Knowing where you are going is more important than know how you will get there. – Gil Rendle

North Alabama Conference Priorities:

New Congregations

Natural Church Development

Effective Leadership for the 21st Century

Empowering a New Generation of Christians


After church consultant Gil Rendle met with the Cabinet in 2006 we devised a set of Priorities to recommend to the Conference and to focus our work. One of the challenges our church has had is to identify and to focus upon “the one thing needful” in our work. There are so many things we could do; what is the most important thing for us to do in this time and place?

These priorities have acted as magnets, drawing us forward, pulling us into a more vital future. The priorities have given us some tangible successes:

  • We quickly became a leader in starting New Congregations. We are still closing three times more churches than we open, but we now have a structure for equipping new church pastors and supporting new communities of faith and we have reorganized our efforts so that we are starting a greater variety of new churches.
  • A couple of hundred of our established congregations are experiencing renewal and vitality through their participation in Natural Church Development. At last we have a proven, effective way of equipping pastors and congregations to move forward.
  • Empower a New Generation. Our Board of Ordained Ministry has reorganized itself to seek and ordain new young clergy. Although this has been a priority that has proved difficult to attain, the average age of our candidates for ministry is the sixth lowest of any Conference.
  • Effective Leadership. We have defined clergy effectiveness in terms of ability to lead growth. We now have (in the Conference Dashboard) up to the minute measurementof results and fruit in key areas of growth for every congregation. We have exited some of our least effective clergy and we are attempting to administer our clergy appointment system with greater attention to fruit. Yet (judging from our results in terms of continued declines in giving and in attendance and membership) we have much more to do. Our Lay Leadership needs to take much more responsibility for effective, accountable leadership.
  • Missions. Our newest priority is linked to the attainment of all our other priorities. It is also an area that shares much activity in all sorts of churches. And yet our poor Apportionment support and the number of congregations who are not participating in mission show that we’ve got lots to do.

How does your congregation look when measured by these priorities? The good news is that God is giving us new fruit. The challenge is that, we still have pastors and congregations who have yet to experience the joy of being drawn forward by this vision. And yet, by the grace of God, we are experiencing documented forward movement. Thanks be to God.

William H. Willimon


  1. The programs that have been started as described by the bishop are very good for the bigger churches, but not so helpful to the smaller ones. The smaller churches that I am aware of pay their share of apportionments. They are not a drain on the conference or their district in any way. Matter of fact one of the biggest complaints that are heard from the smaller churches is that their is always a hand out for money but there is never any help to the smaller church's when they ask for financial support. The pastors are not paid by the conference or the district, they are paid by the church or churches they pastor. There is no financial drain from these small churches. That is why it is hard to understand the wanting to close churches. I have also heard that there is a belief that if you close small churches the members will go to the bigger churches in town. All the people I know would not go to the first churches because of the simple fact that most of the bigger churches are more liberal leaning in their preaching and belief systems. Most of the smaller church members are conservative in their view points. If the closing of churches continues, it will cause a domino effect on some of the churches around them. People talk and their church they grew up in is more important to them than the world wide United Methodist Church. The more smaller churches that are closed will cause a more liberal leaning, liberal voting, church group that I fear will eventually allow such things as homosexual pastors and acceptance of that lifestyle. Sometimes good idea's are great, but they have unintended consequences on down the road. Maybe those consequences are known and just maybe all of this is being down to further the cause mentioned above.


  2. Good post Heath ,whether intended or not the liberal transformation of the UMC is at hand.Change just for the sake of change is not always good .The UMC of today is not your father and grandfathers UMC.I am afraid they are grasping at straws.I work in sales and this post reminds me of a letter from the ceo on how we plan to boost sales and increase profits while cutting expenses.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: