By: Christa Meland
It’s important to Rev. Sarah Lawton to have outstanding curriculum for the Bible studies she leads each week at her church—Northeast United Methodist in Minneapolis—but she doesn’t have a big budget for such resources.
Thanks to the Resource Center for Churches (RCC), she doesn’t need one. The RCC is a network of United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and United Church of Christ congregations in Minnesota. Gathering their wisdom, the RCC recommends and shares web, video, print, curriculum, and other resources for all areas of church life. All Minnesota United Methodist clergy, staff, and lay leaders are welcome to contact the RCC for access to a wide variety of outstanding ministry resources and free consultation. Access to the RCC is funded through apportionment dollars.
Lizabeth Bougie is the RCC’s executive director. Educated at Yale University, the University of Chicago Divinity School, and Luther Seminary, she served as a children’s minister and hospital chaplain before joining the RCC.
“The field of ministry resources is overwhelming,” said Bougie. “Searching for excellent, theologically appropriate resources is a time-consuming and daunting task. It is tempting to keep relying on trusted resources from the past, or try the first thing that appears. But accessing quality resources that fit is a key to vibrant ministry. And the RCC frees you to spend less time thinking about how to minister and more time doing ministry.”
Lizabeth and one other part-time staff person are there to listen, find resources that meet the specific goals of individual congregations, and suggest creative ways to use them. In this technology age, the resources they might recommend are just as likely to be a blog post, an online video, a podcast, an approach, or an idea as they are a book or a traditional curriculum. (View some recommended community outreach resources to get a sense for the types of recommendations you might receive.) Bougie also meets with groups—including the Christian Educators Fellowship—to recommend relevant resources.
How the RCC can help you
Through the RCC, you can:
• Borrow materials: This includes a huge assortment of DVD and print resources—as well as canvas labyrinths. You can browse the RCC’s offerings and check out items from its physical location in the Minnesota Church Center, or staff will mail resources directly to you.
• Receive relevant recommendations: RCC staff welcome questions in-person or via e-mail, phone or video conference; they take time to understand your church—and then find resources that meet your goals and offer ways to use them.
• Find ecumenical resources for all areas of church life: The RCC lifts up quality, appropriate resources from a huge array of ecumenical and denominational sources across the mainline. The RCC has a strong history of work with faith formation of young people and adult small groups, but it addresses every ministry area, including leadership and vitality, worship planning, stewardship, pastoral care, communications, and outreach to the neighborhood and world.
• Benefit from the wisdom of other RCC users: When you contact the RCC, you tap into a wide network of partner congregations rather than relying on one “expert.” The RCC gathers and shares the wisdom of other users.
Hear it firsthand
United Methodist leaders who use the RCC say it’s saved them time and helped them gain access to better resources than they would have been able to find on their own.
“I simply tell Lizabeth what I’m even imagining teaching or preparing, and she always comes up with multiple options that I can take home, look through, ponder, choose from, and then return the others that don't work for me,” said Lawton, who also borrows RCC items for personal enjoyment. “I can't afford to buy all of the books I want to read, and frankly, I don't need to. I'm trying to build a spiritual practice of sharing and care for the environment. I don't need to own something in order to appreciate it. I can take home, try out, think through, and then give it all back. Less is totally more—over and over again!”
Rev. Donna Draeger, minister of disciple formation at Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville, also uses the RCC on a regular basis. Earlier this year, when her congregation was looking to add to its own library books about ministering to people with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals, she turned to Bougie, who provided many excellent recommendations.
“I think the Resource Center does an outstanding job of staying on top of the best and the most current resources,” said Draeger, who especially appreciates being able to learn about great ecumenical resources. “Lizabeth is just amazing. I look to her as a prescreening. I get flooded with ads for this and ads for that, and I think, ‘Is this the right fit for my particular setting?’ She’s on top of all of that. Instead of having to spend hours going down a rabbit hole looking for stuff, she recommends the best print and online resources.”
How to connect
The RCC is open Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m., and by appointment. Here are four ways to connect with the RCC:
• Visit the RCC website to see what’s new and spark your imagination; check out curated lists of best resources by topic; and let the curriculum page guide you through the maze of options.
E-mail the RCC with any ministry question, or call (612) 870-0861.
• “Like” the RCC on Facebook to see resources, articles, and ideas relevant to your congregation.
• Sign up for the RCC e-newsletter to see recommended new and seasonal resources.
“I love my work because I see how great resources transform us,” said Bougie. “I really believe they are a means of grace. An idea, an image or film, a person, a post or book—remember a resource that has shown you a way, given you new vision, taken your ministry deeper? We want to connect you with these sources, and help you find ways to make them sing in your context. . .We have the chance to expand imaginations about what can happen at church.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church