This year’s Dakotas Annual Conference included brief presentations on three areas of ministry: discipleship, consensus building, and rural ministry. Experts on each of these subjects offered their thoughts in a format similar to the popular TED Talk videos.
On Thursday morning, Ben Ingebretson, the Dakotas-Minnesota Area Director of New Church Development, asked members of the conference if they could state their congregation’s discipleship path. While he believes most pastors could recite the mission statement of the UMC, he doubts most people could articulate the process of discipleship.
Ingebretson suggested a three-step path of discipleship: Know-Do-Be. This “discipleship tree” model of discipleship asks would-be followers to know Jesus, do the work of Jesus with others, and be the one who invites the next person to Jesus. View this presentaiton.
Also on Thursday morning, Allen Stanton spoke on the challenges and opportunities facing rural communities in the Dakotas. Although often misunderstood by those in urban areas, rural settings offer fertile ground for ministry. In order to get there, however, communities have to be willing to tell honest stories about who they are and what resources are available to them.
“We need a narrative of vitality that understands the nuances of the rural church, and that starts with the strengths of the rural church,” he said.
Stanton, the executive director of the Turner Center for Rural Vitality and author of Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations, called on rural church leaders to take on greater roles of community leadership and development in their communities. View this presentation.
On Friday, Ann Crews Melton, executive director of Consensus Council, opened her session on consensus building by referencing the friendship of John Wesley and George Whitfield, which endured despite profound disagreements. That relationship, she suggested, can serve as a model for those navigating the deep divisions in the United Methodist Church today.
God is fundamentally relational, Melton reminded the conference. “God is love” only makes sense in the context of relationship. In order to live into our relational calling and come to strong decisions discerned together, she suggested a four-step process: hear from everyone, take the necessary time, listen to one another, and trust the process. View this presentation.
A fourth talk, Leander Russ McDonald’s presentation on race relations, was cancelled due to illness.