Wersinger accepts new position

Wersinger accepts new position

published 8/14/2019
Karen Wersinger, the Northeast District Administrative Assistant, has accepted a new position with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office in Waterloo beginning Monday, August 19.  Though Karen’s official last day with the Conference will be this coming Friday, August 16, her last physical day in the office was on Friday, August 9 as she enjoys some time with family before starting her new position.

"Karen’s exceptional organizational skills and her kindness and easygoing manner will be missed by all that had the opportunity to work with her," said Director of Human Resources and Conference Benefits Officer Joni Mardesen. "Please keep Karen in your thoughts and prayers as she embarks on this next journey!"

Alanna Warren began supporting both the North Central and Northeast Districts this past Monday, August 12.

A New Way to Support Camping

A New Way to Support Camping

published 5/15/2019

A New Way to Support Camping

Iowa United Methodist Camps are excited to launch the Kindling Club, a new way to ensure the sustainability of camping across the state for the next generation of youth and adults.

Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods United Methodist Camps have impacted hundreds of thousands of lives over the past 100+ years. Many people, myself included, look at their time at camp as the single most formational faith experience of their lives. If you weren’t already aware, let me tell you that camping is a powerful experience for both youth and adults.

In my role as Director of Camps and Retreats for the Iowa United Methodist Church, I am tasked with guiding the Camping Ministry across the state in conjunction with the Board of Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries. One of our biggest challenges is how to effectively steer the camping program through a divided United Methodist Church not just from a theological standpoint, but a financial one. 

How Camp Budgets Work

As explained in the video above, no non-profit residential camping program that I am aware of makes enough money through registrations and usage alone to sustain itself. To most people this is surprising. However, after staffing, utility, insurance, upkeep, maintenance and marketing costs, it’s easy to see how expenses outweigh revenue. United Methodist Camps are not unique in this way. This is true for other non-profit residential camping programs as well, including YMCA, Boy Scout, Girl Scout and other Religiously Affiliated Camps. Most camping programs generate approximately 1/3rd of their revenue through summer events, 1/3rd of their revenue through year-round retreats/rentals and the remaining 1/3rd comes from partners and donors. 

Why Do Our Camps Need Financial Support?

Due to diminished apportionment receipts, we are already seeing changes to how ministries are financially supported in the Iowa Annual Conference. In 2015, Iowa United Methodist Camps received nearly $800,000 through the apportionment system. In 2020 it is scheduled to be just over $600,000. We anticipate that number continuing to decrease, putting greater stress on the Iowa Board of Camps to appropriately fund camping in this conference. The bulk of our donor funding as a camping ministry comes directly from the Iowa Annual Conference Apportionment System and we are finding that system to be too strained to adequately support Residential Camping Ministry.

This is causing a variety of changes within Iowa Camps, see the adjacent article entitled FAQ’s about a sale of Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp, but mostly it is a case study of the risk associated with what is called a “single donor model”. In a single donor model, the bulk of the funding comes from one person or entity. It is a risky model because if the single donor were to be unable to fully fund a ministry, the ministry would quickly experience financial problems. The single donor of the Iowa United Methodist Camping Ministry is the Iowa Annual Conference. While grateful and supportive of camping, the Iowa Annual Conference is unable to support it financially in the way that is necessary to reach its full potential.
How Can We Afford a Ministry We Can’t Afford to Lose?

What we are proposing is changing the Iowa United Methodist Camping Program from a Single Donor Model to a “Diversified Donor Model”. The way we do this is by engaging our churches, former campers, former staff and general camp supporters directly and asking them to give a small amount, on a sustainable monthly basis, as a way to help Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods reach new heights as we work to decrease our apportionment footprint. To do so, we are inviting supporters to become members of the Kindling Club. The Kindling Club allows you, a camp supporter, to contribute directly to a camping ministry of your choice. 

Why is it called the Kindling Club? Campfires are a tradition in any camping program. Songs are sung, S’Mores are eaten, skits are performed and Christ’s love is shared. What many people forget, is that to build a roaring fire it is important to start with small sticks, twigs and paper. We call those small pieces Kindling. Not everyone can give thousands of dollars, but most of us can give $10 per month. Some can give $20 per month. A few can give even more. With enough Kindling Club members, the financial future of Iowa United Methodist Camping is secure. 

There is a tremendous amount of change happening in our denomination. While change can be scary, it doesn’t always have to be. What if 5,000 people across our United Methodist System in Iowa become direct camping partners through the Kindling Club? What if our partner churches and church members say they will step up individually, contributing to a campsite directly? I think that we would find camps better positioned to sustain their operations, retire debt and ultimately impact more people in the name of Jesus Christ.

