Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation Raises $48,950 to Pay Off Meal Debt at Ames Community School District

Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation Raises $48,950 to Pay Off Meal Debt at Ames Community School District

published 1/28/2020
Press release from Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation


Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation is excited to announce that, due to the generosity of its members and the wider community, $48,950 was raised last month to help pay down the school meal debt at Ames Community School District (ACSD). The church donated the $48,950 to ACSD to help fight food insecurity in Ames and support all students in the district. An estimated 575 Ames families’ school meal debt balances will be eliminated due to this donation.

The church formally presented the donation to the ACSD School Board during its January 27 meeting.

“We were elated to hit our goal; to be honest, we were a bit unsure if it was even possible to raise such a large sum. I think doing so is a testament to the power of community,” said Jodi Risdal, Chair of the Sending to Serve committee at Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation, the group behind the campaign. The church raised funds throughout the month of December as their 2019 advent offering to help Ames families in a tangible way.

Although the USDA spends more than $24 billion each year on child nutrition programs, it prohibits schools from using federal funds to pay off meal debts, and like 75 percent of school districts in the United States, ACSD has unpaid meal debt. While Iowa schools are prohibited from singling out or shaming students with unpaid accounts, families’ inability to pay for school meals is becoming an increasing problem. Each summer, ACSD sends all uncollected school meal balances over $100 to collections. In mid-November 2019, there were 575 ACSD students with negative meal balances. By the end of December the total had reached over $53,000.

The community is invited to attend a celebration that is planned during church services on February 2. Services are at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., and a reception will be held between.

“We don’t expect to ever know the full impact that this has on individual families here in Ames, but our hope is at the very least they feel like they’re loved, they’re cared about by the whole community and that maybe this makes a way forward where there wasn’t before,” Collegiate United Methodist Church Associate Pastor and Wesley Foundation Campus Pastor Reverend Jen Hibben said. “I think for the larger community too, it has the potential to help remind us of the power of community, of what we can do when we come together.”

For more information, visit or or call 515-292-6936.

About Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation: The purpose of Collegiate/Wesley is to build an inclusive community that invites all people to experience God’s unconditional love, grow in faith, and serve others.

District Office Transitions

District Office Transitions

published 11/8/2019

Friends in Christ, 
I give thanks to God for your faithful and effective ministries led by the Holy Spirit for the sake of Jesus Christ. You continue to find ways each day to share the love of God in Jesus Christ with your neighbors here and around the world encouraging growth in discipleship. 
By December 30th of this year, the physical office spaces that have been used for district superintendents and district administrative assistants will be closed. This transition is taking place to lower administrative costs that require Apportionment funding.
District Superintendents and District Administrative Assistants will continue to have their regular phone number and email addresses as well as access to all the technology to support you in your ongoing mission and ministry for the sake of Jesus Christ. This transition will include some new way of supporting you electronically. We invite your patience and your helpful comments as we continue to improve together.
We expect that the transition to the virtual offices for the district superintendents and district administrative assistants to happen around the first of December.
The virtual offices for the district superintendents will also be mobile offices. Bishop Laurie Haller expects the superintendents to make regular and frequent visits with clusters of pastors and churches on their districts so they may fulfill their role as district missional strategists. This will provide your district superintendent intentional time and effort to connect pastors and churches with each other for prayer, mutual support, encouragement, and sharing best practices for connective ministry. Please contact your superintendent directly for messages, questions, and setting up an appointment with her or him: 

Southwest District
Terra Amundson: 712-227-1126 |

Northwest District
Ron Carlson: 712-227-1351 |

South Central District
Moody Colorado: 641-328-5814 |

Southeast District 
Doug Cue: 319-382-0621 |

Central District
Heecheon Jeon: 515-974-8910 |

East Central District
Kiboko Kiboko: 319-382-0072 |

North Central District
Carol Kress: 515-297-8580 |

Northeast District
Paul Wilcox: 319-382-0079 | 

District administrative assistants are, as required by Federal Law, hourly employees. Traveling would unnecessarily restrict their work hours for administrative support of the districts. Their virtual office hours will be Monday through Thursday and average 10 hours per day. This will provide focused time for district administrative assistants to work together as a team to connect superintendents, pastors, and lay leadership for effective ministry. Please contact them with any messages, questions, or information that pertains to their work with you; and remember, they will be available by phone or email to assist with all of their pastors’ and churches’ needs.

