By: Christa Meland
Wondering how to condense three full days of worship, celebration, learning, and conference business into a succinct report you can bring back to members of your congregation? Here are some highlights to consider sharing:
• Love Offering: As of Friday morning, $81,759 had been collected for this year’s Love Offering. Donations are continuing to come in and will throughout the coming months. Eighty percent of this year’s Love Offering will go to Feed My Starving Children to help pay for meals packed through our “Million Meals Marathon.” And Project AgGrad and Volunteers in Mission scholarships will each receive 10 percent of the Love Offering.
• Imagine No Malaria: On Wednesday, conference attendees celebrated having raised $2.7 million to date for Imagine No Malaria, a denomination-wide effort to eliminate malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015. That amount translates to 270,000 lives saved. The Minnesota Conference has raised more than any other annual conference to date and far exceeded its initial $1.8 million goal. Just a few years ago, malaria claimed a life every 30 seconds. That rate has been cut in half, thanks in part to the generous support of the state’s United Methodist churches.
• Million Meals Marathon meal packing: Minnesota United Methodists have collectively packed 2,091,077 meals to date through our “Million Meals Marathon,” which launched in February. That equates to 9,592 boxes of meals and 266 pallets—and it’s enough to feed 5,728 children once a day for a year. Thousands of volunteers took part in the packaging, and they ranged in age from 5 to 90-plus. Churches in the conference have far surpassed the initial goal of packing at least 1 million meals through Feed My Starving Children.
• Bishop's episcopal address: Bishop Bruce R. Ough talked to conference session members about evangelism and sharing their God stories. He said God is calling us to re-evangelize Minnesota, to introduce more people to Christ. There are people in every one of our communities who are asking, "Am I too late to get to know Jesus?" He said the keys to unleashing fearless, Spirit-led churches are hearts that break for the poor, the lost, the forgotten, and the excluded—and a passion for turning the church inside-out to embrace the needs of those outside the church. (Click here to watch a video of the episcopal address. Click here to read a story about the episcopal address.)
• Adam Hamilton teaching sessions: Rev. Adam Hamilton, who led three teaching sessions at this year’s conference, explored what it means to “lead beyond the walls” through effective leadership, inspirational worship and preaching, and intentional evangelism and outreach. He is founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas—which has grown to become the largest United Methodist Church in the country. Key takeaways: We must do whatever it takes to make people feel welcomed at our churches, inspire them and teach them something new when they come to worship, and be able to articulate and share why we love the church we attend and what difference it has made in our lives.
• Reach Renew Rejoice: Thursday marked the formal launch of a congregational development initiative to start new churches and grow existing churches. Through this initiative—which requires our prayers and generosity—each year for the next seven years, the Minnesota Conference will start one new church, assist 20 churches in revitalizing their ministries, and partner with a vital parent church to multiply its ministry beyond its current site. This initiative aims to raise $3.7 million over the next few years. A total of $929,216.03 has been pledged to date, and Metro West Builders presented a check for $200,000 on Thursday before conference attendees.
• Legislation: Members of annual conference debated and voted on legislation related to homosexuality, reducing our carbon footprint, SodaStream, and justice.
• Live streaming: This year, for the first time, those who couldn’t make it to St. Cloud for annual conference could tune into most sessions via live streaming on their computers from anywhere that has an Internet connection. Twelve sessions were live streamed, and an average of 225 people tuned in per session; 432 people tuned into Adam Hamilton’s Wednesday teaching session, and 401 people remotely watched the celebration of life in ministry worship service Thursday evening.
All local churches are also highly encouraged to share these materials with members of their faith communities sometime in the near future:
• Printed missional report: This report lists, in bullet-point format, progress made in 2013 under each of four Journey Toward Vitality pathways: Developing missional leaders, equipping missional congregations, extending our missional impact, and generating missional resources. View/print missional report (designed to be printed on 11x17 paper)
• Missional report video: This video shows key progress made on our Journey Toward Vitality and tells stories of lives changed through United Methodist churches in Minnesota. The Journey Toward Vitality is a roadmap that outlines the conference’s vision and the strategic pathways that will get us there. Each pastor received a DVD containing the video.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church