A time of transition for Education and Mission
The Boards of Education and Mission have responded to concerns raised following the announcement of the boards’ merger. This is their submission to the March edition of Insights magazine.
The merger of the Boards of Mission and Education has been a difficult time for staff, the boards and the church. Two boards with a long history of providing creative education and strategies for discipleship, leadership and mission across our Synod have had to merge and reduce staffing and programs.
In recent years, the boards have excelled in rural and multicultural ministry, discipleship and leadership development, refocused children’s and youth ministries, grown the mission of conference centres and schools, supported the implementation of the ministry of pastor, provided transitional ministry courses and worked hard to resource and develop lay and ordained ministries, congregations and presbyteries.
Over the last few years, however, it has become increasingly evident that the financial resources to support the level of staff and programs provided by the boards was decreasing and reserves were dwindling.
At the same time, increased collaboration of staff, and a shared commitment to equip the church to face the missional challenges of our day, revealed the possibility of a new kind of partnership.
As pleased as we have been with the work of the staff, their creativity and their commitment, with a decreasing Synod budget we had to find a way to continue sustainably.
The two boards could have remained separate and become significantly smaller; however, we felt that there was such goodwill and synergies across the ministries of the two boards that it would be better for the future of the Synod if the boards merged.
A process that started at the 2008 June Council of Synod and was approved by the April 2010 Synod is now being implemented throughout 2011.
We believe that, given the situation we find ourselves in, the shape and focus of this merger will support a broad range of ministries that are present and critical in our church.
We will continue to be focused on providing creative approaches to leadership and discipleship education and encouraging the church to participate in God’s mission in the world.
Please pray for staff and the boards through this time of transition; that we can move forward with courage, wisdom and grace.
How did decisions get made about the boards merging and future shape?
Discussions started in the two boards during 2009. A working group that included four members of each board was asked to do some work and, after approval by both boards (over 30 members), brought a proposal that was approved by the April 2010 Synod.
A consultant was employed to speak to representatives from presbyteries, the staff, individuals and committees and brought a report to the working group and boards. Staff and board members gave input to some priority setting processes.
Three options were presented to the boards, from deconstructing the boards to amalgamating the existing boards in fewer positions. The boards chose the middle option, with an emphasis on a multi-skilled team which works closely with presbyteries.
How will the new positions and focus actually work?
Information regarding which positions continue and which new positions will be created are on the New South Wales and ACT Synod website: “Boards of Mission and Education to merge”. A new team of five staff will work alongside other ministries of the board but will also have a particular focus on working collaboratively with presbytery staff to resource congregations and church leaders.
What will happen to lay education?
The boards have and always will continue to be committed to lay education. This has been provided by a variety of staff across both boards, including ELM. As well as this being an area of focus for the whole team, there is also one position with a particular focus on lay education, discipleship and rural ministry.
How are staff being supported during this time?
The boards have recognised that this is a difficult time for existing staff. Chaplaincy and employment support has been provided. The staff have been given 12 months notice that their positions will cease and lay staff have been offered appropriate redundancy entitlements.
We hope this explains some of the concerns that have been raised across the church. Our process is continuing and many decisions still need to be made about job descriptions and where some work will be located.
We will be consulting with appropriate Synod and presbytery staff and other leaders, as we consolidate the shape of the new board and ask for your patience as we continue with our work.
Roger Webb and Peter Godwin for the Boards of Education and Mission.