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.
The Conference Center in Des Moines played host to a national gathering of United Methodist leaders earlier this month. Route 122 is a network of practitioners directly involved in local church development. Participants meet annually to share resources and explore best practices for the future of transformation in the United Methodist connection.
This year’s event, for instance, featured a workshop on Fresh Expressions, a movement to create new or different forms of church in this time of tremendous cultural change. The Rev. Paul Brunstetter, the Director of New Church Development in the Kentucky Conference, shared more than a dozen examples of creative ministry, ranging from youth groups and house churches to retirement centers and midnight discussion groups for young adults.
Jaye Johnson, the Field Outreach Minister for the South Central District, serves on the coordinating team for Route 122. He expressed appreciation for the ministry of hospitality offered by the Iowa Conference through both its facility and staff. “I am so please to be part of this Iowa Annual Conference team who know how to welcome people in Christ’s name.”
The Iowa Conference is budgeting $432,119 to cover operational costs and mortgage payments for the conference center in 2017. These funds are made possible from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
More than 800 active and retired clergy as well as lay staff members of the Iowa Conference have access to health and pension benefits through the Human Resources Office. Two full-time staff and their part-time support are active this month in the enrollment process as clergy and staff make choices about their coverage for 2017.
The Iowa Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (CBOP) oversees this ministry. The Book of Discipline outlines their responsibilities for “providing for and contributing to the support, relief, assistance, and pensioning of clergy and their families, other church workers, and lay employees of The United Methodist Church, its institutions, organizations, and agencies within the Annual Conference.”
The CBOP is actively studying current health care legislation in order to respond to the changing health insurance industry and current laws. In addition, the board is working on the development of a funding strategy to deal with the conference’s long-term pension funding. These efforts help local churches provide the best care for the most affordable cost.
The Iowa Conference has budgeted $103,898 in 2017 for the ministry of the Human Resources office. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.