The Northwest District (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming) and the Iowa-Minnesota (IA/MN) District voted to merge. The merger passed with 96% voting “yes” at the Northwest District Conference and 76% voting yes at the Iowa-Minnesota District Conference.

Rev. Wesley Smith — Northwest District superintendent (DS) — will be DS of this larger Northwest District with Rev. Tim Purcell — previous DS of the IA/MN District — moving into the role of assistant DS.

The newly formed district will contain 112 congregations, with a total of 21,750 people in average onsite worship attendance.

Both districts were already close collaborators, having previously worked together on church planting projects and coaching networks. This new structure formalized that existing relationship and emerged from the following values of both districts:

  • Commitment to mission: The primary aim of this structure is a broader partnership to meet a similar mission. “The removal of invisible, but very real, district boundaries eliminates barriers for church planting networks moving into new regions,” reflected Rev. Tim Purcell, now Northwest District assistant DS. “For me, personally, the removal of a number of administrative responsibilities allows me to focus on my areas of passion, which are leadership development, consulting and coaching.”
  • Cost savings: By simplifying shared resources and district operations, this merger allows more resources to go toward church multiplication and revitalization.
  • Easier collaboration: A regional structure includes more diversity in congregational size, mission and contextualization. Because more churches will be at the table, pastors and lay leaders will have the opportunity to meet with more peers who share their challenges, opportunities and needs. Smaller, more specialized networks (like children, youth, revitalization, or young adult ministry cohorts) can form within the district, allowing clergy and laity to work together on similar challenges in diverse places. Healthy churches could more easily serve as “mentoring congregations,” providing help and encouragement. Previously felt geographical barriers are erased, allowing for more growth across state lines.
  • Focused leadership: The regional structure allows for a team of leaders (the DS, assistant DSs and administrative staff) to focus on distinct ways of contributing to local congregations. For this administration, this means that Rev. Wesley Smith will focus more on creating a culture of multiplication across the region while Rev. Tim Purcell focuses on caring for individual pastors and congregations within that structure and mission, while administrative staff ensure operations are running smoothly. Focused roles within the team make it possible for each member to concentrate on their own area of maximum contribution while allowing others to do the same.

As district leadership moves forward with merger logistics, they ask for prayer over the pastors, churches and the culture of the broadened network of churches represented by this district.

“Pray for relational connections to be made between pastors who formerly were from different districts and for wisdom to navigate the challenges, such as longer distance to travel for district meetings,” said Rev. Purcell. “But mostly, pray that this partnership will result in the multiplication of disciples, leaders and churches!”

For more information on how churches are partnering together to transform lives, churches and communities, visit

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.