Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Council Meeting Minutes
August 16, 2022

Present: Megan Baxter, Rob Blount, Craig Collins, Bonnie Hare, Kelly Jirschele, Cheryl Martines, Steve McIntire, Suzanne Warner, John Volkening
Staff: Pastor Paisley LeRoy, Deacon Heather Feltman
Absent: None
Location: Ekstrom Hall
Meeting called to order at 6:34
Council Secretary: Craig Collins

Kelly Jirschele opened the Council meeting with a prayer.

Opening Devotions:
John Volkening led the devotions with questions about what each of us is devoted to, what our Council is devoted to, and what our congregation is devoted to.

Agenda Item: Elect Replacement Council Member

Rob Blount shared with Council that due to Pete Elza’s resignation, it was necessary to appoint a replacement. In June, Pete was starting his third year of a three-year term. The Executive Team recommended that Suzanne Warner complete Pete’s term until May of 2023.

Motion by John, seconded by Kelly, to appoint Suzanne Warner to replace Pete Elza on Council and complete Pete’s three-year term.

Motion carried 9-0.

Agenda Item: Check-in with David Lincoln

Director of Worship and Music, David Lincoln, was invited to attend the Council meeting as he marked seven months on the job. David reported that “things were going well,” and that he was heartened by a full sanctuary this summer with everyone singing. When asked if he was surprised by anything so far, he remarked that BLC has many ongoing and diverse ministries and that he has found the adult education sessions this spring timely and relevant to the lives of BLC disciples.

David shared that it was sometimes challenging to provide a comparable music experience for the congregation at each of the Sunday services when, for example, the choir was only singing at one of these services. With respect to future maintenance issues, he reported that the pipe organ was in need of cleaning and that several of the pipes might need replacing in the near future. He also said that some additional electric work was needed at the front of the sanctuary to accommodate more inputs for microphones.

When asked what needs to be done to involve a praise band more fully in worship, David responded that individual parts of a praise band (e.g., singers, instrumentalists) are ready to go but that it was more of a challenge to incorporate a “complete” praise band into every Sunday service if we returned to two Sunday services in the fall.

Council members shared appreciation and praise with David’s work so far, pointing to his leadership in getting Live-Streaming off the ground last winter, his ability to incorporate a variety of music styles into worship, and his overall work ethic and commitment to high quality worship.

David concluded his remarks, in response to a question about how the Council might best support him, by asking that a future Call Team consult him about how to best examine Lead Pastor candidates’ views on worship.

Agenda Item: Expansive Church Model – Are We Ready to Move Forward?

Our second three-year debt reduction campaign will end in November of 2022. Last month, Deacon Heather provided an overview of an Expansive Church model that would involve both debt reduction and fundraising for projects that would have impact both inside and outside the congregation consistent with our mission as a church.

Rob asked Council members if after hearing Deacon Heather’s presentation last month if anyone had any questions and if we were ready to authorize Heather to take the next step in pursuing this model. Questions from Council members centered around these topics: the timetable to launch and sustain this effort; providing clarity and definition to the congregation regarding this model, our debt reduction efforts, and the annual giving campaign; and the work of the team following its formation in the fall.

There was consensus to move forward with this Expansive Church fundraising model including the recruitment of the team that would further study the model, developing a game plan for execution, and with continued Council support, implementation at some future time.

Agenda Item: Faith Formation Overview

Last spring, the Rostered staff identified four ministry teams that would be formed in 2022 to advance the mission of the congregation. Faith formation was one of these teams and Pastor Paisley shared some of her initial thoughts via a PowerPoint presentation about what faith formation might look like for all ages. Highlights of this presentation include:

· Understanding and being able to articulate the “why” of faith formation is the starting point for a congregation committed to a meaningful faith journey for all of its members.

· Sunday school and confirmation would be divided into six separate but integrated stages: Preschool-K; Grades 1-3; Grades 4-5; Grades 6-7; Grade 8; and high school youth.

· A new curriculum (Spark Rotation curriculum) would replace the one used last year.

· BLC Connect would provide a small group experience for students in Grades 4-5 and would mirror what students will experience in Confirmation (e.g., service opportunities, retreats).

· Confirmation would be divided into two groups – 6th and 7th graders engaged in foundational/traditional activities (e.g., basic catechism and Bible training, service, worship participation) and 8th graders engaged in a capstone experience where they dive into the hard questions of faith, take on a yearlong faith project, and transition into high school youth group activities.

