Crossroads gathering at Wesley recovery worship helps ex-offenders start again

February 12, 2013

By: Jerad Morey

For Rev. Dan Johnson, Minnesota Annual Conference's director of congregational development, the Crossroads Gathering at Wesley, a recovery and re-entry ministry at the Wesley United Methodist Church building in downtown Minneapolis, is a powerful sign of how “even with limited finances, we can still do a lot to connect people to Christ.”

For Revs. Paul and Deb Marzahn of Crossroads United Methodist Church in Lakeville, it's the next step on a path that God has been leading them on for a quarter century.

For the 75 men who come to the church on Sunday afternoons for worship and a meal, and have started bringing their families, it's a unique chance to feel welcomed after seeing too often the expressions of mistrust and skepticism on strangers' faces. “Former inmates find it hard to be accepted at many churches,” says Paul Marzahn.

“Pastor Deb and I have been working in recovery ministry for 25 years,” he says. About eight years ago he learned of Life Rebuilders, a recovery ministry for men, while engaged in a project to purchase a building in Lakeville for sober housing and programming. Crossroads began offering monthly worship-and-breakfast events solely for those in recovery ministries like Teen Challenge, Salvation Army, and Life Rebuilders.

A new faith community

Eventually, the Marzahns noticed that most folks attending these gatherings were bussed down from Minneapolis, so they began looking for spaces in the city to begin a weekly service. The Wesley building—which has a long history of housing recovery meetings—was available Sunday evenings.

Attendance at the weekly contemporary worship service and dinner has grown from 40 to 75 and, according to Marzahn, some outreach events have reached almost 200 individuals.

Although the service builds off of a six-year tradition at Crossroads, Johnson sees the Crossroads Gathering at Wesley as a new-church start.

“There has been a shift in how we fund church starts,” says Johnson. In the past, new ministries were seeded with a large amount of funding up front. Now new starts are started small and have to meet certain benchmarks—feasibility, viability, sustainability and multiplicity—in order to continue to receive conference funding.

The Crossroads Gathering at Wesley also illustrates the new utility of the Wesley building, which is transitioning to “an open ministry center,” as Johnson describes it, with three purposes: funds generation (leasing space), housing community services or events, and a ministry incubation site.

At the weekly worship gatherings, a man with a year of sobriety under his belt leads a contemporary worship service and the sermon, videotaped earlier at Crossroads’ main Lakeville campus, is screened on-site. Crossroads’ main campus handles the finances, staff support, communication, technology, and trustees concerns for each site. The worship format is adapted for the recovery service to include more reflective music and a weekly testimony.

Multiplying the ministry

Marzahn sees a bright future for the ministry. Already nine weekly Bible studies meet in the various housing locations operated by the Life Rebuilders organization. “We would like to start some Celebrate Recovery small groups” (a Jubilee Celebrate Recovery program), he says.

Johnson, too, looks at the Crossroads Gathering at Wesley and imagines the horizon. “I'd love to see them take leadership of their congregation so that instead of being served, they serve each other; to see transformation of purpose and identity.” Marzahn indicates that some of this is already happening—“we are working with many of the musicians to form their own praise team” so the worship won’t need to rely on staff from Lakeville.

Johnson urges other churches exploring a satellite location to give him a call at (612) 230-6124. He’ll point to a tool to assess whether it is the right time and place for a ministry to multiply. “Ministry partnerships and satellites are the most cost-effective ways to launch a new church,” he says. And Crossroads' experience with the new recovery ministry illustrates that, in Johnson's words, “genuine passion for ministry and clarity of focus on a targeted community can unleash unlimited power with insignificant resources.”

Jerad Morey is a member of Mosaic in Brooklyn Park and a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @Jerad.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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(612) 870-0058