​Sandra Montes-Martinez and Juan Montes at the MCUSA church planters reception on Monday, July 3. Photo by Travis Duerksen. 

By Travis Duerksen
Monday, July 3, 2023

On Monday evening, after the first worship session of MennoCon23 had let out, attendees spilled from the Grand Hall in many directions. Some picked up ice cream bars and sandwiches, compliments of Mennonite Church USA. Others headed for the exhibit booths, seeking first pick of the stickers, games and raffles. Groups in the convention center foyer buzzed about evening activities and snack runs. The first night of MennoCon was underway, awash in the energy of old friends, new streets, and a sugar rush. While most attendees were hotel-bound, a core group of church planters and conference leaders joined in one of the first official gatherings of the week: the MC USA church planters reception.

After introductions that included favorite ice cream flavors
(inspired by the post-worship handouts), Joani Miller, Director of Training and Resources for Mennonite Mission Network, and Rachel Ringenberg Miller, Denominational Minister for Ministerial Leadership for MC USA, opened the floor for attendees to speak honestly about their experiences with church planting.

"The world is a different place post-COVID," said Miller. 

What had worked in the past now might no longer be the best fit. What resources would be helpful? What could future collaboration look like?

The experiences were as varied as everyone's favorite ice cream flavors. Some church plants only existed on paper, the planters uncertain where the audience would come from. Other church plants had grown larger than expected. Some became a refuge of support for people passing through their community. Almost all were led by bi-vocational pastors, who found it difficult to take time to attend gatherings, especially if they had to arrange time off their day job.

Sandra Montes-Martinez, Associate Conference Minister for Western District Conference, gave the example of a pit stop crew for a driver in a race. During the middle of a race, the driver doesn't get out of the car and change the tires and do the engine maintenance themselves, she explained. Instead, the pit crew comes to the driver, so they can stay in the drivers seat, and be ready to jump back into the race as soon as possible. "The conference needs to go to the church planters," she said. 

 

 

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https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4924/First-night-of-MennoCon-provides-a-space-for-church-planting-roundtable-

​Travis Duerksen is a writer and multimedia producer for Mennonite Mission Network.

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