· Stepping stones dates have been chosen for 2022-2023 and lay volunteers will be sought

· High school youth would meet every other week and continue to experience a variety of activities (e.g., discussion nights, prayer nights, retreats, Leadership Lab, mission trips)

· Intergenerational learning time would be explored and might include sporadic Sunday education focusing on basic catechumenate topics (e.g., scripture study, liturgical practice)

· Congregational support needed to run our youth and high school programs: Sunday School (minimum of 5); BLC Connect (minimum of 3); 6-7th grade Confirmation (minimum of 5); 8th grade Confirmation (minimum of 3); high school youth group (minimum of 2)

Pastor Paisley will engage the congregation in a Koinonia conversation about faith formation following the Sunday worship on August 21.

Agenda Item: Sunday Fall Worship Schedule

Rob asked Council members at the August meeting to share their thoughts about the two Sunday worship schedule options and how we should proceed with this topic. Kelly and John first expressed frustration and concern about the Executive Team’s decision to not follow through with the Council decision in July to maintain the summer worship schedule in the fall. Executive Team members responded that the Executive Team and Rostered Leaders, upon further reflection following the July Council meeting, concluded that the rationale for making the worship schedule change was not clear, there was hesitation on the part of the Roster Leaders about implementation of this decision, that further discussion with the Chicago Metro Synod about securing an Interim Lead Pastor was necessary before we made a decision about the fall worship schedule, and that soliciting feedback from the congregation about this matter, no matter what was ultimately decided, would be consistent with what the Council has done in the past.

The Council discussed the results of a congregation survey indicating that 52% of those completing the survey favored keeping the summer worship schedule in the fall and 48% supported returning to two services on Sunday. Text messages received showed 47 supporting one Sunday service and 44 supporting two Sunday services. Megan also shared the results of an informal poll that she administered with 12 families showing a majority of those responding favored holding one Sunday service at 9:30am in the fall rather than one at 8:30am and one at 10:45am.

In the discussion that followed, Council members identified the following reasons for having one worship service on Sunday: the Sunday summer schedule is the preference of those who took the survey or responded via text; one service promotes reconnection among BLC disciples as opposed to two Sunday services; worship feels lively and more satisfying when the service is well attended; and two Sunday services places a burden on those who with worship-related duties when we are experiencing a lack of volunteers (e.g., Altar Guild, usher/greeter recruitment).

Council members identified the following reasons to offer a 8:30am and 10:45am service on Sunday: more worship options provide BLC disciples with greater schedule flexibility on Sunday mornings; reducing worship services may drive down overall worship attendance; having only one Sunday service may have a negative impact on attendance in Sunday School and Adult Education; and two Sunday services provides more social distancing as we deal with a pandemic that is not over.

Kelly proposed that we continue with the summer worship schedule into the fall. Seconded by Steve.

Motion carried: 6-3.

The Executive Team and Rostered staff will share this decision with the congregation by the end of the week.

Agenda Item: Interim Pastor Search Update

A group of Church Council members met with Pastor Sunitha Mortha, ELCA Chicago Metro Synod representative to the far western Chicago suburbs, in early August to learn more about the process to identify, interview, and select an Interim Lead Pastor. Based on this meeting, the Executive Team and Rostered Leaders have identified certain job tasks that we would want an Interim Lead Pastor to do. This job description, using a Chicago Metro Synod template, was reviewed by Council members. Following a brief discussion, there was consensus to authorize Rob to submit this job description to the Chicago Metro Synod. The Synod will now attempt to match this job description with a qualified candidate(s) and share the name of a candidate(s) with the Executive Team for a possible interview.

Consent Agenda: July Minutes and June/July Financial Reports

There were no questions or comments about the July Minutes or June/July Financials. John moved, seconded by Megan, to approve the Consent Agenda.

Motion carried 9-0.

Agenda Item: Executive Session

It was moved by Steve, seconded by Kelly, to move into executive session to discuss a confidential matter related to personnel.

Following discussion in executive session, Kelly moved and John seconded to come out of executive session. Kelly then moved and seconded by John to approve the Children and Youth Ministry Seminarian Position Description and Employment Agreement as presented and authorize Pastor Paisley to post this position and initiate a search to fill the position.

Motion carried 9-0.

Adjournment

Bonnie moved, seconded by Steve, to adjourn the meeting at 9:24pm. Without objection, Rob adjourned the meeting.