Response to publicity surrounding The Grove's relaunch

January 21, 2020

This letter was issued in response to recent publicity surrounding the closure and relaunch of The Grove's Cottage Grove campus. The Grove is a two-campus congregation with its other location in Woodbury.

Dear Friends in Christ,
Many of you have read the recent Pioneer Press article regarding the closure and relaunch of The Grove’s Cottage Grove location. The article did not tell the full or accurate story of what is happening in Cottage Grove, and unfortunately, it has been picked up by numerous other media outlets and widely shared over the past 48 hours. Minnesota Conference leaders have been working closely with leaders of The Grove, and today The Grove issued a pastoral letter to the congregation that we want to share with you.
In the light of this article, we want to share once again our strategy for the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences:
We are committed to our Journey Toward Vitality, where every church in every location is a vital expression of the gospel imperatives to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people and heal a broken world. We are not in the business of closing churches. However, we are living in a time in which the church needs to innovate continually if we are going to be vital and effective in reaching new generations with the message of abundant life in Christ.
Every time a new church is planted or an existing congregation is re-started, the effort is grounded in prayer, discernment, and sustained and collaborative conversation with the churches in that mission field, as was the case for The Grove. Cottage Grove was identified as a high-growth area that was underserved. We entered into conversations with the Grove, and the strategy deemed most effective to reach this community was to stop the current Cottage Grove worship service and refresh the building, worship, and programming in order to better reach the community. In many cases, reaching new people requires starting something entirely new, and an intentional re-start of a campus or church is a strategy that has been proven to work. The leadership team of The Grove affirmed this approach. As the pastoral letter indicates, this action has implications for those who call the Cottage Grove campus home, and the leadership team of The Grove has been walking with care alongside those folks. 
Do we care about our existing members? Of course we do! We invest tremendous resources—in fact, the majority of our resources—toward equipping and supporting our existing congregations to be vibrant and vital. At the same time, we know that the church exists for those who do not yet know God. We have been given a mission: to make disciples, new disciples, of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! That is why we start new churches. We want everyone to know the abundant life of Jesus that is for them. In order to do that, we sometimes need to let go of the way we have always done things in order to be open to the new thing God wants to do in and through us. We seek to do that faithfully and responsibly at all times.
We want to remind you of a few of the church-planting goals and values we hold as we engage in this important work across our Area:

  • The Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences are committed to expanding our ministry through new church starts. We have set a goal of 3 percent annual growth, or 18 new starts annually between the two conferences.
  • The conferences take a “bottom-up” or grassroots approach. We seek to come alongside churches to help them live into their visions to reach the next person for Jesus through well-researched, well-tested church-planting techniques. These include launching a new worship service or site, and restarting an existing congregation.
  • Planting a new church requires funding. The Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences partially fund approved church-planting efforts and have established regular accountability protocols with scheduled stakeholder meetings and metrics for all planters. New church plant funds primarily come from recent capital campaigns—Reach • Renew • Rejoice in the Minnesota Conference and Thrive in the Dakotas Conference.

If ever you have a question or concern about what you read in the media, or about our strategy for church planting and reaching new people, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us, your district superintendent, and/or Rev. Ben Ingebretson, our area director of new church development. And if the media approach you about this or any other matter related to your ministry or our shared ministry, we would be happy to assist you in preparing a response or message.
Yours in shared ministry,
Rev. Cindy Gregorson, Minnesota Conference director of connectional ministries
Christa Meland, Minnesota Conference director of communications
Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Dakotas Conference executive director of ministries
Doreen Gosmire, Dakotas Conference director of communication

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058