By: Amanda Yanchury
A year ago, when seven members from Blooming Grove United Methodist Church in Medford and Waterville United Methodist Church volunteered to be part of a project that involved reaching out to people who are incarcerated, they didn’t know what to expect.
“With God’s encouragement and funds from the Investing in Congregations grant, we have all been reminded that God’s children are found in all kinds of places, and we’ve found new life in our journey together,” says Pastor Cindy Kennedy, who leads the two-point charge.
Each year, the Minnesota Conference’s office of congregational development awards Investing in Congregations grants to churches that demonstrate a potential capacity and are committed to reaching new people and cultivating spiritual vitality. The grants, which may only be applied to a new ministry or program, have run the gamut from funding a new staff position to setting up a senior care ministry.
Blooming Grove and Waterville are starting a prison ministry, which involves working with two county jails. This unique ministry seeks to help those who are incarcerated deepen their spiritual journey.
Volunteer training is being provided for six individuals who will conduct Bible studies with inmates at each of the jails. The volunteers bring the prayer concerns of the inmates to their congregations, and members keep the inmates in their prayers throughout the week. Those involved with the ministry hope to also establish contact with prisoners’ families.
Wells United Methodist Church is another United Methodist church that’s been able to expand its mission field thanks to an Investing in Congregations grant.
Wells is developing a multi-faceted program to assist children and families within its community. The grant assisted the congregation in setting up a community-wide backpack program that serves 65 kindergarten through sixth-grade children who come from families in need. The program, “Communities Fighting Student Hunger,” provides backpacks full of food that students can take home over the weekend; the idea is to provide nourishment for days when students are unable to receive a free meal at school. The program launched a successful three-week trial during the last three weeks of May and officially began in September.
Wells also plans to implement a children’s mobile library and a launch a weekly parent support group at which parents can share challenges, pray together, and support each other.
If you have an idea for ministry and need financial assistance to help make it happen, consider applying for an Investing in Congregations grant. Grants range from $1,200 to $37,000. More information and application materials can be found on the conference website.
Applications include multiple steps and are due Oct. 15.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church