Church News You Can Use

Check out our upcoming line up for Leadership Lunch events including
HELP! Our Church Bylaws are Killing Us and HELP! Our Church Building Budget is Out Of Control
And see the recording of our JUNE Pride Month Leadership Lunch “Widening the Welcome with Pronouns in Church”

Recaps of our recent visit from German Ministry Partner Dr. Gerrit H Marx and Clergy Retreat, a recording of a recent webinar about Solar Panels for Churches, Antiracism Training, Regional Youth Event, and great local church stories about two churches under one roof and steeple removal.

If you have a story to share, make sure to send it to us!!  SHARE YOUR STORY
Make sure you “View Entire Message” to see ALL the June News, including wider church and National Setting upcoming events.

As you read this, I am returning from the second annual, four-day, Michigan Conference Clergy Preaching retreat at beautiful Tower Hill Camp on the dunes of Lake Michigan. For this event all clergy participants received generous scholarships to reduce the cost of the event, through a Brown grant but mostly by what your local churches give through the “Basic Support” designation of “Our Church’s Wider Mission.” (OCWM)

There are many ways to support the denomination within OCWM. Through special envelope offerings such as the Christmas Fund (which the Michigan Conference sends straight to the national Pension Board to help retired clergy in need) or One Great Hour of Sharing (that we send straight to the National Setting of the UCC for their ministry of disaster relief.) But it is your “Basic Support” gift within OCWM that stays most local and allows us to equip, encourage and connect the churches and clergy of the Michigan Conference, responding to real needs, right here and right now.

One way we do that is attending to the care of our clergy. This is the focus of Rev. Cheryl Burke, our Associate Conference Minister of Clergy Care and Formation. Under her leadership, in the last two months we have launched thirteen new caring clergy groups. Six of these groups are led by committed clergy volunteers, the rest are led by staff. No pastor should have to do this work alone, nor should our Committees on Ministry. This is why Cheryl is meeting with them all, to connect us in best practices and community.

The care of congregations is the focus for Rev. Lawrence Richardson, our Associate Conference Minister of Church Vitality and Transitions. He meets with governing boards about strategy, vision and revitalization. When churches are seeking a pastor, he helps recruit candidates and connect our search committees to the person that God has already called. This week, he co-led the preaching retreat with me. Where does that fall in his job description? Under the category of “We’re all part of a team and we help each other out.”

This month includes a note from the Treasurer of the Board of Directors and the BOD Nomination Form, a special prayer from the Southwest Association Minister, upcoming onsite and online opportunities for connection, justice, educational initiatives AND MORE!!!
Make sure you “View Entire Message” to see ALL the May News.
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If you have a story to share, make sure to send it to us!!  SHARE YOUR STORY

When our churches shut down in-person during the pandemic, we learned what we missed and what we did not miss. Speaking personally, I missed visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, praying in unison and singing. I missed eating food together and I even missed washing dishes. I missed funerals more than I missed committee meetings. It was clarifying. Today when I think of what the church should be about when we gather in person, I think of the things I missed the most when we couldn’t.

Another clarifying question from that time was who, in our surrounding communities, missed our churches when we shut down in person. This question is not for the pastor or the church member, but for the outsider who walks by the building. What loss did the community suffer in our absence?

If your church served a free meal once a week, that would be missed by people outside your church if it had to stop. If you host twelve step meetings, if you offer meeting space to teenagers, if you provide coats in the winter and fresh vegetables in the summer, all that would be missed by people outside church. But if community members missed nothing when your church closed down, that is also clarifying.

As I visit our Michigan churches, a different one most weekends, I look for commonalities among the congregations that feel vital to me. What is a vital church? It’s one where I feel the Spirit moving in the worship, where there is a sense of hope and hospitality, and a serious sense of service. A vital church is one you want to come back to. And when it comes to vitality, I am always reminded that size isn’t everything.

Michigan Conference UCC Board of Directors

Rev. Liz Larrivee, M.B.A., M.Div. President

Our board-staff partnership provides structure for leading the ministry of the Michigan Conference UCC. The BOD’s function of governance and the staff’s function of management complement and support each other. On March 22 and 23, BOD and staff kicked-off a joint Strategic Planning Initiative by attending a retreat facilitated by Quanita Roberson of Nzuzu Consulting Retreat goals included (1.) Building relationships and trust, (2.) Deep listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit, (3.) Discovering “Who We Are,” (4.) Discerning “What We Need to Do,” and (5.) Co-creating a draft mission statement for the Conference. We will continue to build on the foundation we began during the retreat as we engage the next steps in our strategic planning process.


