Introducing the Future Directions Task Force

National, area church leaders come together to ponder ministry in an era of decreasing donations from local congregations

Deborah Froese | Mennonite Church Canada

How to financially sustain ministry is a topic of discussion for at least six national church bodies in Canada, including Mennonite Church Canada.

MC Canada and its five area churches—MC British Columbia, MC Alberta, MC Saskatchewan, MC Manitoba and MC Eastern Canada—are responding to this question by collaboratively establishing a Future Directions Task Force.

MC Canada executive director Willard Metzger connects with a wide range of faith leaders through the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Council of Churches. “Wherever I go and whoever I visit in the broader community of faith in Canada, whether mainstream or evangelical, I hear the same thing,” he says. “Leaders are trying to confront the impact of declining donations to their national bodies.”

The newly created task force will discern how the national and area churches together in their current form can be sustainable into the future. They will explore whether current programs, structures and strategies may need to change to best serve the church moving forward. It emerged from an 18-month period of informal consultation between leaders of the area churches and the national church, and discussions with pastors, church members and young adults.

Members of the task force were selected to represent a diversity of backgrounds and geographical regions across the country. From left to right, top row: April Yamasaki, pastor, Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford, BC; Chad Miller, associate pastor, Foothills Mennonite Church, Calgary; Gerald Gerbrandt, past president of Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg; Ken Warkentin, executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba; and Rebecca Steiner, enrichment coordinator at Community Mennonite Church, Stouffville, Ont.; and bottom row: Terry Keller, MC Eastern Canada Executive Board; Aldred Neufeldt, task force chair and assistant moderator of MC Canada; Hilda Hildebrand, moderator, MC Canada (ex officio member); and Willard Metzger, executive director, MC Canada (ex officio member). Not pictured: Gail Schellenberg, regional superintendent of schools in Saskatchewan, formerly principal of church schools in Winnipeg, and Rosthern, Sask.

“We see ourselves accountable to both the area churches and Mennonite Church Canada,” says Aldred Neufeldt, task force chair and vice-moderator of MC Canada.

“Area and national church leaders have come to the conclusion that current programs and systems are not sustainable in the long-term,” says Hilda Hildebrand, MC Canada moderator. “While congregations are generous, and giving has increased in many of them, gifts toward ministries at the area church and national level continue to decline.”

As the task force pursues its work, it will confer with a broad spectrum of church members and supporters, young adults and congregations comprised of new Canadians. Small working groups selected for their expertise will be invited to prepare study papers on a variety of relevant issues.

What the end result will look like is not known at this time, says Metzger, but every effort is being made to remain objective and hopeful.

“I’m not gloomy about the future of the church,” says Ken Warkentin, Future Directions Task Force member and executive director of MC Manitoba. “I believe in God.”

The task force anticipates bringing a report to delegates at the 2014 MC Canada assembly.

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