Five innovative pastors recently talked about their passion for local church ministry in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Cindy Hickman, pastor at Bloomfield UMC on the southeast side of Des Moines, described one parishioner who felt a calling to go to an area laudromat to greet people. Although the idea felt a little peculiar at first, it remains an ongoing Saturday morning ministry of the congregation.
Brody Tubaugh, pastor of Carson in the Southwest District, focused on the importance of developing relationships in the community. One way members of the church reach out, for example, is by wearing t-shirts in the school colors at ball games. Phil Dicks, pastor in Grundy Center, also shared the important of connecting in the community. He regularly tells others about their church’s goal to “find the invisible people” and make a difference in their lives.
Alecia Williams, pastor at First UMC in North Liberty, discussed their growing outreach to the Latino community in the area. John Gaulke, pastor in Altoona, talked about the importance of small groups in growing churches. Plans are underway to share the stories of these and other innovators across the state to celebrate how God is alive in the ministries of our United Methodist churches.
For seventeen years young people have benefited from a summer program offered by the United Methodist Church in Aurora. The church works in partnership with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to provide ministry for 11 to 25 children each session. The program was developed to offer a positive alternative to boredom, vandalism, and loneliness for children who might have little else to do in their small community once school is out.
Teen-aged interns serve as teachers in the program alongside two adults from the church. The interns receive a small stipend, developing their leadership skills and providing income to be set aside for college expenses.
Many of the children who participate in the program are not from church-going families. They benefit from the Bible stories they learn as well as the joy of being together. The interns, too, “grow in their knowledge of the Bible and God’s love as they take an active role in the development of the lessons and activities,” writes Lila Opitz.
The Aurora Summer Youth Program is supported in part with Matthew 25 funds from the Northeast District. Matthew 25 grants are made possible throughout the state from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Henry Muller Hall is a transitional housing facility for homeless men in Sioux City supported in part with a Northwest District Matthew 25 grant.
The facility was established in August of 2005 and named for a retired pastor from the Crescent Park United Methodist Church, who died two months short of its opening. Pastor Muller was very helpful as he worked with the Mental Health Association of Siouxland in developing the ministry. He had previous experience with the community housing administration while serving a United Methodist Church in Illinois.
Henry Muller Hall has continuously served a culturally diverse population of men, many of whom suffer from mental illness and/or addiction as well as physical disabilities. These homeless men are accepted to this transitional recovery housing program when they have exhausted all previous options for independent living.
Apportionments gifts from local United Methodist churches throughout Iowa provide the funds for the Matthew 25 grant. The funding has helped to expand recovery services provided to the residents, and their number has been increasing each year.
Pantry Plus is an educational program of the Fellowship Cup in Mount Pleasant, which is designed to help clients locate resources and learn skills in order to overcome dependency on support services.
Poverty is a significant problem in Henry County. Nearly 17% of residents fall below the poverty line, a number topped by only seven other counties in Iowa. In order to address hunger and poverty, the Fellowship Cup operates a food pantry, serving an average of 885 households annually.
However, providing food once a week is not sufficient to help people find sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty. Pantry Plus offers classes on budgeting, nutrition, healthy choices, and food economics. Clients of the food pantry have the opportunity to participate in classes eight times each year.
Southeast District Matthew 25 funds, coming from apportionment gifts of local United Methodist churches in Iowa, were used in 2013 to continue expanding the selection of materials for the Pantry Plus program. New DVDs were purchased, focusing on healthy eating on a budget and making wise financial choices. In addition, the program purchased Spanish-language DVDs for the growing Hispanic clientele of the food pantry.