In addition to crafting a Conference strategic plan that includes mission, vision, and values statements to guide our work together, a key BOD governance responsibility is to strengthen Conference ministry programs by ensuring adequate financial resources. After careful and detailed analysis–including dialogue with staff—the BOD made two significant financial decisions in alignment with our strategic plan. First, we have reduced our Conference OCWM pass-through giving to the UCC National Ministries from 30% to 10% to be on par with the contribution rates of other UCC Conferences. Second, we have listed the East Lansing Conference property (office, house, and land) for sale with Lisa Kost, Director Coldwell Banker Commercial. Staffing shifts to remote work locations, a frequently empty building, an aging facility with significant deferred maintenance, and increasing operational costs combined to make this a wise fiduciary decision. These board-staff partnership actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to supporting the transformational ministry of equipping, empowering, encouraging, and connecting Michigan churches and clergy to serve God and neighbor.

Make sure you “View Entire Message” to see ALL the April News.
Includes a special letter from the President of the Board of Directors and opportunities to serve on the Board.
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March Monthly Conference Minister Message from Lillian Daniel:

* Updates on Action related to the Michigan Conference Resolution of Witness in Support of Second Look Legislation March 19, 2024 at 8:00am

* Opportunity for pastors and members-in-discernment to sign up for Caring Clergy Communities

* Conference Communication submission deadlines, and more…

Introducing New Clergy Care Groups of the Michigan Conference

Pastor Support Survey results confirmed that our pastors need and are interested in connecting for renewal, learning, wellness, and support.

Clergy Care Groups (CCG’s) are one of the ways that the Michigan Conference will address this need. These groups will be relational and may be formed as affinity groups with a focus, or as general gatherings geographically. An email will be sent directly to pastors and clergy for Group Registration. Group topics, days, times, and locations will be chosen by facilitators and listed for Registration. Space will be limited, and groups will require at least 5-6 group members to begin. Please sign up as soon as possible if you are interested in being part of a group. As space allows, we will invite our colleagues from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Michigan Region.

Proposed groups currently being formed by facilitators are; Spiritual Deepening, Spiritual Issues in Retirement, New Clergy Mentoring, Preaching Workshop, Health and Wellness, Rural Progressive Presence, Mindfulness, Peer Support, Chaplains, Engagement in Retirement, Circle of Friends, Senior Pastors of Multi-staff Churches, MIDs, Multigenerational Ministry, Clergy Cafe and more.

If you are already part of an existing support group that you would like to have listed for others to join, if you would like to facilitate a new CCG group, or if you have other ideas for clergy care, contact Rev. Cheryl Burke, Associate Conference Minister of Clergy Care and Formation, 517-292-3102

Pastors, be on the lookout for an email coming soon.

Groups will being in April.

One recent wintry weekend, I decided to visit a random church in my neighborhood, and just for a change of pace, since I spend so much time visiting our Michigan UCC churches, I thought I’d go to another denomination.

I tried to forget that I was a pastor and professional church visitor, so I looked for a church the way normal people do – online, at the last minute, haphazardly and on a day with bad weather. I plugged three nearby churches into google maps and drove toward the one that looked to be starting soon but hadn’t started yet.

I circled around looking for parking, and then I circled around again, and by the time I finally parked somewhere semi-legal, my frustration was high, as I slipped on icy sidewalks toward the entrance. I’ll admit it. I was now late and coming in hot.

I know enough about historic church buildings to know that the front door they built a hundred years ago is almost never going to be the front door today, so I went to a modern office door near a staff parking area, but it was locked, and on the door was a paper sign that said something unhelpful like, “Please enter through the north narthex courtyard office staff side main entrance” and included a map of the church’s architectural blueprint with a few illegible squiggles. So I slipped along the sidewalk to a side door, also locked, and finally up the unsalted stairs to the grand gothic door, amazed that the main entrance was actually going to be the main entrance but of course it wasn’t. Pasted to that door was the same mysterious sign I had seen on all the other doors, so I circled back to door number one, which was at least made of glass and knocked on the window, and finally reluctantly pressed what might be a doorbell, that I prayed didn’t ring straight to the pulpit.

During the month of January, Conference Staff asked Michigan Conference Pastors to share priorities and strategies for how the Conference can help to equip, encourage, empower, and connect them in ministry.

The most common areas of interest were:

LGBTQIA+ (42%)

Multi-generational Ministry (36%)

Worship Resources (34%)

Racial Consciousness/Antiracism (34%)

Centering Prayer/Spiritual Practices (34%)

Part Time Ministry (32%)

Chaplaincy and Alternative Building Use were also mentioned frequently.

As email was the most common preferred method of communication (73%), we will continue to share information in the Newsletter via email, and reach out directly as more specific opportunities are created for Pastoral Support in 2024.


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