The beginning of this newsletter will not sound anything like the title (careful now, I know what some of you are thinking, its probably not nice and its not true, – only kidding!), but let me give you the background and context of the Ministry Network Gathering.
Approximately 10 years ago a decision was made not to hold an Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (holding them instead every two years). The decision was primarily taken for financial reasons. This was especially complicated by the fact that Assembly moved around from place to place and thus had “start-up” costs when it visited each new location. If you can imagine that approximately 70% of our congregants and churches are in the Mountain and Pacific Time zones, you can imagine the palaver it took to run an annual meeting, let alone the expenses incurred just getting there. It was estimated by some dear wag that Assembly could cost up to a million dollars…that was utter nonsense; but it could, however, cost three to four hundred thousand when you included all the transportation costs, which is a considerable amount of money. It is always unwise to make ministry decisions without using multiple variables, and in this case money was the primary reason for not having an annual Assembly. A lot of money was saved when we didn’t have one; however, building community and identity, sharing of ideas and visioning together, and having good healthy discussion around business and finance were lost with the lack of face-to-face time with one another.
Celebration of Ministry Dinners outdraws assembly attendance by almost double…14 gatherings, over 1000 people, not including staff. Celebration Dinners are a beginning and are deeply encouraging. It is important to note that the costs are not borne by the churches, that we are always looking to do this as inexpensively as possible, and that the cost of doing celebration dinners is less than 10% the estimated cost of doing an annual Assembly. The other encouraging piece about Celebration Dinners is that they often draw people for a single evening that would not normally be able to attend or even have an interest in coming to a 2-4 day gathering. Celebration Dinners are only a part of what can replace effectively and inexpensively annual Assemblies.
There is a community of over 200 people that meet to think through, pray and plan the work amongst different areas such as camping, youth, children and families, church planting, intergenerational ministries, institutional board, commissions and sub committees, and regional advisory groups. These folks do unheralded and excellent work week by week. As a family of churches we fund in most cases, the ability for each group to gather once a year face-to-face. We are experimenting this year with the Ministry Network Gathering, which will have these groups all meet in the same place at the same time. We are starting this under the guidance of Bob Webber, with help from Liz Swab, to meet in Calgary at the same time as the Ordination Examining Council meeting (a marathon week, yet arrangements that will cut down on costs). The intention is that each group will meet on its own and do the work they are called to and is relevant to them. The second hope is that they will then be able to share with one another the work that they are doing so that if there is overlap or collaboration that is possible, it might be borne out of those meetings. Another important aspect of what we will do together is that we will spend time over meals meeting each other. We also intend to spend some time worshiping and praying together. This kind of gathering is the familial, organic and collaborative model that is completely necessary for us to work together effectively as we develop resources for churches in their local ministry, as well as having the opportunity to hear from folk from our churches as to what resources they need.
The dates are May 16 and 17. I’m very much looking forward to the time. While only a two-day event this year, we will plan for some time next year, before Assembly, to follow through and build on this year’s gathering.