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.
A tornado caused major damage to the sanctuary of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Muscatine late Monday evening on March 6th. Known for their music ministries, their organ was completely destroyed. Yet, as they responded to the destruction and began cleaning up, they remained focused on their purpose as a church.
In November of 2014 the congregation participated in a Healthy Church Initiative consultation, a ministry supported by more than $60,000 in apportionment gifts this year from the United Methodist churches of Iowa. The resulting report from that weekend urged them to “flesh out a more specific vision for the future God intends” for them. Leaders grappled with the question for a few months before discerning God’s call to “transform lives through hands-on ministry with children and families in need.”
They noted the impact of the storm on others in the community as they attended to their own recovery. Katie Roquet, the director of media ministries for the church, helped to create “a communication hub between all the volunteers contacting us wanting to help and the individual homeowners who need the help.” She created a new tab on the church website to direct volunteers to relief efforts throughout the city and keep people updated on progress.
Children from Franklin Elementary School, where the congregation has focused much of its outreach since adopting their vision statement, made church members a banner that the kids all signed. One 2nd grader wrote, “I feel so very sorry about the tornado, but want you guys to know that I love you. I drew you a rainbow so you wouldn’t feel sad.”
The Greenfield United Methodist Church is making plans to start a second worship service later this year. Their worship life has always been a focal point for ministry, and they want to expand their worship offerings to help others come to know Christ Jesus. Last fall, for instance, they installed a new audio system to that end.
The Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) process helped them sense the calling of the Holy Spirit to pursue a new service. First, a team of their leaders studied ministry in the 21st century. A consultation weekend followed to help them determine their future plans based on their gifts and graces as a church. Their coach, Melissa Drake, who serves as the Field Outreach Minister in the Southwest District, has worked closely with them on their goals.
Last month they invited Phil Carver, the Field Outreach Minister in the Southeast District, to help them begin planning for the new service. This experience is one of the growing edges of HCI in the Iowa Conference: to focus more specifically on ways to help our churches intentionally connect their ministries with new people.
These efforts are supported in part with $60,000 from the Parish Development Standing Committee of the Iowa Board of Global Ministries. The funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of local United Methodist churches throughout the state.
The United Methodist Church in Casey began a new midweek contemporary worship service in September called “The Compass.” Nearly forty people came to the first event, and regular participation now is reaching towards fifty persons. More than half of attendees either had no religious affiliation before or drifted away from previous participation in the church.
Melissa Drake, the Field Outreach Minister for the Southwest District, facilitated conversations with the congregation through the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) that led to this new ministry. “They felt God’s direct call for them to start a Wednesday night contemporary worship service,” she reported. Leaders were inspired by a similar, Friday-night service that the United Methodist Church in Manning had started—also through their involvement with HCI.
The new service is led by Jenny Knutter, a lay woman from the church, who serves as their primary preacher and evangelist each week. Melodee Carstens, the pastor at Casey, said, “Jenny and I were certain of the pushes and nudges and whispers of the Holy Spirit.” Already, The Compass has exceeded their wildest dreams.
The Iowa Conference invests a total of $24,000 for twenty local churches to enter the coaching phase of HCI to support new ministry development like The Compass. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The churches of Christ Community United Methodist Parish have been involved in a pilot project to expand the impact of the Healthy Church Initiative in Iowa. HCI is an intentional development process designed to enhance the skills of church leaders to grow vibrant, spirit-filled congregations.
Pastors and laity from Allerton, Lineville, New Zion, Millerton, and Corydon met with other church leaders in their area of south central Iowa for a series of classes over the course of the last year. They studied the nature and mission of Church and explored ways to practice ministry in the 21st Century.
Upon completing their studies, the parish was invited to schedule a consultation weekend on October 7-9. A single church typically participates in such a consultation. However, in this case, all of the churches of the parish were involved. Leaders were interviewed about God’s hopes and dreams for their ministries. On Sunday morning the consultation team presented a report of strengths, opportunities and prescriptions for the parish to pursue together.
HCI addresses one of our conference’s strategic priorities: “Creating World-Transforming Communities of Faith.” In particular, HCI is designed to increase vitality in our existing churches. Apportionment gifts of more than $40,000 from United Methodist churches across the state are being invested in 2016 for consultation weekends to support local church ministries in Iowa.
The United Methodist Church in Sutherland has begun a new clothing ministry, inspired in part by their engagement with the Healthy Church Initiative process. Leaders have been praying and working on articulating God’s vision for the church since January.
Their pastor, Robin Thomas, says, “They’ve picked up on the fact that mission and ministry needs to be held up and examined” so members are intentional about reaching out to the people of their community.
One woman’s passion for mission has led to a new ministry, “God’s Closet.” The garage by the parish house has be converted to a distribution center for free clothing.
Jean Leonard “has become the initiator, team builder and head cheerleader” for this new outreach, said Pastor Thomas. The closet offers a wide assortment of sizes and styles of clothing.
A recent announcement on their Facebook page offered this invitation to their guests: “Are you in need of school clothes or shoes for your kids? For yourself? Then this is for you. God’s Closet is anonymous. Just come in and if something will help, it’s yours. If you later have something you could give, then pay the gift forward.”
The Healthy Church Initiative is supported in part with $19,200 in apportionment gifts to the Northwest District budget in 2017 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Bertram United Methodist Church was one of twelve churches recognized at the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference for completing the Healthy Church Initiative consultation process. The HCI process helped the people of Bertram to think differently about ministry.
The church is located just outside of Cedar Rapids, but the old railroad town they are in is now the center of a sprawl of new houses. Their worshiping congregation hovers around thirty people each Sunday.
HCI discussions have helped them develop more intentionality in reaching out to the people of their community. “We talk a lot about building relationships,” says their pastor, Jenny Seylar, “so that people know Jesus Christ and know that the people of the Bertram church are people of love and grace.”
One result of Bertram’s HCI consultation was a plan to remodel their church. “We had a desire to bring it back to its 1866 look, while updating all the amenities so that things worked better.” Members of the church have mentioned that the refurbished sanctuary “has deepened their worship experience and allowed them to worship more fully,” says Rev. Seylar.
The East Central District contributed $3,000 toward HCI ministries in their area in 2015. These funds were made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.