Great Lakes District (known as Great Lakes Region) held its first district conference “under one banner” this weekend with its newest addition of the Wisconsin District, whose merger with Great Lakes was approved by the General Board in May of this year.

Comprised of the former Wisconsin, Illinois and North, West and East Michigan districts, Great Lakes will serve 181 churches and nearly 40,000 members.

Rev. Chris Conrad, district superintendent, said, “I am really proud of five districts willing to join culture and tradition for the sake of the kingdom. Everyone in the transition had to give up something, but we did it — not for convenience but for a cause, and that cause is to expand the kingdom of God.”

Former Wisconsin District Superintendent Rev. Dan Bickel will serve Great Lakes as a regional specialist alongside Rev. Jack Lynn, Rev. Tom Schmidt and Rev. Richard Meeks.

Conrad said this regional specialist role will allow leaders to serve where their passions are, allowing more time and focus to their individual missions and strengths.

“It was a year and a half process for Wisconsin to pray, prepare and decide to join the Great Lakes District,” Bickel said. “The reason why we chose to merge is to be more effective in making disciples and multiplying churches in order to close the Gospel Gap and have a transforming presence in every ZIP code.”

Bickel noted that despite the challenges that come along with mergers, the most important thing Wesleyans in the Great Lakes can do is be a transforming presence to the “22 million unreached people in this region of 2,753 ZIP codes.”

Conrad echoed these sentiments, saying, “We are better together than we are apart. We did this for a mission and for a purpose.

“We have come together to do everything we can to join Jesus in his mission in Luke 19:10, to reach everyone we can possibly reach — through church planting, through micro churches, through apostolic imagination — to fill every ZIP code with the presence of Jesus.”

The Great Lakes merging conference was held August 3 at Woodland Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, with interactive broadcast venues at Heritage Church in Rock Island, Illinois, and Red Cedar Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.