BIG words

BIG words

strategic priorities  wordle

This first exercise or engagement with our proposed strategic priorities for Iowa  comes with a word image.  I put the full document into a word cloud generator to see what we talk about the most and what that says about our work.

For this post… the words that stand out:  conference, communities, ministry, development, transform, work, faith, disciple

Our document is fundamentally about how we as the Iowa Conference function… where we are going and how we are going to get there.  So it is not surprising to see “conference” as a primary word.

The same goes for “communities.”  We talk both about communities of faith and being more present in our communities throughout the proposal. There was an intentional effort to not limit conversation to local churches or congregations but to broaden our definition to include new and developing immigrant faith communities, Wesley Foundations, camps, and other places where discipleship happens… even if it isn’t in an officially chartered congregation.

So the second part of that term, “faith” also is prominent.  But this word is also used in “bold steps of faith” and to lift up faithful people and to develop the faith of leaders and disciples.

The word “ministry” surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have.  In this proposal, we use the word in a lot of different ways, however… as a description of the activities we do (areas of ministry, the ministry of pastors, ministry with the poor), groups within the conference (Ministry Cabinet, School for Lay Ministry), but also as part of a description of place (rural ministry, ministry context).  These describe what we are doing, how we are doing it, and where we are doing it.

When we aren’t using the word ministry, we are using the word  “work” in this proposal.  We even talk about the work of ministry! This phrase describes who will work with whom (congregations working with the poor, CFA working with the Cabinet) as well as what that work looks like (work of peace and justice, work of intentional faith development).

Development” is a big part of our second priority – working to develop new and more effective leaders… both in terms of faith development, but also recognizing the need for asset-based community development.  It is internal and external to our walk with Jesus. Development also shows up as we discern where new communities of faith can be developed.

Next, “transform.”  This is the core of our document.  Change. New life. Resurrection.  This word captures transformation, transformational, transforming, transformed… you get the picture.  And it is all through the document.  Leaders who are transformed and transforming.  Communities of faith that are transforming their neighborhoods.  Our mission is to help transform the world.

Also not surprising, “disciple” makes a strong appearance.  Our mission is also to make disciples.  Whether we are talking about deepening our discipleship, making disciples, equipping leaders to disciple, or sending disciples into the world, this is a thread that runs through our proposal.



  • pastorron0407

    June 4, 2013 at 9:59 pm Reply

    I fear that the two words that jump out at me, Conference and Community, have slightly different meanings attached to them. When I read the document and see Conference in this setting I am fearful that there will continue to be a top down rollout of these strategies. A rollout where we in the trenches are not enabled to be nimble but rather to be bogged down following something developed and implemented by people who are at different places in ministry and life.

    Community is mentioned many times in this document. The communities we refer to throughout the first part of the document are traditional communities. These communities will be defined as they were forty plus years ago, when color tv was the cutting edge of communication. To move forward we need to redefine what makes up a community.

    I am afraid that many of these words probably need a definition to move forward. Words like community, disciple, faith, ministry,and mission are understood in many different ways.

    Keep up the great work, see you Friday.

    • Katie Z.

      June 5, 2013 at 10:21 am Reply

      Hi Ron,

      I read some of the work on communities of faith differently – what is it about the details that lead you to believe we are refering to traditional communities (congregations) and not new expressions of what it means to be church in new places?


      • pastorron0407

        June 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm

        You have a better handle on what is meant by “commuuties of faith.” I was wrong to define the phrase, I should have qualified the statement I wrote. As I re-read the Proposal I am trying to figure my own bias. I think that for a few years the UMC has put forth great effort to keep people from doing exactly what I did here. Despite the author’s “effort to not limit conversation to local churches or congregations,” it appears I did just that thing.

        I seem to be caught railing against myself. Even though it was wrong, I wonder if I am the only person that does/did this. Do others, for better or worse, read into this phrase? This is a valuable lesson for me and hopefully for others. I am reminded of my father-in-laws advice to me many years ago. God gave us two ears and one mouth, maybe I should listen twice as much as I talk.

        This exercise has been helpful and interesting for me. I hope that we as a Conference have the chance to really communicate together about this proposal. I hope that we can be as gracious to others as you were with me here.


      • Katie Z.

        June 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm

        That is my hope, also, Ron!

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