The Future of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference

The late Peter Drucker, often called “the man who invented management”, a world-renown management consultant and theorist, taught that every enterprise, mission, business, and organization has two fundamental questions to ask itself:

  1. What business are we in?
  2. How’s business?

These are pertinent questions for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Our annual conference takes as its own mission the overall mission of the UMC:

“To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

So, how are we doing?

Northern Illinois Annual Conference Statistics (20 year period)

Year                Professing Members                      Average Worship Attendance

1998                           125,017                                              48,379

2018                           77,497                                               26,059
                                 – 38%                                                  – 46%

Every church member, clergy, and local congregation should be aware of the future of the Northern Illinois Conference and of what will be the Post-Separation United Methodist Church. Taking a guess about the future of the Northern Illinois Conference can be wildly off the mark when the future actually arrives, but the simple fact of our dramatic membership and attendance decline, the mission statement of our annual conference notwithstanding, lead to only one conclusion:

The Northern Illinois Conference is going out of business.

The organizational decline of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference will lead to other “going out of business” dynamics common to all failing organizations:

  1. Consolidation: The loss of a “resident bishop” and the merger with another annual conference.
  2. Fiscal Distress: The continuing shrinkage of annual conference programming, staff, and resources as financial resources dry up.
  3. Leadership Recruitment Challenges: Difficulty recruiting clergy. There are other, much better options than the NIC for called, committed, competent, and equipped leaders.

The future of the NIC is an important consideration when laity, clergy, and local congregations look to their decision about where to land as the UMC plans to separate into two of more “expressions of Methodism.”

When it comes to major change in any organization, including the anticipated separation of The United Methodist Church, the most popular option for local congregations, church members, and clergy will be: “Let’s just see – maybe this whole thing will blow over.” The path of least resistance – and least change – is always the most popular. In the case of local congregations choosing to “stay with the NIC”, it is also the path of continuing decline and organizational distress.

Charting a course for a vibrant and effective future in “making disciples for the transformation of the world” will require a significant change. The new traditionalist Methodist denomination has just such a committed, global, and vibrant future on the horizon. You can read about it here, Re-imagining the Passion of a Global Wesleyan Movement.

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REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

NIC Clergy/Retired
Resource Networking Coordinator
Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association

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