The Farmington United Methodist Church just completed a weekend consultation provided as a part of the Healthy Church Initiative process offered through the Iowa Conference. At the close of the event, the consultation team wrote a report that they hoped would “motivate the congregation to continue to partner with God for the sake of God’s mission in the community and beyond.”
The Healthy Church Initiative is an intentional leadership development process designed to enhance the skills of pastors and laity to lead growing, vibrant, spirit-filled congregations. Participants gather in continuous learning communities to pray and study together throughout the process. Each meeting results in a self-selected action step for each participant and congregation. This cycle of action and reflection, similar to the class meetings in the early Methodist movement, strengthens leaders and produces the fruit of ministry God desires.
The process consists of three basic components: a series of workshops, a local church consultation, and individualized coaching. The Farmington congregation began with a study designed especially for small churches and moved forward to the consultation, the second step in the process. All of the Healthy Church Initiative process is underwritten in part with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa. Learn more at www.iaumc.org/hci.
A lunch program was so successful in Sac City last summer that they expect to double their numbers this year. The Sac City United Methodist Church offered a free, 10-week summer lunch for hungry children in their community in 2013. Monday through Friday they provided a delicious and healthy meal at the Sac Community Recreation Center. They typically served about a dozen children each day, but participation sometimes rose to as many as 27.
The summer lunch program exists, Barb Bloes wrote, “to feed hungry bodies, but we also believe in feeding hungry spirits by sitting down and listening to those who share our meal.” That’s why, although they advertise the program as a children’s meal, they feed whoever comes, including some parents and grandparents who accompany family members.
Numerous individuals, churches, and other community organizations were partners in this effort. This year Matthew 25 funds from the Northwest District will be one of those partners. The Matthew 25 grants are made possible through apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches in Iowa. The grant will help them hire a program director to provide some consistency in day to day operations, especially in securing regular volunteer support and caring for advertising and paperwork.
Bidwell Riverside Center, located on the south side of Des Moines, “envisions a future where no one lives in poverty and every person has the opportunity for a positive future.”
Cyndi, a single mother with three children, initially came to Bidwell after she had lost her job due to work force reduction. Although highly motivated to regain stability, two months into her job search Cyndi did not have a job offer yet and her savings was depleted. Bidwell provided support to maintain her apartment and meet the basic needs of her family while her job search continued.
Cyndi was offered a position in December. However, just prior to her start date, a slip on the ice broke her back in two locations, several ribs, and her wrist. Bidwell’s services have continued to assist Cyndi and her family during her recovery. Anne Bacon, the Executive Director of Bidwell, wrote, “All of the work done to assist Cyndi and her children was made possible through a unique partnership between Bidwell and Walnut Hills United Methodist Church.”
Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches in Iowa contribute to the ministries of Bidwell Riverside Center through the Community and Institutional Ministries fund of the Iowa Board of Global Ministries.
The University of Northern Iowa Wesley Foundation is reaching out to a younger generation in a ministry called Threehouse.
On their website they describe Threehouse as a combination of three ideas:
Trinity. “Our belief in a relational God that wants us to grow in compassion with God. God relates to us through Godself, through the son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.”
Third Places. “Not school, not work, but that other place where community happens. Think Starbucks, but with less pretension and more cool.”
Tree Houses. “Playful, creative, safe, and green. Our building is green certified.”
The Wesley Foundation at UNI is a campus ministry supported by apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches all over Iowa. “John Wesley,” Threehouse reminds us, “was himself a campus minister at Oxford University. Methodism has a rich tradition of social activism and personal growth.”
People from many different walks of faith have been a part of Threehouse, including, of course, those with United Methodist background. Cory Viereck, a senior at UNI from Larchwood, writes, “Threehouse has an amazingly comfortable environment and I want to bring more people in on what they offer; sanctuary, guidance, friendship, openness, creativity, and some of the most comfortable couches this side of the Mississippi.”