Throughout the course of the week, three on-boarding sessions were held in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. These sessions are being led by Claire Bowen, a lay person in the North Georgia Conference, who specializes in this process when a new person is named to a corporation or large organization like a United Methodist conference
. She is a lifelong United Methodist and a member of Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta, GA.
Bowen led the two-day new bishops training at Lake Junaluska after the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference(SEJ) concluded in July and is facilitating this process with all five of the new bishops in the SEJ. The on-boarding process is comprised of two sessions. In the first session she asks a series of twelve questions to the group in an open forum model where everyone has the opportunity to answer and give responses. The bishop is purposefully not present to allow for a safe place for all constructive comments. Between the two sessions she meets with the bishop to review and clarify anything explored. In the second session the bishop responds line by line to all comments to specifically address every person's questions and concerns. Bowen is in the room only to monitor time and document conversation.
The first on-boarding session was held on Monday, September 12 with conference staff and district administrative assistants, the next with the AWF extended cabinet and the final session will be held tomorrow with the 25 large church pastors of the conference in Crestview, FL.
Kim Doss, Administrative Assistant for the Mobile District, attended Monday’s session and said, “It was an honor to spend intentional time with the conference staff and colleagues. We don’t often have the opportunity to participate in sessions like this and I feel it was very helpful and constructive for all parties involved. I look forward to working with Bishop Graves in the coming quadrennium.”
This model can be used and multiplied by conference boards and local churches. Cabinet members will be trained to incorporate this model into as many on-boarding scenarios as possible, including the eight AWF districts.
"The on-boarding process is an excellent way to honor the wisdom and experience of those inheriting a new leader and jump start his or her knowledge by about six months," Bowen said. "I have had such an enjoyable time with the Alabama-West Florida Conference because they have been honest, insightful, fun, supportive, and full of advice for Bishop Graves. And he, in turn, has been grateful for their investment in launching him well."
In addition to this thorough process, Bishop Graves will be scheduling introductory in-person visits to each district to meet pastors and laity in our conference in the coming months.