Thrive, our newest United Methodist church in West Des Moines, believes that small groups are essential for nurturing spiritual life in a community of faith. One of the new small group options starting in February is called Dream Weavers.
They are asking, “Curious about dreams and what they mean? You’re not alone!”
Group members will be sharing dreams with each other and exploring together how dreams might help them learn more about themselves and deepen their spiritual experience.
Small groups at Thrive are a place to ask questions, get to know people, support one another, learn new things, intentionally grow in faith, be vulnerable, express doubts and fears and, of course, have fun. “This is where we do real life as a community. This is where we live life more fully.”
The Dream Weavers group is meeting on the first and third Monday evenings of the month at the West Des Moines Public Library. Other small groups this season will be exploring these topics: parenting, five disciplines for a more meaningful life, and a look at Adam Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible.
The Iowa Conference invested $80,000 in 2016 to support this emerging community of faith with funds made possible through the apportionment gifts of local United Methodist churches across the state.
The Kalona United Methodist Church has taken a summer ministry begun in 2014 and expanded it to a year-round initiative. The mission of Food for All is “to provide fun and educational forms of hospitality to help alleviate hunger and social isolation in the Kalona area.”
In 2016 the Kalona Summer Lunch program was open each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Over the course of the summer they served 1,700 lunches and had an average of 45 guests per day. People gathered not just to eat but to play games, make crafts, and read books.
This fall the church expanded this ministry, noting that they had experienced a three-fold increase in participation from the previous year. Twice each month they now offer a hot meal and a family-friendly movie on Sunday nights. The meal is served family style, enabling “people to come as families and neighbors to share together,” their pastor, Gerry Kahler, explained.
Although the church’s Fellowship Hall serves as the host for this ministry, Food for All is a partnership supported by a variety of individuals, businesses, community organizations, and churches in the area. This year a $2,000 Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District is supporting this outreach in Kalona with funds made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa.
Summertime is the primary season for the ministries of Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center, so this winter is a good time for completing a transition in leadership there.
Bryan Johnson had served as the site director until joining the Iowa Conference staff last September as the new Leadership Development Minister for Camping and Christian Formation. Starting at the end of February, Derek Bergman will assume the role of site director at Okoboji.
The camp strives “to provide sacred space where Jesus Christ transforms lives, persons grow in Christian discipleship and leaders are developed to empower their local churches in the world; and to facilitate this mission through Christian hospitality.”
A four-seasons retreat center makes ministry possible throughout the year at Lake Okoboji. The options range from personal days away for a quiet weekend to family reunions and large-group retreats. Food service and group programming opportunities along with warm Christian hospitality are available in comfortable accommodations at affordable rates.
The operating budget for our three United Methodist camp and retreat centers, which also include Pictured Rocks near Monticello and Wesley Woods near Indianola, is $1.9 million. The United Methodist churches of Iowa are investing $731,316 in apportionment gifts in 2017 to help underwrite these ministries.
Epworth United Methodist Church in Des Moines has a goal this school year to provide clothing and grooming products for 10% of the students at nearby Harding Middle School. A $3,000 Matthew 25 grant from the Central District helps to fund this ministry, which is provided by the United Methodist churches of Iowa through their apportionment gifts.
One hundred percent of the students at Harding receive free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches. For many these are the only meals they receive during the week. In addition, some students come from dysfunctional households and deal with neglect or abuse from the adults in their lives.
Church members have been working with school staff since 2011 to make the Kidz Haven ministry possible. The focus has changed over the years so that now the church offers direct support to students in need. They receive school uniforms that help them fit in and feel equal, since they can dress like their peers. “Most importantly, (these uniforms) avoid gang-related problems,” according to Kidz Haven president, Jan Meek.
The church also gives out toiletries and an official Harding Middle School sweatshirt to students teachers have identified. A colorful label on each hygiene kit indicates that the gifts are coming from the Epworth United Methodist Church.
Kids at First is a free breakfast and childcare program of First United Methodist Church in Nevada. The church doors open at 7 a.m. for school-age children on late-start Mondays. Parents walk their children into the church for check-in rather than just dropping them off. Breakfast is served from 7:30 until 8:30.
While the children are there, they can enjoy a variety of indoor activities, including books, games, puzzles, crafts, coloring, drawing, and others, all in a supervised and safe environment. If weather permits, adult volunteers take the children outside for about thirty minutes of activities in the fresh air.
Their unpaid servants are all volunteers from the local community who have completed background security checks for the safety of the children. They also have help from the high school’s Key Club, an international volunteer organization in which students volunteer their time to make the world a better place.
At 9:00 the children clean up, get their school bags, and walk as a group (with adults) to Central Elementary School. Older students may wait for the shuttle buses to the middle school or walk there if they have parental permission.
Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa have provided $1,000 of support last year for Kids at First through the North Central District. An additional $2,000 was designated for First UMC’s food pantry.