Beginning July 1, the Arkansas Conference will be experimenting with some structural change within our districts, the work of our district superintendents, and the district offices. There will also be expansion of roles by some of the current Annual Conference staff.
“In this season, we need to be prayerful, careful, and realistic stewards of our Arkansas Conference resources. We will be using the near future to try some different models for the ministry of our superintendents and conference staff,” shared Bishop Laura Merrill. “Our goal will be to strengthen our connection and capacity for ministry at the local level and focus on connections through partnerships with each other and our communities, no matter how large or small.”
The impact of disaffiliation, along with post-pandemic change, has given the conference an opportunity to explore how geographical regions, the work of our districts, and conference staffing strategy can be adapted to benefit our connectional ministry moving forward.
During this upcoming transitional year, the Arkansas Conference will continue to work with its five existing districts. The work of those districts will be covered by four district superintendents and five district administrators.
Four district superintendent supervision areas have been created via shifts on the edges of the existing districts, based on Arkansas’ counties and areas of natural affinity.
This means that all local churches will remain in their current districts for the upcoming year, while some congregations and clergy will connect with a different district office for certain tasks. Those churches and clergy affected will be assigned a single district office as their regional point of contact for supervision and connectional matters.
In part, this plan comes in response to the reduction in the conference of the equivalent to a district’s worth of churches. However, the focus of the plan will be the development of new relationships focused on empowering ministry for our local churches. Some local churches may not realize that these shifts have occurred, while others will find opportunities for new partnerships. All will be encouraged to seek resources and support in connection with other United Methodists.
“This transitional year will invite us to be creative and flexible as we learn new ways to connect and work together. In our preparations, we have already discovered ways to be more effective while building on the gifts of our team members,” shared District Superintendent Blake Bradford.
Meetings will be scheduled soon with district boards and committees for clarity and to encourage more in-depth conversation and creativity. Leadership teams will be meeting as well throughout the coming year, to evaluate our progress and consider future needs and recommendations to bring to the 2024 Annual Conference.
ANNUAL CONFERENCE STAFFING
When Bishop Laura Merrill began her ministry with the Arkansas Conference, she felt led to increase the focus of annual conference resources on support for clergy, discipleship and leadership development, and congregational and community partnership.
“I have been so impressed with the work of the Arkansas Conference staff and leadership. There are some wonderful programs and initiatives already rolling. Now is a time for us to amplify the reach of that work, using what God has given us to support the many fruitful ministries at work across our United Methodist connection in Arkansas,” Bishop Merrill shared.
Building on her current work as Developer of Clergy Recruitment and Coordinator of Children, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Michelle Moore has been named Director of Discipleship and Leadership Development. Her new role will include developing robust models and pathways of discipleship, developing congregational networks to strengthen shared discipleship ministries, continuing to build the Culture of Call Initiative, and creating and implementing the development of lay-clergy teams for impactful ministry.
Leveraging the conference-wide network of communications resources already established, then heightened during the pandemic, Amy Ezell will serve as Director of Communication and Congregational Vitality. Her role with Conference communication will continue to provide creative, innovative, and strategic ways to maximize the ability of the Arkansas Annual Conference to communicate with members, congregations, and communities. These skills will serve as a natural starting point for resourcing local congregations for effective outreach and partnership.
For more information on any of these transitions and how this might affect your church, please contact your district or conference office.