By Sam Royappa and Don Greer
The concept of Circuit Ministry is deeply embedded in the history of United Methodists. In 1746, our Founder John Wesley organized local churches as “societies,” which were formally called “circuits” under the care of one or more pastors or ministers. Those circuits were the origin for today’s familiar word “connection” within our denomination. The early circuits were primarily based on a geographic area where local churches were located. Later on, the Wesley brothers developed Bands and Class Meetings that functioned as accountability groups.
In the Wisconsin Annual Conference, Circuit Ministry is the method used for developing church ministry differently and creatively. With the recent restructuring of the Conference to five districts, the circuits have been adjusted for size and affinity, and now number 77. Strategic leadership for Circuit Ministry is provided by Don Greer, the Coordinator of Circuit Ministry, and Sam Royappa, the Director of Congregational Development, in collaboration with the District Superintendents.
Rev. Royappa was part of the original transformation team when Circuit Ministry was launched in 2004. Since 2012, Circuit Ministry is being reframed in light of the Imagining Wisconsin Anew vision. Changes are also based on extensive research conducted by Rev. Greer on the existing practices and challenges of circuits. Circuit Ministry continues to be about relationships, connections, and cooperation for ministry in communities. Successful Circuit Ministry will result in making disciples of Jesus Christ, revitalization of congregations, and the development of new faith communities.
Alignment is the key for moving forward with the Circuit Ministry within the framework of Imagining Wisconsin Anew, and it continues to challenge ministry in isolation. As Circuit Ministry is being redeveloped, Laity Circuit Teams are being formed to partner with Clergy Circuit Teams for the purpose of identifying potential new ministries. Clergy Circuit Teams continue as support and accountability groups, as well as learning forums for community engagement practices and transformational ministry for local church vitality. Laity Circuit Teams will focus on community study and idea development for new ministry possibilities, in other words, they are looking for how new missions can reshape the church.
Circuit teams, both lay and clergy, can be resourced by the Discipleship Leadership Team and other boards (such as the Board of Laity and Board of Ordained Ministry), creating synergy and alignment within our Conference. Alignment comes when diversity shares a common purpose and focus. Churches are filled with a variety of generations, nationalities, preferences and backgrounds. As Thom S. Ranier and Eric Geiger put it, “Unity is best expressed in the midst of diversity. That is when it is clear that God is the one united people.”
Prayer for Circuit Ministry
God of Circuit Ministry, thank you for nurturing the United Methodist congregations in Wisconsin through the gifts of visions, dreams, and plans for creative ministries. As we move forward with a strategic plan and a redefined purpose, we pray for your guidance at every step. Grant us clarity of vision and passion to be Christ’s body for the world. Strengthen our connections for transforming our communities. Renew us to work as partners-in-mission. Lead us. Love us. Challenge us. Support us. Amen!