Training to Engage Conflict Well

The Southeast District recently sponsored a training event to introduce church leaders to techniques for resolving conflicts in a healthy manner.

Stephanie Hixon, Co-Executive Director of the JustPeace Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation, led a workshop at the United Methodist Church of Washington on Saturday, October 27th. Participants discovered the varieties of ways that individuals approach conflict and the effect that has on groups dealing with disagreements. The day included table discussions, group activities, and case studies to supplement the presentations from the speaker.

The mission of JustPeace “is to prepare and assist United Methodists to engage conflict constructively in ways that strive for justice, reconciliation, resource preservation and restoration of community in the church and in the world.” The organization, based out of Washington, D. C., also publishes resources, facilitates mediations, and develops networks of practitioners of the art of conflict transformation.

About 60 people registered at the event from the Southeast District and surrounding areas of eastern Iowa. Additional print resources are available from the training for interested persons. The district used apportionment funds from local churches across the state to cover the costs of the training.

Equitable Compensation

Funds are available to local churches in the Iowa Conference who need help in meeting their pastor’s salary obligations while they pursue planning for their future ministry.

Missional grants of up to 20% of the minimum compensation for pastors are given to enable strategic ministry where the skills of the pastor and/or the demands of the situation indicate a special need. Opportunities for applying these monies include new church development, cooperative parish realignments, inner-city outreach, and rural ministry, to name a few possibilities. While other uses of equitable compensation funds are typically limited to a three-year period, these grants do not have a specific term of duration.

The Iowa Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation recommends conference standards for pastoral support, administers funds to be used to supplement the minimum compensation for pastors, and provides counsel and resource materials on pastoral support to district superintendents and local church committees on pastor-parish relations.

For the 2011-2012 year, the Equitable Compensation Commission allocated grants to 22 local churches and their pastors in order to bring the pastor’s salary to the minimum amount required by the 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. These grants amounted to $187,885, funded from the apportionment gifts received from other United Methodist churches throughout Iowa.

Lay Speaking Ministries

With only 61 members on its rolls at last count, the Lebanon United Methodist Church in southeast Iowa’s Van Buren County has 3 lay speakers who provide leadership within and beyond the congregation.

All have received training through the Iowa Conference Board of Laity’s Lay Speaking Ministries. Yet, each has chosen a different form of service based on the particular ways that God has blessed them with gifts for ministry.

Joyce Burdett is a certified lay speaker, who recently completed a class that focused on care for aging adults. Averaging 2 visits to the nursing home each week, she found the information from the class very helpful. “New ideas are still spinning in my head,” she remarked as she considered ways to apply her learning to her ministry.

Joyce’s husband, Sanford, just completed the basic lay speaking course. This class provides an introduction to the ways that lay people serve in ministries most suited to their abilities and interests. He is already very active along with Joyce serving the needs of homeless persons in their area. He looks forward to new possibilities that God may place before him as a result of his training.

Kenneth Wells has been active for years with as the Work Project Coordinator for Mobile United Methodist Missionaries (MUMMS). He has led work teams throughout the state of Iowa and beyond to respond to natural disasters from tornadoes to floods. He enrolled in lay speaking classes “to feel more comfortable talking about missions” with local churches.

Lay speaking ministries provide one avenue for developing leaders in the United Methodist Church. Apportionments help to support curriculum development as well as to underwrite the costs for the classes, which are coordinated by each district in the Iowa Conference.

Hillcrest Family Services, Dubuque

Maria Wiblin, a deacon in the United Methodist Church of Iowa, is a chaplain for Hillcrest Family Services based in Dubuque. Matthew 25 funds from Iowa Conference apportionments given by local churches help to support her work as an extension of local church ministry. Last spring at a Lenten service one young woman was reminded of the pain that Jesus endured to help her cope with the suffering in her own life.

Rev. Wiblin was preaching about Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert. ”He knows our struggles, our hurts, and our pains.”  The young woman timidly raised her hand and in a very soft voice said, “but did he ever face rape?” As the chaplain visited with this young woman, she began to understand that Jesus could feel her pain because of his own suffering on the cross. God in Jesus Christ would never ever leave her.

Hillcrest staff member Carol Jefferson writes, “Hillcrest Family Services is more than just (a helping) agency.  It is a ministry of the United Methodist Church. It is a ministry that believes everyday the words of Matthew 25. It is because of  your valuable support that Hillcrest Family Services continues as a  ministry.”

Visit Hillcrest Family Services to learn more about the satellite ministries of the agency throughout the state of Iowa that live out the teachings of Jesus to care for the needs of others as a sign of God’s love for the world.