Dustin Hall, senior pastor at Southview Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, views a connected church as Christ’s tool for reaching the community.

Shortly after arriving at Southview nearly two years ago, Pastor Hall turned his church board meetings into strategic councils. He has been able to create a stewardship culture in each department of the church, allowing all leaders to see themselves as part of the team.

During 2015, the Southview Church celebrated the baptisms of 30 new members, and weekly attendance has grown to the point that they are looking for a new space in which to meet. Their growth has been fueled by what Pastor Hall calls Life Groups. These groups are, in principle, friendship evangelism groups that bring people together as they mingle outside church. Every day the gospel of Christ is lived and shared in non-threatening ways. Life Groups become the platform upon which men and women—in a loving relationship with Christ—seek God in their own way and share with their peers the power of the gospel.

Pastor Hall explains the church’s philosophy this way: “We believe that connections are the building blocks of our ministry. We want to connect with the community socially, mingling and showing sympathy. We think that the church is healthy enough now, and our connections in the community are leading to kingdom-building activities.”

Kind, real-life friends

Pastor Hall shares how these connections have translated into baptisms. “Rebecca, a 10-year-old student at Southview Christian School, started a Bible experience study group with her friends. Today, five of these friends are baptized Seventh-day Adventists! We can now see the results of these connections.”

Pastor Hall adds that “by freeing our members to use their influence and their connections, we have empowered them to be better disciple makers. We believe our church will continue to be a center of influence for the kingdom of God.”

Building healthy churches

Southview isn’t the only church in Minnesota that’s growing. Nearly every congregation in the conference baptized at least one person last year, making 2015 the highest recorded annual membership growth with 507 baptisms and professions of faith.

Conference president Justin Lyons says that healthy churches have been created through emphasis on training (with NADEI and Bible workers’ training with Karen Lewis), coordinated evangelism (with over 40 churches working together across boundaries during the Voice of Prophecy meetings), and the conference’s increased funding for local church evangelism.

The Minnesota Conference’s rallying strategic acronym pulls this all together: Keep your EYES on Eternity (Evangelism, Youth, Education, Spirituality/Stewardship/Service). “We believe that only a healthy church will have meaningful outreach,” Elder Lyons concludes. “We encourage each pastor, each department head, each teacher and each member to pursue spiritual growth—only then will stewardship and service to the community be seen as acts of Christian grace.”