District Operational Teams

South Central District Operational Team  

The District Operational Team for the South Central District is living into Adaptive leadership challenges using concepts that we have learned from Spiritual Leadership Incorporated.   Our purpose is three fold:

  1.  Developing Spiritual Leaders who model a community that learns and leads together.
  2. Creating environments that foster transformation
  3. Establish Processes that bear fruit

We meet once a month for eight hours and within that time we have Loving, learning and leading time.

Some of the books we have studied are:

  • The Anatomy Of Peace; Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute
  • Invitation to a Journey by M. Robert Mulholland
  • Turn the Ship Around, A true Story of Turning followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
  • Teams that Thrive Five Disciplines of Collaborative Leadership by Hartwig and Bird

We are currently Developing a Ministry Action Plan for our District and we are beginning to focus on the leverage points where we can have the biggest impact to help our District to become more effective in helping the local Church to make Disciples.  Our team will then run an experiment to see if it achieves the results we want and then will R.A.D. (Reflect, adjust, Do) after each experiment to see how we can improve it.

In order to gain a broader perspective and to help us we will be asking, pastors, and Lay people, across the District and even people not within the church for help.  So if you get a message to come and help I hope that you will consider it! 

We ask for your prayers!

The following are on the team:

Southwest District Operational Team

The group has been engaged in the process of loving, leading, and learning, learning basic concepts, reading leadership books, and engaging in lively discussion. Trust is being built.  I anticipate that within the next couple of months we will begin working a M.A.P. (ministry action plan).  Out of that work will come opportunities for engagement by the team, as well as by others who have experience, insight into the areas that come to light.

The team is committed to bringing others to the table for specific conversations as we develop M.A.P.s. 

Members are:

  • LaTonya Calderon,
  • Ron Bupp
  • LeAnn Robine
  • Joyce Webb
  • Cathy Nutting
  • Andy Rubenking
  • Melissa Drake (FOM)
  • Terra Amundson (DS) 

North Central District Operational Team

Alberta Ervin, Jim Lawton, Travis Stevick, Michael Blackwell, Anita Bane, Kendy Miller, Katharine Yarnell, Alanna Warren, and Harlan Gillespie make up the North Central District Operational Team. We began our work in September 2016, following several orientation sessions for pastors and lay persons of district churches who were interested in the L3 Process.

Jim Lawton describes his experience with the team this way.

The more I work with this group I am becoming more convicted of the fact that there is much more I need to be doing in my local churches. In the past I think I mostly thought of “MY” church but now I seem to be thinking more on several levels: 1) My church; 2) our charge (Boxholm, Lehigh, Otho, Pilot Mound); 3) other churches that I interact with; 5) North Central District and their churches. . . on up the line.  I know that I need to do a better job of showing and telling the people outside of our church buildings about the life with Jesus. 

Jim’s conviction is a result of the mutual encouragement of spiritual formation among the team members using the L3 process of Loving, Learning, and Leading. As we pray with and for each other, learn together, and grow in our servant leadership, we become more aware of a life of prayer with and for the clergy and lay people of the local churches around us. This brings a deeper awareness of a spiritual truth – we need one another in the everyday mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit makes disciples. We, together, are responsible for the environment of disciple making and transformation as expressed in the day to day context of lay and clergy persons in the world as the church.

We used the L3 process for the church and charge conferences in 2016, in a January 2017 district “mini” conference, and as the basis of 4 clergy and 4 church/charge gatherings in 4 areas of the district to build trust and encourage one another in spiritual growth. We plan to use the process for this year’s district conference as we continue to model L3 and invite laypersons and pastors into the process.  

Our team has room for additional lay persons. In preparation for launching additional other operational teams around the North Central District, we welcome the interest of additional lay and clergy persons who sense God’s calling to join in the adaptive and generative process of L3 as an ongoing means of renewing and strengthening the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ we have been entrusted to share. If you sense God’s call to an operational team in the North Central District, contact one of the team members listed above.

Central District Operational Team

Central District Operational Team has been trans/formed and embodied into diversity and creativity that reflect our distinctive districtwide culture composed of rural, suburban, and urban identities. None of us on our team were sure of what the SLI process required of us, but as we have moved into an unchartered journey that intends to morph us into a new way of being and doing (the church), each of us is getting more excited about giving more time in "loving, learning and leading together (L3)." Angela Hansen-Abbas, Central District lay leader, insists that she has learned "the importance of not focusing on myself but listening to others and their point of view, getting to know the true heart of others...Also the focus of loving, learning, and leading - and how it's already changing us and we're just getting started." It is true that as we share more stories with trust and respect, we are confident of ourselves as a team while we are bonded to each other. That is the transformation that we have experienced.

Proudly we are the most diverse group in terms of ethnicity, culture, age, status, conference relation, gender, and so on. As we celebrate the diversity with respect, we are allowed to be more creative and flexible. Gary Marzolf, pastor of Newton First UMC, says that "We have a diverse group of people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds and are working to strengthen our ministry to such a diverse group of people wanting to grow in faith and their walk with Jesus Christ the Lord." Diversity and creativity are in tandem. I am convinced that the more we are open to one another, the more creative we are in diversity and differences. 

