By: Karla Hovde
Twenty-six laity from across Minnesota spent the weekend of Sept. 20-21 at the ConneXion Retreat at Coon Rapids UMC. Now in its third year, the ConneXion retreat helps each attendee articulate and live out their unique call in this world. The two-day retreat also qualifies participants to be certified lay servants in the Minnesota Conference.
At the retreat, participants spent time discerning and clarifying their purpose and path as disciples of Jesus Christ. They learned about spiritual practices and explored their strengths and values. They studied examples of people who have been called by God, both in the Bible and in modern times. Along with time for self-reflection, prayer, and worship, retreat participants had conversations with each other that helped them articulate what their unique calling looks like.
The ConneXion retreat “is an invaluable use of time to grow and learn a lot about yourself and your individual strengths while growing spiritually with extensive support to discern what God may be calling you to do,” one recent participant said in a feedback survey.
Another participant appreciated the chance to learn more about oneself and the other attendees who are also discerning their calls. “It lets us know we are not alone in this great big world and that we all have one mission—working for God, not ourselves. God will be beside us in this God-given journey, whichever course we take.”
Some of the laity at this retreat are considering the path to become ordained clergy; most will become lay leaders in some capacity, either in their own churches or in their communities.
Jody Thone, the Minnesota Conference’s director of leadership development, leads the ConneXion retreat along with a team of facilitators. She said that empowering laity is foundational to the Wesleyan way of doing church.
“In Minnesota we are focused on growing a culture where we are clear that all are called. We know that every person has a call, or multiple calls, in their life—not just those who look at ordained ministry,” she explained.
The Minnesota Conference is committed to equipping laity with the tools they need to do vital work in their local churches and in their communities. The ConneXion Retreat is just one way in which the conference supports lay people in discerning and living out God’s call on their lives.
Thone and the conference’s Lay Ministries Team plan to offer the ConneXion retreat twice in 2020, in the winter or spring and in the fall, though the dates are not yet finalized.
Thone believes that lay people discerning their calls is urgent and important work in times like these. She noted that we can’t individually care for all of the world’s needs, but collectively, we can do a lot of good.
“There are many things in this world that are calling for our attention,” Thone said. “And what I like about this retreat is that we each have a piece to play by following our call. If we join together and each follow our call, that’s how God uses us to make a difference in the world.”
Karla Hovde is the communications specialist for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church