a major killer of children—in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015, we will raise $1.8 million toward the United Methodist Church’s $75 million goal

The staff has embraced these values to guide our work:

  • Direct energy and resources toward those high priority mission-focused initiatives that demonstrate passion, potential, readiness, and commitment.
  • Treat each person with respect, go the distance to respond as helpfully and quickly as possible—and when necessary, kindly tell people “no” and re-direct them when they are attempting to make their agenda our work when it is not one of our key initiatives or core functions.

So when you call our office with a really good idea for which you have passion, we will ask you how it fits with our stated priorities. If it is something that is worthwhile but is not is not part of the few, best things the Minnesota Conference must focus on for our health and vitality, then we will encourage you to find a few other passionate people to make your idea happen. (Yes, really, you can go for it and do things on your own!) We are glad to meet with you for encouragement, idea sharing, and thinking through strategy, but we will not be able to take on your task.

Please don’t take our “no” as a sign that we don’t care. We do care. But as leaders and staff we are called to be servants to the mission first and foremost, and that means making critical decisions about the deployment of resources so that we remain focused on the essentials.

Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058