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 

Eric Scheve hired as Site Director at Okoboji U.M. Camp

Eric Scheve hired as Site Director at Okoboji U.M. Camp

published 10/21/2019

The Iowa Board of Conference Camps and Retreat Ministries is excited to announce that Eric Scheve has been hired as Site Director at the Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp. Eric has been a long-time employee of the camp, starting as  summer staff in 2011 and progressing now into his new role.

“I have always loved working with people and camp is a perfect place to make that happen,” says Eric. “I am excited for the opportunity to continue making the Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp a place where families, campers, staff, and guests can feel safe, welcome and experience Christ’s love.”

“We are so blessed to have someone like Eric on our team,” says Bryan Johnson, Director of Camps and Retreats. “Eric is one of the staff people I had the privilege of working with at Okoboji and his hard work, dedication to youth and adults combined with his leadership skills are going to make him a big success at the Okoboji United Methodist Camp. Iowa Camps are lucky to have someone like Eric!”

Eric is preceded as Site Director by Derek Bergman, who is moving on to other opportunities. “We are so thankful for Derek and his family and the past three years and all the work that they’ve put in to make Okoboji a special place,” says Bryan. 

Eric grew up in Indianola, IA. As a resident of Spirit Lake, he stays active in the community as a member of community groups and at his local church where he is also the Chair of Discipleship. 

When asked what is so special about the Okoboji United Methodist Camp, Eric says the history of Okoboji is unique to camps everywhere. “People have been gathering at the Lake Okoboji U.M. Camp for over 100 years. Camp has been an important part of thousands of people’s lives and continues to be a special place where they can continue to come. It’s a place where people feel safe and loved, friends can be made and God becomes real. Camping is special not only to those in Northwest Iowa but in the hearts of so many who have spent time here.”

The Lake Okoboji U.M. Camp serves between 600-800 United Methodist youth during the summer season and retreat and rental groups throughout the year. 

Eric can be contacted at the camp via phone (712) 336-2936 or via email,

Back-to-School Ministry continues to BLESS

Back-to-School Ministry continues to BLESS

published 10/4/2019

The Storm Lake United Methodist Church is now in its fourth year with BLESS, a special program that provides school supplies for children in the area. An acronym for Bless and Love Everyone School Supplies, the program has been a blessing indeed for everyone it has touched.

Listening to the Lord

It all started when Storm Lake member Sarah Low found out that parents were coming to the church asking for help purchasing school supplies, but there were no funds available to purchase them. As an introvert, putting offering envelopes and pens in the pews each week was Sarah’s preferred way of volunteering—but she couldn’t stop thinking about how important it was for these children to have school supplies. “It was like the Lord just kept saying, ‘You need to do this, these kids need help’,” says Sarah. “I kept saying, ‘No, you’ve got the wrong person here!’” 

Ultimately, though, this “God moment” convinced Sarah that this was something that needed to be done and she had to be the one to take the lead. Her plan to get donations and then purchase the supplies needed was a big success. That first year, in 2016, they ended up giving out supplies to 181 students. “Since then, we are now up to 500,” she says. She is also now joined by three others who help organize the program, plus an estimated 75 other volunteers who contributed to the effort this year.   

Providing students with the supplies they need

BLESS is different from similar initiatives because it’s tailored to what the students need. “We get ahold of the school supplies lists each year from Storm Lake and the surrounding communities, so we know what is necessary,” explains Sarah. “We then shop, and based on how many students we believe may come, we try to get everything on their list from the backpacks to the baby wipes to the towels that they lay on at rest time to Clorox wipes, Ziplocks, pencils, paper, everything.”

The need is significant. “This year we had students from 13 different school districts come,” she notes. Parents and students were lining up at 5:30 in the morning, three hours before they even began handing out the supplies. It’s first-come, first-served, and there are no questions or paperwork. They trust that people who are this motivated to get the supplies genuinely need them.

“We cannot tell by looking at someone whether their parents just lost their job last week, or whether there’s a lot of medical bills coming in, or whether their income is just not high enough to pay for school supplies. We don’t judge. We just bring them in and give them what they need,” she explains.

The joys of giving and receiving

The response they’re getting has been incredible. “It’s a thing of beauty, to see the kids’ faces,” Rev. Phil Webb marvels. “The kids with joy on their faces looking at the piles of backpacks and all the different colors.” BLESS is also unusual in that it allows students to choose their own backpack, which gives them the chance to start the school year with something more personalized.

“They quite literally have jumped for joy. They have gone to walk out of our Family Life Center and turned around, a group of them, and yelled ‘Thank you!’ We have had parents come in, in tears, and say ‘What you have done for my child has changed their life,’” says Sarah.

“By helping a student have what they need to be successful in school and have the pride, even in their backpack, and walking in that first day and having everything on their list, it helps them become successful in school,” she asserts. “And by becoming successful in school, that radiates on throughout their life.”

Rev. Webb adds, “They don’t have to worry about not having something. If you don’t worry, you can concentrate better.” 

The reverend emphasizes the value of outreach. “We are reaching out so people know we care, and when people know you care, they trust you. That’s how the church is impacting.”

Sarah points out that the program is being noticed throughout the area. “We’re getting more and more support from the community because they’ve seen that this is continuing and it’s successful, and it is really beneficial for this area in Northwest Iowa.”

Backpack bargain hunting

Praising Sarah and her team, Rev. Webb brags, “She’s a bargain shopper too, let me tell you!” She just proved it recently when she noticed a bin of backpacks on clearance at a local Wal-Mart: 

“So I find a manager, and then I find another manager, and then they find their manager’s manager. We get to the top and I said, ‘If I buy ‘em all, what can you do for me?’” she recalls. “The total was just short of $500, for an average cost of $1.91 apiece. So I get on the horn and call my husband who’s at work 25 miles from here. ‘Honey, you gotta come home, bring the pickup, I just bought 500 backpacks!’”  

Of course, the next step was getting them paid for. “This weekend I went into the congregation and I said, ‘Okay, here’s what I did. I had faith in you all – I need some money now!” Sarah laughs. She’s confident there will be enough funds to cover what she spent. “The congregation really gets behind this program. Without their support, it couldn’t be done.”

Although she spends hours every week on BLESS, Sarah fully believes it’s worth it. “I never could have imagined so many tears flowing out of my eyes, out of happiness and joy, from doing what the Lord wants us to do – helping others.”

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