Many of you have learned over the past few days of decisions at Disciples Home Missions (DHM) to reduce the size of our staff. Declines in Disciples Mission Fund giving, as well as investment income, have called us into a new era of accountability and realignment.
I want you to know that Disciples Home Missions has been involved in an almost two-year process of evaluating its ministries in light of the changing landscape of denominational structures and life. Regular reports on the state of the church as it relates to congregational life and vitality have been presented to the General Board, the DHM Board of Directors, and to the DHM staff.
Through collaborative efforts with staff and other ministry partners, Disciples Home Missions and its leadership are acting with faith and compassion even in the midst of severe financial restraints. Even though our ministry on your behalf will be smaller and differently organized, it will continue to reach out effectively and with excellence to our church and to our ecumenical and interfaith partners.
It is with a deep sense of regret that I had to recently inform Carl and Robin Zerweck, Karen Jones, Tod Iseminger, Susan Galasso and Angela Herrmann of the difficult decision to release them from employment. An administrative assistant position vacated in July 2010 will remain unfilled.
As a gift to the Church, as well as to DHM, Lois Robinson, a 30+ year employee of DHM, will take early retirement, effective Dec. 31, 2010. Her voluntary decision to retire early is truly a gift of love to DHM and to the Church.
Each of these individuals has served the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) through Disciples Home Missions with distinction. I applaud their years of service to the Church and pray that God will open doors of opportunity to each of them.
Despite our unfortunate need to eliminate positions at this point, it is DHM’s commitment to continue a high level of ministry service – often in new ways – in those areas where direct staff had been engaged.
For example, our new DHM website, in operation since mid-year 2010, provides a user-friendly environment allowing non-technically trained staff to easily make changes and updates.
Our Office of Disciples Volunteering (ODV) will continue, with some adjustments, to reach out to those in need and meet obligations previously planned in such places as Galveston and San Antonio, Texas and Nashville, Tenn. The Assistant to the Director of the Office of Disciples Volunteering is working with our long-term volunteers and ministry partners to ensure the continuation of the momentum established over these past ten years.
Ministry to Disciples youth, young adults and men will still be supported by DHM through new models of partnership with regions and existing leadership groups such as councils, commissions, executive committees and steering committees. Already in place is a model of empowering youth leadership in regional settings through a liaison relationship with DHM. Plans are underway to utilize this model for youth participation at the 2011 General Assembly in Nashville, Tenn. in July and at the International Christian Youth Fellowship (ICYF) in 2012 at Lynchburg College.
Disciples Men are organizing a gathering called, “What is the Future of Men’s Ministries in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)?," to be held later this fall or in the winter of 2011 as well as the “Xtreme Faith-Bold Action: A Gathering of Disciples Men” at Bethany College, July 13-15, 2012.
We are committed to think of ongoing ways to enhance ministry to all parts of the Church, even during these times. We ask that you keep Disciples Home Missions in your prayers as we move through this time of transition and change. I especially invite you to lift up in prayer those colleagues who have been impacted by these changes. In the coming year at least two other DHM staff members who have given years of distinguished service to the Church also will retire.
I once heard it said that the only constant of our life is change. My prayer is that together we might meet the changes and challenges before us with grace and compassion, and with an ever-deepening faith in God and God’s love for us and the Church.
Ronald J. Degges, President
Disciples Home Missions