Through the SLI process (a spiritual movement) we feel more confident that L3 helps us to think outside the box for the transformation of ourselves as well as the churches so that as Gary insists, "we can build stronger spiritual leaders, lay and clergy through the Central District of the Iowa Annual Conference." To fulfill this mission, Ben Wedeking, pastor of Grimes UMC, boldly requests, "we are just beginning so your prayers are most needed at this point." Our district adaptive challenges are, first of all, how to revitalize those struggling urban churches, and, secondly, how to create a new community of faith in a growing Des Moines area. Central District Operational Team will continue to love, learn, and lead together to achieve those shared missions and meet those identified adaptive challenges: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Central District Operational Team: 

  • Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck
  • Wendy Lubkeman
  • Angela Hansen-Abbas
  • Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz
  • Angie Loomis
  • Nizta Dovenspike
  • Gary Morzarf
  • Ben Wedeking
  • Sam Fisher
  • Jen Hibben
  • Heecheon Jeon

East Central District Operational Team

As a group we have been able to develop and to sign a covenant. This covenant is read and discussed every time we meet. We have also developed among us a sense of accountability. We have agreed to meet for six hours a month. We have read together two books: Anatomy of peace and Teams that thrive. “Invitation to a journey” is the next book we are going to read. I have been leading all the meetings except one. Jill helped us defined our context. We now know where our churches are in term of membership and church attendance. We have 12 churches located in growing area are growing while 36 churches are declining. We also learned that we have 9 churches in the declining area that are growing while 31 churches are declining. The whole concept of SLI process is still nebulous in the mind of the participants. We are still working on it.

Members are: 

  • Gabe Dorrel, lay person
  • Erling Schultz, Full Time Local pastor
  • John Heise, lay person
  • Alicia (Williams) Hilmer, FE
  • Kiboko Kiboko, FE
  • Karen Nelson, FE
  • Michael Petkewek, lay person
  • Jill Sanders, FE
  • Tom Shinkle, FE
  • Jennifer Zoller, a part time licensed local pastor

Northeast District Operational Team

The Northeast District operational team has been working for several months. Our monthly meetings allow us the opportunity to build a community of trusting relationships and ministry engagement for the benefit of the local churches on the Northeast District. Our district operational team is comprised of clergy, laity, and the district team. We represent different parts of the district and different sizes of churches and communities.

Each time we gather we practice Loving, Learning, and Leading, the three building blocks of the SLI (Spiritual Leadership Incorporated) process.  As we grow as spiritual leaders and implement the practices of adaptive leadership there is an excitement building.  We attempt to discern together what God might be calling us to do in this season. Each member of the district operational team brings unique gifts and perspectives.  This provides for richness in our engagement and a vast array of perspective. 

The members of the District Operational Team reflect upon their experience so far.  Rev. Kayla Lange, pastor of Cresco and Cresco Zion: “Being on the district operational team is a great time of learning and growing together! The team is a way to take new ideas and put them into action for the district but then also take those ideas into the local congregations providing them with resources and encouragement for the ministry of God's church.”   Cal Nicklay, Osage UMC laity: “It's like a Sunday ride with no specific agenda or destination.  We are letting the Holy Spirit lead as we explore possibilities outside the box.”  Prudy Klinger, a lay person from Waterloo First UMC offered affirmation of Cal’s description of her experience.   Rev. Allen Craft, pastor of Lamont, Grace and Aurora: “I believe in the concept of a committee that is involved with the projection or the involvement in moving an organization in new and exciting directions.  I thoroughly enjoy the holistic approach that our Operational Team is taking.”  Deacon Wil Ranney shares a little different perspective: “I'm still a little skeptical about SLI - which is likely not want you want to hear. The District Operation Team is working great, but I'm wondering if that has to do more with your willingness to be flexible with SLI or if the flexibility is built in?” Jaymee Glenn-Burns, the Northeast District Field Outreach Minister: “I love SLI.  The details of planning, something I usually dread, magically came together after we had done the foundational work of forming relationships, getting clear about the purpose, and identifying shared values.  I am inspired and stretched by these smart, creative and faithful people.”

We have identified risk-taking as one of the values we would like to cultivate as a part of the culture on the Northeast District. As a result, the district operational team has designed a MAP (Ministry Action Plan) for an event to be held on in the Northeast District on March 19th. The event is called, “Nothing But God to Guide You: Taking the Risk.” The District Operational Team will continue to develop ministry action plans which have the potential to make a difference in addressing the rapidly changing context of ministry.  This is a season marked by the need to be adaptable.  The old familiar ways, are losing their effectiveness as the technological advances and needs of generations change.  SLI offers the potential to be much more nimble and responsive to our changing world. 

