God is at work among us, and we can see more evidence of that. In times of enormous challenges, we need the hope that only Jesus can provide. And that’s why we continue to plant churches.
On Saturday, Aug. 21, several Latino pastors from our region gathered at Bear Creek Christian Church in Rochester, MN, to celebrate the official launch of the eighth Latino church in our Conference. Our newest member of the NWC family is “En Su Presencia Ministerios Covenant,” led by Pastor Edgar and Lucia Ardón.
People from everywhere gathered to celebrate the launch of “En Su Presencia” that evening. It was a night full of worship, testimonies, inspiration and consecration that ended with a fellowship meal.
This church plant is the fruit of a journey that was initiated in conversations about two years ago. After going through the 18-month process of becoming church planters, Edgar and Lucia signed the Covenant Agreement at the Annual Meeting and started preparing for the big day.
We believe that every time we plant a healthy missional church:
- people are reached,
- lives are transformed,
- communities are changed,
- compassion is unleashed,
- and the world has hope.
Please keep this new congregation in your prayers as they embark on a fantastic journey with us.
The Northwest Conference was blessed to be able to share in the signing of Covenant Agreements for two new church plants at Gather 2021. Gather is the Evangelical Covenant Church annual meeting.
A Covenant Agreement signals the official start of a brand new church. The two churches that were started at Gather were, En Su Presencia Ministerios Covenant Church in Rochester, MN, with Co-Pastors Edgar and Lucia Ardon, and Catalyst Covenant White Bear Lake in White Bear Lake, MN, with Co-Pastors Cindy and Cory Jones.
The Ardon’s are very excited to be planting with the ECC. Mauricio Dell’Arciprete, the NWC Director of Latino Ministries, has been walking with them as they have gone through our planting process.
The Jones’s are planting a Catalyst network church. Catalyst Covenant in St. Paul, MN, with Pastor Jeff Olson, is the hub church they are partnering with. Jeff is also a Church Planting Associate with the NWC and has been working with the Jones’s to get them to this point.
We also recently signed a Covenant Agreement to plant a new church with Pastor Chris Auer of Risen Life Covenant Church. Risen Life will meet in the northwest metro, but a location has not been identified yet.
The planters of all three churches were recommended to plant through the ECC Assessment Center and completed the six-month Church Planter Training Course.
We are praising God that even through COVID, He continues to raise up gifted and called pastors for the mission field of church planting. Please be in prayer for these new churches as they do evangelism, gather people, work toward a unified vision, work toward developing ministry teams, develop leaders, disciple those God will bring, look for places to meet, plan for public worship, get equipment, raise funds and create a culture of stewardship, and equip folks to go out and share their faith.
It is a big call, but God is faithful to do what only He can do.
By Mike Brown, NWC Director of Church Planting
During the summer months, many of our church plants have begun to meet outdoors in addition to continuing an online worship service or connection time. The outdoor spaces allow for effective social distancing, and yet still allow for people to see each other, which is a significant need in this moment.
Many of our churches are adopting a “both and” posture rather than an “either or” posture when it comes to digital and in-person services in order to meet spiritual needs—and even to grow.
Here are a few fun, short updates or stories from church plants in our Conference.
At Crossview Covenant Church’s new Rosa Parks location in Mankato, Crossview South held its first in-person preview service in the COVID era on July 19 and had 49 people—including five new families—show up that have never been to the church before. Three of those families were not going to any church.
Many of these new attenders were people that Pastors Brian and Sandi Asker had made personal connections with after moving down to plant this new church over a year ago, including the realtor they purchased their home from! Stories like these remind us of the deep value in cultivating relationships and living and speaking in a way that make others curious about faith. Faith has always had a personal aspect to who we are but never needs to be a private thing.
Across the St. Croix River at The Crossing Covenant Church, Pastor Michele Arndt has begun outdoor services as well and has found in this moment the simple and stripped down service is actually a draw. People are seeking each other’s presence much more than seeking perfection or production from churches in this era.
In St. Paul, Catalyst Covenant Church began its worship services the first week in August and had five first time guests join. Pastor Jeff Olson, who also serves as Church Planting Associate for the NWC, expressed how before church began the team was able to connect with an outdoor fitness group, a number of people walking the park and even had one of those walkers stop and stay for the service. These are all people whom the church would have never had contact with at its previous indoor location.
At North City Church in Minneapolis, Pastors JD and ChristianAnn Larson plan to launch in-person and digital micro-church expressions later in August that alternate from week to week. This means every other week there is a large group gathering, and on the weeks in-between smaller groups will gather that are focused on the mission of loving young families, and cultivating rest and community at the same time.
This time is no doubt full of challenges, but what are some of the opportunities you are seeing in your church at this moment? In the new ways your church has been doing ministry, what ways has God surprised you over the past several months?
Church plants, by their very nature, have to be good at making changes and adapting quickly. In the first few years, many of these young churches face moving to different locations, birthing new ministries, changing leadership styles and leaders, and constantly learning in order to mature their ministry to help it be sustainable and grow.
Given that flexibility is a “must do” in Church Planting, we have seen many of our church plants be quick to adapt and adopt new ministry routines and ideas during the season of COVID-19 to further lean into the Great Command (Matthew 22) and Great Commission (Matthew 28). Here is just a small sample of the diverse ways several of our newest churches are going beyond digital worship and finding creative ways to do ministry.
Nearly all of our church plants are finding unique ways to safely volunteer their time, talents or treasure to give resources to local food shelves, people in their community and beyond. The many ways these churches are volunteering could be an article all on its own!
Renew Church in Eau Claire, WI, created an interactive page on its website for folks to both request different forms of assistance, and for others to help meet those needs in and around their community.
