Yellowstone Conference members step up to give to Harvest Time Fund

Yellowstone Conference members step up to give to Harvest Time Fund

Yellowstone Conference members step up to give to Harvest Time Fund
6/21/2017

Submitted by the Rev. Jeremy Scott
Vital Congregations Developer, Mountain Sky Area, UMC
Photos by the Rev. Travis Walker


It is never easy to deliver news that you know people don’t want to hear. Annual conference is a time of worship, celebration, blessing others, and important business. As part of that important business, the Rev. Jeff Rainwater and I shared about the current state of the conference finances on June 9 during the 2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference in Billings, Montana. In short, we shared that after many years of relatively stable income, the income for 2017 was off 2016 levels by about 25 percent in the first five months.
 
Jeff and I went on to share how the conference Cabinet, in cooperation with the Yellowstone Conference Committee on Finance and Administration, had undertaken steps to reach out to churches that were most behind in their mission-share giving. Those conversations were honest and spirit-led. Cabinet members heard about the struggles the local churches were facing and also the opportunities they saw to move into a healthier place. These conversations were of incredible value as it will help me and others focus our work over the next several months.
 
When we presented this information to the 2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference I was prepared for all sorts of reactions. Would people be angry? Would we point fingers? Would we seek a scapegoat to pin all our fears on? All would be understandable human reactions to hearing unexpected bad news. Yet none of those happened. Instead, I was overwhelmed by the spirit-led and hopeful response of the conference.
 
Photo of people huggingYellowstone Conference manifested our shared can-do spirit by committing ourselves to work together in our circuits and look for new ways to support each other. We also took on an audacious goal of raising $150,000 by the end of 2017 for support of the annual conference budget. After some intentional prayer, conference leadership set a bold goal of raising $30,000 in gifts and pledges from the 220 people present at conference. As it turned out we failed to pray big enough. Within 24 hours of announcing our campaign, which we are calling the Harvest Time Fund, we had received more than $38,000!
 
This is an unprecedented amount of money to have raised in such a short period of time. Thanks be to God! (Click here to make your online donation.)
 
To say I was blown away is an understatement. This is the most concrete expression I can imagine of the commitment we share to continue the important ministries of our annual conference. I find so much hope in this it continues to lift my heart all these days later.
 
Yellowstone Conference, as the smallest annual (regional) conference in the United States, is easily overlooked by the larger connection. Yet, we continue to defy expectations as we step up to take on important and challenging ministries. Whether it is our long-standing support of Blackfeet United Methodist Parish, a leader in Native American ministry, or East Angola Pastor Support, where every pastor in that conference receives financial assistance from us, we have never shied away from challenging things.
 
I strongly believe that while we have much to overcome in the short-term, our missional commitment, willingness to embrace experimentation, and our ability to step out in faith is all we need to build a strong future for Methodism in our area.
 
Group photo of volunteers at Headstart gardenThe book of Acts has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I find inspiration in how much the early church was able to accomplish with comparatively little in resources. They did not own buildings, they drew no salary, and often set off on journeys with not even a change of clothes. Not only that, many were called to dangerous places armed with only their faith in the Holy Spirit’s calling. We in the Yellowstone Conference now find ourselves in a place where it would be easy to focus only on what we are lacking. Yet, what remains are the same vital resources those brave people in the early church had: God’s love and grace, the example of Jesus Christ, and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
 
What more do we need?
 
It is my privilege to serve the people of the Yellowstone Conference and the Mountain Sky Area. Thank you to all those who gave to the Harvest Time Fund and to those who have pledged to give in the future. Your generosity gives me hope and demonstrates that we do have a strong future ahead of us.
 
To give to the Harvest Time Fund, please go to www.yacumc.org/donate.

      


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