Responding to COVID-19: Steps we’re taking

April 06, 2020

You have perhaps noticed that every business and organization you’ve ever been connected with seems to be contacting you to let you know how they are responding to COVID-19. In a similar fashion, we want to let you know how the Minnesota Conference office is responding to and resourcing given the coronavirus pandemic.

Staffing: Like all churches, we are seeking to take care of our staff. We have moved all conference staff to remote work, and we even if their job doesn’t necessarily translate to remote work, we have committed to their full pay through May 10.  

Monitoring cash flow: We are monitoring our cash flow so that we can preserve resources in this time of economic uncertainty. We have put a freeze on non-essential spending. At this time, we are still fully funding our new church starts, and the commitments we have already made through our Investing in Congregations grant program. Some other efforts, like the next round of church-school partnership grants, we have put on hold. We have paid close attention to our reserves and have mapped out various scenarios for budget reductions so that we can adapt quickly to changing circumstances. We want to be responsive without over-reacting.

Federal loan: We have applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program under the federal CARES Act so that we can stretch our reserves to help us keep underwriting ministry.

Moving digital: We are fully invested in continuing to fulfill our purposes of equipping congregations, developing leaders, and extending missional impact in this season. Like your churches, we are in adaptation mode as we seek to move our ministry to digital platforms. And as we are becoming virtual, like you, we are on a learning curve as we explore how to move in-person gatherings like the Clergy Leadership Academy, Ending Well, and the ordinands’ retreat into virtual events. Our Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministry has temporarily suspended operations, and camp leaders are looking into how can they deliver summer experiences if we cannot gather in the same way we have in the past.  

We are aware of the unique challenges our churches and clergy are facing. To that end, we are responding to their needs and concerns in the following ways:

  • The Minnesota Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits committed $915,000 of our reserves to fund a three-month health and pension holiday for all churches.
  • We have created a robust COVID-19 Response section on our website that’s updated daily and contains virtual church resources, answers to questions you’ve been asking, creative approaches to ministry, and sources for helpful health agency and governmental information. We also organized and paid for an online worship webinar with author and creative worship coach Jason Moore (if you missed it, you can watch here for the next few weeks.)
  • District superintendents have been in conversation with every clergyperson over the past three weeks to check in, listen, and encourage.
  • We have been sending almost daily updates with the latest information on COVID-19 and the best virtual church resources we have found. Many of our staff members are having one-on-one conversations to equip churches and answer questions around technology, giving, finances, and other matters. If you need guidance on something related to becoming a virtual church, Cullen Tanner is the best place to start.
  • We have made our cloud-based video conferencing service, BlueJeans, available to local churches for staff and leadership team meetings (learn more here).
  • We are forming a well-being resource team to walk with clergy around financial and emotional stresses in this time. Diane Owen is leading that effort and would be happy to talk.
  • Our finance office and Minnesota United Methodist Foundation are resourcing clergy and responding to churches’ questions around the provisions of the CARES Act and how to make responsible financial decisions in these times.

As Governor Tim Walz has said: We are all in this together, Minnesota. We have definitely seen that in our churches with the collaboration and sharing that has taken place in recent weeks as we all pivot to face our new reality. A couple recent examples of that: Twin Cities clergy and churches are coming together to create a joint Good Friday service available to all, and our Camp and Retreat Ministry is creating a virtual worship service that churches can use in one of the Sundays after Easter. 

There is much we don’t know. Our leadership team (which includes the bishop, director of ministries, director of finance and administration, dean of the Cabinet, director of communications, and director of the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation) is currently meeting weekly so that we can monitor current conditions and make needed adjustments. What we do know and hold onto as we approach Easter Sunday:

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058