Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the conversation with Rev. Dr. Jay Johnson and
Dr. Art McClanahan.
The Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson, Field Outreach Minister for the South Central District of the Iowa Conference, knows the best experts are usually those who are in the field every day. That is the key difference between Route 122 and other conferences held by the United Methodist Church.
“This particular conference is different because we believe the experts are coming to us and so all those that are here are on the ground doing day-to-day transformation,” said Johnson.
Route 122 is a peer-to-peer networking opportunity for anyone who is interested in the transformation of existing congregations, particularly conference staff, and superintendents. The conference in based on the ¶ 122 in the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which reads, in part, “We make disciples as we: proclaim the gospel…lead persons to commit their lives to God…nurture persons in…send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ…[and] continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.”
The conference has been held across the country each year and this past week, it was held at the Iowa Conference headquarters in Des Moines from Dec. 6 to 8. According to Johnson, about 75 participants attended, with people coming from San Antonio, Texas, and Mississippi, including Mississippi's resident Bishop James Edward Swanson Sr.
“Out of 75 (people), we probably have about 30 different annual conferences represented around the connection,” said Johnson.
The attendees participated in four workshops focused on cultural competencies, assessing new potential for churches based on ¶ 213 in the Book of Discipline; simple governance, which looks to streamline the work of United Methodists, and Fresh Expressions, a UK-based approach to start new communities of faith that are anchored in existing communities.
The most impactful portion of the three days, though, was the peer-to-peer sharing, said Johnson.
“We’re doing a lot of conversations around what’s working for you, what do you see working,” he said. “There’s lots of idea exchanging.”
One roundtable focused on how to give incentives to churches to try new things. A Mississippi attendee said their district has an apportionment reduction process for churches that invest in new outreach and new communities of faith.
“(It was a) great idea, I had never thought about that and neither has anyone else in the group,” said Johnson.
During the Route 122 conference, Johnson was even encouraged to share Iowa’s practice of lay members and clergy working together to transform congregations.
The unique working relationship between different members of the Iowa Conference could even be seen in the planning of Route 122. Conference staff was willing to pitch in a helping hand with various parts of the event. Staff and volunteers filled in where they saw gaps from helping with the registration desk, to planning decorating and shuttling guests to and from hotels.
Iowa Bishop Laurie Haller led the opening worship service. (Click to watch)
“They just volunteered to do that,” said Johnson. “We’ve heard from several folks about how much they appreciated Iowa hospitality.”