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PNC reflects on new ways to work

The new conference moderator, Kristine Zakarison, pastor at Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Pullman, opened the 2010 Leadership Retreat in June at N-Sid-Sen telling committee members of the need to build community in the PNC through fostering collaboration and communication among committees.

Kristine Zakarison
Kristine Zakaison

She said the Board of Directors hired Kathleen Hosfeld as communication technology consultant to propose ways to enhance communication and participation among conference leaders members despite the  geographic spread.

“Technology does not create community.  We have to be intentional about creating it,” said Zakarison, expressing her hope that when people work on committees or in congregations and wants to do a project, they will connect with the conference for resources.

As vice moderator, Brandon Duran of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Seattle, is taking responsibility to coordinate the Communication Task Force that will meet with Hosfeld.

Brandon Duran
Brandon Duran

Outside Annual Meetings, Leadership Retreats and the Board doing business on behalf of the conference, she said there are two meetings a year of the Conference Council, one Nov. 6 in Ellensburg at CWU and one March 5 on the West side.

From that background, Mike Denton, conference minister explained the need for new channels of communication among lay leaders.

Once the conference had 14 staff. It now has five.  Each committee once had a staff member assigned to it, he said.  The roles of limited staff make that impossible—Arlene Hobson as executive administrator helps with general communication, search and call; Michelle Johansen is responsible for bookkeeping.  Randy Crowe and Deeg Nelson are responsible for the camps.  Mike spends much time traveling to many meetings and is working with churches in transition.

Mike Denton
Mike Denton, conference minister

He is aware that the conference ministry is like nonprofit management while different entities and groups have distinct tasks of ministry in the conference. 
“With communication, we can do more,” Denton said.  “Be gentle with us given the structural and staff realities, we can’t do as much.  Leadership now needs to be more collaborative, rather than top down.”

Denton described some of the challenges churches in the national, regional, conference and local settings face. 

Giving has gone down consistently for 10 years.  For every senior who dies, it takes three to five people to replace the giving level.

“We are one of the two oldest denominations in the United States, with the average age of members 57, and the average age of pastors 63—that includes retired pastors,” he said.  “Now 4.6 percent of members in the UCC are under 40, because many pastors came in as second careers. 

We are in a transition time that means there is more need for lay leader development,” he said.

Denton then told of a movement in the UCC from national to regional staff, and from conferences to regional staff.

“Over the last 12 years, national staff was reduced by two-thirds,” he said.  “The first realm of cuts is the national, the second is conference and the third is local.” 

One way to spend funds effectively to accomplish tasks is through contracted short-term staffing, such as Hosfeld. 

“At the end of the year, we will have her assessment of our communication and her suggestions of initiatives for next steps,” Denton said, adding that the sale of the house the conference owned on Beacon Ave. in Seattle was only possible with the help of lay leaders who took responsibility for that task.

“The primary resource we have in the life of the conference is all of us together,” he said, adding that “I look at every complaint of concern as an opportunity to volunteer.”

An “ask the conference” time on Saturday evening took a turn from conference level action to local congregation interaction when someone asked:  “Where is your church walking in the way of Jesus and where are you struggling to live out the gospel?” 

That was followed by a wealth of stories of feeding the hungry, connecting with communities, giving children backpacks of food for weekends, building Habitat houses, turning a junk sale into emergency funds, nurturing a church garden for a food bank and housing homeless families.

Finding a similar abundance in churches, Bobbi Virta and Kathie Forman of the Ministry Resource Committee reported that of the 82 churches in the PNC, 53 have representatives on the board and committees with 142 individuals saying “yes” in 2010.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © June 2010


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