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The Journey Renewal Partnership


Pastor Randy Hedge discusses ideas with his congregations from Plankinton UMC and White Lake UMC as they jot down some future visions they have for their church and its mission during a Journey Renewal gathering. Photos by David Stucke, Dakotas UMC Communications.

There are 16 churches in the Dakotas Conference creating a new life cycle of ministry through the Journey Renewal Partnership process. This process has been designed to assist churches that have gifted clergy leadership, motivated lay leadership, a surrounding demographic ripe for reaching Christ, and capable generous financial givers, but have not yet reached their kingdom potential and capacity. The Journey

Renewal Partnership provides a coaching and resourcing consultation that assists such churches to move beyond plateau or decline and enter a new season of fruitfulness and growth.

There are several steps that each congregation walks through on the revitalization journey. First churches are selected by the Dakotas Conference cabinet and invited to an informational meeting. Then churches discuss if the process is right for them and sign a covenant agreement to enter in the Journey Renewal Partnership.

Rev. Rebecca Trefz, director of ministry serves as the leader of the Journey Renewal Partnership process. She is the key leader that guides churches and clergy through each of the steps. “It has been a blessing to see churches implementing new ideas and initiatives to reach new people for Jesus through effective, impactful ministry in the 21st century,” said Trefz.


Rev. Rebecca Trefz presents White Lake UMC and Plankinton UMC members with feedback from mystery worshipers who recently attended their worship services, and provided objective impressions as new visitors.

It all begins with prayer. Each church that signs a covenant agreement, gathers a team of at least five—the pastor and five unpaid members of the congregation that attend a Breakthrough Prayer workshop. Rev. Sue Nelson-Kibbey, consultant from the West Ohio Conference, shares with participants how to engage the entire church and community in prayer initiative. Teams that attend plan out steps to start a Breakthrough Prayer Initiative in their local community.  

Training and learning is a key component along the journey. Clergy attend six daylong training sessions, in a cohort with the other clergy involved in the Journey Renewal Partnership. Congregations send teams to four key training sessions about: stewardship, reaching out beyond the church walls, leadership teams and the Breakthrough Prayer Initiative.

Each of the churches prepares a self-study. A volunteer committee gathers data related to membership, demographics and finances. Church members and a consultation team review the data.


Small groups engaged in lively discussions about their faith journeys, what their church has meant to them so far, and ideas for how their church can break through to make new disciples for years to come.

A consultation team, usually three-four people that includes: Trefz, the district superintendent, clergy and lay leaders from other churches, visits each church over two days. The team conducts interviews, reviews data and meets with various groups. At the end of the visit, the team prepares a report of feedback for the congregation and unique “prescriptions” (recommendations), of next steps the church needs to take.


People listened intently to members of the Journey Renewal team as they shared insights gained from on-site interviews with key stakeholders of each congregation.

The congregation then prays and deliberates over the report.  Each church votes to accept or reject the entire report and set of prescriptions.  If 70% of the church membership votes to affirm the report then they continue on the journey with support of the conference to implement each of the prescriptions.  If less there are less than 70% of the church members affirm the report, the church will map out the next steps as they see fit.

“We have had a church say we want to look at each part of report and each prescription individually and implement parts not the whole,” explained Trefz. “Most of the churches involved of the process have affirmed the entire report and prescriptions.”

After the church membership votes to affirm the report and prescriptions, the hard work of implementation begins.  Committees or task groups are set up to implement each prescription over two-three years.  Coaching and other resources are made available to churches for implementation of each of the prescriptons.


God moments, faith journeys, and personal trials and joys were shared as the small groups opened up about their experiences at a Journey Renewal gathering at Plankinton UMC on January 21, 2018.

“It is about listening and learning. There is no one prescription that fits every church. But we do know that centering the journey on prayer is key, praying for the Holy Spirit to breakthrough,” said Trefz.

There are two Journey Renewal Partnership cohorts— Cohort one, began in 2016 and includes: Arthur, Burke-Herrick United in Faith Parish, Mandan, North Sioux City The Ark, Presho-Kennebec-Reliance, Wahpeton Evergreen.  Cohort two, began in 2017 and includes: Bismarck Calvary, Howard Beach, Langdon, Lead Trinity, Plankinton-White Lake, Rapid City South Maple.

Here is what participants are saying:

When we started with the Breakthrough Prayer Initiative we could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. One of the things that you look at is various data and you find trends. You see at times when you see when ever the church went well. People are positive about the potential and where we are headed. I have been amazed at the number of different people that have been involved in the process. There is a lot of excitement about where we are headed. —clergy person

I was at the first informational meeting, a member of our PPRC, and participated in a focus group during the consultation. I think it is a very good tool to get ideas from members, a great way to look at our church to see where we have been and where we would like to go.  It forces us to cross the generations to see what worked, what has run its course, and what new ideas we could try.  —lay person

I was the advisory board president when we started and have been to all of the meetings so far in the process.  We keep finding out and learning more about our church.  We keep bringing in more people as the process moves along. Members are stepping up to the plate to show God our love.  —lay person


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