By Gary Walter
CHICAGO, IL (March 21, 2013) – Following are highlights from the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) Executive Board reorganization proposal.
Among Covenant leadership, we have said our core assignment is this: to advance the mission while bridging to the future. In other words, our aim is to continue to pursue fruitfulness now while positioning the Covenant for fruitfulness to come.
A signature part of living out that assignment has been Organizing for Mission (OFM), a comprehensive review of our mission and priorities, which resulted in 27 recommendations adopted by the Executive Board.
OFM posed a series of questions. The first was the purpose question: What are we trying to accomplish in the lives of real people in real places? The resulting framing language is: We join God in God’s mission to see more disciples, among more populations, in a more caring and just world.
The second was the strategy question: What are the core ministries that will accomplish that mission? We identified five mission priorities: start and strengthen churches; make and deepen disciples; develop leaders; love mercy – do justice; and serve globally (pursuing those same priorities internationally).
The third was the mobilizing question: What is the best alignment of personnel, structures, and resources to accomplish that mission? Many of the 27 recommendations speak to this. Even so, an approach was taken to first live into the five mission priorities collaboratively across the existing departmental structure to allow additional organizational implications to surface.
Additionally, persistent financial constraints pointed to the need to find cost savings and greater efficiencies around those priorities to solidify a financially sustainable approach moving forward.
These two themes – structures that reinforce our mission priorities combined with a sustainable financial model aligned to those priorities – serve as the rationale for reorganization.
In October 2012, the Covenant Offices Leadership Team (COLT) presented an alignment concept consistent with the five mission priorities to the Executive Board. The Executive Board affirmed the concept and authorized the president to convene a representative team to refine the concept and to report back to the March 2013 Executive Board meeting.
Team members include Sam Chang and Carolyn Poterek of the Executive Board, Dick Lucco and Cindy Halverson of COLT, Central Conference Superintendent Jerome Nelson and Pablo Anabalón as at-large members, President Gary Walter, and interim Executive Vice President Evelyn Johnson as committee support and advisor on Constitution and By-laws matters.
The committee, known as the Ministry Priority Alignment Team (MPAT) met six times through February, including conference calls and a focused two-day planning retreat. The committee engaged in several feedback loops. Regular progress reports were given to the entire Covenant Offices staff. Updates were provided as a regular agenda item at monthly COLT meetings. It was the central subject for a joint planning day between COLT and the Council of Superintendents. Feedback gained in all of those settings has informed the work of the team.
The proposed changes result in an effective mission and ministry structure that is:
- more aligned, using the five priorities as the core organizing rationale
- more collaborative, with fewer compartmentalized areas
- more efficient, through cross-utilization of staffing and resources
- leaner, with a reduced number of total positions throughout the organization
- flatter, with broader participation in decision-making
- more inclusive, with expanded leadership development pathways for women and men of all backgrounds
- financially sound, with savings allowing for the building of reserves and the initiation of new opportunities
The proposal 1) redesigns the composition of the Covenant Offices Leadership Team, and 2) transitions departments and offices instead into groupings serving the mission priorities.
Composition of the Covenant Offices Leadership Team
COLT would have from 11 – 13 members led by the president with the following characteristics:
- Minimum representation would be three female, three male, and three persons of color, with none overlapping in identification
- One member would be the president, who would lead the group as the chief executive officer of the ECC
- One member would be the executive director for Ministry Development.
- Seven members would be each of the leaders of the seven ministry groupings (noted below)
- Two to four additional members would be appointed by the president for renewable one-year assignments – these would be leaders of ministry areas (currently: team leaders, project managers, associate directors, directors)
- Additional advisors may be appointed by the president
Seven groupings would cluster, coordinate, and advance the current equivalent of 17 departments, offices, and organizations. These seven are:
- Congregational and Conference Mission
- Leader Development
- Global Mission
The Congregational and Conference Mission group would serve the priorities of start and strengthen churches, make and deepen disciples, and love mercy –do justice. Its focus is to bring resources to congregations and conferences to advance the mission of God in their communities and regions. It would encompass functions currently carried out through the departments of Church Growth and Evangelism; Christian Formation; Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, and Women Ministries.
The Leader Development group would serve the priority of develop leaders. It would undertake functions of the Department of Ordered Ministry, as well as work toward the establishment of a Center for Leadership for both clergy and lay development.
The Global Mission group would address the priority of serve globally, incorporating functions of the Department of World Mission as well as Covenant World Relief and Paul Carlson Partnership.
Four additional groupings would support implementation of mission and ministry:
- The Finance group would serve the functions of the business office, pension, and Bethany Benefits
- The Communications group would engage around the functions of the Department of Communication
- The Advancement group would develop a comprehensive approach to deepening and resourcing the financial partnership of congregations and individuals with the mission of the ECC and regional conferences
- The Operations group would cluster IT (Information Technology), human resources, building services, and the events office
Implementation would have two phases.
Phase One, from the time of the March 2013 Executive Board meeting through the 2014 Annual Meeting, would live into the spirit of the proposal while awaiting final Annual Meeting action. Even though departments would technically exist during this phase, functions would be clustered as outlined. References to departmental structures would be minimized, living into mission priority language, operation, and collaboration. Transitional group leaders would be appointed by the Executive Board. Current executive ministers would continue to serve on COLT during this phase while still in-term. Additional at-large members would be appointed to COLT by the president to achieve representational thresholds identified in the proposal. Briefings will be made to various entities where action is called for by the Constitution and Bylaws. Progress reports by MPAT will be made to the Executive Board meetings. Final Constitution and Bylaw amendment language will be prepared and presented for final action at the 2014 Annual Meeting.
Phase Two, from the 2014 Annual Meeting approval through the 2015 Annual Meeting, would move towards full implementation, including the initiation of the nomination process for elected positions.
Transitional Leadership Appointments
The following individuals are recommended to be appointed by the Executive Board to serve as transitional group leaders beginning July 1, 2013:
- Congregational and Conference Mission: Debbie Blue
- Leader Development: Mark Novak
- Global Mission: Curt Peterson
- Finance: Dean Lundgren
- Advancement: Cindy Halverson
- Communications: To be determined – search in process
- Operations: To be determined – no search yet in process
Future Elected and Appointed Positions
The Covenant currently has a blend of elected and appointed positions in senior leadership roles. Elected positions tend to be related to mission and ministry; appointed positions tend to be related to mission and ministry support. That demarcation would continue.
Proposed elected Covenant Offices positions for four year terms:
- Executive Minister for Congregational and Conference Mission group
- Executive Minister for Leader Development group
- Executive Minister for Global Mission group
Group leader positions for the areas that support mission priorities (finance, operations, advancement), would be nominated by the president to the Executive Board for appointment, which is the current practice for equivalent positions. These positions would be titled executive director. Communications would be added to this process, a position that is currently called by the Annual Meeting, but which does not have a term.
Additionally, the following positions in ECC-affiliated organizations would continue to be called by the Annual Meeting: president of North Park University, dean of North Park Theological Seminary, and president of Covenant Ministries of Benevolence.
The executive vice-president role currently is not envisioned to continue beyond June 2014. Several key functions have been distributed elsewhere. The remaining functions can be covered within a narrower role in the president’s office.
The proposal yields approximately $500,000 in savings, which creates the measured ability to build reserves and enter new opportunities.
Prepared By: Mission Priority Alignment Team (members: Sam Chang, Carolyn Poterek, Dick Lucco, Cynthia Halverson, Jerome Nelson, Pablo Anabalón, Gary Walter, Evelyn Johnson). March, 2013.