Bishop Shares 2024 Goals for the West Virginia Conference


By Sandra Steiner Ball

Happy New Year, West Virginia Conference!!!

As we begin this new year together, let me share with you a biblical vision:

“The desert and the dry land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like the crocus.”

Isaiah 35:1 CEB

As the lights and celebration of the Christmas season fade in our minds, we may be tempted to fall into a desert-like mind set. We are still working toward overcoming the impact of COVID. There are many denominational questions which make some very anxious. There are wars globally and the violence that comes with racism, sexism, substance use disorder, economic injustice, and creation injustice meet us in some way almost every day. Add to that – this is an election year in the United States creating even deeper polarization and unrest. If you are feeling in a desert place, in a dry place, then I want to remind you that God is working for good in your life and in this world! The desert and the dry places will be glad!  The wilderness places, the places of worry, anxiety, and doubt will rejoice, will be transformed, will have life, and will blossom like the wildflowers that bring so much beauty to the hills and valleys of the great and majestic West Virginia Hills!

Recently, the Bishop’s Cabinet met and established a set of goals for our Conference. This is something that hasn’t been attempted in quite a while, but that has resulted in a true biblical vision for our conference to strive for through measurable and achievable goals. It provides the pathway for us to see the beauty in the desert and usher in the new life that exists just below the surface.

This goal-setting process has brought about a renewed sense of gladness and will result in tender stems of new life, buds that will blossom, and places and people who will take root, grow, and rejoice! How will we get there? Through three goals: Connection, Discipleship, and New Places New People. (Read the 2024 West Virginia Conference Goals)

Connection. Good things happen when we discover that we are better together. We have been able to feed, clothe, provide shelter and medical care – when we have connected and worked together.  Congregations have connected to help close to 10 families from the Ukraine resettle and find new life in West Virginia. We have brought new life and hope by connecting with schools, first responders, hospitals, and other churches and outreach ministries in our communities in a variety of ways. 

GOAL: We will build on the biblical vision and our value of connection in this new year. To strengthen our connection throughout the West Virginia Conference, we have a goal to equip and certify at least 10 lighthouse congregations.

These congregations will help us share best practices and learnings, and training resources with every congregation in the West Virginia Conference.  You will hear more about this soon! (Check out this Portico course to learn more: Lighthouse Congregations)

Discipleship. Discipleship goes hand in hand with our value of connection. A second component of living into the biblical vision and a second goal in this new year necessarily addresses our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ. 

GOAL: Because the world needs us to be more like Jesus, we will build upon the foundation of prayer to transition 49 current expressions of faith formation into the Wesleyan model of class meetings with a focus on the Bible. 

The response to Dynamite Prayer in September was overwhelming! Prayer is the foundation upon which we build this goal. Wesley’s class meeting style brings with it an emphasis on the Bible, more discussion than presentation, and accountability for growing in discipleship. This is a goal that can help Sunday School classes, small groups, and other faith formation groups to “kick it up” a notch for Jesus! 

New Places, New People. Our third Conference goal builds upon what has already begun and acknowledges that God is already at work among us.

GOAL: In response to Jesus’ call for us to go where people are, we will equip, resource, and support the launching 15 New Places, New People efforts connected to existing congregations/charges.

This goal relates to both connection and discipleship as New Places, New People efforts strengthen both – our connection with one another and the communities we serve and discipleship as we intentionally reach new people for Christ.

Yes, these goals provide a clear biblical vision. One where I see the wild and wonderful hills and valley of West Virginia and Garrett County Maryland come alive with new growth, with tender shoots, and new blossoms. It is a vision in the midst of a challenging world that calls us to move through the challenges and into gladness – for indeed the Lord, Jesus Christ, is and will do great things among us. It is a vision of hope, promise, and new life! 

Mother Teresa once said, “Prayer changes us; we change the world.”  May we pray together and live into the Biblical Vision that is as fresh, relevant, glad, and powerful today as it was in the time of Isaiah!

May it be so!
Bishop Sandra