God is on the move at Downtown First United Methodist Church in Mitchell, South Dakota. It all starts with praying for the Holy Spirit to break through.
"Last fall, our leadership team started talking about centering on our purpose. We set up a time to have a leadership retreat and talk about focusing on our "why." I believe it starts with prayer. I ordered ten copies of the Dynamite Prayer book," said Rev. Keith Nelson, Downtown First UMC.
Nelson wondered if people would engage in the 28-day prayer journey and thought he might have a few books left after he invited people to take a book. The books went quickly. He ordered a dozen more, and soon, those books were gone. He has more books on order.
"It is a great way to start our journey as a leadership council—to ask God's spirit to guide us as we discuss our purpose. Why has God put us here, and what is our call as a congregation? We need to ask for God's spirit to guide us," said Pastor Keith.
Downtown First UMC is on an intentional journey to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community.
The congregation is delving into what it takes to be a welcoming community of faith that lives out its mission statement, "Sharing the love of Jesus with the next generation from the heart of downtown Mitchell."
In the last seven years, there have been several improvements to the church building, including the worship space, the gathering space, and decluttering. Spaces are being utilized for partners in the community.
"We have done some needed repairs, made our spaces more welcoming, got rid of things that were no longer being used or simply did not work," said Pastor Keith. "We have some Sunday School spaces that we are not using. We are allowing In a Village—an outreach ministry for young moms and families, to utilize space for their ministry. It aligns with our values and supports the community. I would rather have a building be worn out than simply rust out for lack of use."
In the gathering space at Downtown First, you will find a place for the One Thing offering. Each month, a community partner is targeted in the One Thing offering. People bring an item or donate a small thing to a community organization. One Thing offerings are things that community organizations can utilize, like boxes of macaroni and cheese for the food pantry, diapers for In a Village, and $10 gift cards for Big Friend and Little Friend.
"One of the strengths of Downtown First Church for years and years has been the sense of missions. They have been doing the Love Feast for over 25 years," Pastor Keith said. "We started doing the One Thing to help people be engaged in the community. Everyone can make a difference, even in the age of isolation, with one simple, inexpensive, tangible gift. We partner with and bless different community organizations."
Staff transitions have occurred. After the long-time Children's Ministry Director retired, the position has evolved into Family Ministries Director.
"Becky Koch came on board. She brings experience from previous children's ministry, as a daycare director, and Head Start experience. She is working with children, youth, and young adults. It has been a gradual process to focus on the entire family," Pastor Keith said.
Short Larson serves at Downtown First UMC as the Congregational Care Coordinator. It is a part-time position that coordinates the efforts of volunteers and works alongside Pastor Keith. Short worked several years as the Office Manager at the church.
"Short is just such a compassionate person. She has been with the church for more than 30 years. So many people know and trust her. They know her caring heart. She works with volunteers that make visits and keep in contact with people," shared Pastor Keith. "They have a great impact in the community, connecting with people that I would never be able to do on my own."
In Mitchell, S.D., there are two United Methodist congregations, Downtown First UMC and Fusion UMC. The two congregations have connected for youth activities, fall kick-off, and fellowship.
"We are two partner churches, siblings in Christ, trying to reach out to our community. We had a fall school kick-off and invited other youth groups from churches in the surrounding communities to come and join us. Becky from Downtown First and Taryn from Fusion did all the planning. We had more than 100 people join that activity. That is something we hope to continue," Pastor Keith said. "Last summer, we had a friendly Kickball game. We used the game to raise money for a couple of projects in town. "
Nelson points out that it all begins with prayer. He has shared different Breakthrough Prayers with the congregation for three to four years.
"It is fun to hear of people who memorize that prayer. They try to pray it once a day at a specific time," explains Pastor Keith. "One mom told me that she has an alarm set on her watch to go off at the specified time. When it does, she and her daughter pray the Breakthrough Prayer together. It is a cool thing to see people embrace that prayer. Hopefully, the words are the seeds of being open to God's presence in our hearts, minds, and souls. "
Small groups are encouraged to pray the Breakthrough Prayer. Whenever there is a meeting of a committee or council, the prayer is part of the meeting. The Dynamite Prayer journey is a springboard for the leadership council's work.
"We know that society is changing, the church's role in a community is changing. There is still a great opportunity for the church," said Pastor Keith. "Where do we sense God is leading us? Come, Holy Spirit, show us your dunamis power."
Access the Dynamite Prayer week four resources.
Access all of the Dynamite Prayer resources and launch your 28-day journey.