“I am right where God wants me to be. There have been small and big moments that God orchestrated to call me into ministry,” said Pastor Becca Hafner, a local licensed pastor pursuing a Master of Divinity degree and serving at Jud UMC and Wesley UMC in Edgeley, North Dakota.
Responding to God’s call
In 2015, after teaching third, fourth, and fifth grade for ten years, Becca Hafner felt a nudge from God that encouraged her to look at a different career.
“I was teaching full-time, and there was this stirring in my heart that there was something more for me. I started praying about that,” said Hafner.
She started applying for different positions in the school setting—reading and math specialists. Hafner didn’t receive any of the positions.
“I started to feel dissatisfaction. I wondered, ‘Is this where I am supposed to be?’ Legacy [UMC in Bismarck, N.D.] started a second campus. Al Roll approached me and told me that I should lead the worship at Legacy South. I was shocked because I had never thought about it. I had been on the worship team for almost 15 years,” said Hafner.
She told Roll that she couldn’t be the worship leader because she felt comfortable in her role that was assisting in the background.
“I didn’t think it was for me. He said that everyone thinks it is a fit. I started leading the worship team at Legacy South,” said Hafner. “I fell in love with having the opportunity to share my heart a little bit on a Sunday morning.”
People responded to her. The Lord laid moments into her life, nudging her towards pastoral ministry.
“I started thinking that maybe I could do this full-time as my job. I asked my husband what he thought. He told me that I went to school to be a teacher and asked me why I would change,” said Becca. “Then, a full-time opportunity to be the Worship Arts Director at Legacy opened. I asked my husband again; he told me it was time and I should go for it. It was a confirmation to me from the Lord.”
In 2020, she moved into ministry career full-time at Legacy UMC and loved it.
“It was a tumultuous time. But I loved it,” said Hafner. “What I loved most of all is being a shepherd for people, helping people grow as musicians, and helping people grow in their faith. I loved just watching people blossom in so many ways. It filled my heart.”
She found the place where the Lord had called her. “I realize now that God was preparing me to be a shepherd and develop my talents,” said Pastor Becca. “God was going to use all my experiences with teaching to be what I needed to be. It was a cool orchestration of how God put me in a position to use my talents to reach people.”
At Legacy, she had the opportunity to preach on Sundays and Wednesdays occasionally. After preaching for two weeks at Legacy UMC South, God gave her a final push.
Becca described how her call to ministry was confirmed. “I had come to the point that maybe God was calling me into pastoral ministry. One Sunday, after I had preached, two different people approached me. One person said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a pastor?’ I told them I had been praying about it. They responded, ‘I think it is time you stopped praying and started doing.’ I think that the Lord was yelling at me!”
Her parents also attended the same service. They had brought along a family friend, who happened to be one of Hafner’s Sunday School teachers when she was growing up.
He said, “If this woman isn’t a pastor, she missed her calling.”
She surrendered to God and leaned into her call to be a pastor.
Pastor Becca Hafner started serving the United Methodist congregations at Edgeley and Jud, North Dakota, on July 1, 2023.
“It has been so fun. Both congregations have been so friendly and open. They have welcomed me and my husband, Ben, so kindly,” said Pastor Becca. “They have made us feel right at home.”
The first connections were made while the parsonage in Edgeley was being remodeled. Ben Hafner, a contractor, was hired for the project. Congregation members volunteered to help.
“It was an authentic way to get to know people in the congregation. It allowed us to get to know each other outside the sanctuary,” Pastor Becca said.
Jud, North Dakota, is 36 miles southwest of Jamestown, North Dakota. The United Methodist Church is the only church in the community with a population of 70. It is a congregation with an average worship attendance of 17 that has recently experienced a split, resulting in an average worship attendance of 8.
“We have eight people in worship, but four are snowbirds who travel south in the winter. So, in the winter, there are four people in worship,” described Pastor Becca. “They asked, ‘Are we going to meet for four people?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Worship looks and feels a little different. People gather in the basement around a table; coffee is served, and sometimes breakfast. The worship starts with music. Pastor Becca plays the guitar, and everyone sings. She then shares her message and invites conversation. Worship ends with prayers and music.
“It is kind of a small group, open conversation. I ask someone to read scripture around the message for the day. I share parts of my message, and we have a conversation,” shared Pastor Becca. “Sometimes we meander around the questions people have. It is forming a good bond for all of us. I look forward to worship in Jud every Sunday.”
One of the congregation members shared they are discouraged by the low numbers of people attending worship. Pastor Becca shares that Jud UMC is still a church with a mission to make disciples.
“There are still people in town that need to know Jesus. We need to focus on that,” said Pastor Becca.
Jud UMC has held two dinners for people in the community. In November, 21 people attended. In January, it was a cold day; 16 people attended.
“It was a way to invite people to the church and become comfortable with our neighbors, said Pastor Becca.
The congregation in Judd serves their neighbors by collecting things for the Veteran’s Home in Valley City, donating food to the LaMoure County Food Pantry, and collecting school supplies for students.
There is an average worship attendance of 15 at Wesley United Methodist Church in Edgeley, North Dakota. Edgeley is 22 miles from Jud—9 miles east and 13 miles south.
“I start my Sundays at Jud and head to worship in Edgeley. If everybody shows up on the same Sunday, we would have about 25 people in worship. I have been challenging them to deepen their faith,” Pastor Becca said. “I offered a sermon series on hymns. The words to the hymns are not just words on the screen. We should take the words into our hearts. Right now, we are working through a sermon series on prayer.”
Hafner shared that Wesley UMC recently held a pinochle night. “It was a frigid night, but we decided to do it anyway. We had six people come. There are some stirrings around the community that people are interested. So, we are going to do it monthly,” she said. “There are little pockets of people around town that gather to play pinochle. We will try to bring them together at the church, play cards, and have conversations. It is a way for me to get to know the people in the community.”
At Christmas time, the United Women in Faith conducted a noisy offering. The collection of $800 blessed two different people in the community. The funds helped one person in the community pay a heating bill and another for a prescription.
“We didn’t know who received the assistance. We blessed people anonymously,” Pastor Becca said.
Becca affirms that God has placed her exactly where she needs to be. “We fit so well into these communities. Things have fallen into place. God orchestrated little moments and big moments to show me what I am called to be,” said Pastor Becca.