Three United Methodist Churches in town saw new pastors this year: Trinity, First and Epworth.
Asked what his church was doing this year, the Rev. Erling Shultz of Epworth UMC said, "Growing."
"We have kind of a renewed spirit, a renewed atmosphere," Shultz said.
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Barbara Huisman, left, and Kris Christensen look over color samples in the building which will soon be Pieceworks. Donated tools will allow for a wide variety of arts projects in the space. Huisman said doing art can help people heal.
Having a new pastor helps, he said.
Shultz is a half-time pastor, who also works at Kohl's.
"Being a half-time pastor has really helped the church, because that means they have to take up the slack," he said. "They have to do the bulk of the work that they relied on their pastor to do in the past."
The previous pastor was guaranteed full-time work by the denomindation, so she was reassigned after the congregatio determined it needed a half-time pastor for financial reasons, Shultz said.
In the United Methodist denomination, pastors are appointed by a bishop, not hired by an individual church, he said.
"It guarantees a church is never without a pastor," he said. "When you become a United Methodist pastor, you assume you will be moving on a regular basis.
"If you're an effective pastor, and the church is growing, the church is joyful, you'll generally stay five to 10 years."
It all depends, he said, and there's a trend of churches keeping pastors around longer.
Shultz was appointed to Epworth by Bishop Calvin Trimble in the third week of July 2012. Since then he's been impressed by the church's willingness to move forward.
"To be honest," he said, "(when) I looked at their numbers I was not thrilled with coming here.
"But what I have found here is just a latent possibility. To borrow a phrase from Christmas, they're round with potential, pregnant with possibilities."
Worship attendance is rising, as is membership, and Shultz expects the increase to come faster in the future.
"We've got a worship service that is a little more spirit-filled than it has been. We're taking a new look at our mission, and our vision," he said. "We plan to increase our givings to the different organizations in the community, and be more personally involved.
"When the church is busy about the community, that's a church that's going to grow."
The Rev. Mike Willer started at Trinity United Methodist Church on Dec. 1. Now that the holidays are over, he's ready to settle in to the normal routine.
"Now that the new year has started, it's time to get to know people, get to know the community a little bit better," Willer said.
The former pastor, Steve Peters, was a chaplain with the air national guard, and left Trinity when he was put on full-time duty, said associate pastor Dan Rogers.
"This is a bad time of year to get pastors. We were really fortunate to get a really good pastor," Rogers said.
So far, Willer has been happy to see how much work his church does in the community. Trinity supports organizations such as the Beacon of Hope and the Lord's Cupboard, Willer said. This year, they want to connect even better with places like the women's shelter and Youth Shelter Care of North Central Iowa.
"We know they have needs, but we don't know what their needs are," Willer said.
That's what his new congregation is good at.
"The members here are really interested in doing things, serving others, growing in their faith."
And though there are numerous well-attended groups that meet, he said one goal is to do more small group activities, focusing on Bible study and fellowship.
Rogers explained, "Rather than insist that everybody come here once a week, it'd probably be better if we had more people exercise their Christianity from their homes. That's actually more traditional, especially in the Methodist format."
The Rev. Andrea Kraushaar echoed the idea that having a new pastor can revitalize a church.
"I've loved it," she said of getting to know the congregation at First United Methodist Church. "They really just needed somebody to come in and love them, and to light that spark again. I keep telling them, the embers were there, but they just needed somebody to let them know they could have big dreams."
Kraushaar came to First United from Boone in July 2012. The pastor before her was a one-year interim pastor who came after the previous pastor retired.
"Since I've been there, we've been doing a lot of visioning to see where we want to go and where God is moving us in the next year," Kraushaar said.
She doesn't know what the church will develop yet, but said the hope is to add new ministries for families and young people, such as a group for moms.
The biggest change she's seen so far is "we've had a lot more people in congregation, coming to church on Sunday. A lot of people that hadn't been to church in a while are coming back and realizing this church is where they want to be a part of," she said.
Harvest Baptist getting bigger, reaching farther
"In 2013, we're going to expand our bus ministry," said the Rev. Marvin Smith, head pastor at Harvest Baptist Church. "Right now we run Clarion, Eagle Grove, Humboldt, Fort Dodge and Webster City. We bring in about 200 boys and girls on Sunday.
"The goal is to expand southwest of here. We don't know how far out we will go - we're looking at Rockwell City, Dayton, Farnhamville."
The church purchased the former federal building on the corner of Second Avenue South and Eighth Street in September 2012, said Smith, and will start moving into that building a little as a time, as finances permit.
"We aren't going to borrow money. We don't want to get in debt," he said. "We paid cash for the building."
The first step is to move the educational office complex and printing operations. Next an auditorium will be built, with the eventual goal of moving everything and selling the current building. The new location will increase their space from 42,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet.
"We have the blueprints now for a 750-seat auditorium on the back of that building," Smith said.
The new space will allow the church to expand from 45 Sunday school classes to 60.
"Right now, every room has a Sunday school class in it, including my office," he said. "It's a good problem."
The church also hopes to expand its Bible college this year, send 3 million gospel tracts to India from its printing presses, and launch missionaries into the Philippines.
Cana pursues healing through art with Pieceworks
In its first full year, Cana has grown and helped start three other ministries. One, Stable Connections, offers equine assisted therapy and has been going strong since June.
The next thing to open will be Pieceworks, said co-founder Barbara Huisman.
It's a "makerspace;" a collaborative area where people can come to make art, express themselves, and use new tools. This can facilitate reconciliation and help people to heal, Huisman said.
Healing through art has already happened several times at Cana. Huisman said people have come in upset, and lost all their anger after some time painting.
"It's not about a specific thing, and it's not just people who think they are artistic," she said. "The point is hope.
"A wise teacher, who is a poet, once said, 'Art distracts the mind so the heart can speak.'"
The space, located next door to Cana at 18 S. Third St., will be open very soon, Huisman said, perhaps in only a few months.
One of their first projects could be Papergirl, where people submit all types of art, leave them on display for a while, then roll them up and deliver them like newspapers to people at random.
The third Cana ministry is the Gateway to Discovery, a recovery home and program for women recovering from drug addiction.
The project is moving forward - though perhaps slower than organizers would like. There's still more money to raise, and a lot of paperwork to get through.
Still, "A lot of churches have been a part of starting to see it happen," Huisman said.
Lutheran Malaria Initiative continues
At St. Paul Lutheran Church, the Rev. Allen Henderson had success with his roof-top fundraiser.
Henderson camped out for one week on the roof of the St. Paul Lutheran School during the end of October, to raise money for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative.
"We had a goal of $10,000," he said, "and we ended up with $13,700-plus."
News crews from Des Moines came up to the roof to interview him, Henderson said, and the video got onto YouTube.
"I got word from (Lutheran World Relief in) St. Louis that it had gone viral," he said. "Isn't that great? Our efforts against malaria went 'viral.'"
Every 60 seconds, a child dies in Africa from malaria. A donation of $1 can pay for a life-saving shot for one child; $10 provides a family with a mosquito net; $100 can train a medical worker to diagnose and treat malaria.
The Lutheran Malaria Initiative will continue this year, with the goal of eradicating the disease by 2015.
"In 2013 our school and church will celebrate its 150th anniversary," Henderson said. "We're thinking about having some projects locally and regionally."
The church hopes to hold events like a hog roast, a concert Sunday, and a friendship Sunday where former pastors, principals and teachers can come back to visit.
"We'll do a series of things," he said. "Maybe a servant weekend, doing something as a congregation in the community."