About a week or so ago, I wrote a post about last December’s Comprehensive Ministry Review, the results of which just came in recently. Specifically, this post was about a series of Affirmations by the Synod review team.
I noted that we should just take a few days to let those affirmations sink in before we began to look at what the review team recommended. Well, a few days have come and gone, so now let’s take a closer look at areas that we need to focus on in upcoming months. I’m going to editorialize these a little. The recommendation language will stay pretty much verbatim (but I’ll let you know if there’s an edit), but I want to add on some areas where we’ve already begun the work. OK? OK.
1. “Collectively as a congregation, before March 1, 2015, start a process to discern God’s purpose for this congregation and identify your shared core values/guiding principles (possible resource: Living Lutheran by Dave Daubert). Complete this process within six to eight months and then find creative ways to keep both statements fresh in members’ minds, for decision-making and inspiration.”
N.B. The link for the above title will take you to the Amazon Smile page. If you use Amazon Smile, a percentage of your purchase will be donated to First Lutheran. Just thought you might like to know about this small way of supporting our ministry financially. Thanks!
So, we’re a bit behind on this, but I’m confident that we can still have in place a set of core values and guiding principles to shape the way we do mission here at FELC by August/September 2015. Our new Town Hall structure should provide us opportunities to work on this as a group. Already at May’s Town Hall we began to identify this value: FELC is a Safe Place. We said that this should be a safe place physically – now we need some actionable items put in place to help us make sure that’s the case. We also said we are a safe place psychologically and spiritually – One member mentioned specifically that he lives on property belonging to a church where he knows his doubts and questions will not be welcomed or tolerated, and so he comes here, halfway across town, because he feels like he belongs, questions and all.
I’ll do another post on discerning core values and guiding principles in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled. In the mean time, think about (AND SHARE! It does no good to examine ideas if you’re going to just keep them to yourself.) what’s important to you about this congregation. It can be things we already do, or things we could do. The point is to get the discussion rolling.
2. “Prioritize goals, including action steps, resourcing needs, timelines, and designated project leaders. Follow through on your plan [as identified in discussions with our consultant from Kairos] to choose two internal and two external projects to focus on at a time.”
3. “Develop and commit to engaging in a healing process to work through issues lingering from past conflicts. Seek out an external counselor or therapist who specializes in group healing processes.”
Mark your calendars for June 14. Cynthia Gustavson will meet with us during our Town Hall that day to begin a more formal process of healing. I know that some people are less affected than others by the conflict(s) that occurred in the congregation in 2010/2011, but it’s very clear both to me and to our consultant and to our review team that there is residual trauma in the congregation as a whole. Even if you feel like you are “over it,” please understand that not everyone is, and your participation in this process will be in support of your brothers and sisters who need you to engage. This is important work, if we ever want to move forward.
4. “Build up lay leaders within the congregation by helping them to identify their spiritual gifts, encouraging them to live out their unique gifts both inside and outside the [congregation], identifying applicable gift/role pairings supporting the life of the congregation, and providing ongoing training and support.”
5. “Live into your CAT survey goal to “provide more opportunities for Christian education and spiritual formation at every age and stage of life.”
6. “Create and maintain a balance of energy between the internal missions (discipleship) [or Linking In] and external missions (evangelism and outreach) [or Bridging Out].”
7. “Determine a long-term plan for the building, including potential sale of the lower parking lot in order to offset expanded parking nearer the corner of Utica and 12th, and rental of space to community partners. Look into a building assessment from MIF [Mission Investment Fund] and or/energy audit from PSO and prioritize repairs.”
Some things have changed since the review team was on site. At that time, we were not partnering with House Church Tulsa, for example. We were also in conversation with a neighboring health provider concerning the potential sale of our lower parking lot. This negotiation is currently in limbo, and we’re not even certain that the sale of the lot, given an increased need for parking thanks to House Church and other potential building use partners, would be the best option.
Our partnership with House Church and the continually expanding work of Padre Alvaro and the Comunidad de Esperanza, plus ongoing relationships with the Early Learning Center are helping us to see our building less as a liability (60 year old building with a bad boiler, in need of a lot of upkeep, etc.) and more as an asset for the whole community. Not only has House Church really embraced working with us, but also CdeE has been using the building for teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language, as well as for working on social justice issues for the Latino community in Tulsa. We have a LOT of potential in this building, if we continue to steward the resource well.
To that end, a task force has worked with the Core Council for putting together contracts and covenants for Building Use Partners – and these affect other policies including renting the building for events such as weddings, etc.
In short, we’re making really good progress in this area, and are actually building excellent relationships through the broader community. People may not be aware that First Lutheran had a certain reputation for not playing well with others for quite some time. I’m only now learning the extent of that, and your openness to trying new things has already helped us heal some of those old wounds.
