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of the Evangelical Covenant Church


Churches working together to transform lives and communities by starting new churches, strengthening existing churches and developing missional leaders.

e-News • December 2015 •

Merry Christmas from MWC Staff!

Brian Johnson, Tammy Swanson-Draheim, Brent Thompson, Brandi Kejr, Dan Pietrzyk, Lori Anderson, Allan Serrano (not pictured)

And the REAL one . . .

Heartfelt Worship!

The body of Christ is a rich tapestry of colors, shapes and personalities. In this month’s feature story on heartfelt worship, we hear from three very accomplished, yet very different, leaders: Chris Logan, Director of Worship Arts and Mission, First Covenant Church, Omaha, NE; Jessica Perez, Worship and Creative Arts Director, Crossroads Covenant Church, Loveland, CO; and Paul Lessard, Senior Pastor, Castle Oaks Covenant Church, Castle Rock, CO. Their passion and experience in the art of worship is a blessing to the church. Enjoy as they share a bit of their unique approaches to leading the church in heartfelt worship!

How would you describe your philosophy of worship?

 According to the Apostle Paul, to worship is to respond to God’s mercy. Worship is thus not confined to a single time or method; the gathered body worships together and the scattered or sent body of Christ worships in action. Gathering and scattering HAVE to go together; a purely gathered people becomes introspective and inwardly focused, while a purely scattered people has little in common aside from ideology that will gradually ebb away from its shore. We need BOTH to be the church, a corporate life of worship that at once gives and receives. In gathered (corporate) worship, we engage God in song and silence, in table and word, in celebration and mourning as one body of the called out people on God’s mission of redemption. In short, we respond to God’s mercy together. But while the gathering is essential to God’s mission in the world, it is not the point; it’s the thing FOR The Thing, which is to say, it is meant to form God’s people to do Kingdom work. You might say we seek to sing our way to a new way of thinking and acting; we sing our way towards a new reality. And so in scattered/sent worship (“mission”), we engage the other, beyond the confines of those who are like us; we help others to respond to God’s mercy. Apart, each becomes selfish and broken; together, the Kingdom of God moves forward.
"In view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves"—your whole selves—"as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is true worship." (Romans 12:1)
I love hosting parties and gathering people every chance I get! As a true foodie, I spend time planning the menu and setting my home to be as inviting and beautiful as I can. When my house fills up, I’m right where I want to be. As a church worship leader I see many parallels between hosting a party and being a worship leader in the local church. 
When one is hosting a party at home, they should not be scrambling to cook the food and clean up the house once the guests have arrived. And as worship leaders, we should not be learning our music and scrambling just before or during the worship service. My team and I thoroughly prepare ahead of time. We design extravagant environments that engage and inspire; we lead with passion and excellence, in an approachable, joy-filled way. To take care of preparation and the little details, we are able to be fully engaged as leaders.
Our preparation beforehand is necessary. In a nutshell, my philosophy is simple. CONNECT PEOPLE TO GOD and I believe to reach our full potential and the potential for people to connect with God. We need to take away our distractions so that we can lead and experience worship together as the body of Christ. Now it’s time to serve the church and I don’t want to miss any part of it!
In planning worship I use the metaphor of a well-told story. A compelling story has a clear beginning and progresses logically and intuitively through to the denouement and epilogue. While the content of the story may vary from week to week, and is always more broad than simply the point of the message or sermon, it is rooted, of course, in The Story. The goal, then, is to tell the story of who God is, what God has done and what God has promised to do. We do this as best we can, given the musicians, readers, speakers, artists and other storytellers available to us. As no one tradition, culture, age or ethnicity is able to tell the story in its fullness, a mature rending will incorporate a wide range of forms. Planners of worship then choose the form that best fits that particular part of the story that morning. For example, if we are speaking of God’s majesty the question becomes, “What is the best way to express and experience this this Sunday? A new song? An old song? A dance? A video? A reading of scripture?"
* * * * *
Learn more from these gifted leaders here, where you will find responses to:
  • How have you met the challenge of planning and leading worship in settings with a range of preferences from traditional to contemporary?
  • What is your philosophy and practice for including children, people with disabilities and others with special needs?
  • How do you develop and cultivate a worship team?