In future meetings, the district operational team will continue to learn together and identify places where we can strategically make a difference by finding new ways to adapt to the changing context of ministry. Together we will develop a new way to accomplish the work of the fall charge conference season in a more adaptive way. As local churches realize doing things the old way brings old results. It is true for the district as well. We are dreaming of ways of accomplishing more of what God is asking of us for the sake of God’s people in this little corner of the Iowa Annual Conference. 

Southeast District  Operational Team

Spiritual Leadership, Inc. (SLI) is “a walk-along-side coaching process” that has been working with the Iowa Conference in the last two years to grow leaders “in their faithfulness to God and their fruitfulness for God.” The process focuses on loving, learning and leading, three timeless principles that SLI consultants have found “to be the most effective and efficient path to fruitfulness” for churches, businesses and communities.

The Southeast District operational team for SLI has been meeting since last September, gathering most months for 8-hour sessions to develop relationships with each other as disciples of Jesus Christ. With these deepening relationships, they are able to learn about strategies for adaptive leadership and change in the church, study opportunities for ministry in their context, discern particular experiments to try in response to God’s calling, and lead their churches in implementing generative ministry action plans (MAPs) that reap results over long periods of time.

The Principle of Loving

The group spends significant time in each meeting developing their team by praying for one another and sharing glory sightings, that is, telling how they have experienced God’s blessings recently in their lives. Over the course of their discussions, they developed a team covenant and identified each other’s gifts for ministry. They also explored their shared values, which include growing in relationship with God and each other, loving attentiveness toward God’s creation, doing the will of God, seeing God in every child and living with Christ in our shared life with others in worship, Sunday school, small groups, outreach and our baptismal vows. All of these initial conversations help them engage the mission of the United Methodist Church “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The Principle of Learning

Each month they prepare for their meetings by reading a book that stretches their imaginations and invites them to discover new ways of being the church together for the sake of Christ in the world. The Anatomy of Peace from the Arbinger Institute, for instance, explores resolving the heart of conflict.
Teams That Thrive
by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird presents five disciplines of collaborative church leadership. Invitation to a Journey by M. Robert Mulholland Jr. offers a road map for spiritual formation. Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marguet tells the true story of how a navy captain turned followers into leaders. These readings inform their study of their context for ministry to discern community needs both locally and throughout the district.

The Principle of Leading

In response to all they have learned, they have discerned a vision for the future: to help every church experiment with some kind of new ministry for God’s sake. Now they are developing personal ministry action plans as well as MAPs for the Southeast District to pursue based on this vision. Their action steps include strategies to test and vital signs to show progress in bearing fruit for the sake of the church’s mission.


  • Al Coffin (pastor in Walcott)
  • Jason Collier (pastor in Crawfordsville and Ainsworth)
  • Moody Colorado (pastor in Wellman and West Chester)
  • Debbie Finney (lay person from Christ UMC in Douds)
  • Tiffany Hauptman (lay person from Danville)
  • Kerrin Kirkpatrick (pastor at Asbury UMC in Bettendorf)
  • Anita Miller (lay person from West Chester)
  • Joel Taube (lay person from Embury UMC in rural Lee County)
  • Phil Carver (Southeast District field outreach minister)
  • Lilian Gallo Seagren (Southeast District superintendent)

Northwest District Operational Team

The Northwest District Operational team began their monthly meetings in September of 2016 and have grown into the rhythm of loving, learning and leading. We are living into a district vision of “helping each other to see Jesus and become more like him.” The “loving” part of our monthly meetings includes a time of worship, sharing God sightings and encouraging each other in the ways we are attempting to become more like Jesus.

Our “learning” has included reading the books: Anatomy of Peace, Teams that Thrive, Membership to Discipleship, and Necessary Endings.

The first major accomplishment in “leading” was to facilitate a district Spiritual Leadership Incubator in February. The purpose of the event was to provide relationships and resources for local church leaders. The term “incubator” was used instead of a “training event” as a way to describe that we are in new territory as far as being the church in today’s world. An incubator is an environ that prepares for new birth. Adaptive change requires us to experiment with new ways of being the church because the old ways are no longer effective in today’s fast changing world. The next project is to coordinate the District Conference. We also intend to facilitate vision casting events in each local church as a supplement to the annual charge conference. Our mission is to help the congregations of the Northwest District be empowered, encouraged, and equipped to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  

Members are:

  • Tom Carver DS,
  • Ryan Christenson FOM,
  • Tim Bonney, pastor of Grace UMC in Sioux City
  • Karen Day, District Lay Leader and member of Wesley UMC, Sioux City
  • Dean Gabhart, lay member from Pioneer UMC, Rock Valley
  • Kevin Gingerich, pastor of Sheldon UMC
  • Jena Manchester, pastor of Mapleton, St Johns and Ticonic UMC’s
  • Emmanuel Nawiji, pastor of Lake Park and Harris UMC’s
  • Beth Odor, lay member from Grace UMC, Spencer
  • Ron Rice, pastor of Grace UMC of Marcus