IRMS—Celebrates 30 years as an Elegant Solution

IRMS—Celebrates 30 years as an Elegant Solution

January 20, 2016

Julius C. Trimble, resident Bishop of Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church along with five other partner denominational representatives signed the re-covenanting contract with IRMS.

The Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church will provide 10 scholarships for the subscription fee to IRMS to United Methodist churches with fewer than 200 members that have not been subscribers to IRMS for the past 3 years.

Please email your request to communications@iaumc.org by February 15, 2016.
Many congregations in Iowa have experienced dynamic and compelling worship and education thanks to a shared ministry between six mainline denominations called Iowa Religious Media Service (IRMS).
 
On January 13, 2016, IRMS celebrated its 30th anniversary year at its Annual Meeting and Re-Covenanting Service with a homemade soup buffet for denominational leaders, current and former board members, staff, volunteers, and guests.
 
IRMS is an ecumenical subscription-based comprehensive lending library with over 10,000 DVDs, kits, books and other resources. In 1986 member denominations covenanted together to form IRMS, under the leadership of Sue Sonner, Executive Director 1986 – 1997. Since that time, it has supported subscribing congregations of all sizes with an endless variety of media and resources that enhance Christian education and worship and assist with the ministry and management of the church. The IRMS staff has a wealth of knowledge and will consult with and guide users through the process of resource selection.
 
At the Annual meeting, Jim Laupp, President of the IRMS Board of Directors, lead introductions and the lighting of the unity candle. Julius C. Trimble, resident Bishop of Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church along with five other partner denominational representatives signed the re-covenanting contract with IRMS. The denominations are Mid-American Baptist Churches, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Synod of Lakes and Prairies, Presbyterian Church (USA), Iowa Conference of The United Church of Christ, and the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church.
 
After lunch, the Annual Meeting was held, and the Slate of Officers was approved as well as the reading of the 2016 budget. It was announced that for 2016, The Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church Board of Discipleship has made a one-time grant to IRMS in the amount of $21,750. “For this, we are eternally grateful. It was a Christmas miracle,” said IRMS treasurer, Jeanie Smith. “This grant will be put into savings to help generate additional income.”
 
Sharon Strohmaier, Executive Director of IRMS then presented a special Board Member Emeritus recognition to Rev. Dr. Fred Gee, “for his dedication and service to the Iowa Religious Media Service and thereby to the churches that it serves.”
 
“It is my privilege to stand before you, the stakeholders in this special institution, and share my vision for the organization and explain to you where it fits within the landscape of the church,” began Sharon Strohmaier in her keynote address.
 
Sharon spoke about the concept of an Elegant Solution, quoting from the book by Matthew May, The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation. “An Elegant Solution is one in which the optimal outcome is achieved with minimal expenditure of effort and expense and is recognized by its juxtaposition of simplicity and power.”
 
She went on to give examples of individuals and organizations who have faced and solved real-world problems using an Elegant Solution.
 
“IRMS is also an Elegant Solution,” she said. “At a time when media was just beginning to play a much larger role in our lives, denominational representative gathered to determine how it is best to address this change in communications media. They wanted to take the work to the next level and to do together what none could do as well alone.”
 
“IRMS was born out of the vision of the judicatory leaders, built on the design developed by the original steering committee and implemented by the first Executive Director, Sue Sonner and her committed staff,” she continued. “IRMS is the Elegant Solution for the collection and circulation of high-quality media, resources for worship, leadership development, Christian learning, social justices and Christian education for all ages, all vetted for the mainline perspective.”
 
“With all denominations trying to do more with less, there are some interesting changes on the horizon,” explained Strohmaier. Churches are being merged, the staff is being reorganized and budgets are being cut. Groups are reaching for “Elegant Solutions” to continue to be successful.
 
Strohmaier went on to give several examples of the struggles in all denominations and her hope for an Elegant Solution for all of them.
 
She also spoke about the shrinking small communities in Iowa that are trying to survive.
 
Among the elements essential to the survival of a small town is a local grocery store. Home Town Foods, is a grocery store chain that was started by a group of residents from Conrad, Iowa. When the grocery store closed in Conrad, a benefactor stepped up and gave them a store-front building and the community found an experienced operator.
 
“Based on a self-help mainstream approach, this Elegant Solution not only saved their town but several other towns as well,” said Strohmaier. Home Town Foods has now opened in several other towns and continues to be a success.
 
“On the flip side of the shrinking small communities is the growth trend of the Metropolitan areas,” Strohmaier continued. She stated facts about the growth in Iowa which has added 77,030 to our population since the 2010 census and emphasized that the community of Waukee has grown from 8,000 to 20,000 residents in the past 10 years. The Waukee Community School District struggles to keep up with the demand for buildings and additional resources. They have averaged 470 new students each year for the past 11 years adding 675 in the fall of 2015. Funding is based on the previous year’s enrollment, so Waukee schools have educated the equivalent of an entire school for free for the past 11 years and will continue to do so into the future.
 
“Just as small school districts are scrambling to hold their school districts together, so is this large one,” she said. “If the denominations in this room do not have strong programs in Waukee and every western suburb, staffed with your very best workers with children and youth, you are missing a fantastic opportunity for developing and implementing an Elegant Solution for evangelism and significant church growth.”
 
Strohmaier closed by sharing an observation made by Rich Pleva, Conference Minister for the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ, during a recent conversation. He compared the solution to the struggle churches are now having to the landing of Flight 1549 by Sully Sullenberger on the Hudson River. Strohmaier paraphrased Pleva, “No matter how dire it is, you don’t need to crash. If you can find a decent place to land – if you can find that elegant solution – then something new can rise.”
 
Also, at the 2015 IRMS Annual Meeting, it was discussed that a scholarship program should be implemented to offset the cost of the IRMS subscription fee. Bishop Trimble and Disciples Region Minister Bill Spangler-Dunning offered to provide scholarships to the churches in their respective denominations.
 
“That really is an Elegant Solution,” responded Strohmaier. “Church budgets are getting tighter and tighter, and we don't want the IRMS subscription to be the one piece that churches let go.”
 
The Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church will provide 10 scholarships for the subscription fee to IRMS to United Methodist churches with fewer than 200 members that have not been subscribers to IRMS for the past 3 years.
 
Please email your request to communications@iaumc.org by February 15, 2016.