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November 7,  2003


Conference Table examines cooperative parish ministry

Task force will present more than 12 models of cooperative parishes during the Nov. 12 meeting at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala.

By J.A. Buchholz

LAKELAND — In a time when congregations are asking more and more from their churches, cooperative parish ministry could be a way for several churches to work together to accomplish goals that alone would be difficult to achieve.

The Rev. David Herman, chairman of the Florida Conference task force on cooperative parish ministry and district superintendent of the Sarasota District, will define and explore options related to that kind of ministry at the Nov. 12 Conference Table meeting at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. All clergy and laity are invited to attend.

The Conference Table, created in 2002, is a venue for clergy and laity to discuss the connectional life and the current context of the United Methodist Church in Florida in the 21st century.

Herman said cooperative parish ministry is a way to increase diversity, improve stewardship, raise connectional giving, engage in more mission and strengthen ministerial preparation, while also lowering the cost of doing ministry.

It’s worked well for the South Sarasota Teaching Parish, which includes two churches that share in educating lay speakers and working with candidates for the ministry. It began in June 2003.

The Rev. Dr. Don Nations, secretary of the task force and director of the South Sarasota Teaching Parish, said cooperative parish ministry is different than a multi-point charge in which one pastor is split among many churches. He said cooperative parish ministry allows the sharing of staff at a reduced cost so all participating churches receive ministry that is increased in both quantity and quality.

“Cooperative parish ministry is a way for churches to be in ministry together,” Nations said. “It is a relationship in which churches can share staff, ministry, mission, people, facilities and other resources. Churches of all sizes and in all locations can benefit from being part of a cooperative parish.

“It is an instrument for transformation that can decrease fixed costs and lead to greater investment in connectional giving and ministry in the local church.”

Herman said the cooperative parish ministry is already an effective model for change in the Sarasota District. He said the South Sarasota Teaching Parish has found a solution for the two churches that were facing significant hurdles and challenges. He said through the cooperative parish, they have experienced growth, as well as revitalization.

“Cooperative parish ministry is as old as Methodism and worked well in the rural settings of early American Methodism,” Herman said. “It is now being rediscovered as a ministry model that works in urban, suburban and rural settings, Anglo and ethnic churches, large, medium and small congregations—anywhere Christians are willing to work together to fulfill God’s call on their churches.”

For more information on the Conference Table visit http//www.flumc.org. 

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