MissionInsite provides demographic information to local church and conference leaders to help them in their outreach efforts. One way of learning about new people in our communities is to study statistical data provided through the U.S. Census. Demographics assist both established churches and new communities of faith better understand and engage their mission field.
Local church leaders participating in Healthy Church Initiative consultations, for instance, prepare a demographic report provided by MissionInsite to help them assess their outreach potential. The material can identify persons or groups who are not being reached by our churches and offer insights about how we can develop relationships with them.
In addition to HCI and other church revitalization processes, the demographic information is used by superintendents as they consider pastoral appointments and by conference leaders to identify and start new communities of faith. Bruce Wittern, the chair of the Iowa Conference Standing Committee on Parish Development said, “We have seen a great increase in the use of MissionInsite over the past couple of years.”
His committee invests $10,000 annually in a contract with MissionInsite so that this demographic information can be available free of charge to all churches and leaders within the Iowa Conference. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The Southwest District is celebrating Difference Makers in their part of the state. Two of their disciples from First United Methodist Church in Carroll were featured recently.
Sara and Lisa are a mother/daughter team who feel God’s call to help children. They are active in UM Kids on Wednesdays after school, and they teach Sunday school. In addition, they invest in community ministries that affect the lives of children. Here are just two examples.
Lisa is one of two people working with the Carroll Community Schools to find volunteers through the Parent School Cooperative. PSC volunteers help with many different things from picture days and health checks to classroom support, book fairs, and fundraisers. And the list just goes on and on.
Sara has started a program called Carroll Cares, a community toy drive that assures that children have a good Christmas. Donations of money or gift items can be dropped off at the church, and Sara will help take care of the rest. Last year, for example, this ministry collected games, balls, sweatshirts, dolls, trucks, and more that were split between different community services that could get them to children in need.
The Iowa Conference is investing $10,749 in the ministries of the Southwest District to develop leaders and celebrate Difference Makers like Sara and Lisa. These funds are made available from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state.
Last month many new members from Africa joined St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, the result of the work of Pastor Daniel Niyonzima. He was appointed in 2016 as a full-time pastor through a $90,000 grant from the Iowa Annual Conference made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.
The new members of the church come from several countries including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. St. Paul’s UMC has responded to the growing population of African National immigrants in their community by developing worship services and other ministries in which the principal languages are Swahili and Kirundi. These ministries are intended to help these new residents from Africa grow in their faith and retain their heritage while becoming American citizens.
In 2007 Pastors Carol Sundberg and Harlan Gillespie received a call from a St. Luke’s Hospital social worker requesting a pastoral visit for Daniel Niyonzima and his wife, Perpetua, who had just given birth to their eighth child. Daniel explained to the hospital staff that he and his family were immigrants from Burundi and a refugee camp in Tanzania. In his homeland he was trained as a pastor by United Methodist missionaries. A close relationship developed and within a year an African National (AN) congregation of 130 was worshiping at St. Paul’s.
Forty-three people from a dozen Iowa churches gathered for the Healthy Church Initiative Next: Discipleship Pathways Retreat at the end of January. Led by the Field Outreach Ministers of the Iowa Conference, the event focused on helping pastors and laity understand more clearly what a discipleship pathway is and how to develop and implement one in their local churches.
The Iowa Conference has a Wildly Important Goal for every church to develop a process for intentionally forming disciples of Jesus Christ by the year 2020. We want disciples to know and become more like Jesus.
Retreat participants reviewed how we can help followers of Jesus deepen their relationships with God, no matter their ages or stages of life. A four-step framework was offered for churches to adapt in their context to help people intentionally develop faith.
“The presentations were excellent,” one participant said, “but I would say the encouragement of having action steps” to follow up on what we’ve learned was the most important aspect of the weekend.
The event was held at the Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center outside of Indianola. Additional retreats and workshops are being planned throughout the state in the coming months.
The Healthy Church Initiative is supported in 2018 with a Parish Development grant of $70,000. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The newly formed church council for 2018 of Wesley United Methodist Church in Vinton gathered last week for a leaders’ orientation and visioning session. Phil Carver, the field outreach minister in the southeast part of the state, was there to talk with them about their ministry plans.
He shared the L3 process that is being used more and more across the state by conference, district, and local church leaders. Loving, learning, and leading are three practices to nurture and develop spiritual leaders in our churches. This process comes to us from Spiritual Leadership, Inc., an organization that has been coaching Iowa Conference leaders throughout our Healthy Conference Initiative.
Loving God and Neighbor involves accountability, sharing, prayer, and worship at the opening of every gathering.
Learning in Community may include lectures, videos, discussions, and exercises to help leaders discover personal gifts and abilities, investigate the current reality of their context for ministry, and reveal God’s direction for the future.
Leading Together offers teams an intentional way to design and implement ministry action plans for living into God’s vision for their church and community.
The Iowa Conference is investing more than $100,000 this year in training, coaching, and resources related to the Healthy Conference Initiative and the L3 process.
First United Methodist Church in Omaha is working to develop city housing policies that support racial equity. Their partners include the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Omaha Together One Community, and Claire United Methodist Church.
Strong race relations requires a commitment to engage in sacred conversations so that civil rights can become a reality for the next generation. To empower the residents of North Omaha to improve their quality of life, they begin by get acquainted. They meet in one-on-one conversations with individuals and house meetings with neighbors to build trusting relationships with residents in North Omaha.
Together, they hope to influence the city council to change specific housing policies that are perpetuating poverty in North Omaha. They encourage members and other supporters of this initiative to live their faith in mission and service fueled with the spirit of God’s love. “We have a diversity of ways that we work to make the world a better place,” their website on ministries of mercy and justice says.
The congregation’s efforts are being supported with a $34,575 grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race. The Iowa Conference contributes gifts from United Methodist churches throughout the state to support these efforts through our General Church apportionments.
Okitakoyi “Michel” Lundula, the pastor of the United Methodist Church of Le Mars, is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has served three other churches in Iowa communities, including Nashua, Ionia and Dubuque. His passion for ministry is “to proclaim Christ to all God’s people, meet people in their context of life, celebrate with those who celebrate and cry with those who cry.”
Before completing his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources from Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
The United Methodist churches of the Iowa Conference are supporting Africa University in 2018 with a $38,195 general church apportionment gift. This helps the university pursue its mission “to provide quality education within a Pan-African context through which persons can acquire general and professional knowledge and skills, grow in spiritual maturity, develop sound moral values, ethics and leadership qualities.”
Another Iowa connection to Africa University is Larry Kies, a United Methodist missionary supported by many of our churches, who is serving as technical advisor to the Africa University Farm. The farm operation recently made news with an upgraded water system that minimizes water loses from irregular and inefficient methods of irrigation.