By: Christa Meland
More than 130 Minnesota United Methodist Churches and three campus ministries have welcomed their neighbors and communicated their values to their communities following General Conference 2019 thanks to “Love Boldly Micro Grants” of up to $1,000 that the Minnesota Conference has been distributing since March.
Congregations of all sizes, in all geographic areas, and across the theological spectrum have applied for and received funds—and the messages they have communicated with the help of their grants have been specific to each church and context. While many used their grant money for print and social media ads, banners, door hangers, and mailers, others have taken particularly creative approaches.
For example, Northeast UMC in Minneapolis is using its grant for an art installation on its property. White Bear Lake UMC created T-shirts and ball caps for its members to wear around town. Richfield UMC will use its grant money to conduct focus groups to seek to understand how it is perceived by neighbors and how it could be more relevant to them. Crossroads Church—Elko New Market is using its grant dollars toward a billboard at Elko Speedway. Walker UMC will use its money to participate in various community festivals. Hill City UMC used its grant for a radio ad to welcome neighbors. Several churches used their funds to create or redesign their websites to increase their visibility within their communities.
Grant applications will continue to be accepted and grants will continue to be awarded after the 2019 Annual Conference session, which will take place next week.
The idea behind the grants was to help congregations repair their reputations, communicate their convictions, and extend a genuine welcome to the people in their communities following General Conference 2019—at which the Traditional Plan was adopted. While churches and individuals have varying reactions to the adoption of the Traditional Plan, most grant recipients indicated that the divisiveness within The United Methodist Church has hindered their ability to reach new people and make disciples. The grants were designed to give all churches an opportunity to discuss and articulate their values, and to take action in communicating them within their specific mission fields.
Not only have the grants been well received throughout the Minnesota Conference, but word of them has spread across the United Methodist connection. The conference communications team has received several calls from other annual conferences interested in learning more, the micro grants have been discussed at national events like UMCNext, and Bishop Ough was asked to present on the grants at a recent Council of Bishops meeting.
About one-third of the churches that have received grants requested and received design assistance. The conference communications team offered to design newspaper ads, social media ads, and banners with each church’s specific logo and message for those who didn’t have the capacity or knowledge to design their own pieces. This offering was key to enabling smaller churches to participate.
The grant money came from an undesignated gift to the Minnesota Conference.
If your congregation received a grant and you haven’t already done so, please send images of your message to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your congregation hasn’t applied for a grant, apply here.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church