Regional News

Congregations and Leader Development Focus Of Proposed New Regional Ministry

November 14, 2020 Published by Neil Topliffe

A comprehensive time of study and discernment over the past year has provided a draft model for moving the Michigan Region into a more viable ministry with a focus on congregations and leadership support with a dispersed staffing of regional leaders.

The plan under consideration proposes five objectives and would move to a model with a part-time regional minister and three stipend supported regional associates serving churches in geographic areas of the state. The plan would include strengthening peer support of our ministers and build upon program support in serving congregations in three district clusters.

“We still have challenges before us,” said Neil Topliffe, chair of the Vision 2021 & Beyond Task Group, “but I am optimistic that this plan provides the region with a working road map. I believe that over the next five years it can give us fiscal viability. And, at the same time, within geographic districts, it will move us toward doing a much better job of supporting our ministers and congregations with quality skill development and program.”

The plan objectives include providing a focused direction for our future ministry and witness as Michigan Disciples. It recognizes the severe decline of most of our congregations in the region, calling us to provide direct program support and development of congregations by creating dispersed leadership in districts “as instruments of collaborative inquiry.” The plan also provides direction toward recreating an economic model of the region that allows it to become sustainable within five years. The model includes the potential sale or lease of the regional office and working in leased space within a local church and staff offices in homes.

Focus is also given to developing a strong clergy peer support system and a program for training lay leaders to become commissioned ministers that can serve smaller congregations. An additional objective takes advantage of the diversity of our region that can help us as the body of Christ to address systemic racism.

A two-page Capacity Plan Executive Summary and the full 21-page Capacity Plan fleshes out the objectives with projected outcomes and timelines. “This continues to be a fluid plan” said Topliffe, “moving toward an implementation decision by the Regional Board January 16 and Regional Assembly in May.” Opportunities for further review and input from our clergy and local church leaders is scheduled for January and February. The Vision 2021… Task Group will begin fine tuning the direction of the plan in the coming weeks and continue well into the new year.

Congregations, members and clergy are invited to preview the documents and make comments even now – send them to Neil Topliffe at

Documents available for download: