Background: In Spring of 2017, the Conference Board of Directors approved our “2020 Vision”, a set of eight strategic objectives that will focus our ministry together over the next few years, with full implementation by 2020. These objectives align with our Conference’s existing strategic priorities, adopted in 2012. Our “2020 Vision” was publicly launched at Annual Meeting 2017. A brief description of each element of our “2020 Vision” is offered below.
Strategic Objective #1
Identify/nurture two or more post-modern, “3.0” communities of faith by the end of 2019
All but one of our congregations in the Minnesota Conference might be understood as a “2.1 Church”, a formalized and more traditional way of being church. By contrast, a “3.0 faith community” typically has no building of its own, may not have a paid pastor, and may understand itself to be a temporary or short-term community. It might take place in a coffee shop or in someone’s living room, or revolve entirely around mission or community engagement, or any number of other somewhat informal settings. A 3.0 community of faith looks less like an institution than it does a dynamic movement.
The Minnesota Conference loves and celebrates the churches we have; we also want to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in fresh ways, attuned to the ways She ‘shows up’ in unexpected places. Seeking to identify and nurture “3.0” communities of faith provides a way to reach those who may be longing for a spiritual or religious dimension in their lives but are unlikely to step through the doors of one of our established churches. It challenges us to seek new ways of sharing our enduring Christian message with those who won’t be attracted by a traditional church setting.
Strategic Objective #2
CROSSROADS-Church Renewal and Vitality.
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and in the spirit of “the church must always be reformed” CROSSROADS will guide us to answer the question: ‘What is God calling us to do and be … TODAY?”
Working with the “Vibrant Faith” organization, CROSSROADS will help guide a congregation by equipping and empowering church leaders to grow faith-forming cultures and vibrant faith communities. Focus will be given on helping churches address the challenges of forging new ministry cultures and leadership models, recognizing that the context and systems for forming faith have changed, and will continue to do so – and ways to respond to those changes.
CROSSROADS will offer COACHING to guide leaders toward adaptive ministry models, LEADERSHIP TRAINING that develops knowledge, skills and expertise, LEARNING COMMUNITIES that provide networked support and resources to sustain thriving communities and develop sustaining SOLUTIONS and TOOLS for church leaders and members.
Strategic Objective #3
Engage at least 10% of our congregations in use of the UCC’s “White Privilege: Let’s Talk” curriculum between 2017-2019.
“White Privilege: “Let’s Talk” Curriculum is a resource for transformational dialogue and the conferences continuing commitment to engage in sacred conversations on race. The ‘Introduction’ to the curriculum states, this study is not the end of any journey, or even the beginning. Its focus is narrow on White Privilege as seen through the lens of Black/White divisions in America. This conversation is crucial on our journey to racial equity.
The study will lead participants through four areas of focus: telling the story of your spiritual journey through the lens of race; looking at the dynamic of culture in which whiteness is the established norms; learning how America attaches a cash value to whiteness; and inviting the participants to commit to becoming an ally in the pursuit of racial equality. As part of the 2020 Vision the Conference will host opportunities during the next three years for individuals to be trained to lead their congregations through this difficult and inspiring curriculum. You are invited to download and read the curriculum. http://www.uccfiles.com/pdf/White-Privilege-Curriculum.pdf
Strategic Objective #4:
By year-end 2018, launch a lay leadership development program that grows our capacity across the Conference for strong lay leadership, provides for multiple paths to authorized ministry, and invigorates/equips the Church for the future.
Lay Leadership and Development Academy(in collaboration with the Wisconsin Conference)
By the program year 2018-2019 Program year, the WI and MN Conferences will together launch a lay leadership development program that grows our capacity across the Conference for strong lay leadership, provides for multiple paths to ministry, and invigorates and equips the church for the future. This will build on the Wisconsin Conference UCC’s successful 25-year track record with their own Lay Academy. Our collaborative venture will help each of our Conferences address the growing need across the life of the Church to develop alternative paths of ministry formation and equip competent pastoral leadership for churches of every size and location.
Young Adults Service Communities (YASC)
This is a national program that places three or more young adult interns recruited from across the country to live in intentional community and do meaningful work with local host congregations and local non-profit organizations. We envision a pilot project here in the Minnesota Conference that would engage 3-4 congregations in a collaborative involvement in YASC. The hope would be to replicate this model in succeeding years.
For more information about YASC, visit http://www.ucc.org/volunteer_young-adults.
Strategic Objective #5
Providing Support and Practical Resources for Local Congregations
Beginning in 2017, identify and develop resources to support and train moderators, treasurers, and people in other leadership roles in local church settings. Such resources might include training webinars, a speakers’ bureau, in-person trainings, links to on-line resources, or helping to create peer groups for mutual support and resourcing.
Our goal is to serve as a clearinghouse for practical resources while at the same time fostering deeper connections with local church leaders.
Strategic Objective #6
Courage & Renewal for Faith Formation Leaders : During 2018, launch a 6-month leadership formation initiative for up to 20 faith formation leaders from both the Minnesota Conference and other conferences within the UCC that supports peer connection and learning, creates space for personal spiritual renewal, and strengthens the capacity for participants to nurture faith within the congregations they serve.
Thanks to generous funding from the Ashley Endowment, we are delighted to collaborate with the Center for Courage& Renewal, the group co-founded by Parker Palmer, to develop a new peer support and leadership formation initiative, Courage & Renewal for Faith Formation Leaders. For two decades, the Center for Courage & Renewal has helped create safe spaces for people to gather for reflection and meaningful conversations designed to support vocational exploration, building and maintaining trustworthy relationships, and finding alignment between one’s inner life and outer work in the world. Grounded in this work, Courage & Renewal for Faith Formation Leaders will offer an opportunity for congregational leaders to renew, reflect upon, and reconnect with the heart of their vocation.
We are in the final stage of recruiting for this new initiative which will launch in late January 2018. To learn more about this exciting program initiative, please click check out the program website, www.crfaithformation.org.
Strategic Objective #7
Nurturing Faith Forming Congregations
During 2017-2018 engage up to 5 congregational leadership teams in a 12-month coaching/mentoring process to develop a comprehensive vision and ministry plan for lifelong spiritual formation in each participant congregation.
The Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ and Vibrant Faith are collaborating on a new initiative, “Leading Well: Nurturing Faith Forming Congregations,” “Leading Well” will provide an opportunity for congregational leadership teams (clergy, staff, and lay leaders) to come together for two retreats and to connect for monthly peer learning opportunities. These spaces of connection will provide opportunities to learn from the wisdom and experience of the group and share stories of successes and growing edges. The leadership teams will be paired with a Vibrant Faith coach who will work with them throughout the 12-18 months of the program to develop and implement a ministry plan for their congregation.
We have an initial cohort of three congregations from the Minnesota Conference and two additional congregations that will journey together through the Leading Well program. The program will launch with a retreat in early November 2017. To learn more about this new initiative, please contact Rev. Kevin Brown, Association Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth.
Strategic Objective #8
By the end of 2018 recruit and support a network of content creators/curators from across the UCC of theologically progressive faith formation resources and launch an accessible distribution platform for these resources.
We hear often from our pastors and faith formation professionals that there is a dearth of theologically progressive faith formation resources available to them. We hope to spur a UCC-wide, and perhaps ecumenical, conversation about this and invite the contributions of theologically progressive writers and faith formation experts for a widely accessible resource online.