How Do I Sign Up?

If you haven’t watched the video above yet, please take a few minutes to do so. To sign up for the Kindling Club, feel free to find information online or via paper copy on Or, contact your favorite Campsite and the friendly staff will happily guide you through getting on board.

Happy Camping, Friends! We are blessed to have your support!

Bryan Johnson
Lake Okoboji UM Camp – 712-336-2936
Pictured Rocks UM Camp – 319-465-4194
Wesley Woods UM Camp – 515-961-4523
Director of Camps and Retreats – 515-974-8913

FAQs about Pictured Rocks Camp

FAQs about Pictured Rocks Camp

published 5/15/2019
The status of Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp has been a topic of conversation at the Pre-District Conferences around the state. To help provide clarity on the current status, answers to the following Frequently Asked Questions are provided below.

Q: What is the status of Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp?
A: The Board of Camps has voted to recommend a sale of Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp to Camp Courageous. The Board of Camps cannot execute a sale as it is the property of the Iowa Annual Conference. As a result, the recommendation will be voted on at the Annual Conference this year in 2019.

Q: Is a sale of Pictured Rocks a “done deal”?
A: No! The Iowa Annual Conference will be meeting in June as a large body. Delegates to the Annual Conference will vote on a number of issues, including the Board of Camps recommendation of a sale of Camp Pictured Rocks. A recommendation is not a final decision and one that it can be changed at any time. Annual Conference, the large body of United Methodists across the state, holds the final decision. We are promoting the “Kindling Club” as the best option to directly support camping ministries. For all three campsites, the Kindling Club is an essential program for sustainability. See the adjacent article A New Way to Support Camping to learn more about how you can directly support Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods.

Q: What is Camp Courageous?
A: Camp Courageous is a camp and retreat center that primarily serves people with disabilities. They are located in Monticello, IA directly across the road from Camp Pictured Rocks. They run an excellent program and provide wonderful services for thousands of people across Iowa and beyond. If Pictured Rocks were to be sold, it would be difficult to find a better partner than Camp Courageous. More information on Camp Courageous can be found on their website:

Q: Why is the Board of Camps making this recommendation?
A: Residential Camping Programs have a budget like any business/organization/ministry. Because residential camp programs don’t collect fees that represent actual expenses, a dedicated donor system is required to balance the overall budget. For many camping programs, including Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods, donations make up approximately 1/3rdof operating revenue. The Board of Camps does not have the Apportionment Funding necessary to sustain three campsites and has had to make a difficult decision as a result of our current reality.

Q: Where are donations currently coming from?
A: Currently Iowa United Methodist Camps, including Pictured Rocks, receive nearly all financial donations from the Iowa Annual Conference Apportionment System. It is what we like to call a single donor model. In a single donor model, the camping program is fully funded if the single donor can afford to fund it. We are discovering that the Apportionment System, the single donor of the camping program, is unable to financially sustain a three-site model. 

Q: What do you mean that the Iowa Apportionment System is unable to financially sustain a three-site model?
A: Iowa Board of Camps Apportionment Receipts 2015-2020:
2015 - $797,361
2016 - $791,229
2017 - $666,316
2018 - $623,457
2019 - $687,887
2020 (projected) - $616,543

Q: How much of that funding does Pictured Rocks receive?
A: Pictured Rocks has received, for operational expenses, marketing, maintenance, capital projects and campership requests the following apportionment dollars:
2015 - $144,628
2016 - $126,223
2017 - $172,107
2018 - $142,834

Q: How much revenue does Pictured Rocks generate in addition to Apportionment Funds?
A: Pictured Rocks has generated the following revenue via camping events and retreats outside of the apportionment system:
2015 - $164,766
2016 - $151,422
2017 - $123,539
2018 - $130,521

Q: How many campers does Pictured Rocks serve?
A: Pictured Rocks has averaged approximately 200 United Methodist campers per summer going back to 2010.

Q: How does usage at Pictured Rocks compare to the other two Iowa Campsites?
A: Pictured Rocks is the smallest Iowa United Methodist Camp. While effective in its ministry, it does not have the same volume of utilization as the other two sites. As a result, it has required proportionally more apportionment funding in comparison with the other two sites. Staff at Pictured Rocks have worked diligently to identify new campers and retreat guests in Eastern Iowa but have had difficulty growing the program.

