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STATE MEETINGS: Minnesota-Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah-Idaho

Minnesota-Wisconsin celebrates growth, ministry amid pandemic

Na Herr, international catalyst for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, leads a VBS session in Southeast Asia, a security-sensitive region. MWBC has joined with the Hmong Fellowship’s already thriving missions focus in Southeast Asia, called SEA Harvest.

ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP) – The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention met virtually for its 2020 annual meeting in a two-hour event rather than the 204-church state convention’s usual two-day gathering.

“God showed up,” Executive Director Leo Endel said in his video report. He was referring to recent missions activity as well as what has occurred in and through Minnesota and Wisconsin Southern Baptist churches during a year stifled by a pandemic and roiled by massive protests in two of its cities.

The missions activity was an unexpected North American Mission Board (NAMB)-sponsored tractor trailer full of food from USDA’s Farmers to Families program that came to Rochester in early October with just two days’ notice. Southern Baptists rallied and with the help of social media and local media, more than 1,200 boxes of food and 1,200 gallons of milk were distributed in six hours to area residents, including about 50 Somali refugee families.

In other activity this year across the two north-central states, Endel said church planting is a year ahead of its ambitious projections, with 41 from a hopeful goal of 30; income is down just 9 percent from last year’s highest-ever offerings, offsetting the loss of $118,700 in contributions from NAMB and LifeWay Christian Resources; Disaster Relief chaplains mobilized to comfort those affected by societal unrest; and more.

“There’s been tension in the churches over COVID, in how to meet and when to meet,” Endel said, acknowledging the assistance of LifeWay, which helped churches add online giving capability as part of their websites. “But as a rule, churches under 150 are pretty nimble. These churches can turn on a dime and are highly relational. They find new ways to connect and adjust their ministries. Most will come through COVID stronger and more effective than ever before.”

The state convention’s executive board had authorized funds from reserves to assist churches with financial needs, but only $22,500 was requested out of a possible $100,000.

“Churches here are making it, responding to the needs around them and finding ways to stay connected,” Endel said. “They have gained social media expertise in leading small groups and Sunday morning services.”

The first virtual annual meeting in the convention’s history was a case in point, the executive director said. Annual meetings usually draw about 150 participants but this year’s simulcast attracted around 350.

Business was limited to video reports from SBC entities and Endel’s report. The executive board had approved an $894,366 budget in September, a decrease of 14 percent from last year. Of the total, $615,366 is coming from the convention’s churches, and 36 percent of that is allocated for global SBC missions through the Cooperative Program.

The annual meeting theme for Minnesota-Wisconsin Southern Baptists this year was, “Where do we go from here?” Endel answered the question in the final statement of his report: “We go forward with the Good News of the Gospel.”

The next annual meeting is set for Oct. 22-23, 2021, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Indiana churches stay connected

State Convention of Baptists in Indiana officers, left to right: Josh Goepfrich (1st vice president), Steve Taylor (recording secretary), Bobby Pell (president), Randy Forsythe (former 1st vice president), Steve McNeil (executive director).

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (BP) – As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the 447 churches in the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana improved their communication and networking skills, Executive Director Steve McNeil said.

Most of the churches started or increased their use of technology to broadcast worship services; many pastors greatly increased their use of phone calls to remain closely connected with their members; and church-to-church/pastor-to-pastor networking grew exponentially.

“The connecting through technology was a good thing,” McNeil said. “It was encouraging to see we could do that. Many churches took advantage of a foundation grant that gave up to $5,000 for churches to purchase technology for the purpose of making their worship available online. And the pandemic helped a lot of our churches go back to calling people.

“We [American churches] used to do pastoral care better, that personal contact during the week. When I was a young minister, we would call people to check on them. Now we tend to lean more on the worship experience to connect with people.” 

Indiana’s budget for 2020 dropped during the year by 8 percent, mostly in the spring. The state convention did not fill a recently-opened staff position – remaining staff took over evangelism and missions tasks – and also froze travel, cut spending and canceled events such as the summer’s various camps.