8. “As you explore rental of space to other entities, we recommend you do so from an intentional posture of partnership/relationship rather than a stance of proprietor.
* Explore establishing a building stakeholder consortium that shares responsibility for building and grounds upkeep and repair.
* Consider having monthly stakeholder meetings with building partners in order to coordinate building use and develop stronger relationships
* In addition to financial contributions, consider inviting all building partners commit to contribute to and participate in worship life at least once a year (e.g. an artist or musician can share from their gifts, a counselor or spiritual director could share how lives are changed, separate congregations can participate in a joint worship, and etc. as fits budding partnerships.”
There is a lot of momentum (or inertia) to overcome here, but we are making progress. First, it seems clear to me that we are already approaching the Building Use Partners precisely as that – partners, and not lessees. We have been sort of informally working together to figure out how best to share the space. There are hiccups here and there (sound bleeding through floors and ceilings, though this doesn’t appear to be too distracting) and so forth, but overall, the informal approach has been working so far. It will be better to formalize some of these things.
To that end (and secondly), we have identified and are currently testing some software that should help us avoid room use scheduling issues. This is an ongoing process.
Finally, on May 22 we held the first of four joint worship events with our Building Use Partners. We grilled food and shared bread and wine/juice around tables while hearing Scripture and sermons, and while listening to excellent music jointly offered by House Church musicians and members of our own music program. It was beautiful to behold! From this meeting, I spoke with someone who wants to help us with some of the landscaping around the building! Relationships grow in the midst of all this stuff, and it’s really, really great!
9. “Increase signage, upstairs and downstairs, inside and outside, particularly at doors to indicate preferred entrance points, and to direct people to worship, office space, nursery, and restrooms. Explore placing signs at prominent sites, as fits city ordinance, to point people to the existence of this congregation and its location.”
10. “Make the front of the building (facing Utica) more visible so that it is evident this building houses an active and vibrant congregation.”
11. “Broadly utilize your developing branding to grow awareness of your identity in the community.”
12. “Live into your desire to attract youth and families and be more welcoming overall, by updating gathering and transitional spaces, in order to make it more visually and olfactory appealing. Engage a building engineer or other building professional to determine where gasses are being leaked.”
Fortunately, the gas trap fiasco of last year has finally been resolved, thanks to Bruce Torkelson! But we need to work on that other stuff!
13. “Build upon your history of providing quality worship and music, adapting as relevant for the changing mission field. As you build a family-friendly, welcoming, and engaging community, consider bringing the choir down from the choir loft to join the rest of the congregation in the main worship space.”
Two things here: 1) We are in the process of calling a part-time choir director, whose engaged presence will help us tremendously musically. The current staff and volunteers have been doing a great and commendable job in the absence of a consistent presence, but it’s a LOT of work. Getting a part-time person on board will be great! 2) Our long-standing tradition of a worship committee who picks music just isn’t working any more. We need to form something like a “liturgical arts task force” to help think more broadly about worship experiences – thinking about the use of space and smells, for example, especially in the more dramatic seasons of the church year. The Altar Guild can and should be part of this process, but not everyone on the Altar Guild wants to do that particular kind of work. That’s not a problem. We need to all work together on this. I’m also thinking that we need to think a bit differently about how to more effectively use people’s gifts during the worship experience. The task force can help to guide those discussions.
14. “Create a sustainable budget and financial policies, including written policies for bequests, memorials, sale of property, and rental use of space.”
I have tried to avoid using names in most of this report, but I want to lift up Robert Ohlde for a minute. Robert has held pretty much every position on the council since he became a member here, and the man works tirelessly in areas that aren’t always comfortable for him. Our congregation seems to have a bit of a history of taking talented people and using them so much that they’re just worn out. Nobody deserves that. Robert doesn’t deserve that. We need a couple of people who are willing to help, especially in the area of Financial Stewardship. By condition of various grants, we are committed to looking at Financial Stewardship all year long (as opposed to the old model of a single campaign in the fall). Right now, Robert and I are the Stewardship Team. This is a recipe for disaster. We need help. Help?!
15. “Utilize activities you already do (e.g. the annual performance of Messiah and the Early Learning Center) as leverage points for moving to the next level of relationship and increased exposure of your branding.”
All of these recommendations are solid. I think the review team, though they only spent a couple of (admittedly very intense) days among us, really listened to what people had to say, and this is reflected in their recommendations.
This gives us a good list of things to work on and provides a framework for a strategy for moving forward in ministry. We now need people who are willing to donate some blood, sweat and tears to help us plan and implement a couple of these projects at at time. The Core Council will need to tackle this work and manage the project, but they cannot and should not do it on their own. One thing I’ve seen from this congregation is that, when you are motivated, you can pull off amazing things. You have the resources already, because you’ve done it before. Now it’s time to do it again! There is much at stake, but God has already equipped you with what you need to do the work. Persevere! Your gifts won’t fail you.