Ministry With: 2019 in review
Since 2008, The United Methodist Church has encouraged ministry efforts at all levels of the Church to focus engagement around four areas: global health, leadership development, new worshipping communities and ministry with the poor. Church and Society has been a leader in the denomination on ministries with.
Ministry with the Poor encourages United Methodists to rethink how we do ministry: shifting away from ministries “to” people and communities, which often seem transactional, and toward ministries “with” people and communities that are built around relationships. These relationships are what inspire and inform our ministries and give rise to a shared vision, shared commitment and shared leadership.
Church and Society has been in a season of listening to learn how United Methodists are led by relationships to address root causes of poverty. We began this process by holding one-on-one conversations with annual conference leaders from across the connection. Unpacking what “with” really means, emphasizing causes of poverty, rather than symptoms. Church and Society called and emailed hundreds of ministries to interview leaders about their work. In so doing, Church and Society surpassed its quadrennial goal of identifying 400 ministries.
Ministry With the Poor efforts are as diverse as the root causes of poverty. On this journey, we have heard stories of United Methodists building ministries that:
- Address generational poverty.
- Bridge gaps in the education system.
- Seek justice for citizens returning from the correctional system.
- Provide legal aid and additional assistance to immigrants and refugees.
- Pursue peace from violence in their communities.
- Accompany survivors of trauma.
- Walk with those impacted by substance abuse.
These are only a few of the concerns that United Methodists have developed after building relationships with their neighbors. And it is these relationships that serve as the hallmark of Ministry With the Poor.
“To do ministry with, you have to let go. Let go of assumptions, plans and ideas. All of the planning and ideas come with trust. The process isn’t quick and will not happen overnight. And for this reason, many do not choose the road of doing ministry with. But if this road is taken, prepare for deep transformation to occur within the hearts of all involved. Once we lock arms with someone who may not look like us, we begin sharing the same frustrations and celebrations. Your entire ideals and values may change. That’s not always what people wish for. Yet, it rocks my world!
— Shellie Ross, Executive Director for the Wesley Rankin Community Center in the North Texas Conference
Church and Society is moving into a new phase with Ministry With the Poor. Throughout the process of identifying ministries, we built connections with ministry leaders who are interested in discussing shared vision and goals. Moving forward, Our priority will be fostering these connections for co-learning, sharing expertise and resources, and collaboration.
Rooted in Relationship: A Ministry With Gathering will be held in February 2020. The U.S. based event will bring together 15 leaders with expertise in relationship-based ministry. Participants will spend three days sharing common challenges and personally tested solutions, receiving training in trauma informed care, and building relationships they can call upon beyond the event. All content has been curated by a small Advisory Team of ministry practitioners and programming will be led by participants themselves.
While the work is ongoing, it remains clear that United Methodists are making visible to the world God’s promise of abundant life by walking, worshipping and witnessing with neighbors who experience poverty. Together we are meeting immediate needs, repairing broken systems and demonstrating the radical love of the gospel and its power to liberate and heal.