On the second Saturday in September crowds gathered in Columbia and at locations around the state to see the big kickoff first hand or on their screens. It wasn’t the Mizzou football game, that kickoff would happen a couple of miles away and a few hours later. This kick-off was the action plan for the United Methodist Churches of the Missouri Conference.
It wasn’t a day for surprises, but rather a day of encouragement to take hold of the plan and move forward in ministry in every church. The action plan is focused around three key areas: New Places for New People, Pathway Out of Poverty and Creating New Missional Leaders. The ideas of the plan had been presented at Annual Conference Session in July.
Director of Congregational Excellence Roger Ross lead off the morning by encouraging those present to pray a very dangerous prayer of two words: “Use me.” He said even if you’re not sure of what your gifts or talents are, or how you may be of use, offer a prayer to the Lord expressing willingness and availability to serve.
Ross was followed by Missouri Bishop Bob Farr, who liked the “willing” and “available” words Ross was using, saying that he had encountered too many people who were available but not willing, or willing but not available. Without both nothing happens.
Bishop Farr said he knows people are reluctant to go up to someone they don’t know and start a conversation, but they are going to need to overcome that shyness.
“When it comes to new places for new people, if you don’t have the courage to talk to someone you don’t know, this isn’t going to work out,” he said.
Rob Gordon, Midstate district co-lay leader, read scripture from Luke, chapter 10. It told how Jesus sent out 70 people to spread the faith. He then asked if anyone knew any of the names of those 70.
“We don’t know the names of those 70, because that message is for everybody. Those 70 people were just like you and me,” he said. “They didn’t have any special training. The only thing that set them apart was that they loved Jesus and were willing to go out and do anything he asked them to do.”
Director of Mission, Service and Justice Ministries Tina Harris told the group that there are 260,867 children living in poverty in Missouri, and 23 counties in Missouri poverty rates above 50 percent.
“Tomorrow pay attention and ask the lord to reveal to you pockets of poverty in your community as you go to church,” Harris said.
A component of the Pathway out of Poverty part of the action plan is for churches to develop partnerships with their local schools. Partnerships have to have relationships of support, connection, mutual learning, Harris said. Developmental relationships are indicators that student will have success and persist in school. Harris describes three types of support churches could provide:
- Informational support: Provide wisdom and positive feedback.
- Instrumental support: Tangible resources or services.
- Emotional support: Expressing comfort, care and trust.
Ross presented more regarding new churches, noting that they have determined the best way to plant new churches is to partner with existing churches. That needs to start happening more.
“We haven’t been starting enough new churches to keep up with our decline. Our membership is declining while the population is rising,” he said. “To reach the growing population we have to turn up the heat.”
This year 30 people participated in the planters academy, in which they read books monthly, engaged in learning experiences monthly, participated in a Wesleyan Band meeting and covenanted to start something new in their context in an 11-month time frame. The second round of the academy starts in February of 2019.
Missouri Conference Lay Leader Amy Thompson addressed the area of developing new missional leaders.
“We often spend time seeking people to fill roles at the church, but what would happen if we were intentionally raising up leaders to serve in areas that they feel passionate about?” she asked. A missional leader was defined as someone who:
- Moves from meeting God to an active, growing and authentic faith in Jesus Christ
- Is identified as a leader and is mentored by another leader
- Provides leadership in their local church and/or beyond
- Identifies and mentors a new leader
She advised people to go the Missouri Conference webpage https://www.moumethodist.org/missionalleaders and access the resources that the Conference is providing on how to raise up missional leaders. Many have already found the 5 Cups of Coffee conversational tool to be very effective.
“This tool can support individuals in identifying and understanding their gifts, passions and possible opportunities to live in the call on their life,” she said. “The ideas are endless for using the 5 Cups– in leadership teams, for nominations teams in identifying future leaders, any ministry team in the church, a small group, confirmation classes/young adult classes, new member classes, one on one invitations.”
Go to https://www.moumethodist.org for more on the Five Cups of Coffee.
“We have outlined some God size dreams with these conference priorities,” Thompson said. “It will take your support through prayers, through action, through love. Together we will be difference makers for the Kingdom of God.”
For more on the action plan, including resources and dates of upcoming events, go to https://www.moumethodist.org/actionplan.