NWC 2018 Annual Meeting highlights ministry with Children, Youth & Families

With a theme of “Forward in Hope,” the 2018 Northwest Conference Annual Meetings—for both the Ministerial Association and church delegates—took place at Buffalo Covenant Church in Buffalo, MN, April 26-28. Throughout the weekend, pastors, delegates and attendees heard video and spoken testimony on the topic of ministry with Children, Youth & Families and participated in workshops offering different perspectives on this vital ministry priority.

“So many of us here are products of the fact that there were people in preceding generations that poured into our lives,” said Superintendent Mark R. Stromberg. “The reality is that people like me are the church of yesterday and today, but children are the church of today and tomorrow. And today and tomorrow, has to trump yesterday and today.

“It is worth noting that, in God’s providence, some of the very young people we pour into today, as we continue to get older, will turn right around and be the ones ministering to us … and themselves also reaching a newer generation still,” Superintendent Stromberg continued. “I’m so grateful that we’re able to celebrate this ministry priority with our theme this year.”

Friday Business Session

The Northwest Conference Annual Meeting opened with the business session on Friday afternoon. Superintendent Stromberg expressed his enthusiasm for the theme of the 2018 meeting and shared the story of his first faith commitment and call to ministry as a child at Covenant Pines Bible Camp.

Stromberg pointed out that the NWC is fortunate to be staffed around its Ministry Priorities—with staff members dedicated to Youth Ministry and Children & Family Ministry. In fact, some other regional conferences have now begun to adopt this model, as well.

In place of individual reports, this year’s meeting featured a NWC Ministry Director Panel where Conference staff shared how their areas of ministry oversight interact with ministry to Children, Youth & Families.

Jon Kramka, Director of Congregational Vitality, encouraged churches to work with whatever resources they have available in stewarding God’s mission in ministry to young people.

“Give what you have, place it in the hands of the almighty God, step forward in faith in what He’s asking you to do, and watch God work,” Kramka said. “God wants every church to be found faithful and fruitful in every circumstance and season.”

“Every one of your churches was at one point a church plant,” Mike Brown, Director of Church Planting, shared. “The beauty of that is you have a blank slate, but the challenge of that is you don’t have any systems in place.”

Brown explained that the NWC helps church plants take stock of what they have, and make use of internal resources to reach children and youth.

Jeff Burton, Director of Pastoral Care & Development, highlighted the work the NWC does to care for those who minister to children, youth and families in Conference churches.

“Children, youth and family ministry is difficult and requires a lot of energy. If you find yourself depleted, you’re not going to do well at this,” Burton said. “When we’re not well, we don’t have good relationships. We can’t afford to be in that condition if we’re going to do this work God has called us to.”

Kara Stromberg, Director of Children & Family Ministry, shared that often ministry to children and families is somewhat “hidden” in our churches. She encouraged churches to “start with what you’ve got,” and consider how their budgets, buildings and staffing reflect how kids matter.

“It’s not all about running programs and recruiting volunteers to make things happen inside the walls of the church,” Stromberg said. “It’s also about reaching out to the families so that kids can have that solid base in the home.”

Ginny Olson, Director of Youth Ministry, said youth ministry should not just be the responsibility of the paid youth pastor.

“It is vital that the whole church owns youth ministry,” Olson said. “A youth ministry thrives in a church where the whole church says ‘these are our kids.’”

Following the panel, Brown introduced five new church fellowship groups, including: Crossroads Covenant Church, Pastor Tim Stanley (Hastings, MN), Eden Covenant Church, Pastor Trin Peterson (Coon Rapids, MN), Epiphany Covenant Church, Pastor Kevin Farmer (Minneapolis), Genesis East Covenant Church, Pastor Aaron Freer (White Bear Lake, MN), and New Evangelical Covenant Church, Pastor Erico Ortega (Fridley, MN).

Brown also recognized six churches to be recommended for membership at the 2018 Evangelical Covenant Church Annual Meeting in June, including: Catalyst Covenant Church, Pastor Jeff Olson (St. Paul), City of Lakes Covenant Church, Pastor Dave Berge (Minneapolis), Genesis Covenant Church, Pastor Steve Wiens (St. Louis Park, MN), Grace Outreach Covenant Church, Pastor Paul Robinson (Coon Rapids, MN), New Evangelical Covenant Church, Pastor Mauricio Dell’Arciprete (Minneapolis), and Renew Covenant Church, Pastor Jamie Staples (Eau Claire, WI).

