Glow sticks light up the room as conference attendees report Holy Spirit breakthroughs at the 2019 Annual Conference in Bismarck. Photos by Joni Rasmussen, jlynn studios.
Participants at the 2019 Dakotas Annual Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, were inspired to Dare to Reach: Love Boldly! Attendees were asked to report where they see the Holy Spirit breaking through.
Each person in attendance received a perforated sheet with tools to help live out the theme— Dare to Reach: Love Boldly! One item, a Breakthrough Prayer from Bishop Ough, calls for everyone to say this prayer daily:
Faithful and gracious God,
In this time of uncertainty in your holy church, re-focus my attention, and open my heart to embrace Jesus’ commission to go reach new people and teach them The Way. Equip and embolden me to remove the barriers that separate us, one from another. Send your Holy Spirit to help me love boldly and unconditionally, pouring out my life for others, just as Jesus did.
Holy God, there are those within my life who desperately need to know they are loved by you and by me. Show me how you are calling me to share your healing, saving, reconciling, joy-inducing grace with them. Help my words and my witness provide an invitation to experience life with Christ.
Led by the example of Jesus and in the power of your Holy Spirit, O God, I go forth today and every day with renewed courage to reach out and love boldly. Amen.
Participants answered this question — What is one way in which your congregation is daring to reach new people or loving boldly? Answers were recorded and collected on cards, part of the perforated sheet. More than 150 different Holy Spirit breakthroughs were shared. Responses included things like community outreach ministries, Wednesday gatherings and worship experiences, unique children and youth ministry opportunities, unique worship experiences, and special events.
During the Missional Report, participants heard from a panel of presenters about how the Dakotas Conference is experiencing Holy Spirit breakthroughs.
Families are being challenged to carve out time for worship on Sundays. Several churches are reaching out to people through Wednesday worship and fellowship opportunities. Here are a few of that were named as Holy Spirit breakthroughs: unique styles of worship on Wednesday nights such as Ignite, new Wednesday night service with a Discipleship group, Awana program on Wednesday nights with a meal, a 6:05 worship service on Wednesday, inviting people in the community to a meal and informal worship on Wednesday night.
Several Holy Spirit breakthroughs that invite children and youth to experience Jesus are happening in congregations throughout the Dakotas Conference. Individuals shared the following children and youth ministry ideas and events: hosting a preschool at the church, hosting an after school program resulting in 30 kids coming to Christian Education each Wednesday, offering a community Bible School, having a family fun night, events at the park and on holidays for families, sharing the church building with Boys and Girls Clubs, inviting the youth to lead worship.
The worship experiences are changing for many people who attend a service throughout the Dakotas. Here are some of the Holy Spirit breakthroughs that are creating vibrant worship experiences: a targeted Hispanic ministry, broadcasting sermons and worship services online using Facebook Live and other streaming providers, setting up a welcome team that shares radical hospitality, having a different style of worship with contemporary worship, offering a new worship service at a new time, offering Sunday School or children’s church during adult sermon time, holding worship in new locations—places in the community, new locations where the community is growing, and connecting with other worshipping communities.
The Holy Spirit is breaking through in several communities through outreach efforts such as: food pantries, serving meals to the community, thrift stores and clothing closets, a coffee kiosk, backpack programs for school-aged children, a van that provides meals throughout the community, a sandwich ministry, and creating a combined ministry outreach center in the community.
There are several special events that congregations hosted to share the good news of Jesus with others including: Trunk –n- Treat events, simulcast of women’s events, Walk Through Bethlehem and living nativities, end of summer picnic, school supply give away, neighborhood block parties, and a daughter-father-grandfather dance with more than 400 attendees.
Rev. Rebecca Trefz, director of ministries for the Dakotas Conference, explains that the Holy Spirit is breaking through in multiple ways. Efforts such as Breakthrough Prayer training, the Journey Renewal Partnership, and the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI) have inspired congregations and individuals to launch a new life cycle of ministry.
“We see the fruits of efforts come together and the Holy Spirit break through in ways we could have never imagined,” says Trefz. “Breakthrough Prayer, the Journey Renewal Partnership and MCCI are equipping congregations and individuals to dare to reach the next person and love our neighbors in bold ways.”
A little over six years ago, Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey stood on the stage of the 2013 Annual Conference in Bismarck, ND, and invited the members of the Dakotas Annual Conference to begin praying for the Holy Spirit to break through in their lives, churches, and communities. She shared stories of seeing the Holy Spirit unleashed through the power of Breakthrough Prayer in the history of the Methodist Movement from a faith community in Hurrnhut, Germany, all the way to churches of all sizes across the U.S.
What began as a teaching at Annual Conference and continued to be shared through the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI), and the Journey Renewal Partnership, has spread through the Conference with over 75 churches and 10,000 United Methodists across the Dakotas being involved with the Breakthrough Prayer Initiative over the past six years.
View the entire list of Holy Spirit breakthroughs reported at the 2019 Annual Conference here.