When asked to define what it means to be missional in one’s community, Cindy Garver, Disaster Response Coordinator for the Indiana Conference, responded “being outside the church. Connecting with the community. Serving the community. Doing God’s work.”

Cindy is one of nearly 200 United Methodists from across Indiana who joined together at Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin to learn how to be better equipped to be missional while making disciples in their communities during the 2019 Respond Summit hosted by Mission and Justice Ministries of the Indiana United Methodist Conference.

In 2017, Bishop Julius C. Trimble and leaders of the Conference adopted a new mission focus to be a ‘fully missional’ Conference by 2020, which would require a realignment of our Conference mission, vision, and core values to support the Four Areas of Ministry Focus of The United Methodist Church.

The Respond Summit, in its third year, continues to strengthen that mission focus by creating a space where United Methodists can discern and discuss what it means to be a church in mission outside the church walls and how to be intentional in our mission by entering communities and lives that need to be served the most.

The Summit launched in life-giving worship led by Matthew’s Voices, a ministry that has harbored and given a voice to those experiencing homelessness in Central Indiana. The choir blessed attendees with three songs — “Unity,” “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and “Ready for Joy.” Matthew’s Voices was a special guest during the 2018 Annual Conference Mission and Justice Report, where guests rose in a standing ovation following their performance at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

“I really enjoyed singing for everyone at the Mission and Justice Summit. I felt welcomed and appreciated, “ said choir member George Taylor.

Author and nonprofit consultant Joy Skjegstad was the guest speaker at this year’s Mission and Justice Summit. Joy offered attendees ideas for how to “Create a Passion for Community Ministry in your Church.” Her presentation included real-life scenarios about how the Spirit of God is moving in communities across the Connection and how United Methodists can change the narrative in regards to why and how churches and people engage in relational ministry.

“I think partnership development is highly intuitive, and you have to be able to read the people you’re talking to,” Joy said in response to a question by Muncie High Street UMC Pastor Stacee Gehring, who asked for Joy’s advice on building connections with community organizations and how to best glean their willingness to collaborate with church ministries in new and unconventional ways.

“It depends on how people in the community where you’re working see the church. Whether they have a neutral feeling about it, feel good about it, or are engaged themselves, which is key,” Joy added.

In light of relational ministry, Emily Reece, Director of Church Development, announced during the Summit that Church Development will be partnering with Joy to begin coaching and teaching cohorts in the near future. Emily and Associate Director of Church Development, Ed Fenstermacher, led the Know Your Neighbors using MissionInsite workshop during the Summit, encouraging churches to use this important tool to learn more about the people in their community as they seek to be responsive to the needs of their neighbors.

Emily stated, “About 60% of Indiana people are not involved in a congregation. So if we look at it from the standpoint of the nearly seven million people in Indiana, roughly four million are not involved in any kind of a congregation. So that puts things in perspective.”

At the core of the Respond Summit is the engrained idea of building community, strengthening the United Methodist call to work and carry out the mission of the Church as a Connection.

“I’ve had a chance to have some really good conversations and learn some things that I did not expect or know — like ministries that are doing some things that are really profound and unique,” offered Travis Johnson, Director of Development for the United Methodist Youth Home. “When I come to events like this, I want to see what the Church is doing and see if there’s any way we can collaborate to help make a difference together.”

Travis continued, “I think mission is the role of the Church. If the Church isn’t doing something to help others outside the four walls, it misses the mark in what Christ has commanded us to do.”

For more information regarding the coaching and teaching cohort for local congregations, please contact Emily Reece at emily.reece@inumc.org.



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