One of the primary functions of the senior pastor at First Lutheran is to address staffing needs. Like many other workplaces, the church is facing different challenges and opportunities today than it did even 10 years ago. Our staff is built to reflect those evolving needs. In 2014 our Strategic Plan cast a vision for what our staff will look by 2019. It was then that we forecasted changes in job descriptions for the senior and associate pastors as well as the director of hospitality. We also named new positions we hoped to add for the sake of providing programs and services that had become expected or needed by our members. The plan led us to create a position for a director of small groups ministry. Bridget Crave was hired in 2015. We also recognized we needed to hire a full-time youth director. So we hired Tina Nelson in 2015. As much as our high schoolers need a youth director, we saw our adults need an ‘adult director’, too. We hoped to add this position by 2016. We hoped to hire a stewardship consultant who led some financial education by 2016 as well. And by 2019 we dreamed of hiring a director of worship & arts. Further descriptions of these roles, by the way, can be found in the 2014 Strategic Plan, which is available in the church office.
So, where are we now? Upon completion of our plan in 2014, I quoted General Eisenhower, who said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Three years ago, we knew unforeseen circumstances would alter the plan. We wanted to remain flexible so we could nimbly respond to opportunities and challenges. The greatest unforeseen circumstance since then is that for more than a year now, our attendance and giving have not only become stagnant, those numbers are shrinking. In fact, through July, our giving is down 3.5% from last year. I have seen First fall short of ‘budgeted receipts’ (hoped-for offerings) before. But giving less one year than the previous year has not happened during my tenure. Our shortfall has changed the way our staff plan has moved forward. The needs are still there. The money, however, is not. And so I am getting creative. Bridget Crave, our small group director, will begin including some of the responsibilities we had in mind for an ‘adult director’ within the same hours we’ve budgeted for her in the past. Our full-time custodian, Mike Peper, will scale back his allotted hours per week so that we can add a position without additional cost. The position we are adding—at no new costs—is different from what we originally saw in 2014 as well. And that’s what I’m most excited to announce!
Beth Miller has accepted our offer to become our part-time Young Youth Director, which will include her current role as Sunday School Superintendent and the supervision of our birth to three program. Additionally, this new position will include the duties of the Young Youth Events Coordinator, be responsible for Vacation Bible School and will have a special emphasis on (and this is the new creative stuff that gets both Beth and me quite excited) ‘Faith Families’. Many churches make special efforts to cultivate Christian parenting through retreats, special course offerings, mutual support groups, family events and regular teaching for parents with their kids. It’s high time First Lutheran invested greater resources into an age group when parents and their kids are actually available to learn the ways of growing their faith lives. In the past we have put the most emphasis on catching kids once they reach middle school, primarily through confirmation. In my experience, that is too late because for most, their schedules, habits and interests have moved away from their church. Even among those families who truly want to participate during middle and high school, the schedules of a teenager make it extremely difficult to carve out time for their faith lives. Perhaps greater efforts with families while their kids are still very young will help! Beth Miller is up to the task.
With that said, I must say our staff is shaping up to be as good as any group I’ve worked with since arriving at First. Our musicians are still the best around. Our office staff is second to none. Our nursery is now led by Cassie Carrell, who has great energy and imagination. Our preschool/4K site remains a great source of pride within the community. Our only vacancy is at the position of youth director, as Tina Nelson’s last day was July 29. As she moves on to become the program director at our own Sugar Creek Bible Camp, we are looking for a full-time-with-benefits successor to the ministry she built. I am extremely confident God will provide the faith leader First’s teens need. (Please pray with me! I can’t wait to meet him or her!)
To thrive, First Lutheran needs a great staff. God continues to provide exceptional people with incredible skills and abilities to serve your spiritual needs. Please take the time to pray for your church staff. Be generous in your giving so that we can continue to keep the staff we have. And give thanks for their efforts by saying ‘yes’ the next time you’re invited to serve alongside them. You won’t regret it!