NWC 2024 Annual Meeting Celebration highlights Conference churches and ministries serving ‘With Joy’

Featuring a theme of “With Joy,” the 2024 Northwest Conference Annual Meetings—for both the Ministerial Association and church delegates—took place at Redeemer Covenant Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, April 25-27.

“It is an honor and a joy to serve you as your Superintendent. It always warms my heart to hear stories of God at work in all of your ministries,” Superintendent Kara Stromberg shared. “I’m unashamedly joyful about this work that we have in front of us. It’s my hope that we as a Conference and Denomination can rally around shared mission in the same direction so that we can be found faithful and that God would bless our ministry going forward.”

Throughout the weekend, pastors, delegates and attendees heard video and spoken testimony on the topic of joy from a variety of ministry leaders.

Friday Business Session

The Northwest Conference Annual Meeting opened with the business session on Friday afternoon.

“We here at Redeemer Covenant Church are happy and filled with joy to welcome you to this year’s Annual Meeting,” said Dan Thompson, Pastor of Redeemer Covenant Church.

Paul Lessard, ECC Vice President of Mission Priorities, brought greetings from the Evangelical Covenant Church.

“Every one of your Conference personnel is on one of the Denominational boards and teams, so you’re well represented at that level,” Lessard said. “The Lord continues to call gifted people to serve.”

During her report, Superintendent Kara Stromberg reiterated the NWC ministry priority areas of Congregational Vitality, Church Planting and Children, Youth & Family, with supplemental support in areas of pastoral support and development.

“We really believe in leaders—both pastoral and lay leaders—and that when we work together, our churches can become healthy and strong,” Stromberg said.

Stromberg went on to highlight the NWC’s work in walking with churches through pastoral transition, facilitating cohorts of pastors serving in various capacities (church planting, vitality, children, youth and family, interim pastors, those serving in their first call, etc.), equipping lay leaders through events like last fall’s Church Chair Training, as well as offering financial and real estate training and “continuing to grow in our understanding of racial righteousness and living into the multiethnic mosaic.”

Stromberg also praised the work of the Church Planting Leadership Team over the last year, to bolster and strengthen church planting systems and processes. She then called on several members of the NWC staff to provide updates from their ministry priority areas, beginning with Scott Nelson, Associate Superintendent, who will oversee Church Planting, among other things, going forward.

“I am very excited to serve as the Associate Superintendent for the Northwest Conference and its vision for ministry. You have a heart to reach people … to disciple people, and not just have chair sitters,” Nelson said.

Nelson also praised a “strength in the call to unity” he has already sensed in the NWC.

“I think that sometimes as Christians we forget that we are a sent people,” Nelson said. “I think God has called us to a mission, and I think the world is actually longing for God’s people to see them, and to reach out to them, and to love them. I want us to have a vision for sending leaders. Thank you for living into the call as sent people, together.”

Jon Kramka, Director of Congregational Vitality, encouraged attendees to consider how their church can embrace change while on a journey toward renewal.

“The Church is in need of constant renewal,” Kramka said. “Congregational vitality is not a program. It’s not a box that you check. It’s not something that you’ve done. Actually, it’s an invitation and commitment to a journey—based on foundational values and principles—that have the potential to continually renew your church.”

Kramka offered five core attributes found in every healthy, missional church, that include: vision clarity, effective connection and formation processes that provide a pathway from belonging to becoming fully devoted followers of Christ, an outward focus, a culture of Godly leadership, and organizational structures that provide systems and decision-making processes that are Holy Spirit led, and that seek out and provide maximum missional potential.

Ginny Olson, Director of Youth Ministry, pointed to studies that suggest about one million people are leaving the church every year. She highlighted the work the NWC is doing in partnership with Fuller Youth Institute and others, to address this new challenge as it relates to younger generations.

“It’s an honor to work with those who work with these younger generations,” Olson said. “We’re seeing God at work in some amazing, amazing ways.”

Sara Sosa, Director of Children & Family Ministry, pointed to the many ways the NWC can be a resource, support and encouragement to those serving emerging generations in our churches.

“If the kids are walking out of the church, it’s because the parents have missed an opportunity to disciple,” Sosa said. “And perhaps the churches have missed the opportunity to disciple those parents.”

Sosa went on to highlight LunchBox (, an initiative created within the NWC to provide resources, training opportunities, best practices and tools to those serving in ministry to children and families across the Denomination. She also mentioned the many events that happen outside of NWC churches, to serve the people inside the churches, including: MUUUCE, UNITE East and Adventures in Leadership.

Hollis Kim, Director of Ministerial Health & Connections, explained his role as a “pastor to the pastors.” He highlighted the work of resourcing and encouraging pastors and their families, serving churches of all sizes—especially in more remote rural regions—connecting pastors with Denominational resources and in cohorts, and serving pastors in their moments of personal need.

“I am so grateful to be in this role because I get to be the shepherd to our shepherds,” Kim said. “The joy of this job is to be with people, to see them over the long haul—the joy of continuing to see God grow fruit in their lives is a true joy.”