Central District and South Central District                
Sue Booth: 515-207-8709 |

Northwest District and Southwest District                
Judi Calhoon: 712-732-0812 |

North Central District and Northeast District            
Alanna Warren: 515-832-2784 |

East Central District and Southeast District               
Ann Zeal: 319-365-6273 |
What does this mean for clergy, laity, churches, and the ministries of the districts? 

Much of what is happening now will continue with intended improvements:

  • District communications through calendars and websites; and
  • Support for charge/church conference profile records of clergy persons and churches.

These two functions make up most of the work of the district administrative assistants and are the major pieces of record keeping that directly affect appointment making, church revitalization, and starts of new communities of faith.  

Clergy and laity are key partners with your district administrative assistants to make sure that these records, along with pastoral evaluation forms, salary forms (Form I), and local church ministry plans are completed in full, accurate, and turned in on time with no delays. This, along with the face-to-face visits of district superintendents and the directors of new faith communities, clergy and leadership excellence, and congregational excellence, has the greatest potential to resource the mission and ministry of the local church in partnership with area United Methodist churches and their communities. 
There will be some changes to strengthen leadership. 

  • The annual church/charge conference forms will be reviewed and updated so that only the essential information for the success of the local church/charge and the pastor is required.
  • District committee chairpersons will need to be the primary connector for their district committee functions (such as meetings and reports) and for their relationship to their Conference committees, boards, and agencies. 
  • District chairpersons and/or the district committee secretaries will need, as you always have been expected, to send your committee minutes in a timely fashion following your meetings to your district administrative assistant for the district files.
  • We will be working with the appropriate boards and agencies to streamline the grant application process so that more of the information is shared directly between the granting agency and those applying for grants rather than going through the district administrative assistants.

Life, as well as the church as the body of Christ, is always full of transitions. Transitions can be seen as interruptions to cherished routines; yet, the simple and profound transition of the act of breathing is essential for our personal lives, like the transitional “breathing” that is prayer is essential for our lives in Christ, personally and as the church.
Jesus encouraged his followers and us with a ready way to transition in daily faith: Ask, Seek, and Knock (Matthew 7:7-12). Jesus taught us to be curious rather than curt, search rather than subvert, and knock to open the door of communication. 
I invite your comments and questions. Please email me at or call at 515-974-8903. I am sure that there will be adjustments to what I have written in this note that will provide for more improvements and corrections. 
Thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the mission and ministry we share.
Harlan Gillespie
Assistant to the Bishop for Administration and Connectional Ministries 

Hampton UMC gets to the heart of ministry with the poor

Hampton UMC gets to the heart of ministry with the poor

published 10/24/2019
When the youth group at Hampton United Methodist Church realized that there was a need in their community for items that couldn’t be purchased with food stamps, they decided to do something about it.
That was back in 2013, and the Hampton Clean Up Closet has been in operation ever since.
It all started with a mission trip, and the youth decided that they could do something to help people in poverty in their own community. The adults in the church quickly helped them find ways to make it happen.
“I thought that was an interesting approach,” said Sue Kromminga, Director of Discipleship at Hampton UMC. “We have a fabulous food pantry here in town, but the youth chose the items that the food pantry does not stock and families cannot use their food stamps to purchase.”
Things like toilet paper, toothbrushes and diapers are available once a month, and if there is an emergency situation, people know to come to the church office for assistance.
While Sue wasn’t at the church when the Clean Up Closet was started, she says the concept is still amazing to her every day.
“So often the adults come up with the ideas and then want to youth or someone else to run with them,” she said. “In Hampton, it was the youth coming up with the concept and the adults running the program.”
Community Café reaches poor of spirit
That’s not the only way the church is helping to reduce poverty in its community. They also host a free Community Café held weekly during the school year.
Kromminga says the church is involved with about 20 different businesses, organizations and churches in the community to make this mission happen.
“A few years ago the congregation remodeled the kitchen and fellowship area with the intent of serving a free meal,” she said. “Now, we have between 125 and 200 people that get a meal and enjoy the company of others every Thursday.”
She added that it’s not only the financially poor that are being served.
“We have a high senior population, and many people with mental health concerns,” she said. “We make sure everyone that is isolated or lonely gets a meal each week, even if it means a personal delivery.”
Kromminga estimates that about 150-200 people are involved in some kind of ministry at Hampton UMC, and that the community partnership is an important building piece in those ministries.
At the heart of it all? Love.
“Love the people,” Kromminga said. “If you just love, even if it's someone coming in the door, and let them talk and you will see where something at the church can fit into what their needs are. That's all you have to do.”