Alfa y Omega Biblical Institute Honors Graduates

In January 2013, Pastor Wuifor Portillo of Alfa y Omega Covenant Church in Carthage, MO, opened the doors to a humble Bible institute that took place in the basement of the church. On November 28, 2015, after almost three years of study and 15 courses, the church gathered to celebrate the graduation of the first class of Alfa y Omega Covenant Church Biblical Institute. The graduating class consisted of 16 students, five of whom graduated with honors. The success of these students has motivated others who dropped out along the way to return to finish their own programs. Pastor Wuifor and his wife, Vilma, are thrilled to begin classes for the 2016 spring semester and have even added several new subjects. We praise God for this great work!

Presenting the class of 2015:

Alfa y Omega Biblical Institute brochure in Spanish

MWC Presents . . .

To help you get to know your Midwest Conference Executive Board, we will be highlighting one member each month. Thank you to those who volunteer their time to serve our conference in this way!

Name:  Kristin King
Position on board:  Member-at-large
Current church:  Evangelical Covenant Church, Stanton, IA
What do you enjoy most about serving on the Executive Board? I really enjoy getting to know the board members and conference staff. It’s great to hear about what is going on in our churches and share our common goal of sharing Christ.
Where are you sensing God’s leading in the MWC? I’m still getting to know the Midwest Conference. We have been in the conference for three years. Being on the board is giving me a great chance to see what our conference looks like, as a whole. I’m excited about our new church plant in Iowa. I think that is definitely a great direction and church planting should be part of every church’s mission. I pray for a lot of healing and revival. 
In what ministries do you serve in your local church? I serve on the Christian Education Board, volunteer with our elementary program (After School Bible Club), teach 4th-grade Sunday school and enjoy being a part of our Ruth Circle.
Tell us about your family. My husband of almost 15 years, Matt, is a wonderful pastor. We are super blessed with four amazing, fantastic, brilliant, and attractive kids—Axel (10), Kennedy (almost 8), Rhys (5), and Pippa (almost 2). We are really enjoying the Midwestern way of life. Our home and town are both fantastic places to grow up. I look forward to seeing our family touch and be touched by this special spot on the globe. 

What are your hobbies? The Lord has given me a lot of visual creativity, which I try to use for good. I like decorating and coming up with creative solutions to functional needs—generally, re-purposing. I really enjoy gardening, both floral and food-al. We are blessed to live near Viking Lake and enjoy swimming and kayaking. I also enjoy a nice long walk or bike ride. Really, being outside is the best hobby. 

What is your favorite Bible story and why? The account of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, really resonates with me. I love when “all” the people seek after the Lord and “all” worship Him. Jehoshaphat, himself, went around calling people to return to God. Jehoshaphat and the people were obedient and acknowledged God’s glory. God took care of them. I love 2 Chronicles 20:15, when God says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” God is so good. God is so mighty. We should all turn to Him.

NAIA Honors Iowa Pastor for Years of Service to Amateur Athletics

Pastor Richard Moore of the Covenant church in Sloan, Iowa, was recently honored for his years of commitment to supporting amateur athletics as a public address announcer. Click here to read more!

Join us for Midwinter 2016!

Pastors and ministry staff, we look forward to joining with you in worship, learning opportunities, and fellowship at Midwinter 2016. Register today!

GOOD NEWS! The scholarship deadline has been extended through the end of December. Please ensure you are in good standing prior to submitting your application to the conference office.

