Saturday, 13 December 2014

Jesus Centre Managers' Forum

It's a meeting I look forward to.  Our Jesus Centres probably carry most autonomy of all our local activities.  So, we need intentional cooperation to prevent isolation, mission drift and 'reinventing the wheel'.  Every three months the managers come together, rotating the meetings between our four Centres.  The agenda is flexible, except at the end of year when we carry out a structured review, as befits an efficient charity.

This year we gathered against the backdrop of our financial pressures.  Two weeks ago, the Trustees' Exec met - for the first time since our establishment.  Chairman John had produced an excellent synopsis.  Treasurer Mike had reviewed and commented on the big-ticket items in each Centre's 2015 budgets.

Overnight, following the Financial Summit, I'd stayed at Kings House.  I'd pleasantly spent the evening with Andrew, Ellen and crew.  First thing in the morning I'd texted birthday greetings to her and Kat - they're seven years apart.  (Vodaphone let me down on the second text, but that's a whole nother story.)

On the way to Central Offices, I'd picked up a load of distribution from John Fervent's vending machine company customer.  The Forum meeting was eased along with samples of (lurid pink) green tea and peach cordial, pomegranate juice, and Mars mixtures.  The remainder will find its way to Sheffield Jesus Centre.

We have two tricky objectives to meet: to continue to enable the vision for congregations to run Centres, and to ensure these are sustainable.  So, it's expansion and consolidation at the same time, with the seeming contradiction this implies.  John spoke of the difference between limbs being lopped off and being pruned.  He steered us through the financial constraints (nothing new to the voluntary sector!), and income targets.

Then on to the work on the ground.  Each Centre was able to report progress in 2014, though successes weren't equal.  The common thread is a drift away from fully meeting annual costs, and a sense that we're on the limit with volunteer input.  So the message really is one of resetting our expectations so we live within our means - in the total meaning of the expression.  And communicating this positively, while aspiring to be more effective with what we've got.  Finally, after a couple of years of frustration, opening a Centre in Birmingham is now within our reach.

After lunch it was time to fix our objectives, likely obstacles and mitigation for 2015.  Managers are emerging as teams getting on top their responsibilities.  Northampton Jesus Centre now has strong local staff, London is looking brighter, Coventry have freshened up their service offerings and Sheffield now tends to a measure of realism.

So, much to do.  For me it starts with our own local Management Committee Exec meeting this  Sunday, followed by Coventry's equivalent on Monday evening.  But we're all in it together, and God's in it, too.

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