The Minnesota Annual Conference is shaking things up and changing lives for Christ.
On Wednesday afternoon, Annual Conference attendees learned about and celebrated a variety of Holy Spirit breakthroughs in our midst—places where we are shaking things up and changing people’s lives by helping them come to know Christ.
The conference is changing lives by starting a faith community in St. Michael. Abby Kammann, who is about to become a newly licensed local pastor, is leading the effort after feeling called to plant a church. (Watch video of her story.)
Hilltop UMC in Mankato is changing the lives of college students by starting a Wesley Foundation at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
The Wesley Center for Spirituality, Service, and Social Justice at Hamline University is changing lives by offering a three-week J-term class next January for students to go to Laos and explore Christianity in the Laotian religious context.
Throughout Wednesday’s missional report, delivered by nearly two-dozen clergy and laity, all presenters shared small pieces of their own stories about how their lives were changed by Jesus. For Rev. Susan Nienaber, Jesus literally saved her life when she was when she was 13 years old and her mother died of colon cancer. For Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard, it was through a Wesley Foundation she participated in while attending college in Denver.
They also shared the top 10 ways that the Minnesota Conference is partnering with churches, clergy, and laity to shake things up and invest in the future. They are:
10. Shmita (which means “jubilee”): Through this new program that debuted earlier this year, in every seventh year of their ministry, clergy will have an intentional time of learning, reflection, and recharging while discerning where God is calling them during their next seven years.
9. Lutheran Volunteer Corps service worker: The conference Hopeful Earthkeepers team partnered with the ELCA, AME Church, and Episcopal Church to bring on someone to work on environmental justice with a water stewardship focus. He’ll work with both Hopeful Earthkeepers and New City Church in Minneapolis.
8. Multiplication moves: Churches and individuals have given $2.6 million to Reach · Renew · Rejoice and are continuing to fulfill their pledges to this effort to start new churches and revitalize existing churches. Four districts have launched “Multiplying Leader” groups to help pastors start thinking about how they can start a new service or site—and nine churches recently began a revitalization process (Healthy Church Initiative or Missional Church Consultation Initiative).
7. Strategic new hires: The conference hired a new controller (Kathleen Keller), who is helping to overhaul the budget and improve reporting processes, and the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation hired a director of planned giving (Becky Boland) to advance its work in ensuring churches have more resources to fulfill their mission.
6. Connecting with Christ at camp: Camp Minnesota is growing its number of campers every year (1,597 attended camp in 2017—up 2.4 percent from 2016), ended another year in the black, and is maximizing its resources and strengths by deepening collaboration with the Dakotas. (The Dakotas and Minnesota have had a joint camping ministry since 2016.)
5. Leading in generosity: The $1 million Lilly grant that the Dakotas-Minnesota Area received in 2016 is being put to good use: 50 memberships to Financial Peace University were given to new clergy, 15 “Seed-and-Save” grants of $1,000 each were awarded to pastors who completed personal financial education and saved matching funds, 20 student debt-reduction grants of $5,000 each were awarded to pastors to reduce their outstanding student loans, and the area is underwriting the cost for 18 pastors to participate in the launch of a certificate program in nonprofit church leadership through Dakota Wesleyan University.
4. Money for ministry: So far this year, the conference Investing in Congregations team has awarded 17 grants totaling $182,000 to help churches start new ministries and partner with schools—and it has $18,000 left to distribute.
3. Disaster relief: Minnesota United Methodists gave $473,496 to disaster relief in 2017, and the conference is sending two groups to Puerto Rico this fall to assist with hurricane clean-up.
2. Recruitment efforts: The conference is strategically deploying leaders from the Dakotas-Minnesota Area to seminaries across the country to recruit the next generation of clergy leaders who can help us reach new people across Minnesota.
1. Caring for children: Churches across the conference are loving, teaching, and caring for children in a wide variety of ways—from adopting classrooms to sharing meals to hosting community events—so they know that Jesus loves them.
Rev. Cindy Gregorson, director of ministries, told attendees that she gave her first missional report in 2006 when she was dean of the Cabinet.
“Twelve years later, I am here to say God is doing more than we can ask or imagine,” she said. “Lives are being changed…We are the church God has imagined. So people of God, are you ready to dance?”