“I want to encourage us to live into the Covenant we aspire to be,” Stromberg said as she concluded the business session. “Lean into our six Covenant Affirmations that ground us theologically and relationally, the six-fold test that propels us forward toward being the beloved community, the full affirmation of women and men serving alongside one another with mutuality, our commitments to discipleship and evangelism—especially with these next generations—our insistence on asking both ‘where is it written?’ and ‘how goes your walk?’ All of this is for God’s glory and neighbor’s good.”

Following the afternoon sessions, delegates and attendees had the opportunity to attend workshops that included: “Living with Joy. Leading with Joy.,” led by Jon Kramka, NWC Director of Congregational Vitality; “Gen Z and Gen Alpha – Who are these Kids and Why Does it Matter for Your Ministry?,” led by Ginny Olson, NWC Director of Youth Ministry; “Breaking the Silo of Faith Formation,” led by Dave Cairns, Executive Director of Covenant Pines Ministries, Phil Tolbert, Executive Director, Lake Beauty Bible Camp, Kaela Stano, Director, Covenant Park Bible Camp, Chadwick Persons, Camp Director, Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp.

Friday Worship Service

Courtland Pickens and the Known MPLS choir led attendees in worship during the Friday evening worship service. Pickens is a distinguished vocalist, acclaimed music educator and visionary director based in Minneapolis. He serves as the Worship Director at Epiphany Covenant Church and works with a number of youth choirs, with the goal of training the next generation of worship leaders.

Five Candidates for Ordination were also recognized and prayed for during the service: Adam James Christian (First Covenant Church, River Falls, WI), Rachel Mae Hart (Linwood Covenant Church, Wyoming, MN), Amy Elisabeth Long (Minnehaha Academy, Minneapolis, MN), Edith G. Soto Lopez (Jesus Fiel Amigo Covenant Church, Brooklyn Park, MN), Daniel Price Swartz (Emmanuel Covenant Church, Shoreview, MN).

A special offering taken during the service raised $1,700 to benefit the students attending UNITE East this summer.

Kevin Farmer, Lead Pastor of Epiphany Covenant Church in Minneapolis, shared a message titled, “With Joy.”

“There are differences between earthly happiness and heavenly joy,” Farmer said. “Biblical, heavenly joy is not simply an emotion, it is in essence a character trait of the Holy Spirit that transcends earthly conditions.”

Farmer challenged attendees to consider the question: “What happens when God gets the glory?”

“Things don’t just work out for your good. No, God works out all things for your good,” Farmer said. “What God wants to know, and what people need to know, is that you won’t hesitate to put the spotlight on Him and proclaim the goodness of His glory.”

Farmer said that when God gets the glory, “people are going to try to arrest your witness, people will notice something peculiar about you,” and” the joy and the praise becomes infectious.”

“I am convinced in my being that most people that struggle with biblical joy have not figured out how to praise, because praise releases joy,” Farmer concluded.

Saturday Business Session

Juan Lopez, Pastor of La Bendición Covenant Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, offered a devotional reflection to start the morning session.

“Joy and revival go hand in hand. Joy is the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Lopez said. “Not only individually, but as a Church, we are called to experience revival. Revival is God giving life again.”

Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris shared a presentation from the life of the school that featured recent accomplishments and activities of MA students.

“I’m a firm believer that the joy of others increases our own joy, and it’s really contagious,” Harris said. “And when that joy is rooted in Jesus, our cups runneth over.”

Harris highlighted the many ways the Minnehaha community is challenging itself to live out the 2023-24 theme verse of Colossians 3:12-15 through prayer initiatives, vibrant chapel experiences, “teaching for transformation,” the Minnehaha Leadership Institute and many other academic initiatives.

During Saturday’s Business Session, delegates also approved a ballot that included the election of Nikki Kahoud (Rochester Covenant Church, Rochester, MN) to serve another 1-year term as NWC Executive Board Chairperson, Dr. Jacob A. Gayle (Sanctuary Covenant Church, Minneapolis, MN), and Rev. Terri Russell (Salem Covenant Church, New Brighton, MN) to 5-year terms on the NWC Executive Board, and Rev. Jonathan Wilson (Salem Covenant Church, Pennock, MN) to a 1-year term on the NWC Executive Board, as well as electing Katie Craig (Bethlehem Covenant Church, Minneapolis), Sean Mahoney (Plymouth Covenant Church, Plymouth, MN) and Todd O’Bert (Bethlehem Covenant Church, Minneapolis) to 3-year terms on the Minnehaha Academy Board of Trustees.

Delegates approved the NWC budget of $1,361,434, as well as the budget for Minnehaha Academy.

On Saturday morning, attendees also heard reports from leaders of Camping Ministry in the NWC, Women Ministries of the NWC, the NWC Ministerial Association, Covenant Ability Network, National Covenant Properties, Covenant Trust Company and Covenant Benefits.

Attendees also had opportunity to learn about a variety of Conference and denominational ministries and organizations at display tables, and through one-on-one conversations throughout the weekend.

As the meeting was concluding, Lead Pastor Matt Kennedy invited the delegates to come to Roseville Covenant Church in Roseville, MN, for the 2025 NWC Annual Meeting Celebration next May 1-3.

Superintendent Stromberg then closed the meeting with a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have served in the ministry of the NWC as well as those who are newly elected to various positions.