In September of 2015 the Manning United Methodist Church began a new worship service for people in recovery called “The Source.” Now more than 40 people are gathering at the church on Fridays at 6 p.m. to sing praise music and hear a message. Pizza is served at 6:35. A Recovery Bible Study begins at 7 p.m., and Al-Anon and A.A. meetings follow at 8:30 p.m.
“Recovery,” they explain on their website, “can be from illness, to loss of a job or a loved one, to every type of addiction you can come up with! Live in the spirit of love with us as we hold each other up in Christ!”
Inspired by a visit to a similar service at First United Methodist Church in Ankeny, church leaders in Manning are encouraging others to begin a second worship service. They joined several other churches teams for an HCI (Healthy Church Initiative) retreat at the Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center at the end of March.
They shared their experiences of getting started with other teams that are just beginning to consider ideas. “We had to grow into it,” said their pastor, Vicki Fisher. They didn’t have everything perfected when they began.
Retreat participants plan to meet together again in a few months for further encouragement. HCI is budgeting $60,000 in 2017 to support these kinds of events. The funds are made possible through apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Deke Rider, the site director of our Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center, had a lunch meeting at a local restaurant recently. This is the season of the year for preparing for the busy summer months of camping for children and youth.
“It was a fantastic meeting,” he reports, and as the conversation was coming to a close, a women dropped a napkin into his hands. The message written on it read as follows:
I’m a Methodist & went to Wesley Woods Camp as a child. My 3 sons camped there too. It was wonderful! Thank you for sharing the Gospel with our youth. God bless you both & your ministries.
Wesley Woods is located just southwest of Indianola on 344 acres of rolling hills. The staff there offer outdoor education to school groups at all times of the year. The camp also plays host to retreats for families, businesses, individuals and non-profit organizations in adult-friendly facilities.
The Iowa Conference is investing $731,316 in camping ministries in 2017 for the work of Wesley Woods and two other sites, Pictured Rocks in northeast Iowa near Monticello and Okoboji in northwest Iowa near Spirit Lake. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.
Students at the University of Iowa have a weekly opportunity to learn about people of faith and their spiritual journeys. Every Tuesday evening, students gather at the UI Wesley Center to break bread, be in community, pray, listen and receive sustaining nourishment for body and spirit.
This semester they are continuing a Spiritual Biography series. Each week a guest shares personal stories of God’s leading. They reflect on how their spiritual journeys have formed and informed their vocational work. Over the course of these Tuesday Table conversations, students have hosted community leaders, university faculty and religious leaders from across the Iowa Conference. Recently, for example, Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, the pastor at Trinity/Las Americas and Wesley United Methodist Churches in Des Moines, was their guest.
“Each week,” UI Wesley executive director and campus minister Anna Blaedel says, “we deepen our own sense of our spiritual journey and reflect on the events, experiences, moments, decisions, questions and beliefs that guide our lives and our life work.”
The Iowa Conference is investing $577,000 in our four Wesley Foundations in 2017, including the University of Iowa as well as Drake University, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. This support is made possible with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
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.
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.
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.