Restoration Covenant Church in Apple Valley, MN, is having congregation members share “encouragement videos.” These brief 2-4 minute videos sometimes connect to the Sunday theme but are often just the “overflow” of something good someone has seen or experienced during this pandemic. The church has enjoyed seeing and hearing from a variety of voices and faces. While it is extra work to crate these videos, people love being involved and seeing one another throughout the week.
Across the St. Croix River, The Crossing Covenant Church in North Hudson, WI, is doing a “Crossing Teens Talk Show” on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. The teens submit the conversation topics anonymously ahead of time, and leaders and students dig into these topics together. These conversations have covered a lot of ground—including processing grief and loss (losing temporary vs. eternal things) and conversations around character and contentment.
Catalyst Covenant Church in St Paul, MN, has hosted several webinars with live Q&A on mental health in the time of COVID-19 and on financial wisdom during this difficult season. As a result, the church has seen numerous people join home groups, which now all meet in digital formats. The Thursday night Facebook and YouTube Live drop-in Bible study has also been a source of connection and outreach.
Many of our pastors are also realizing the need to simply connect with their congregations, bring some levity and foster simple interaction to build community as many of us are isolated.
At Eden Community Covenant Church in Coon Rapids, MN, Zoom hangouts have been a way for people to connect and be real with one another.
At Real Life Covenant Church in Waseca, MN, beyond moving all of their ministry online, Pastor Michael Behm reminds us that our pastors and planters also need to model to our people the value of joy and a good smile every now and then, even in this moment:
How has your church adapted to meet needs, reach out and be a light in this time? We would love to hear from you! May our methods change but our passion to bless and be a blessing, and reach out with the hope of Jesus, remain steadfast even in these turbulent times.
Crossview Covenant Church in North Mankato has been connecting people to Jesus for 130+ years in Southern MN—2020 will be the year Crossview plants its first church. Brian and Sandi Asker, pastors of the new plant, have been in Mankato for a year, learning and working at the North Mankato location and praying about the new network church.
“We have hosted two preview services at the Howard Drive location. Our launch team has grown each week and we launched Preview Services at our Rosa Parks Elementary School location Jan. 12. We will be heading towards weekly services in April,” the Askers shared.
“Recently, one of our launch members heard a sermon on Being Present with Strangers from John 4. She went to work at a coffee shop Sunday afternoon, started a conversation with an Egyptian Grad Student, which was way out of her comfort zone. They talked about faith. She invited him to church, and he came! He connected with a different family after the service, spent Christmas Day with them and was back to worship Jan. 5. He is a highly skeptical scientist who is open to learning and conversation!
“This is why we are in the business of planting new churches. Both to train launch team members to share their faith, and to see how God uses us in the lives of those who do not yet know God loves them.”
Pastor Mauricio Dell’Arciprete has been called as the new Coordinator of Latino Ministry for the Northwest Conference beginning Aug. 1, 2018. Dell’Arciprete currently serves as the pastor of Destino Covenant Church (formerly known as New Covenant), a newer church in the NWC, which meets at Bethlehem Covenant Church in south Minneapolis. He will continue to minister there, even as he serves in this new role part-time for the Conference.
We are so pleased that Pastor Mauricio is willing to serve our broader region in this ever-growing part of our shared ministry. Mauricio has many gifts, is well respected, and has a great heart for coming alongside our Hispanic churches and pastors.
He will continue to assist our churches that desire to be involved with CHET. However, he will also engage intentionally with all of our Spanish speaking pastors and their congregations. In this way, we hope to increase our capacity to serve them well and be a catalyst to give birth to even more Latino churches as part of our “50 by ’25” Church Planting initiative. Mauricio and his wife, Jackie, have two daughters and live in south Minneapolis.
If you are interested in engaging around Hispanic ministry opportunities in the NWC, please email him directly. ¡Bienvenido Mauricio! Que Dios le bendiga su ministerio.
In other NWC staffing news, Director of Church Planting Mike Brown has been asked by the ECC to serve on an interim leadership team for church planting through the Start and Strengthen Churches ministry priority. In this half-time role that will be in effect from Nov. 1, 2018, through Oct. 31, 2019, Mike will lead the coaching initiative across the ECC. The goal is to have 50 trained church plant coaches by Jan. 1, 2020.
Mike will also provide support to at least four other regional Conferences, as well as serve as a resource to other Conference Directors of Church Planting. In this, he will develop the training and onboarding process for new Directors, as well as provide continuing education for those currently serving. Mike will also be making recommendations to help strengthen current church planting standards and systems, and participate in a denominational think-tank around future church planting.
We are pleased to assist the broader Church within the Covenant by sharing Mike’s passion and expertise with others. We are also assessing the best way to provide mentoring support to our NWC church plants and will be utilizing other coaches to work with our current and future church plants. In this way, we believe we are being good stewards of the gifts and resources God has provided to us.
It’s been said that finding the right person is the most important indicator of how fruitful a ministry will be. The next most important determinate, I believe, is coaching
On Aug. 14-16, the Evangelical Covenant Church hosted Dr. Keith Webb, author of “The Coach Model” and the CEO of Creative Results Management, to lead our new emphasis on coaching. The Directors of Church Planting and church planters from around the U.S. and Canada gathered at the Covenant offices in Chicago to learn from Webb and practice developing good coaching skills. Good coaching involves learning to listen well, and ask the right kinds of questions that allow the individual to create their own action steps to the issues they are facing in their ministry.
The hope is to roll out this coaching model at all levels of the ECC. Developing coaches will allow us to scale our Church Planting efforts, and to plant more churches that are better supported and resourced.