Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders,
I’m excited about 2016, in part because I recently received the best Christmas present ever—the birth of Emory Grace Williams, my first grandchild. I’m also excited because we serve a great God who declares that he is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). In doing so, he assures us that his “compassions,” which are “new every morning,” truly “never fail” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
With confidence in God and reliance on his faithfulness, I’m pleased to announce that Year of Renewal is the GCI-USA theme for 2016. As you turn your calendars forward, I encourage you to focus on this theme by prayerfully considering how Jesus, through the Spirit, will be working in the year ahead to bring renewal to your life, your ministry and your congregation.
Last year, our U.S. regional pastors hosted retreats for the primary pastoral leaders in their regions. Reports indicate these retreats were very encouraging. We’ll no doubt hold retreats again, but in 2016 our focus will be on hosting U.S. regional conferences in seven locations (see the list at www.gci.org/events). The conference theme will be renewal, with an emphasis on congregational renewal. We’re blessed to have in the U.S. about 300 congregations (and I’m pleased that about 50 grew in attendance in 2015). Of course, no two congregations are alike, and so the regional conference sessions will be tailored to help all kinds of congregations renew (no “one-size-fits-all” here), which entails growing in vitality, and typically means rebuilding or otherwise modernizing. We’ll work together to discern what renewal means for your congregation and have sessions specific to very small congregations (fellowship groups). I’m sure there will also be more pictures of Emory Grace!
Pastors, please remember that regional conference attendance is part of your commitment to continuing education. And please bring with you your ministry leaders and workers, and note that there will be special sessions for your treasurer and other finance committee members. As you and your team prepare to attend the regional conference in your area, please spend some time together answering these questions:
- How does the topic of renewal, as described above, fit our current situation?
- What do we expect to glean from our participation in the regional conference? (We want you to come with expectations!)
- What members of our team will benefit from attending? What can we do to make their attendance possible?
- How/when will we join together in prayer to ask the Lord to move mightily through all seven regional conferences?
Looking forward to sharing with you our Year of Renewal,
director, Church Administration and Development