Change is coming!
With the possible exception of “The biopsy was positive,” I don’t know if there’s a more frightening sentence in the English language. But, make no mistake, change is indeed coming to the way that conference ministry is done in the Iowa Conference.
This point was driven home to me, ironically enough, while I was driving home one night not too long ago. I left home that morning before sunrise and now, some thirteen hours, three hundred miles, two meetings and three fast-food meals eaten in the car, I was still a hundred miles from home. While I dragged myself that last hundred miles, I began to think about the resources that had been consumed that day. As I did so, I began to really understand the truth of something that Dr. Pleva had been saying for months. Doing conference ministry the way it has always been done is no longer a sustainable practice.
There are multiple reasons why our present model of conference ministry is unsustainable.
- It’s expensive. For decades the real value of the dollars available to support conference ministry in Iowa has declined. In the last couple of years, however, the actual number of dollars available has begun to decline as well. Even as the dollars available to support such activities become less valuable and scarcer, the cost of conducting the activities continues to increase. One example: I was called to conference ministry in 2007. At that time, the IRS estimated that it cost $0.48½ per mile to operate a car. In 2012, that cost is $0.55½. We drive our vehicles between 3,500 and 5,000 miles per month. Using the 3,500 miles/month figure, what cost us just over $20,000 per year per vehicle in 2007 will cost us over $23,000 per year in 2012. As mileage increases, so does cost. And that is just for the cars. Because of the time we spend driving through cities and towns, stopping for gas, eating meals and similar activities, I seriously doubt that we average as much as 50 mph when we travel. Even at 50 mph, however, 3,500 miles per month is 70 hours of driving. Ignoring the opportunity cost of activities unperformed while we drive, the personnel cost to the Conference of operating one vehicle for 70 hours per month is well over $2,000. That’s an annual cost in excess of $24,000. I recognize that these figures are not precise and are only as accurate as the assumptions I have made to calculate them, but that works out to $47,000 per year per vehicle. That’s what it costs the Conference for each of us to travel from meeting to meeting throughout the state.
- It’s inefficient. Even though we try to multi-task (I recently caught myself driving down Highway 3 eating lunch with one hand, checking my e-mail with another hand and driving with my knees), there is really nothing productive you can safely do while you drive except drive.
- It’s soul deadening. After you’ve made the drive from Sioux City to Shenandoah or Des Moines to Kahoka or Baldwin to Fort Madison (or any other place in Iowa where we have a church—the destination doesn’t much matter) once, there isn’t much to see or do the next ten or twenty or fifty times you make that same drive except fight to stay awake and alert. After awhile, that struggle really starts to wear.
For all these reasons and more that I don’t have the time or space to list, your Conference staff has been working hard over the last 8-12 months to rethink the way we do Conference ministry. We are starting to implement some of the fruits of this work already and will be doing more in the coming months. We are not alone in this work, however, and we greatly value your input in how we can do this work better, more efficiently, more cost effectively. We invite you to share your thoughts and ideas with us.
The reality is that change in the way we relate and work together is inevitable whether we want it or not. Do we work together to ensure that this change comes in an orderly, well thought out and intentional way? Or do we turn our backs on that inevitability and let events direct us rather than vice versa?
Change is coming. Do we embrace it or do we get run over?
Tony Stoik, Associate Conference Minister/Western Iowa