Moreover, Brown also reported that the NWC will be calling Pastor Mauricio Dell’Arciprete to serve in the new role of part time Director for Hispanic Ministries in the NWC. His work will focus in on an expanding base of Spanish speaking congregations, including providing assistance in the development of CHET classes in local church settings.

Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris expressed gratitude for the pastoral support from the NWC and its staff following the Aug. 2 explosion at the school’s Upper Campus. Harris shared a slideshow of photos from the life of the school which included damage from the explosion, prayer vigils and support events, school activities at its temporary campus in Mendota Heights, rebuild plans, and special gifts and recognitions MA has received since the explosion. The NWC and some of its churches presented a check to the school for $100,000 in recent months.

“We are just thankful to God. He has been so present, and He has truly shown Himself merciful and given us grace, Harris said. “And we continue to solicit your prayers for us.”

Harris also introduced David Hoffner, MA’s new Executive Director of Faith Formation, who told attendees, “Thank you for the generosity you’ve shown to our school this year, through your prayers and gifts. Continue to lift up our community in prayer. It’s a very humbling task to be in this role I’m in, but I love this school dearly.”

Attendees also had opportunity to learn about a variety of Conference and denominational ministries and organizations. Immediately following Friday’s Business Session, attendees were dismissed to rooms to hear from several leaders of NWC Covenant camps.

Friday Worship Service

The Buffalo Covenant worship team led attendees in worship during the Friday evening worship service. Special music was provided by the Minnehaha Academy Madrigal Singers, and Buffalo Covenant’s Generations Choir. Sixteen Candidates for Ordination were also recognized and prayed for during the service.

A special offering taken during the service raised over $3,000 to provide scholarships for students attending CHIC 2018. Church representatives also brought forward prayer bookmarks collected as part of the ECC’s BLESS Intentional Evangelism initiative, which will be brought to Gather 2018, the national Covenant annual meeting in June.

First Covenant Church (Ashland, WI) was honored with a special Living Legacy Litany. The church held its final service in 2017. Three of the five New Church Fellowship Groups recognized during the Business Session earlier in the day, signed Covenant Agreements on stage during the service, including: Eden Covenant Church, Pastor Trin Peterson (Coon Rapids, MN), Epiphany Covenant Church, Pastor Kevin Farmer (Minneapolis), and New Evangelical Covenant Church, Pastor Erico Ortega (Fridley, MN).

Tiger McLuen, Former President of Youth Leadership, shared a message titled, “Sharing Faith on the Road of Life.”

“Any ministry to any group of people requires proximity,” McLuen said, as he encouraged attendees to come alongside young people in their congregation. “When we think about the next generation, we often think ‘we used to be their age once.’ But I’ll tell you, you were never their age in this age. It’s a whole new day.”

Saturday Business Session and Workshops

During Saturday’s Business Session, delegates approved a ballot that included: electing Jim Volling (Excelsior Covenant Church, Excelsior, MN) to a 4-year term as well as to serve another year as NWC Executive Board Chairperson, Hollis Kim (Brookdale Covenant, Brooklyn Center, MN) to a 2-year term, and Paul Robinson (Grace Outreach Covenant, Coon Rapids, MN) and Cindy Owen (Hope Covenant, St. Cloud, MN) to 5-year terms on the NWC Executive Board, and electing Sue Poston (Salem Covenant, New Brighton, MN), Jon Taylor (Emmanuel Covenant, Shoreview, MN) and Dave Cairns (Maple Grove Covenant, Maple Grove, MN) to 5-year terms on the Minnehaha Academy Board of Trustees.

Delegates approved the NWC budget of $1,625,356, as well as the budget for Minnehaha Academy.

Ed Gilbreath, Executive Director of Communications, brought greetings and a ministry update from the Evangelical Covenant Church to delegates at both the Ministerial Association and Northwest Conference Annual Meetings.

“I want to thank you, Northwest Conference, for all that you do and all the amazing ministry that you represent,” Gilbreath said. “We want an informed, connected and growing Covenant community. As Superintendent Stromberg has said, ‘We’re better together.’”

On Saturday morning, attendees also heard verbal reports from leaders of National Covenant Properties, Covenant Trust Company, Covenant Enabling Residences of MN, Covenant Village of Golden Valley, the NWC Ministerial Association, Women Ministries of the NWC and CHET NWC.