At the 2020 Annual Conference, happening virtually, more than 500 attendees, some participating by Zoom webinar, others watching the live stream, heard the 2020 Missional Report. The report, framed around the core values of Jesus, Mission, and Connection, highlighted all the ways God is at work across the Dakotas Conference.
The core values, identified through the Dakotas Conference leadership wrestling with the question, “If everything were stripped away, tossed up in the air, what would be the core things—the core values—of the Dakotas Conference that you would want to remain steady?” The discussion and discernment led to three words: Jesus, Mission, and Connection—framing the 2020 Missional Report.
Jesus—Christ as Lord and Savior being the foundation of what we do and why we do it. In the Dakotas Conference, we foster a culture of call by welcoming 14 new clergy into ministry. We help young people discern their call to ministry through the Elisha internship program, Samuel Project, and sending people to denominational events like Exploration. Our Camp and Retreat Ministries are inspiring youth to consider how God is calling them into ministry. Breakthrough Prayer, led by trained laity, is a priority guiding all of us to discern our call to serve God and invite people to Jesus.
Mission—Dakotas United Methodists understand that we are all called and sent on a mission to share the Good News. We value the sense of missional urgency—that desire to shine this light to others, and to “always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for the hope that we have and to do so with gentleness and respect.” The conference equips individuals and congregations to reach out to the mission field through Breakthrough Ministry Grants, the Higher Ground Imitative, new church projects, virtual workshops, and resources for congregational care, online worship communication ministry resources like video conferencing.
Connection—a posture of humility that acknowledges that we need one another, of selflessness that desires to see growth in vitality in other places besides our own local setting, and a love for one another that shows the world a different vision of what life is meant to be. In the Dakotas Conference, a key part of how we accomplish our mission of inviting people to follow Jesus and transform the world is through connection. We have seen the power of connection through training and coaching children’s and youth ministry programs with Stephanie Caro from Ministry Architects, conference youth events such as DakYouth and Winter Connection, and through the 177 youth and adults engaged in the mission trip to Kansas City and Youth 19. We saw the power of connection in professional development activities for preaching, equipping workshops, brainstorming models for rural ministry, and new church development. Responding to our neighbors during the flooding in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed the power of connection. For the past eight years, led by Bishop Ough, we have created powerful ministry partnerships across the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area.