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Shepherding Team strategizes this summer

Posted: August 17 2018 at 09:55 AM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt


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ACST Strategic Planning Consultant Helen Chang leads the group at the Compassion Art Gallery in defining and developing initiatives and goals for the Conference at one of two meetings held this summer.

Members of the Annual Conference Shepherding team met twice over the summer for all-day sessions to continue their work on strategic planning while working toward new goals for the Conference. 


The team met on July 14 in the Chicago Southern District at the Compassion Factory Art Gallery in Brookfield. The Rev. Karl Sokol shared the journey of Compassion UMC, a new faith community he started in 2011, from worshiping in more than a dozen locations including coffee shops, forest preserves, and restaurants before finding a more permanent home at the art gallery for Sunday worship. 

The second meeting was held on August 11 in the Aurora District at New Lenox UMC where the six District Superintendents joined the team for listening and conversation. During these two meetings, ACST Strategic Planning Consultant Helen Chang led the group discussion accessing the conference’s programs, membership growth opportunities, and habits and practices for spiritual vitality.



Director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop Rev. Arlene Christopherson presented an extensive, line-item outline of where program dollars are allocated as the team delved into conference funding. Conference Treasurer Lonnie Chafin shared budget information on apportionment giving, unpaid invoices, and local church support. Director of Congregational Development and Redevelopment Rev. Martin Lee shared population trends and data in northern Illinois and the potential for growing membership and reaching new people in new places. 

“Under the guidance of Helen Chang, we began to brainstorm about developing criteria for future allocation of Conference resources that will make our ministries healthier and stronger,” said Liz Gracie, ACST Lay Co-Chair. “While we are far from completing this work, we have a much better understanding of the task before us.”

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Bishop Sally Dyck leads the devotion at the ACST meeting at New Lenox UMC.

Bishop Sally Dyck said the ACST’s “deep dive” look into our culture as an annual conference and our finances has been enlightening. “Hopefully our work together will help us create meaningful goals and strategies as an annual conference,” said Dyck. “This is adaptive work in that there’s no apparent solution or path, but it has created many deep and honest conversations that have needed to happen for years.”

Gracie said she’s grateful to the members of the ACST who have hung in while they’ve been feeling a way forward. “I think we are gaining clarity about what we are doing and we are gelling as a group,” said Gracie.

Gracie added that as she grows to understand our Annual Conference and the more she gets to know clergy, laity and staff, the more hopeful she becomes about the future of our church. “Our challenge is to steward our abundant resources to foster an environment in which individuals and churches will grow spiritually, grow in relevance to their particular communities and, God willing, grow in numbers and further enhance our ability to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” said Gracie.

The next steps include refining goals, establishing preliminary priorities, and by the end of the year developing a draft of an initial strategic plan. The ACST will meet again on Oct. 13 at Hampshire: First UMC and the District Superintendents will again be present. The team is comprised of 22 members. The Rev. Jerrod Severing of Lanark UMC joined as a new member from the Rockford District Shepherding team this summer. 

For more information on the ACST click here.

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