By: Christa Meland
After the Minnesota Conference stepped up and volunteered to host representatives from across the North Central Jurisdiction, more than two dozen mission-minded leaders gathered in Minnesota from Sept. 11-13 to share ideas and best practices.
The gathering was geared toward each annual conference’s secretary of global missions; in Minnesota, that’s Rev. Paul Bosshardt. He was joined by two others from the Minnesota Conference: Rev. Lyndy Zabel, director of missional impact, and Karen Thompson, chair of the conference’s Mission Promotion Team, on which Bosshardt and Zabel also serve. Several representatives from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) were also in attendance.
“We talk about how we’re a connectional church and this really shows it,” said Thompson. “When I meet people face to face who are going to other United Methodist churches . . . I know that they’re doing the same kinds of things that my church is doing, and it’s very empowering and exciting.”
The same is true for annual conferences, Thompson said, noting that the information-sharing that took place was invaluable. One of the things that the Minnesota group came away with was ideas about how to promote the conference’s mission opportunities and more deeply engage people from across the state in learning about how to get involved in mission activities. The Missions Promotion Team, which met Wednesday, is in the early stages of planning a conference-wide “mission saturation” opportunity based on what was learned at the weekend gathering, said Thompson.
Thompson and Bosshardt volunteered to host this year’s annual gathering, which took place at Koinonia Retreat Center in South Haven. One of the successes they were able to share with the other attendees was the strong support surrounding the Minnesota Conference’s Million Meals Marathon. The goal was for Minnesota United Methodist churches to collectively pack at least 1 million meals this year through Feed My Starving Children, and to date, that figure exceeds 2.3 million.
“They were really impressed, I think, not only about the number but with the level of support and involvement from local churches,” Thompson said. A group of attendees went to Feed My Starving Children on Saturday and packed meals in order to get a taste of the Million Meals Marathon and enjoy an opportunity to engage in mission work together.
The group also talked about missionaries and how to support them as they itinerate and visit churches and conferences with which they have relationships. Many churches invite missionaries to participate in the worship service or adult forum on Sundays, but a lot of missionaries also appreciate the opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with a smaller group of members at other times during the week. GBGM representatives said it doesn’t have to be a Sunday morning and there doesn’t need to be a critical mass of people to have a meaningful conversation with a missionary.
Representatives from the GBGM also shared about mission opportunities through the global church—and, specifically, the increasing number of mission programs targeting young adults. GBGM offers both long-term and short-term mission opportunities—including one called the Global Justice Volunteers Program, which connects adults between the ages of 18 and 30 with local grassroots organizations over a 10-week period and gives them the opportunity to address critical issues like HIV and AIDS, poverty, human trafficking, and migrants’ rights.
Thompson said the learning and sharing was incredibly helpful—and she also came away with a greater appreciation for the work of the Minnesota Conference.
“We’re very lucky in Minnesota that we have a bishop whose leadership expresses being in mission outside of our local church doors,” she said. “Healing a broken world is a priority in the Minnesota Conference.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404