Rev. Ben Ingebretson, Dakotas-Minnesota director of new church development, gathered with 14 church leaders in Minneapolis last month and led a training called “New Places for New People: Startup Incubator.”
“The Incubator is about helping leaders get smart early,” he said. “It is about learning best practices for innovative start-up projects before they take on a project. With 50 percent of America believing they are Christian but not regularly attending church, there is an amazing opportunity before us if we will be smart innovators.”
The training was all about reaching new people and accelerating the growth rate for new congregations across the Dakotas and Minnesota. The Minnesota Conference is on an intentional journey to increase the number of vital congregations that are effective in making and equipping new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Ingebretson is focused on creating a multiplication culture, one in which practices that lead to reaching new people, such as starting new worship services and launching new worship sites, are embraced by all types of congregations.
Nine of the incubator participants are launching or discerning start-up projects in Minnesota. They include Brad Herman, who is working on a recovery congregation in Minneapolis; Asa Tessness, who is working on a new service at Christ UMC in Cannon Falls; and Rev. Ralph Holbrook, who is working on a new service at Main Street Church in North Branch. Other Minnesota participants, all of whom are hoping to create new places for new people, are Jin Hur, Milton Jones, Jim Klepper, Cindy Lannon, Rev. Linda McCollough, and Steve Pannkuk.
Ingebretson is working to accelerate the growth rate of the Minnesota Conference from about half of 1 percent to 3 percent each year; 3 percent 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. There are about 350 churches within the Minnesota Conference. So growing by 3 percent annually would translate to starting roughly 10 new congregations each year. 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 count toward this acceleration goal.
“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.
The Dakotas-Minnesota leaders who participated in the four-day training mapped out plans for 14 innovative projects. “There are now 14 leaders who are less likely to make missteps in the execution of their emerging dreams,” said Ingebretson. “They leave with a plan penciled out that reflects best practice wisdom.”
Plans are underway to have another incubator training in the spring of 2019.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church