Q: If a sale of Pictured Rocks is approved, what are the terms of the sale?
A: Camp Courageous, a camp and retreat center that primarily serves people with disabilities, would purchase the campsite for a total of $1.5 million dollars payable over three years. Proceeds from the sale would stay within the Iowa United Methodist Camping Program. Because of the changing reality of our church with which the Board of Camps is navigating, they have not made a determination on how proceeds from a sale would be used at this time.

Q: Is the Board of Camps recommending a sale of Pictured Rocks to build a building at the Okoboji Campsite?
A: No! The Burnet-Kline Centennial Lodge is a separate project. A seed gift of $500,000 was received to begin the process of building a replacement facility for the Classrooms Dormitories at the Okoboji United Methodist Camp. Funding for the Centennial Lodge will come from outside the apportionment system by utilizing partnerships with individuals and local churches. The status of Pictured Rocks Camp does not impact plans for the Burnet-Kline Centennial Lodge. 

Q: You said that a sale of Pictured Rocks is not a done deal. Can it be saved?
A: Yes! We are recommending the Kindling Club as the quickest, easiest way to raise the sustainable funding necessary to ensure the future of Pictured Rocks, Okoboji and Wesley Woods.

Q: How much funding is necessary to get the Board to change its recommendation?
A: Pictured Rocks has requested $60,000 of operational support (this doesn’t include maintenance, marketing, capital improvements or campership funds). While there is not a solid number, that is a good number to start with.

Q: That’s a lot of money. Is it realistic?
A: Yes! Through the Kindling Club, we are asking supporters to give a monthly gift set up through a credit or debit card. We aren’t asking for a lot from one person, but a little from a lot of people. For example:
100 people giving $50/month = $60,000
200 people giving $25/month = $60,000
500 people giving $10/month = $60,000

Q: Do I need to sign up for the Kindling Club, or can I make a pledge to support Pictured Rocks based on what happens at Annual Conference?
A: The Board of Camps is seeking sustainable funds first. While we are grateful for any pledge received, a member of the Kindling Club is considered sustainable because funds will be received until the member chooses to discontinue membership. 

Q: Can I make a one time gift instead of joining the Kindling Club?
A: Of course! However, we would need that gift every year for it to be considered sustainable. For this reason, the Board of Camps is heavily promoting the Kindling Club as the most sustainable option. 

Q: If I join the Kindling Club in support of Pictured Rocks and Annual Conferences votes to divest, what happens to my gift?
A: You would be contacted by a member of the Iowa Camps team to determine how you’d like to proceed as a partner and friend of camping. 

Q: If I have other questions, who can I talk to?
A: Please contact Bryan Johnson, Director of Camps and Retreats, at 515-974-8913. Alternatively, he can be reached at

Iowa Conference creating bi-district offices

Iowa Conference creating bi-district offices

published 3/29/2019
As a result of the Budget Team’s recommendations, the Iowa Conference will be creating bi-district offices and reducing the number of District Administrative Assistants. Iowa will continue to maintain eight districts with eight District Superintendents. The locations of the bi-district offices will be announced at a later date.

"What is already happening is that we have been creative in realigning our resources in order to empower and develop more leaders. As a District Superintendent, I have been spending more time in connecting with local churches and pastors. That is one of the positive outcomes from the bi-district office structure," said Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon.
The districts that will be combining offices are as follows:
  • Central and South Central, Sue Booth
  • Southeast and East Central, Ann Zeal
  • Northeast and North Central, Alanna Warren
  • Northwest and Southwest, Judi Calhoon
The combination of offices will result in the loss of three respected employees, Jamie Newbury (Southwest District), Karen Wersinger (Northeast District) and Sherry Swanson (Southeast District). All eight of the current District Administrative Assistants will work together to complete this transition by Dec. 31, 2019.
"We have been intentional about creating a space of grace for flexibility and permission to give to each other." said Rev. Jeon. "Even though we don’t have a clear picture on what the transition looks like, it will take more time for us to adjust to the new reality with a bi-district office."

The current Central District Administrative Assistant, Wendy Lubkeman, has begun a new position as Executive Secretary of the Appointive Cabinet. In her new position, Lubkeman will take over some administrative work during the appointive process, arranging clergy housing moves, and releasing appointment notifications, and will report to Assistant to the Bishop Harlan Gillespie. Previously, this work has been done several persons throughout the conference staff, including the district administrative assistants and the former position held by Sara Carlson as administrative assistant to the assistant to the bishop.
These changes have been implemented due to the decline in apportionment receipts, the Iowa Conference must reduce the 2020 budget by 1.3 million dollars, an 8.5 percent reduction from the 2019 budget.
More information on the Budget Team recommendations can be found on the Iowa Conference Website.