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Published on December 30th, 2013 | by ABCUSA

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It’s Just Conversation: A Reflection

The below blog was written by Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, associate general secretary for Regional Ministries, ABCUSA. Blogs written by ABCUSA Leadership Team members will be published periodically on the website. Views expressed are the sole opinion of the author. (Want to submit a blog for publication? Email bridget.holmstrom@abc-usa.org.

People appreciate opportunities for conversation.  Perhaps not all types of conversation; seldom do people enjoy being talked down to, or being verbally mistreated, or trying to get a word into the conversation when someone else is monopolizing it.  But, when everyone in the conversation is included, their opinions are valued, and the subject matter truly appeals to each person in circle, conversations are genuinely treasured.

That is what happened at our recent ABC Mission Summit and Mission Table events.  These two events surfaced as ABC experiments that grew out of the dreams and hopes of the former General Executive Council (now the National Leadership Council).  This staff group that put together a restructuring plan for the ABC envisioned people coming together sharing their concerns, insights, learnings, and desires with one another around ministry topics for which they hold a passion.  I am pleased to say that these experiments worked.  Over 1,000 people chose to participate in the mission summit conversations held in June in Overland Park, Kansas; and an invited group of 92 persons came together at Green Lake in mid-November to hold conversation about passionate ministry topics.  Over 95% of the people attending these two events said that the events met or exceeded their expectations for conversation.

As one person was leaving the mission table event, he turned to me and expressed great appreciation for the opportunity to engage in these conversations, then paused and said, “But it’s not rocket science, right?  It’s just conversation.”  It is just conversation.  Over 100 people stepped up to volunteer as conversation facilitators and read through training materials and attended orientations.  Numerous people responded to surveys indicating what ministry topics touch their appetites for ministry.  Planning teams had monthly phone calls, staff and even hotel managers cut table paper, made table signs, and distributed supplies.  Busy people with busy lives took time out of their busy schedules to come to Green Lake in November in below freezing temperatures.  But in the end; it is just conversation.

There remains much to be done.  David Cushman, Director of the American Baptist Computer Center, is continuing to create the infrastructure for the conversations to continue electronically.  Point persons from the final groups that grew out of the mission table are receiving training and encouragement to continue those online conversations.  The mission summit planning team is brainstorming ways of sharing the learnings from these conversations; new surveys are being designed and new planning teams are emerging for the next round of conversation; but in the end, it is just conversation.  Or is it?

Perhaps these conversations are more than words or merely ideas.  Perhaps they are the beginnings of a new way of getting things done in the ABC.  Perhaps they are a way to create a room full of empowered experts rather than relying on one person to have all of the answers.  Perhaps they represent new ways to discern what God is doing and can do among us?  In the end, it is just conversation.  Is it?


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