Joyful giving was abounding at the 20th Session of the Dakotas Annual Conference on June 6-8, 2013 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Over 600 United Methodist gathered to reach out and give over $260,000 to launch the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry.
The roaming landscape is changing in western North Dakota. There are 8,000 oil pumps that are sprawling across the acres. This drastic change brings lots of development and economic promise, as well as lack of housing, challenges for families, fear, loneliness and isolation.
The mission field has come to the Dakotas Conference. Literally there are people from all around the world who now call North Dakota home. License plates throughout cities like Williston or Dickinson tell the story of people from across the United States who have come to the region. Retail and food service businesses are bringing in international students on work visas in the Oil Rush region.
Growth in the United Methodist church in this region is stagnant. No United Methodist Churches were closed in the Oil Rush region. However, not one United Methodist church in western North Dakota reflected the level of growth in population that was being experienced in that same area.
It is time to be the church – a new church. The vision for the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry is to: Touch Lives with Jesus’ Love while Expanding the Kingdom of God and the United Methodist Presence in the Oil Rush of North Dakota.
Some start up activities are planned and already in motion. They include setting up an outreach ministry center in Watford City. Conducting Sidewalk SONday School in several locations in the region this summer. Sending kids from oil rush families to one of our United Methodist Camps.
The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry is a multi-year effort with three prongs. The plan is to CARE for those that are present and are coming to this region. It is the hope that we will be able to set up at least three if not more ministry centers. These centers will be a place for those who are seeking homes, connection and hope to come and witness the United Methodist presence.
The second prong is to CONNECT as many people as possible to what we love and experience everyday in our lives as United Methodists. This means new church starts. The Dakotas Conference will work with Path 1 and to create planting zones that will lead to new church starts.
Current churches in this region need everyone to COLLABORATE. There are great churches in this region. These churches are being called to be a new church. A church that is ready to serve people who are coming from all over the world. A church that will not need to close their doors but, will be ready to fling them open to be something that has never been dreamed of before. This means experimenting with new ideas, new ways and be open to learning.
CARING, CONNECTING, COLLABORATING—that is the plan, that is the hope. What is needed to make this happen? Staffing is needed. The Bakken Oil Ministry needs an advocate and leader. A staff Position, Associate Director for Missional Impact for the Dakotas Conference. The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry will be a key part to this leader’s work.
This project needs funds to succeed. The $260,000 Offering will provide some of the funding for the needed start up activities in 2013. At least $250,000 more will be needed 2014, and $2 million dollars in 2015.