The team for “In Mission Together,” the Iowa Annual Conference’s new mission model, presented the upcoming changes Saturday morning at the 2018 Annual Conference Session.
A group led by Judy Marnin, Iowa's In Mission Together Advocate, explained via a skit and testimonies how the “In Mission Together” model differs from the previous Rainbow Covenant—most notably a new one-page form. A common theme conveyed through humor throughout the presentation was the task of completing Rainbow Covenant forms.
Marnin said that an increasing number of mission-minded leaders in the church and in other non-governmental organizations are wrestling with the question of whether helping could hurt when it comes to mission work.
Helping others without causing harm, including the basic question of “What does it mean to be poor?" is one of the greatest challenges facing mission workers around the world, Marnin explained.
“Responding appropriately to this question of how to truly help—in love, empathy, and kindness—is a challenge hard to meet,” she said. “How can we partner with the poor and others in distress to bring about positive change?"
“And how do we shift from a short-term charity approach to a long-term development mode?” asked Marnin. “How do we build dignity, not dependency?”
She detailed various ways the Iowa Annual Conference has responded to Jesus’ call to serve others, through the Rainbow Covenant. This includes forming a 25-year partnership with conferences in Nigeria, sending work teams as Volunteers in Mission, donating to causes such as Imagine No Malaria, sending thousands of kits to UMCOR and Nigeria, and more.
“But as we respond, we want to aware that sometimes helping hurts,” Marnin told the Conference members gathered. “Often giving material donations without creating connectional relationships impedes the ability to facilitate real change.”
“We want to build dignity, not dependency,” she added.
The “In Mission Together” program was created several years ago as the the General Board of Global Ministries is continually seeking the most thoughtful and effective method to carry out Jesus’ mandates, she said.
“In Mission Together is GLOCAL,” explained Marnin, meaning both global and local. “In Mission Together,” or IMT, emphasizes core values that are cross-culturally appropriate for a variety of settings, whether in the U.S. or around the world.”
The core values include Church planting; Spiritual formation; Community Development; Communication through Social Networking: and Promoting Self-Sufficiency to Prevent Dependency.
“We here in Iowa are prepared to adopt this approach,” said Marnin, “seeking a new mind-set toward these challenges.”
“In Mission Together” will replace the 30-plus year-old Rainbow Covenant. However, the Rainbow Covenant form will be used one more time, she said, as Conference members complete the Rainbow Covenant form in February 2019 for 2018.
“Then during 2019, we’d like to transition to a simpler, but more effective, approach in reporting to each other how we do mission in a way that helps without hurting,” said Marnin.
After this last time of doing Rainbow Covenant, beginning next year, 2019, churches will be asked to continue to support mission on local, conference, national and international levels, Marnin explained, “But we’d like to do more than just send money.”
“We want to encourage churches to not only give to projects, but to personally serve others, and to create partnerships, going deeper to create healthy relationships with true partners, identifying each partner’s gifts so that each will be honored and appreciated,” she said.
“We want to emphasize being vs. doing, long-term vs. short-term, shared empowerment,” she continued. “And we’ll do it with a one-page work sheet that encourages a full range of mission work.”
“Giving, serving, partnering—those will be our keys,” she said, telling Annual Conference Sessions attendees to look for “In Mission Together” as they do missions during 2019, and to be ready to use the worksheet in 2020.
A special “In Mission Together” workshop was scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Annual Conference Session.