“It has turned out financially better than I was afraid it would be in March,” McNeil said. “The Lord’s been good to us. I’ve been really impressed with the faithfulness of our people and the local churches in their giving through the Cooperative Program.”

The 2020 annual meeting was first downsized from a two-day to a one-day event in August, but was canceled completely two weeks before the event when several pandemic hot spots erupted around the state.

“We did a quick poll of staff and state leadership, and the majority felt it would be more prudent to cancel it, in the interest of protecting our churches and messengers,” McNeil said.

The Executive Board passed the 2021 budget at 13 percent less than last year: $3,535,816, with $2,132,916 anticipated in Cooperative Program giving from Indiana churches. As has been the case for the last three years, 36 percent of the churches’ offerings have been allocated for national SBC causes.

“The churches in Indiana have shown they believe in the cooperative process of giving through the Cooperative Program, in that they have given during a time of real challenge,” McNeil said. “It’s one way we partner together, with each other and with the nearly 50,000 Southern Baptist churches across the nation, as together we do our part to spread the Gospel across the United States and throughout the world.”

Indiana’s next annual meeting is set for Oct. 25-26, 2021, at Calvary Baptist Church in West Lafayette, an hour northwest of Indianapolis.

Utah-Idaho celebrates ‘miracle of God’

Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention officers. Back row from left: Bryan Catherman (president), Corey Hodges (1st vice president); front row from left: Jared Jenkins (2nd vice president), Roger Naylor (recording secretary).

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (BP) – The Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in late October “was different this year with COVID and all in masks,” Executive Director Rob Lee said. “There was an atmosphere of excitement as folks were able to network throughout the meeting.

“We had very good pre-registrations, but with the pandemic’s surge in Idaho it really knocked out a number of folks last minute. One pastor, one associate and one pastor’s wife all tested positive last week.”

Nonetheless, with “Count it all joy” from James 1:2-4 as the two-state convention’s theme, 15 messengers from nine Idaho churches and 44 from 18 Utah churches, plus 23 guests, wore masks and remained socially distanced when gathered Oct. 29 for the usual one-day annual meeting.

“The annual meeting followed the Utah State Health rules from the COVID-19 Event Management template,” Lee said, adding that while the meeting lacked singing, exhibits and meals, longer breaks provided time for fellowship and networking. 

The annual meeting and pre-meeting pastors’ conference were broadcast, though online participants were not able to vote or add to business discussions. However, the Constitution Committee suggested future constitution/bylaw changes for online participation.

“We know the headlines say ‘the sky is falling,’ but the headlines should be what God is doing,” Lee said in his executive director’s message. “Churches are reporting multiple baptisms in services since the start of COVID. Churches are broadcasting their services online, through locked gates and locked doors, into every single home across Idaho and Utah. It’s a miracle of God.”

Two new churches affiliated with UISBC, bringing the total number of churches to 185, a slight decrease after a couple churches merged.

“Giving has remained healthy and above budget all year,” Lee said. “Cooperative Program giving from January through October is currently 3.8 percent above budget.”

The total 2021 budget is $1,665,699, a 7.9 percent decrease from 2020. The total includes $760,699 in Cooperative Program giving from churches, of which 30 percent is for national SBC causes. UISBC includes designated funding up to $810,000 from the North American Mission Board in its budget. 

Messengers passed two resolutions, one on racial reconciliation and the other on appreciation to First Baptist Church of West Valley City, Utah, for hosting the annual meeting.

The officers all were re-elected to a second one-year term: President Bryan Catherman, pastor of Redeeming Life Church in Bountiful, Utah; First Vice President Corey Hodges, pastor of The Point Church in Kearns, Utah; Second Vice President Jared Jenkins, executive pastor of Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City; and Recording Secretary Roger Naylor, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Next year’s annual meeting is set for Oct. 29, 2021, at Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho.