ThreeHouse Wesley Foundation builds lasting friendships and provides a safe space for students

ThreeHouse Wesley Foundation builds lasting friendships and provides a safe space for students

October 05, 2021

The Iowa Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry chairperson Julie Poulsen has been able to visit each of our campus ministries through online meetings hoping to build a bridge between the Conference and the campus ministries. Rev. Bill Poland, Conference Director of New Communities of Faith and Director of Connectional Ministries, also visits when he is available. When visiting, they learn that each campus chaplaincy program is unique, fits the Gospel message to that particular campus and those students, and has a flavor that is compassionate, faith-based, accepting of diversity, committed to inclusion, justice, and helping others and led by deeply caring chaplains. "Loving God and your neighbor" is alive and well at all of our campus ministries.

All four of the Wesley Foundations have United Methodists as directors: University of Northern Iowa (UNI), Rev. David Glenn-Burns, University of Iowa, Rev. Anna Bladel, Drake University, Rev. Ted Lyddon Hatten, and Iowa State University's campus minister (ISU), Lauren Loonsfoot. All are part-time due to cuts in funding, except David Glenn Burns. 

​Recently at the UNI Wesley Foundation, a Board meeting was held online to which Poulsen and Poland were guests. Many of the 17 Board members present were recent graduates of UNI and participants in the Three House/Wesley Foundation while they were students. 

The name of the Wesley Foundation in Cedar Falls is ThreeHouse, and it has grown to be an ecumenical ministry. United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Disciples of Christ representatives are all actively involved on the Board and in day-to-day activities at ThreeHouse. 

In total, ten local churches are involved at and with ThreeHouse. Their local churches are giving funds to the ThreeHouse ministry, and they all have pastors and laity involved every week. The community and local church support and involvement are amazing.

A new aspect, as of October, of the ThreeHouse overarching ministry, is to include a chaplain of the Muslim faith, Dr. Gülsüm Kücüksari, adjunct professor of history. She will provide care and a listening ear for students from all over the world who are Muslim. Kücüksari will also be available to explain Islam to those on campus who may not be familiar with Islam and the cultures of different nations. There is a great need within the international student community for a caring listening ear and guidance. There is also a need for a person at UNI who represents an interfaith perspective and a peaceful, loving presence that is available to help.

Weekly activities at ThreeHouse/Wesley Foundation are Tuesday: Bible study, Wednesday: a Meal for students brought in from St Luke's Episcopal Church, Wednesday: Worship, Thursday: Coffee House where students make coffees and smoothies and study, play games, and have conversations in a relaxed setting.

Other activities include the Treat Trike that drives around campus and delivers treats and says a positive word to everyone they meet. The Treat Trike will be in the Homecoming parade, and students and staff will hand out treats. 

Students are currently re-arranging the Game Room to create a quieter area to gather for meditation, discernment, studying, or conversations.  They are also working to establish a professional clothes closet. There is a need for sturdy wooden bookcases for the library at ThreeHouse. There is interest in shaping a ministry to help students discern their future vocations.

Currently, three students live in the ThreeHouse/Wesley Foundation and pay rent. No longer do those students serve as Peer Counselors. They are all very involved in the ministry at ThreeHouse.

Many of the students touched by the ThreeHouse ministry are young people who were hurt by the church and many who suffer from mental health issues. Sadly, local churches/pastors no longer send names of students to the Wesley Foundations as referrals. Students who come to ThreeHouse build friendships that last forever and find a safe place to discuss faith, religion, world issues, friendship problems, identity issues, and more. 

The Chaplains listen and mentor, help students look at faith, and encourage them to think deeply. At a recent Block Party, the feedback was that the students were excited for ThreeHouse because it is an affirming place with a loving and involving social justice ministry. 

On October 9, Three House will hold a Church Summit for partner churches. Everyone interested in ThreeHouse and getting involved in supporting this campus ministry is invited. The theme is "Rooted and Reaching." It starts at 8:30 am at ThreeHouse or online. Three topics for the day will help churches develop their strengths. See the full schedule here.

"We welcome pastors and members of our collaborative partner churches, along with Board members and other supporters, to explore ways of thinking about ministry. We'll have Chris Johnson of Milkweed Group, Katherine Yarnell of the Iowa Methodist Foundation, and TJ Warren, who will be leading visioning processes. CEUs will be available to pastors after the Church Summit. We plan to meet in person but will also have the capability to meet via Zoom, as conditions warrant. To register, call ThreeHouse at (319) 266-4071. Masks are required, and everyone is asked to sign in at ThreeHouse," said ThreeHouse.

ThreeHouse receives $7500 for the 2021 year compared to $180,000 for the 2014 conference year.  They now receive all but $7500 per year from sources other than the Iowa Annual Conference, compared to 2014 and before, when they received most of their funding from the Iowa Annual Conference. 

Recently Wesley Foundation had to replace a sidewalk in front of the ThreeHouse building. All gifts are welcome and needed. New external lighting was installed, which helped students and staff to feel safer in the parking area of ThreeHouse. 

A Celebration Dinner and Silent Auction will be held on December 4, from 4:30-6:30 pm to celebrate 100 years of campus ministry at UNI. Watch for details. Contact Stephanie Arensdorf, chair of the Development Committee, if you want to create something for the silent auction.

For more information about ThreeHouse or to give their ministry go to or contact David Glenn Burns at or (319) 266-4071.