First United Methodist Church in Webster City hosted one of a series workshops last week to help local church leaders develop discipleship pathways. Ken Willard led the events, which were designed to further the “Wildly Important Goal” of the Iowa Conference to see every community of faith develop a discipleship pathway by 2020. Willard is a published author, certified ministry coach, certified church consultant, and owner of Leadership4Transformation.
A pathway, he explains, is an intentional process to help people grow in faith and develop deeper and deeper spiritual disciplines as they move through life’s journey from childhood into adolescence and continuing throughout adulthood.
Willard outlines four key areas of discipleship. Invitation refers to the ways we help people enter into the life of the church. Community describes the supportive relationships we develop with other disciples. Learn reminds us of the need to continually grow in our faith through Bible study and other educational opportunities. Serve identifies how our gifts and passions are applied to ministry for the benefit of our community and world as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Apportionment gifts from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa helped to underwrite the expenses for bringing Ken Willard to Iowa for these seminars.
On Saturday, Sept 16, 2017, San Pablo United Methodist Church in Muscatine hosted a great fiesta in conjunction with Mexican Independence Day. The gathering attracted nearly 100 people.
Participants had a wonderful opportunity to see the Quad City Folkloric Ballet with their dancers composed of Caucasian, African American and Mexican children and adults. They enjoyed catered food of tacos, Spanish rice, beans and salsa. They also played a few games outside, and children received helium balloons.
“It was a fun way to let the neighborhood and all the people of Muscatine know we are here,” said Cecilia La Roché. The congregation shares a building on the south side of Muscatine with the Musserville United Methodist Church, which is located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Her husband, Eduardo, is a preacher at the church. We are “energized and excited to the Lord as we serve the community,” she exclaimed.
In 2016 the Standing Committee on Community and Institutional Ministries of the Iowa Conference Board of Global Ministries provided $12,500 to support the ministries of the San Pablo United Methodist Church. These funds were made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa in fulfillment of our conference mission to mobilize the church at local, district and conference levels to be in ministry with Latino/Hispanic people in areas of significant concentration.
The Columbus Junction United Methodist Church plays host to the Great Beginnings Preschool, which offers quality care and education to children from ages three to five in their community and the surrounding area. Kids from all walks of life share the benefits of their safe and learning-enriched environment. The ministry even offers transportation to and from the preschool for families needing that service.
Students from four different cultural backgrounds fill their classroom, and they all learn from each other as they learn together. “Many of our students are refugees or immigrants and all are learning to adjust to a new culture with new surroundings,” says Marsha Gerot. “Our preschool helps these families feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings.”
The church provides the facilities for the ministry as well as electricity, janitorial services and heat. They also provide paper for the preschool’s newsletters and correspondence. Their commitment to serving a diverse community of people is a special emphasis of this program, which is in line with the mission of the United Methodist Church around the world.
Great Beginnings Preschool received a Matthew 25 grant of $2,000 in 2017 from the Southeast District. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Greenfield United Methodist Church launched a new worship service earlier this month. Previously, the church had a service at 9 a.m. followed by a time of fellowship and Sunday school at 10:30. Now they are offering worship at 9 and 11 a.m. with Sunday school in between at 10 o’clock.
Church leaders have been engaged for the last two years in prayer and discernment about their future through the Healthy Church Initiative. 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. They determined that God was calling them to experiment with ways to connect new people to God.
On the first Sunday the new service was offered, the church netted 17 new people in church attendance. “We welcome with open arms those seeking to understand what Christianity is about,” they say on their website, “as well as those who are yearning to deepen their discipleship and grow into the likeness of Christ.”
The ministries of the Healthy Church Initiative 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.
A dozen local churches across the Iowa Conference received cross-cultural appointments this summer. Pastors have come to Iowa from all over the world to serve our churches. Their presence reflects the vision of Pentecost. People “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) gathered in Jerusalem, and “we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” (Acts 2:11).
The Commission on Religion and Race has an ongoing ministry to encourage our churches to appreciate the blessings of diversity in having pastors of different ethnic backgrounds. This practice in the United Methodist Church testifies to our commitment to overcoming racism in our culture and our world. Racism is defined as a belief that one’s own race is superior to others.
Commission members offer workshops for local church leaders on the topic of cross-cultural appointments. The seminars highlight the particular gifts and graces of both the pastors and the local churches they serve. Participants gain a deeper understanding of each other through conversations that establishes strong ministerial relationships.
This year the Iowa Conference is investing $31,000 in the work of the Commission on Religion and Race, which includes support for cross-cultural appointment workshops. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The St. Charles Parish raised nearly $2,000 at their Old Settlers Reunion food stand in July to support ministries for children. Half of it was used to purchase school supplies for students in the Interstate 35 Community School District.
Amy Reyes went shopping with a friend on behalf of the church to get items from the class supply lists. They divided everything up according to each grade and delivered it all to the school in time for registration.
She also sent an email to every teacher in the elementary school to let them know of the church’s ongoing support. Some have responded with requests already, so she is picking up additional items for the teachers using the remaining funds from this summer.
Grandmas broke down in tears and mothers gave out hugs when they saw the school supplies. They were fearful of the financial burden that purchasing school supplies would bring and were relieved by the donations.
The generosity of the church has spurred even more giving. “A teacher that was moved by your generosity bought a backpack and all the supplies for an elementary student,” said Deann Strange, a secretary at the high school, “and I purchased all of the supplies for a high school student.”
Leaders in the St. Charles Parish are participating in the Healthy Church Initiative with support from the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Compass is a contemporary worship service that welcomes everyone, no matter where they are in their faith journey. The Casey United Methodist Church began this new ministry less than a year ago, and now they have expanded its reach through their Facebook page.
“It’s phenomenal,” exclaimed their pastor, Melodee Carstens. “We decided to begin posting videos a couple of weeks ago when some folks really wanted to hear the message, but were unable to attend The Compass.” Their first worship video appeared on June 21 and received 982 views—in a town of just over 400 people!
Their decision to post the videos felt a little risky. “It made us a bit nervous, because we wondered what it would do to attendance, but so far it hasn’t had an effect.” The feedback has been positive, often because the videos can be watched whenever a person’s busy schedule allows.
Church leaders decided to pursue their Wednesday evening service during their discernment of God’s vision through the Healthy Church Initiative process. Apportionment gifts of $60,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa in 2017 support the workshops, consultations and coaching associated with HCI. 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.