The first seven graduates in the Spanish-language classes of the School for Lay Ministry were recognized earlier this month at the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference.
In response to the growing number of Hispanic residents in Iowa, the specialized course was initiated to help our churches reach new people for the sake of Christ. Students attend a series of twelve classes over the course of three years to explore a wide range of topics on faith and leadership in the United Methodist Church.
Students come from many places around the state, and most are already active leaders in their local churches. The graduating class includes Norma Cabezas, Eileen McPherson, Alfredo Mendoza, Rosa Mendoza, Martha Olague, Omar Paz, and Maria Roldan.
The program takes its inspiration from John 15:5, where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit.” The ministry is a part of our strategic priority to “equip ourselves and others as transformational leaders.”
The School for Lay Ministry is sponsored by the Board of Laity in partnership with several other agencies of the conference. For example, the Commission on Religion and Race provided $5,000 in seed money in 2015 for the new Hispanic class with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Today marks the closing day of the 174th Annual Conference Session of the United Methodist churches of Iowa and their predecessor bodies. Clergy and laity from across the state have come together at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines to worship God, celebrate ministry and make plans for the future.
The theme for the session is “Creating Difference-Makers!” Every day, God calls each of us to use our God-given gifts to make a positive difference in our world. This theme directly relates to our shared mission with United Methodist people around the globe to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
A number of ministry decisions are addressed each year during the Annual Conference Session. Budgets are confirmed, clergy are ordained and agency nominations are approved. This year a major simplification and update of the Conference Rules of Order is being finalized.
The Iowa Conference is investing $265,206 in this year’s three-day event with the support of apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state. The Annual Conference Session Committee cares for a wide range of expenses to coordinate the event, including rental of the meeting space, travel costs and honoraria for guest speakers as well as preparation and publication of an official record of actions in the Annual Conference Journal.
A third grader from Colo saved pennies for an entire year to support Change a Child’s Story. Seaton participates in the church‘s education ministry, called WOW, on Wednesday nights. The program provides a meal, music and a Bible lesson for about forty to fifty children and youth each week.
Last year, working with his grandmother, Seaton began saving pennies. On the first day he saved one penny. The second day he set aside two pennies, and so on. He kept this up for the entire year, saving 365 pennies on the last day!
As you can imagine, at the end of the year he had a pile of pennies, and he decided he wanted to give some to the church. He approached his pastor and told him that he had $60 he wanted to give to a project that would help third graders like himself.
“I asked if he liked to read,” pastor Douglas Harding reported. “He did, so I suggested he use his money to buy books for children.” The photo shows Seaton giving money to buy books for Change a Child’s Story one night at WOW.
Change a Child’s Story is a literacy initiative of the Iowa Conference that is giving books—and spending time reading—to children in poverty. Patty Link has been serving as a part-time advocate for this ministry for the last year. Apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state have helped to support her work.
A personal passion for fitness helped to inspire Brady and Maddie Tubaugh to develop an outreach ministry in their southwest Iowa community. The Carson United Methodist Church was featured in the January/February 2017 edition of the United Methodist Interpreter.
In the last few years, a Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) team from Carson has been learning and praying about ministry in the 21st century. They are responding to God’s call for ministry in a variety of ways, building on the passions of church members as they share the love of Christ with the people of their community.
Brady, the church’s pastor, says that “being physically active is our way of being stewards of what God has given us so that we can better serve God in the world.” One member reported in the Interpreter article that he lost 65 pounds as a participant in the workout group during Lent last year.
United Methodist Communications is the agency responsible for the publication of the Interpreter magazine and other resources to extend the reach of the Church throughout the world. Just over 20% of the Iowa Conference budget, made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state, helps to support the General Church ministries whose stories are told in the Interpreter.
Iowa Religious Media Services (IRMS) recently added some great new resources to their collection of adult Bible studies. Among the DVDs and related print materials are the newest Adam Hamilton study, Moses: In the Footsteps of the Reluctant Prophet, and a new women’s study, Listen, Love, Repeat, by Karen Ehman. IRMS Director Sharon Strohmaier reminds local church leaders that periodic announcements about new resources is a “personal service we provide to churches wanting to do advance planning” in their educational ministries.
IRMS is an ecumenical lending library with over 10,000 DVD, VHS, audio, book, and other resources available for use by subscribers and renters. The ministry provides religious media resources to assist with faith formation and growth of the whole person, including exploration of the Bible and contemporary religious issues.
IRMS staff can provide guidance to you and others in your congregation when you have questions about the various resources they have to offer. Their experience and expertise can significantly increase your satisfaction with the resources you receive. They are there for you to facilitate a successful use of every product they have in their library.
Apportionment gifts of $75,000 from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa helped to support IRMS in 2016. Visit their website to learn how your church can become a subscriber.
Members of the Solon United Methodist Church gathered last month to celebrate the movement of the Holy Spirit in their outreach to the community. Two years had passed since their Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) consultation, during which they discerned God’s direction for their future ministry.
They expressed a hunger to help people encounter “the power of a life-changing faith experience.” The resulting focus on building relationships with their community has produced significant fruit.
The number of children in faith formation groups nearly doubled in the last two years. They are especially pleased with the increased involvement of middle school and high school youth.
At the end of April they confirmed thirteen youth as new members of their community of faith, and three new families are joining the church in May. Easter Sunday they enjoyed a 12% increase in attendance from 401 in the previous year to 452 persons in 2017.
“From its beginnings over 175 years ago,” they explain on their website, “our congregation has shared the love of Christ with the world and supported one another in our journey of faith.” Recently, for example, twice as many people are engaging in mission activities than in the previous year.
HCI consultations are supported in part with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches around the state of Iowa. This year $15,000 is earmarked for this purpose in the Iowa Conference budget.
As a teacher, Colleen Petaros thought that a natural use of her God-given gifts would be to pursue some sort of ministry related to education in her retirement. Indeed, she accepted a ministry assistant position with her local church in Maquoketa and oversaw the educational needs there for children through adults. Her classes in the Iowa School for Lay Ministry helped her feel confident in the role.
However, she found herself restless. She had a feeling that God had something else in mind for her. She discovered that a hospice chaplaincy position had opened up, so she applied. She found that caring for persons who were nearing the end of their lives was very rewarding. The work also led to a relationship with a local funeral home to preside at memorial services. “I found a paradox,” she said, “that in emptying myself, I was filled.” Her ministry with grieving families continues to this day.
The School for Lay Ministry is a three-year experience for lay persons to explore their Christian faith and further discern how God is leading them into a wide range of ministry, both paid and unpaid. The Board of Laity is designating $9,600 in scholarship support for students this year. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout Iowa.