Active Pastor/Chaplain Scholarship Application
Retired Pastor Scholarship Application


From Our Superintendent


At this time of year, we celebrate the most wonderful gift ever given. It is this gift—God’s great love in the form of his Son—that inspires us to give of ourselves in return. We are blessed to serve a conference of churches and individuals that so graciously and selflessly pour into one another and their communities. Thank you, friends, for your constant expression of all that God has done.

As we approach the New Year, I encourage you to take time to reflect on God’s goodness this past year and prayerfully offer yourselves to him for the coming year. When I consider the amazing work he has accomplished in our conference this year, I can only imagine the wonderful blessings that await us in the next. Join me in celebrating this season of joyful anticipation!

Merry Christmas!


2015 Superintendent's Letter to Churches Gathered in Annual Meeting is now available. Please share with your congregation.


We invite you to consider a special gift for the mission of the Midwest Conference. Visit Midwest Conference Donations.

Prayer Calendar

Download the Nov 2015-Feb 2016 Prayer Calendar, also available on our website.

Church Planting Update

Check out the Fall 2015 Update on MWC church planting!

Free m&m's!

Pastors, Superintendent Tammy would enjoy meeting with your leadership team to share about the MWC Mission & Ministry. She'll even provide a tasty visual that will encourage leaders to learn the conference mission statement! Contact Tammy at to invite her to an upcoming meeting.

Upcoming Events

December 24, 2015
December 25, 2015
January 1, 2016
Happy Holidays!
Cluster Conversation
January 6, 10:30 am, Hillcrest Cov, Shawnee, KS

January 25-29, Chicago, IL

Annual Ministry Celebration
Apr 22-23, 2016
Crossroads Cov, Loveland, CO

2016 Week of Prayer

This resource is a seven-session guide for individual and small group study, reflection, and interaction. This year's publication, Praying through the Creation Story:  Finding our Story in God's, is authored by former MWC staff Rick Mylander.

Sankofa Journey

Registration is open for the next Sankofa journey, which will take place March 31–April 3, 2016. Visit the Sankofa website to register online or download a registration form. For more information, email Christine Buettgen at or call (773) 596-2489.


Triennial 2016

You're invited to RECHARGE, REFRESH and RENEW!
Enjoy meaningful worship, sound Biblical speakers, challenging learning experiences, heart-pumping excursions, life-altering spiritual experiences and opportunities to take next steps in addressing injustice in our world. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EARLY BIRD RATE THROUGH JANUARY 15, 2016! Register Here

Urbana 2015

Join the Evangelical Covenant Church at Urbana 2015! Stop by the NPTS/Serve Globally booth and also join us for dinner! Connect with other Covenanters and learn how you can serve globally with the ECC. Al Tizon, Executive Minister of the ECC's Serve Globally initiative, will be present. 
Where:  J.F. Sanfilippo's Italian Restaurant, 705 N Broadway, St. Louis, MO
When:  Tuesday, December 29

Personal Retreats Available

Covenant Heights Camp and Covenant Cedars Bible Camp offer lodging and meals to full-time church staff of the Midwest Conference for personal retreats and family weekends at no cost. Availability is dependent upon season and camp schedule. For more information:

Covenant Heights Camp

Covenant Cedars Bible Camp

Twin Lakes Bible Camp provides free use of Haven 23, a house with full amenities, to anyone in ministry. Take advantage of this opportunity to relax and refresh! Contact 712-297-7714 or for more information.

Spanish Translation Needed

The MWC would like to provide essential notifications in Spanish, when possible. If you or someone you know would be interested in joining a volunteer task force to help with this need, please contact the conference office at or 888-871-3020.

Employment Opportunities

Seeking Employment? See if any of these ECC employment opportunities are right for you.

MWC camps are now accepting applications for 2016 summer staff. Apply today!
Covenant Heights Camp
Twin Lakes Bible Camp
Covenant Cedars Bible Camp

Quick Links

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Phone: 402-334-3020 or 1-888-871-3020
The Midwest Conference is a mission association of Covenant churches in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, western Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming
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