I praise Him for your service to His Church and for your partnership in our part of His larger family everywhere.
I have chosen to e-mail this information in order to expedite delivery. Some highly significant things are taking place in our fellowship, matters that affect everyone in our family in every U.S. district, and matters of which many of you may have already heard in part. My respect for every one of our credentialed leaders prompts this communiqué even though there is no immediate need for action on your part.
This communication is to report that we have been engaged in counsel, evaluation, and discussion concerning lessons learned from nearly seven years of functioning within the framework adopted when we experienced “District Multiplication” in 2001-2002. These advisory processes have included the 70 district supervisors and 360 divisional superintendents, as well as the central office executive team and the international board. During last January’s Executive Council Summit in Long Beach as all of those groups met together, many aspects of our Foursquare family life and ministry were studied. It became clear that a preponderance of participants were concerned with the following issues:
- what we have gained
- what we have lost
- what needs adjustment or refinement in our national district structures
Most important to me in every facet of these assessments has been the involvement of a broad representation of our leadership in interactive consultation—assuring that each leader had access to the decisions that might distill in these regards. Glenn Burris and I have led multiple occasions of exchange, teleconferencing, and consultative meetings, and, as we move toward the end of this year, distinct arenas of productive change are becoming clear.
Thus, I have been moved to write and update you—our fellow servant. I do so with respect for you and the unique role you fill as a “front-line” leader in the congregation you serve. The following summary is to advise you of where we are presently, how we arrived at this point, and what we have now determined in partnership with all our supervisors.
1. What distilled from multiple leadership interactions from January to June this year:
- The Foursquare Church took a positive, bold, faith-step in multiplying districts, and there have been some positive gains that deserve recognition and retention.
- We affirm the fact that we experienced significant gains by acknowledging and increasing the number of “leadership voices” speaking into our national ministry together.
- Several districts became effective and productive, realizing many of the goals inherent in the original vision for multiplication, and several others developed reasonably adequate functionality; however, a sizeable percentage did not achieve that success.
- Many of the projected benefits of district multiplication did not materialize at the level of expectation. Further, requirements placed upon bi-vocational supervisors were often overtaxing, and many local congregations that were served by pastor-supervisors experienced a decrease in attendance.
- Structural changes necessary to facilitate multiplication resulted in a dismantling of the ministry delivery systems: camps, youth ministries, church health/multiplication resourcing, and FMI communications at the district level. Even the best efforts to answer these needs by appointing a representative for each area often proved impractical or ineffective.
- Decisive, wise, but urgent action to effect change is dictated by two things: increasing evidence of strain on both the family life and personal wellbeing of supervisors; the increased risk of our central offices appearing to be unhearing or uncaring about the degree of need for dutiful attention.
2. What has taken place in July, August, and through September to date:
- Intense counsel from the supervisors and superintendents, joined to the urgency for action expressed in a gathering Glenn and I conducted with 24 of our most seasoned pastors (17 who have led or are leading within the present structure), prompted my consulting the board of directors and recommending “district consolidation.”
- The information stated above was communicated to every supervisor first of all, and then to every superintendent; a meeting for input and decision, attended by the board of directors, the executive team, and our 70 supervisors, convened September 16-17 in New York City.
- The meeting resulted in a clear request for Glenn and me to share ideas, preferences, and learned experiences we have gained during this season. The group asked for any specific recommendations we had that would move us toward a resolution of our greatest concerns and challenges.
The New York meeting was not arranged to present a pre-constructed “plan” that would be imposed on our leadership or our churches. It was to assess together what had been learned through broad input: the clear, self-evident realities; and the opportunities, options, and possibilities that can more effectively address our needs and goals. Following that interactive session, the board arrived at a decision, born of insight from findings and common agreement through discussion, which enabled our arriving at basic guidelines—principles that are shaping our steps in the following areas.
REALIGN OUR ALIGNMENT: Being together convinced that distinct alterations must be made, we derived a consensus to take decisive action. A vote of 76-2 confirmed the need to “consolidate” our district structures by reducing the number and management from 70 part-time supervisors to between 15 and 20 mostly full-time supervisors.
ENHANCE OUR ADVANCES: Being convinced that several distinct values and gains were realized through district multiplication, we confirmed our will to move forward without losing these:
- We will keep gains that bring a “closer touch” and “relational strengthening” that many present districts have realized.
- We will pace transition in a way that (a) avoids violating relational sensitivity and personnel care; and (b) allows a voice to all, including you, in regard to missional outcomes, desired leadership qualities, and supervisor candidates.
- We will maintain our administrative resource centers (ARCs) so that district offices will be free from significant administrative responsibilities and able to invest in ministry oversight.
REMOVE MANIFEST OBSTACLES: Being in agreement regarding distinct deficiencies and problems, we resolve to address systems and structures that have been found to inhibit a freer, greater forward movement.
3. What will happen now and how the “consolidation” will occur:
- Each of the forthcoming regional fall conferences will contain an opportunity for further clarity of communication and welcome input concerning issues of primary significance.
- In November, the board of directors will study results of all input and prayerfully move toward finalizing district boundaries and selecting district supervisor candidates.
- We will finalize structures that will assure the continuance of present effectiveness in many existing districts, such as securing relational ties and any other locally verified fruitful means.
- All plans for 2009 district camping programs will proceed with present leadership. In the meantime, personnel transitions from the present structure to the new are expected to be completed by summer ’09.
The above decisions were arrived at by an overwhelming consensus of all the present supervisors.
With the above, I want to conclude with this strong affirmation: YOU AND I HAVE REASON TO BE THANKFUL for the magnificent spirit, visionary insight, and unselfish commitment of all the present leadership, who have seen the needs and are banded to address them.
As we move toward Sunday, October 26, and our National Foursquare Family Prayer Meeting, great issues are before our nation—the aftermath of hurricanes, the wake of economic upheaval and its impact on our people, the mammoth governmental transition (presidency), and the decisive call to the people of God to steward our vote as true disciples in a confused world. In all of this…Let us pray earnestly for our “realigning” steps, that the Holy Spirit of wisdom will assist and anoint us afresh for ministry as a people—under His sovereign order and counsel.