By: Christa Meland
The challenge: The Minnesota Conference has been reproducing (or launching new congregations) at a rate of about half of 1 percent annually. “We aren’t reproducing at a rate fast enough to take advantage of opportunities or to offset our own decline,” explained Rev. Ben Ingebretson, Dakotas-Minnesota director of new church development.
The opportunity: Ingebretson is working to accelerate that growth rate to 3 percent. This is generally recognized as a rate that allows a regional body like an annual conference to hold steady in terms of membership and worship attendance or even to grow slightly.
What this means: There are about 350 churches within the Minnesota Conference. So growing by 3 percent of
that number annually would translate to starting roughly 10 new congregations each year.
The goal: Ingebretson aims to gradually ramp up until the Minnesota Conference is starting 10 new congregations each year, with the understanding that getting to that point will take time. His plan is to start two new congregations in 2018, then three in 2019, and four in 2020—and so on. The hope is to increase the number of new congregations by one each year until we’re consistently starting 10 in a given year.
What this looks like: A new congregation doesn’t necessarily translate to a new chartered church. A congregation that starts a second service or a second site, a group of congregations that work together to start a new congregation, and a church planter launching a new start all would be counted toward this acceleration goal.
Preparing for success: “It’s an achievable goal,” said Ingebretson. Many other denominations are planting at rates of 3 percent or higher, and Ingebretson himself once helped the Reformed Church in America—which was comprised of 1,000 individual congregations—to plant 248 churches in 10 years. “It’s very do-able,” he said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church