By: Christa Meland
We know that Jesus commands us to make disciples, but figuring out how to do that in today’s culture, context, and world often raises questions and creates anxiety.
A first-of-its-kind conference coming to the Dakotas-Minnesota Area will prepare United Methodist clergy and laity to authentically and practically share their faith stories and reach new people. Called “Reach,” the conference is scheduled for Oct. 5-6 at Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Registration will open soon.
“Jesus’ Great Commission—one of his key missional imperatives—is to go, reach new people, and make them disciples,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough. “Many of us struggle with how to best live into this imperative to reach new people in a post-Christendom culture. The Reach event is designed to help us become a ‘great commission’ people in our communities and culture.”
The event features five keynote speakers from across the nation and eight equipping breakout tracks led by innovative Dakotas-Minnesota leaders. Unlike traditional conferences, the equipping tracks include three to five follow-up sessions, thus allowing participants to take the experience home with them and put their learning into practice in real time. All congregations across the area are encouraged to send a team to this gathering.
“We learn best from one another,” said Bishop Ough. “I can’t wait to experience how the Holy Spirit will guide and direct our common learning when hundreds of United Methodist leaders from every corner of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area come together at the Reach event to share their best practices and insights for reaching the next generations for Christ.”
Here’s a brief look at the four keynote speakers who will join Bishop Ough in leading teaching sessions:
· Debi Nixon, author of CATCH: A Church Wide Program for Invitational Evangelism, will draw on her experience and years of ministry impact at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, a Kansas City, Kansas-area multi-site congregation with more than 20,000 members.
· Rev. Adam Weber started Embrace Church in 2006 with 32 people. Today, it has five physical locations across South Dakota and Minnesota and more than 4,000 members. Weber, author of Talking With God: What to Say When You Don’t Know How to Pray, will talk about the importance of being authentic while working to reach one more person for Christ.
· Rev. Jacob Armstrong is founding pastor at Providence UMC in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, a church that is committed to “whatever it takes.” The author of The New Adapters: Shaping Ideas to Fit Your Congregation, he can point the way for leaders who recognize that the path forward is not the way we have always done it.
· Rev. Rosario (Roz) Picardo is a seasoned church planter who testifies to having “broken all the rules” in his first church plant that multiplied into three communities. Now he is planting again with Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio, and has insight and passion for evangelism that works.
Topics for the eight equipping tracks include social media, multi-cultural outreach, starting new services and sites, sharing your faith story, new discipleship pathways, developing leaders, and church planting.
The event will begin on the evening of Oct. 5 and conclude late afternoon on Oct. 6. There are also several optional pre-conference workshops earlier in the day on Oct. 5. They cover the topics of having an outward focus, building worship bridges, leading change, and evangelism tools to empower inviters.
Rev. Ben Ingebretson, Dakotas-Minnesota director of new church development, recruited the speakers and is organizing this event.
“Reaching new people is difficult because many congregations wrestle with change and are not sure which methods are tested and reliable and ‘Methodist,’” said Ingebretson. “This event will help participants explore methods and strategies that have been tested, that are fully congruent with our Methodist values, and that are worth the risk that comes with change. They are guaranteed to hear from among the best practitioners in missional church leadership today and learn authentic, proven principles from the field.”
Reaching new people is one of three scriptural imperatives that the Dakotas and Minnesota conferences are acutely focused on. In fact, both conferences are working to accelerate their rate of launching new congregations to 3 percent annually.
“Every United Methodist congregation was started by a group of people who desired nothing other than to reach new people with the good news of Jesus’ serving, healing grace,” said Bishop Ough. “Every United Methodist disciple was encouraged or mentored by another person or family that desired nothing other than to share the good news they, themselves, had discovered. Reach is all about recovering our passion to reach the next person, to come alongside of those who have been rejected by others, and to be the conduit through which Jesus can ask yet another person, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mark 10:51).”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church