The idea of Dodekah Ministry was born from the prayers of mine, Anna Sheetz, Minister of Education, as I prayed through the frustrations and needs of First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City. It must be understood that this church is located in a highly educated population. This means that we have a population at FPC that wants to be educated and has a variety of educational backgrounds. When FPC brings rote education, it leads to the feedback “We’ve been there, done that.” There is also a population of people who have completed the Covenant Bible Study, who are wondering “What next?” We have amazing youth who are hungry for education, for God, for community. The question became ‘How do we feed those hungry for more?’

The answer has to be: discipleship. It has to include a smaller group engaging in safe community where each individual can forge their own faith. This is Dodekah- a year-long program; 12 months of study with two weeks of travel. This is an amazing intergenerational opportunity that many families are already pursuing. There are three parts to this program:

Bible Study

The Bible study is the main focus of this ministry and it takes up the most time. This will get the 12 participants into a routine of reading the Bible, digesting the Scriptures, and getting to know God. For the 2019-2020 Dodekah Program, we will be using FPC’s tried and true Bible study, Covenant by Abingdon Press. The goal of the Dodekah program will be to write its own Bible Study, where a portion of funds from any grant we receive will go. With 24 sessions on Monday nights for an hour and a half, this will become a regular habit of participants. They will learn to navigate their Bible, understand the broad themes, and grasp their faith in a whole new way.

Research and Development Meetings

The Research and Development Meetings will be monthly meals after the church service. These Research and Development meetings (R&D) will be a time on the first Sunday of every month to meet, to bring research about a particular topic and also research about a specific location we might be seeing. Members will be split into pairs to do this research that they will be asked to present at these monthly R&D Meetings. This will give us a holistic impression of current events. The 2019-2020 Dodekah program participants will be faced to their own privilege. As Americans, we will learn about world politics, such as the Israel-Palestinian conflict and peacemaking efforts. As Christians, we will learn about world religions, such as Judaism and Islam. This will be a time when we tune our global empathy and compassion.

International Experience

The international trip will be the capstone of the year of hard work. This will be the result of months of relationship building, Bible study, and research. Having this confidence in the knowledge we have gained and our small group, we can see the world with new eyes. This will be the time for those with various learning styles, gifts, and talents to run wild. The visual learners, tactile learners, physical learners, and aural learners will see, touch, feel, and learn their faith in whole new ways. Being a member of a denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), which has a huge Presbyterian Mission, there is a wealth of resources.

The Dodekah program is built on intergenerational relationship building. As Kara Powell, in her youth ministry defining book says this:

By far, the number one way that churches made the teens in our survey feel welcomed and valued was when adults in the congregation showed an interest in them. More than any single program or event, adults’ making the effort to get to know the kids was far more likely to make the kids feel like a significant part of their church.[1]

If a youth participates in this program, they are automatically enrolled into this small group where they are valued and welcomed as equals. This, as Kara Powell shows, will significantly impact the faith life of teenagers as they grow and move away from our church. That is an amazing opportunity to radically nurture their faith and discover how God calls them to lead lives of meaning, purpose, and justice.

Adults are interested in this program for a variety of reasons. A large percentage of adults are parents of the youth. Teenage years are the ones that youth ministers come to expect a drifting away, Dodekah Ministry offers parents a way to connect with these “drifters” in new and faithful ways. We also have adults who feel as though this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is an exciting opportunity for adults who have studied their Bible their whole lives to connect in a new way. There are adults who say they are too shy and don’t know how to ‘break into’ the church community. There are adults who love the idea of an accountable community in their busy lives. For many different reasons, the Dodekah Ministry seems to fit a wide variety of adults, with different life experiences, different life stages, and in so many heartfelt ways.