How Will Recent Changes to United Methodist Women Affect Local Women?
The 2012 General Conference allowed United Methodist Women to separate from the General Board of Global Ministries and become an official independent organization within the United Methodist Church.
Since then, many members have been inquiring about how this historic action will impact local United Methodist Women.
While the 2012 General Conference adopted changes related to the structure of United Methodist Women on the district, conference and national levels, it did not approve any changes to local units of United Methodist Women.
And so, local units will continue under the guidelines of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2008 (¶ 256.5) and the United Methodist Women handbook.
The 2013-2016 United Methodist Women Handbook ($12.50), off press in January 2013, explains the flexibility available to local United Methodist Women to organize for mission. Here’s a synopsis of some of the ways local United Methodist Women can organize.
Local United Methodist Women organization
United Methodist Women is organized according to the group’s need and size. Most United Methodist Women groups relate to a local church. Each local organization of United Methodist Women should have a leadership team, which at minimum consists of a:
- Chair, committee on nominations (The Book of Discipline, 2008, cf. 256.5).
Local groups chose additional leaders and form other committees or task forces as needed.
Organizational Options and Opportunities
Subgroups and circles
Forming subgroups or circles allows members an opportunity to focus on special mission interests in smaller groups. They provide greater flexibility and freedom for participation, nurture and leadership development.
Some women find that their circle is their primary connection for prayer, study and spiritual growth. Subgroups and circles may relate to the local organization by selecting representatives to be members or connect with the leadership team and/or other committees, as appropriate.
Cluster or charge groups
Smaller groups in a local church may be strengthened by joining with United Methodist Women members in other churches to form a charge or cluster or other regional group.
Social networking through UMWOnline.net provides yet another way to organize and connect with others with a passion for mission. The primary purpose of the online community is to enhance the ways in which we connect and communicate with one another.
Accepting a leadership role requires a commitment of time, energy and effort. But in return, you develop a deeper understanding of mission, grow spiritually and are sustained by the knowledge that you are making a difference in the lives of women, children and youth and addressing unjust systems.
The local organization should be structured so that the work of administration, finance, program planning, planning for mission, record keeping and nominations can be carried out. A member must be named president, and she — or someone named by the team — must serve as the contact person for the district organization and serve on the local church council.
The leadership team assigns responsibilities for all basic functions. It includes the following persons:
- Vice president
- Chair, committee on nominations
- Member at large
- Pastor (ex-officio)
Other persons may also be recruited to plan programs of spiritual growth, mission education and advocacy work according to the needs of your group and community. Others might organize programs for individual study and hands-on mission.
Each organization should recruit leaders needed to make sure opportunities for spiritual growth, mission education, leadership development, service and advocacy are available to members throughout the year.
Elected leadership responsibilities and duties
The president, treasurer, chair of the committee on nominations and secretary of the local organization each have a counterpart in the district and conference organizations of United Methodist Women. Your district counterpart will be available to give you practical advice about how to carry out your duties and will be a source of support as you learn more about being a leader of United Methodist Women. They will provide training and give advice.
Term and tenure of elected leaders
Leaders are elected for terms that are determined by their local or district unit. Tenure, the maximum amount of time a woman may serve, is described in the bylaws of United Methodist Women, which are in the handbook.
Tasks of mission
Mission is and has been at the heart of the organization for more than 140 years. Our mission tasks grow out of the United Methodist Women vision and outcomes and offer a way for local groups to organize themselves.
I hope this is helpful to local United Methodist Women members organizing to put their faith, hope and love into action.
Marva Usher-Kerr is executive for membership for United Methodist Women (firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-870-3738).