By: Christa Meland
The Reach • Renew • Rejoice congregational development initiative has surpassed $1 million in pledges thanks to strong support from Minnesota Conference clergy and staff and a $200,000 lead gift from Metro West Builders.
The initiative officially launched at the 2014 annual conference session in late May. It aims to raise $3.7 million for a seven-year plan to start new churches and grow existing churches across the state.
"Passing the $1 million dollar mark reflects a deep commitment to congregational development by our Minnesota Conference leadership,” said Dan Johnson, director of Reach • Renew • Rejoice and Congregational Development. “A kickoff gift by the Metro West Builders, 100 percent participation by our Extended Cabinet, nearly 100 percent participation by all conference staff, and growing commitments from active and retired clergy comprise our pledges to date.”
The $200,000 lead gift was instrumental in Reach • Renew • Rejoice progress to date, and annual conference attendees gave a standing ovation when Phil Griffin, president of Metro West Builders, presented Bishop Bruce Ough with a check at annual conference. Just before presenting the check, Griffin told attendees: “John Wesley said, ‘Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can’—and those who came before us did just that, creating our new church development fund … As trustees of gifts from generations of our predecessors, we entrust these funds to be used in the building of future churches.”
All Minnesota Conference clergy and staff had the opportunity to learn about Reach • Renew • Rejoice at various receptions throughout the spring months. Since then, many have pledged support.
Rev. Brenda North, pastor at Detroit Lakes UMC said the decision to support Reach • Renew • Rejoice was an easy one because it’s a natural extension of her call to love and serve the church and it’s “so needed for our conference moving into the future.”
North recently led her congregation through the Healthy Church Initiative—a consultation-based process designed to help churches grow and one that Reach • Renew • Rejoice will enable more Minnesota churches to participate in. She knows firsthand what a major impact that process can have on the life of a church and its ability to reach new people.
“The Healthy Church Initiative has been so important for Detroit Lakes UMC,” she said. “It has accelerated our ability to change, grow, and reach new people. It is about living into the vision that God has put on the hearts of each congregation and listening to God’s direction in a specific community. It is a program that has the potential to change our entire annual conference.”
Half of the population in Detroit Lakes is under the age of 50—but before embarking on the Healthy Church Initiative, North estimates that only about 10 percent of her congregation was in that category. Now, the percentage of young people is continuing to climb as the church actively seeks out and welcomes new families.
“It’s not just that the church needs these young people,” North said. “It’s that these young people need an authentic Christian community.”
Rev. Sam Kautz, who serves Hillside UMC and Lester Park UMC in Duluth, said he supports Reach • Renew • Rejoice because “the opportunity to move forward to reach and renew is needed and necessary” in the Minnesota Conference, and he appreciates the fact the seven-year plan will channel resources into both new churches and those that have been around for much longer.
“This initiative does not say goodbye to congregations that have been around for a while but provides them opportunities to renew,” he said.
In addition to gaining support from both active and retired clergy, Reach • Renew • Rejoice has also been embraced by conference staff. Sheilah Kyburz, administrative assistant for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of the United Methodist Church, said she and her husband Paul both came from rural settings where they attended small churches. “We appreciated the innovative spirit and vision those pioneers had to start those churches,” she said. “We decided to support the initiative because we want to continue the vision for future generations so they can have what we had.”
Kyburz is now an active member of Normandale Hylands UMC in Bloomington, which has been in existence since the late 1960s. She likes that the seven-year plan includes opportunities for more established churches in addition to starting new ones and that “it’s not just putting up buildings but finding the best ways to be in ministry.”
The next phase of Reach • Renew • Rejoice involves preparing congregations to discuss the initiative with members. This summer, a few people from each local church are being trained on how to use a variety of tools (curriculum, worship resources, sermon samples, video clips, a prayer journal, etc.) in a spiritual emphasis plan that each congregation is encouraged to implement this fall. After that, all Minnesota United Methodists will be invited to pledge their support for the initiative.
Through Reach • Renew • Rejoice, each year for the next seven years, the conference will start one new church where demographics and opportunity align, assist 20 existing churches in revitalizing their ministries, and partner with a vital parent churches to multiply its ministry beyond its current site.
Kautz said he looks forward to seeing the tangible results of this initiative: “the celebrations of God’s grace and the faithfulness of congregations through vitality or reaching new people in new ways.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church