FAQs from Cottage Meetings

I’m using my newsletter this month to continue the conversations we had through cottage meetings. Something like a dozen meetings happened with anywhere from five to thirty participants each. In all, about 100 members took the time to hear more about the Plan and take the time to ask their questions. Thank you to those who participated! For those who were unable, I’ve included some of the most common comments and questions below.

~ Pastor Jason


Q:

This is very ambitious. Do you really think we’re going to accomplish everything in this Plan?

A:

Pardon my sports analogy, but teams of any sport that are built to win do not start their season saying, “How many of these games shall we lose?” The Plan has dozens of goals and hundreds of tactics. Our budget will need to continue to increase as it has the past three years. We will need to find gifted program staff to lead completely new ministries. A culture change will need to happen among our current members so that at least twice as many people choose to participate youth ministry, adult ministry, community service, hospitality, stewardship and evangelism. I do believe First has the stuff to accomplish all these goals. I am also realistic, though, that some parts of the Plan may take longer to accomplish than others.

Q:

Does adding a 3rd worship service on Sunday mean we’re getting rid of Wednesday night?

A:

No (emphatically). During the program year we are averaging over 100 worshippers on Wednesday and it gathers more and more people who can’t come on Sunday. We will continue offering a Wednesday evening service.

Q:

This looks very dependant on lots of volunteers. What if no one steps up?

A:

Then the ideas—which are those brought by members through interviews and the CAT and through writing team members (who, again, are our members)—will not happen and First will continue to function as it already does.

Q:

What will the goal of the Capital Campaign be?

A:

The goal will be to enter 2020 (First’s 150th anniversary) with an updated sanctuary, better signage (inside and out) no large facility projects looming on the horizon and no debt. The goal is to enter the next decade completely ready to grow into the next chapter of God’s vision for our Church. What will the $ number be? The best we can do right now is guess, and I’d rather not give a number that proves to be unhelpful later, whether I say a number that’s too high or too low.

Q:

Why don’t we get another Pastor?

A:

A Pastor is trained to primarily work with Word and Sacrament ministries. What First needs more than that right now is someone whose entire work week is dedicated to the organization and execution of youth ministry. I’d rather not have that person also responsible for a sermon now and then, along with visitation, or any of the other tasks typically expected of a Pastor.

Q:

What is our #1 priority? The timeline only tells when things are planned to happen. Is the first thing our first priority, the second our second and so on?

A:

In a 5 year Plan as ambitious as ours, we are claiming all nine of these initiatives as ‘high priority’. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have made the Plan. Within it though, the greatest immediate needs happen in the first half of 2015 with a full time youth director leading the way. A job description is already being created. The budget for that position will be considered by the Finance Team and Vision & Leadership Team this month. The search for that youth director has already informally begun and will formally take place beginning in January. We will treat this search much like we would for the Call of a Pastor as it will significantly affect every other staff person and a great number of members at First. We need to get that one right! The Small Group Director is another high priority for the first half of 2015, as are Action Teams connected with community service, youth and Kathryn Pedretti’s hospitality ministries.

Q:

The Church Assessment Tool (CAT) said that 87% of our members are highly satisfied with worship. Why are we doing anything to change the way we worship when it’s going so well?

A:

The CAT also told us we are very low in our “value of activity beyond worship” and ‘spiritual vitality’. Here’s the train of thought: If it’s true that more than anything else, First Lutheran’s membership identify themselves as members by worshipping (the CAT told us this too) then we need to use worship as a tool to address our low spiritual vitality. Worship—as it currently is—may ‘satisfy’ people, but it is not creating spiritually vital people, broadly speaking. So, how could we keep most everything we already do, but build on the strengths we already have? How do we take our already satisfying worship experience to the next level which will have people “experience the presence of God more”? In quotes in this previous sentence was a question from the CAT that more of us should ‘strongly agree’ with, ideally. So, the minor changes we intend to make in worship are not meant to address any worship deficiencies. They are actually part of the effort to create more spiritually vital people who connect their faith to the rest of their lives. In addition to worship, we mean to address ‘spiritual vitality’ through adult discipleship, small groups and stewardship as well. But worship is the primary place people connect to First. So worship needs to be a part of the solution as well.

Q:

This looks like a lot of work for our Pastors. How will you keep from burning out?

A:

Pastor Karyn and I each have a mutual ministry team who keep us accountable to our own goals for self-care, including limits on how many nights we work per week (typically), how many hours per week (typically) and how often we get a Saturday off. Additionally, each of us participates in spiritual direction through a trained Director at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse which helps to discern our spiritual wellness. But the best answer to this question is YOU! In my experience here, First Lutheran is not interested in taking more from their Pastors than they are willing to give. That kind of relationship will serve this Church well and help us succeed in amazing ways as we work our Plan!

Image by Dennis Skley on Flickr