As the Minnesota Conference focuses on growing in love of God and neighbor, reaching new people, and healing a broken world, all Minnesota United Methodist churches are tracking and submitting metrics on a weekly basis that help us pay attention to the impact we’re making in these areas. In addition to tracking worship attendance and faith professions, each church is also asked to provide periodic stories of life transformation. In many cases, these stories are powerful examples of the ways in which churches are fulfilling the Great Commission and serving as beacons of love and compassion in their communities. Here are four inspiring stories that have been shared in the past several months.
Le Sueur UMC: Embracing God's love
Lisa, James, and their two children joined Le Sueur UMC in 2016 after 12-year-old Calvin repeatedly asked to attend services. Although Lisa and James did not grow up in religious families, they agreed that if their kids wanted to join a church, they were not going to stop them. After visiting a few churches, they walked into Le Sueur UMC and knew they were done searching. They made good friends, got involved, and brought their kids to “Jesus and Me” (JAM), a program for youth. Lisa was eventually invited to volunteer at JAM and embraced the opportunity. “I love learning about Jesus during JAM just as much as the kids do,” she said. “It was odd for me to be asked because I was brand new and had no relationship with Jesus.” Then came the fire. Last fall, a fire damaged the family’s home, forcing them to move to temporary housing and adjust to a new life. “That fire changed me,” said Lisa. “In the past, before I had a church family, I would have seen it as validation that I was worthless.” The fire was the first tragedy she encountered without feeling like being angry with God. “Before becoming Methodist, I would have said, ‘I don’t think I’m part of God’s plan,’” she said. “Now, due to the fire and the response from the church, I do feel like I’m part of God’s story—even if I’m not sure how!” Lisa said she used to have a love/hate relationship with God. “I now see that God never hated me—He’s always loved me,” she explained. “I think the hate was me hating me, as if I didn’t deserve it. Now I see that God is there for everyone, and that includes me!...My husband says I’m a completely different person now. I’m much happier.”
Aldersgate UMC (St. Louis Park): Finding a church home
An 80-year-old man and his wife started to attend Aldersgate UMC regularly after returning from Arizona for the season and being invited by their daughter (a new member of the church). They had nominally belonged to a large Lutheran church in town but rarely attended. But they began to enjoy the homey, welcoming, personable vibe at Aldersgate and started coming regularly. During that time, the man’s wife started to experience some odd health problems, which they recently learned were due to a rapid form of ALS. Rev. Paul Baudhuin met with them after the diagnosis, and they expressed their gratitude for Aldersgate coming into their lives because they couldn't imagine navigating this season without what they’ve been experiencing through the church. The man said that since coming to the church, and even before the diagnosis, a spirituality awakened in both of them that has been their strength throughout the hard days. He spoke specifically of a series the church did on the Holy Spirit (called "Just Breathe"), and some of the ideas and practices that came out of it helped them navigate their latest challenges, both physically and spiritually. While churches often focus on reaching young people, we must remember that a community of faith is crucial for people of all ages. Many older people have lost touch with their faith communities but are in seasons in which they desperately need one. Furthermore, we must not limit our older members' capacity for change and revival. The human spirit is ever malleable to the hand of the Holy Spirit. We are never too old to have our faith revived.
First UMC (Redwood Falls): After-school kids club
The church started an after-school kids club with the help of a micro grant from the Minnesota Conference and in May completed its second year of this ministry. In 2016-2017, four children from the elementary school across the street attended. During the last school year, 13 participated. Half of the students are not involved with any other church. This weekly ministry intentionally nurtures Christian faith through a variety of engaging activities. At the end of the second year, the kids wrote thank you notes to the congregation, and some said that they hoped the ministry would continue. A note from a boy named Dylan was especially touching: “Thank you for letting us learn about God.”
North Summit Church (Blaine): 16 baptized
In June, 16 people of all ages were baptized and three additional people gave their life to Christ at North Summit Church, a new church start that meets inside of Blaine UMC. The church, which uses the tagline “daring to be different,” aims to be a community of loving, real people who are dedicated to “climbing toward Christ.” The church attracts people immersed in the local music and arts scene—but also individuals who have been through divorce, adultery, addiction, homelessness, and other painful experiences. Watch video of baptisms
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