James (Jim) Kraemer is superintendent of the newly-merged (since 2009) Dakota and Minnesota District. Previously, he was superintendent of what was then the Dakota District. Learn more about the joys and challenges of leading districts through a merger.
How many Nazarene churches are on the new district?
Counting NewStarts, 69.
What is the mood on the district?
The overall atmosphere of the churches seems to be positive.
Is it a challenge to manage churches spread over the large area?
The farthest churches are about eight hours away from the home base.
Former Minnesota District Superintendent Richard Sickels retired and happens to live on the eastern edge of the district. We appreciate his support and ongoing help.
What are the benefits of a merger?
Shared resources. Plus, the fact that we can do so much with technology. We have held some church board meetings, as well as some district advisory board meetings, via video conferencing.
I think we're able to cover more territory because of technology. In the Dakotas even before the merger, the Nazarene Youth International (NYI) council was meeting by Skype.
Explain more about the shared resources.
The combined district has strengths that the separate districts did not have. For example, Minnesota had strong multicultural emphasis that was new to us in the Dakotas. And the Dakota District had a strong successful emphasis with NewStarts.
Dan Braaten is our coordinator for NewStart ministry. He started with the Dakota District and then worked with Minnesota. So that was in place at the time the districts joined. Also, Minnesota had an Hispanic coordinator. The finances are shared.
Geography seemed to be the only negative factor with the merger. The way the district advisory board guided us in that was to appoint nine mission zone leaders, who call themselves 'zone czars.'
The zone leaders do what on the district?
They help me equip and encourage pastors in their areas, conduct some meetings, and do some troubleshooting. Our goal is that they will keep the zone family connected.
How do you deal with pastoral burnout?
We're promoting sabbaticals. We try to make pastor and spouse retreats a relaxing time. And part of our zone emphasis is to better track with pastors and see how they're doing.
What about camps and district assembly?
We'll have stronger teen and children's camps because we're combining those. Those will be at a camp in North Dakota. Our family camp-district assembly will be in Minnesota at the location they have had for a number of years. The one thing I have heard is that the people do not want to give up their family camp.
How were district leadership groups handled in the merger?
We've used all of the leadership teams from both districts. At our first combined assembly we'll establish the leadership team.
One thing that is important is that there is a sense of unity and a momentum that will help us grow and reach new people. Morale is good.
Why Merge Districts?
'I don't believe there is a singular reason for district mergers. In some cases there have been demographic shifts creating the need for new boundaries. Economics play a significant role. From our earliest days as a denomination, we have recognized the need for the superintendency. However, the role is undergoing some shifts in concept and model. Many district superintendents now work through area coordinators. This allows superintendents to focus on district and local church development. In this way, they are able to superintend a larger number of churches.' - David P. Wilson, general secretary
Note: As of August 2010, the district's name is Prairie Lakes.