(Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon) - The Cabinet of the Alabama-West Florida Conference met in a regularly scheduled session last week at the Conference Office in Montgomery. We continue to affirm the work of our local churches in the ongoing effort to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and celebrate the "glory sightings" where congregations are experiencing fruitful, vital ministry engaging their communities in mission and service throughout the conference. Superintendents shared these stories with each other and continue to explore ways of making these known across the connection in an attempt to point toward examples of what we would hope to see taking place even more frequently in our churches.
In our monthly Incubator experience, in addition to prayer for and with one another, we spent time reflecting on the SEND model for ministry in the conference. With identifying spiritual leaders as our focus, we reviewed all of the ministry areas of our conference to determine the primary function of this area. Ministries were grouped base on whether the main function was Seeking, Engaging, Nurturing, or Deploying leaders. Categorizing these ministries helped us to clarify the purpose of these initiatives as they related to the life of the conference as a whole.
We spent time reviewing ministries of the conference and celebrating the ways these efforts are making an impact on our congregations and communities. Reverend Neil McDavid, Director of Connectional Ministries, updated the Cabinet on the CIRCLES of Transformation program that seeks to break the cycle of poverty. CIRCLES is at work in Dothan, Mobile, Montgomery, AL and Niceville, FL and will continue to expand their reach in our connection. The Cabinet reviewed the Comprehensive Plan for Inclusiveness that will help us to identify areas of the conference where we can better engage ministry with all of God's children through intentional focusing on nurturing faith communities in predominately African-American, Hispanic, Korean, Native American communities along with other ethnic groups that reside in the bounds of the conference.
We continue to give thanks for evidence of greater support for connectional giving, noting a 2% increase year-to-date. We are hopeful this is a sign that some economic stability is being experienced after several years of difficulty for our churches.
Discussion was held about priorities to identify during the upcoming charge conference season, including an emphasis on "turn-around leadership" where some of our congregation have become stagnant or are in decline. Conversation will be held with the leadership of these churches as to how we might be best able to reengage mission and ministry in these communities in the upcoming months. Emphasis on identifying ways to ensure timely recording of the Year End Reports from local congregations was also discussed. The reports are due on January 31, 2013 and we are shooting for 100% from Alabama-West Florida. An update was given by Reverend June Jernigan on the upcoming shift to group mentoring for candidates for ministry, a change adopted by the 2012 General Conference.
We want to again focus attention on the need for our congregations to place emphasis on their ministry zone. Bob Farr, Director of Congregational Excellence for the Missouri Annual Conference, identifies this zone as the two-mile radius extending from the location of your church. His assessment is that churches must permeate this area with their influence to establish a base from which to serve the larger community beyond this zone. We would encourage pastors and leaders to think through how visible their churches are in the ministry zone. The people who live in these zones are given to us by God and are ours to reach for the sake of the Kingdom. Let us share with each other the ways we can effectively minister to these persons and claim every soul for Christ in the communities that are found in the annual conference! With grateful appreciation for the faithful work of our clergy and laity, and with the expectation that God will move in our midst, we anticipate God continuing to use the congregations of the Alabama-West Florida Conference to make a difference in the Kingdom!