An Invitation to North Central All-District Reads

An Invitation to North Central All-District Reads

published 10/10/2019

The North Central District is hosting an All-District Reads and discussion of Foolish Church by Rev. Lee Roorda Schott.  All churches of the District are welcome to attend book discussions with the author. Please encourage members of your church to read the book, participate in the discussions and dream of a new vision for church communities.

- Rev. Carol Kress, North Central District Superintendent


We hope you'll join in one or more of these events that will give us a chance to go deeper with the ideas of Foolish Church and connect with the author:

November 15-17: A Foolish Weekend, hosted at Ames First UMC and sponsored by Iowa CEF (Christians Engaged in Faith Formation). Join us in Ames for a weekend of activities exploring what it means to be the church, foolishly present with neighbors we’ve been taught to overlook. Author and pastor Lee Roorda Schott will build on her book, Foolish Church: Messy, Raw, Real, and Making Room to share what we churches outside can learn from the church she has led for eight years, Women at the Well, inside the Iowa women’s prison in Mitchellville. We’ll consider welcome, authenticity, boundaries, relationship, accountability, and reconciliation. We’ll dare to believe that when we bring our whole selves to church, and allow others to do the same, we find ourselves living the gospel in ways we didn’t know we were missing.  Approved for clergy CEUs.
November 24: Faith Parish, Humboldt Center – Book Discussion with Author 1:00- 2:30 PM  and Preaching at Faith Parish for morning services.
March 28: Mason City, Grace Church – Book Discussion with Author at 1:00-3:00 PM - Lee will be at Wesley UMC for worship Saturday night (5:00) and Sunday, March 29 morning (at Clear Lake UMC).


North Central District Reads - Foolish Church from Iowa Annual Conference on Vimeo.

About the book:  Messy, raw, and real aren’t the words most of us use when we say what’s good about our churches. But what if they were? Author Lee Roorda Schott found out, serving Women at the Well, our United Methodist church inside the Iowa women’s prison. A lifelong church person, she discovered more church, and greater faithfulness, in this most unlikely setting, with room for people the church has often overlooked. Foolish Church shares the lessons she has learned there, with the hope that church leaders outside of prison might be inspired, equipped and encouraged to the kind of foolishness that allows the church to live out its call. We’ll explore church characterized by honest relationships, protection of the vulnerable, radical welcome and healthy boundaries. Practical application for the local church context and discussion questions for group study are included throughout.

Just released is a companion volume, The Fool's Manual, a study and practice guide intended to help readers and small groups practice what Lee described in the book. It's set up in six sessions with discussion questions and prompts for those who want to practice the ideas of each chapter.These "
foolishness prompts" range from thought experiments to leadership discussions; some are simple and others will push you out of your comfort zone. You'll also be invited to join a community of folks working with these ideas, using the hashtag #FoolishChurch to connect on social media. 

Both books are available through Amazon and through the publisher, Wipf & Stock. If you are interested in ordering at least ten books (any combination of the two books), please be in touch with Lee at for a discounted price ($15 & $8, respectively, plus shipping).

Wersinger accepts new position

Wersinger accepts new position

published 8/14/2019
Karen Wersinger, the Northeast District Administrative Assistant, has accepted a new position with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office in Waterloo beginning Monday, August 19.  Though Karen’s official last day with the Conference will be this coming Friday, August 16, her last physical day in the office was on Friday, August 9 as she enjoys some time with family before starting her new position.

"Karen’s exceptional organizational skills and her kindness and easygoing manner will be missed by all that had the opportunity to work with her," said Director of Human Resources and Conference Benefits Officer Joni Mardesen. "Please keep Karen in your thoughts and prayers as she embarks on this next journey!"

Alanna Warren began supporting both the North Central and Northeast Districts this past Monday, August 12.

A New Way to Support Camping

A New Way to Support Camping

published 5/15/2019

A New Way to Support Camping

Iowa United Methodist Camps are excited to launch the Kindling Club, a new way to ensure the sustainability of camping across the state for the next generation of youth and adults.

Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods United Methodist Camps have impacted hundreds of thousands of lives over the past 100+ years. Many people, myself included, look at their time at camp as the single most formational faith experience of their lives. If you weren’t already aware, let me tell you that camping is a powerful experience for both youth and adults.

In my role as Director of Camps and Retreats for the Iowa United Methodist Church, I am tasked with guiding the Camping Ministry across the state in conjunction with the Board of Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries. One of our biggest challenges is how to effectively steer the camping program through a divided United Methodist Church not just from a theological standpoint, but a financial one. 

How Camp Budgets Work

As explained in the video above, no non-profit residential camping program that I am aware of makes enough money through registrations and usage alone to sustain itself. To most people this is surprising. However, after staffing, utility, insurance, upkeep, maintenance and marketing costs, it’s easy to see how expenses outweigh revenue. United Methodist Camps are not unique in this way. This is true for other non-profit residential camping programs as well, including YMCA, Boy Scout, Girl Scout and other Religiously Affiliated Camps. Most camping programs generate approximately 1/3rd of their revenue through summer events, 1/3rd of their revenue through year-round retreats/rentals and the remaining 1/3rd comes from partners and donors. 

Why Do Our Camps Need Financial Support?

Due to diminished apportionment receipts, we are already seeing changes to how ministries are financially supported in the Iowa Annual Conference. In 2015, Iowa United Methodist Camps received nearly $800,000 through the apportionment system. In 2020 it is scheduled to be just over $600,000. We anticipate that number continuing to decrease, putting greater stress on the Iowa Board of Camps to appropriately fund camping in this conference. The bulk of our donor funding as a camping ministry comes directly from the Iowa Annual Conference Apportionment System and we are finding that system to be too strained to adequately support Residential Camping Ministry.

This is causing a variety of changes within Iowa Camps, see the adjacent article entitled FAQ’s about a sale of Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp, but mostly it is a case study of the risk associated with what is called a “single donor model”. In a single donor model, the bulk of the funding comes from one person or entity. It is a risky model because if the single donor were to be unable to fully fund a ministry, the ministry would quickly experience financial problems. The single donor of the Iowa United Methodist Camping Ministry is the Iowa Annual Conference. While grateful and supportive of camping, the Iowa Annual Conference is unable to support it financially in the way that is necessary to reach its full potential.
How Can We Afford a Ministry We Can’t Afford to Lose?

What we are proposing is changing the Iowa United Methodist Camping Program from a Single Donor Model to a “Diversified Donor Model”. The way we do this is by engaging our churches, former campers, former staff and general camp supporters directly and asking them to give a small amount, on a sustainable monthly basis, as a way to help Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods reach new heights as we work to decrease our apportionment footprint. To do so, we are inviting supporters to become members of the Kindling Club. The Kindling Club allows you, a camp supporter, to contribute directly to a camping ministry of your choice. 

Why is it called the Kindling Club? Campfires are a tradition in any camping program. Songs are sung, S’Mores are eaten, skits are performed and Christ’s love is shared. What many people forget, is that to build a roaring fire it is important to start with small sticks, twigs and paper. We call those small pieces Kindling. Not everyone can give thousands of dollars, but most of us can give $10 per month. Some can give $20 per month. A few can give even more. With enough Kindling Club members, the financial future of Iowa United Methodist Camping is secure. 

There is a tremendous amount of change happening in our denomination. While change can be scary, it doesn’t always have to be. What if 5,000 people across our United Methodist System in Iowa become direct camping partners through the Kindling Club? What if our partner churches and church members say they will step up individually, contributing to a campsite directly? I think that we would find camps better positioned to sustain their operations, retire debt and ultimately impact more people in the name of Jesus Christ.

How Do I Sign Up?

If you haven’t watched the video above yet, please take a few minutes to do so. To sign up for the Kindling Club, feel free to find information online or via paper copy on Or, contact your favorite Campsite and the friendly staff will happily guide you through getting on board.

Happy Camping, Friends! We are blessed to have your support!

Bryan Johnson
Lake Okoboji UM Camp – 712-336-2936
Pictured Rocks UM Camp – 319-465-4194
Wesley Woods UM Camp – 515-961-4523
Director of Camps and Retreats – 515-974-8913