JEFFERSON CITY—When the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board received the Organizational Study Group (OSG) Report in April, a general framework and direction for moving forward with a new structure was placed in waiting for a new executive director to review.
One of the more challenging of the five recommendations is the call to implement a new structure that is streamlined and philosophically decentralized. MBC Interim Executive Director Jay Hughes has taken those words seriously to the point where Spencer Hutson, who is over the realignment of the former Church Health team and the Church Ministries team, now has a key assignment.
Hutson, who revealed details of his assignment July 11 to the Executive Board work group that supervises him, said the top priority is to elevate the prominence of networks, both existing and those yet to be created, as a primary means of multiplying the work of MBC specialists.
“We’re in research and development,” he said. “We’re trying to find out who’s out there, how can we do this, and how can we enable them to do that.”
OSG members concluded in their study of other organizations that many were starting to use more volunteers and contract workers and fewer full-time convention employees. “Full-time employees in these organizations were generalists, rather than specialists,” the report said. It was then suggested that the MBC use more contract workers and volunteers rather than employing specialists.
Hutson, who has been under five different executive directors as either a full-time or part-time MBC staffer for 28 years, said he will be testing things.
“I will be kind of leading the charge, but I will also be doing it for my areas,” he said, referring mainly to Cooperative Program and Stewardship. “Lead alongside, work with them on it, we’re in this together. It’s not me telling them what to do. I actually have to learn the process and do it at the same time with my areas of ministry.”
The OSG Report also called for the development of a web-based resource center. Hutson said a lot of this is being done under the heading of “online/media,” with a plan in August to launch the process of collaboration with Media/Tech groups and communications.
“We have 80 percent of our churches nearly that are bi-vocational that can’t come to meetings,” Hutson said. “So this media/online thing becomes something I can look at at 10:30 at night after I’ve got the kids to bed and before I go to sleep and go to work the next day. We’ve got a bunch of those guys out there.”
The new MBC may end up being summarized like this: You have a question, we know a source.
“We’ve checked them out,” Hutson said. “We trust them. So you’re going to be a broker, to some degree, of ministries.”
A measure of success once the seven-person Church Ministries team completes its work would be multiplication, Hutson said, or “to be able to touch more churches and associations than we have been able to by just doing it through specialists. Even though we have less people, we hope to be able to do more through the resource center.”
On a case-by-case basis in MBC life, networks are already replacing specialists. Two examples of this are in women’s ministry/Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union service (three leading consultants), and worship (nine regional consultants). The local worship leaders will be on display on the platform at this year’s annual meeting at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach. At some point, Hutson said, a coordinator or coordinators will need to be designated in that group.
Existing partnerships are also being examined for strengths that can be highlighted, Hutson said. With a sentence in the OSG Report calling for MBC staff to partner with local leaders rather than direct them, the focus is on MBC leaders elevating the prominence of networks. As for specialists, the realities of attrition (leaving), transition (being called elsewhere), and an ongoing hiring freeze remain in place even as more and more questions about service are being asked internally.
“We are looking closely at everything we do to determine if it is necessary, effective, and is there a better way to accomplish the ministry,” Hutson said.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor