Bethlehem Lutheran Church Council Meeting Minutes

July 19, 2022

Present: Megan Baxter, Rob Blount, Craig Collins, Bonnie Hare, Kelly Jirschele, Cheryl Martines, Steve McIntire, John Volkening, Pastor Sarah Rhode

Staff: Deacon Heather Feltman
Absent: Pete Elza, Pastor Paisley (absent due to high school retreat) Location: Ekstrom Hall
Meeting called to order at 6:34pm
Council Reporter: Craig Collins
Steve McIntire opened the Council meeting in prayer.

Opening Devotions: As has been our practice in the past when someone from the Council is departing, Council members shared their thoughts and offered words of appreciation for Pastor Rhode who will be leaving Bethlehem at the end of July.

Agenda Item: Expansive Church/Debt Reduction

Our second three-year debt reduction campaign will end in November of 2022. Deacon Heather reported that over the last four years our building debt (our mortgage) has gone from approximately 3.8 million to 3.4 million.

As we prepare to launch a new debt reduction initiative in 2023, Heather presented an overview of an Expansive Church model that would include both debt reduction and fundraising and would enable us to live into our mission. The highlights of this presentation include:

  • The goal of this initiative is to positively impact our giving behaviors as a community.

  • The specific focus of this ministry approach is to use our gifts to expand our work in our

    communities and retire our current debt.

  • While the presumption is that giving is a sacrificial act (i.e., giving something up so

    someone else can have more), there is research to suggest that people experience a

    bigger boost in happiness when they spend money on other people or help others.

  • An old Chinese proverb goes: “If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

  • Avodah (Hebrew word) is a term at the heart of this Expansive Church model. Avodah is

    a picture of an integrated faith, where work, worship, and service are intertwined to

honor God and serve our neighbors.

  • This model equips disciples to live out God’s purpose, not just on Sundays but all seven

    days of the week.

  • Worship services are no longer the feeder system for all the church does.

  • This is how this initiative might work: a team of BLC disciples will create a grant

    application process that will advance ideas that benefit our communities. BLC disciples identify needs in the community that they are passionate about and give of their time. They propose creative solutions that BLC can help support. The amount of money available to fund grants is tied directly to the amount we receive each year to retire our debt.

  • The Avodah project is intended to successfully launch and offer fresh ways to share Christ’s love and empower disciples to participate in God’s mission.

  • BLC disciples will be asked to share what how the work, funded by the grant, is informing their faith journeys.

  • Applications for grants will change from year to year; all BLC disciples will be invited to submit a grant application.

  • A possible timeline includes gathering a team this fall and educating the BLC community on this approach, using 2023 to develop the grant application process and review grants, and early in 2024 naming grant recipients.

    Following this presentation, Deacon Heather took several comments and questions from Council members. Rob asked Council members to consider whether or not this Expansive Church model is the direction we want to go with our debt reduction and fundraising efforts and to share their thoughts at the Council meeting in August. Rob also asked Council members to email Deacon Heather with questions about the Expansive Church model and implementation issues prior to the August meeting.

    Agenda Item: Congregational Goals

    At the May Congregation meeting the following goals were presented and discussed:

  1. Redevelop our sense of community at BLC. The relational fabric of our community has weakened over the course of the pandemic. This year, we want to invest in relationships and get to know each other again. This goal takes all of us coming together, taking an active interest in each other’s stories and passions.

  2. Increase volunteer participation at BLC. Staff and leadership will prioritize informing our disciples about the many opportunities for volunteer engagement within and outside the church walls. We invite every disciple to say yes to one volunteer opportunity in the coming year that supports the mission of our congregation. Examples: greet, usher, make food for youth group, shovel snow, sing in the choir, operate the sound board, help with cleaning up a fellowship event, etc.

  3. Invest in spiritual growth. We want to be a community that views faith as a living, active thing that challenges and changes us. We encourage BLC disciples to participate in something that will help them actively grow in faith over the coming year – worship participation, Bible study, Adult Education classes, mentoring youth and children, service and outreach.

  4. Grow our commitment to creation care – We will continue to engage opportunities to care for earth as part of our discipleship. We will do this through composting, expanding our recycling practices, blessing bikes, pets, and plants, holding classes on climate

catastrophe, building and utilizing garden beds, and cleaning up the shores of the Fox River in our backyard.

Rob asked that the Council formally adopt these goals for the remainder of 2022 and the first part of 2023. Steve moved, seconded by Kelly, to adopt the above Congregational goals for Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

Motion carried 8-0.

Agenda Item: Fall Worship Times

For a good part of the past year, weekend worship times included a Saturday service every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturday of the month and an 8:30am and 10:45am Sunday worship service. During this summer we have continued with Saturday worship services on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturday of each month and have offered only one Sunday service at 9:30am.

Pastor Paisley was not in attendance due to the high school retreat. She did send a written recommendation to Council members that we continue the summer worship schedule (one service on Sunday mornings at 9:30am and a Saturday service on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturday of the month at 5:30pm) into the fall months. In this document she offered the following reasons for this recommendation:

  • Worship has felt lively and full. This is good for those in person and for those viewing on livestream.

  • Though worship has felt full, not too full. Space still for visitors and indeed welcoming of visitors because they can remain anonymous if they would like (less possible with less people)

  • To allow the most flexibility for programing around Sunday morning worship, either before or after the service.

  • Livestreaming is a good option for many and expands our worship times exponentially.

  • Connection! People are meeting others that they never would have met before with

Pastor

multiple services.

Paisley shared a number of other thoughts in the document sent to Council members:

  • If the sanctuary becomes too full (e.g, baptisms, feast days), we may need to make adjustments to our services.

  • If we return to two Sunday services at 8:30am and 10:45,am, there is simply not enough time for her to attend to her duties officiating the 10:45am service and giving the students in confirmation her full and undivided attention.

  • If we return to two Sunday services at 8:30am and 10:45am, livestreaming should be done at the 10:45am service.

  • Once we determine the number of services we will have on Sunday (one or two), we can then move forward with planning for confirmation, youth group, Sunday School, and Adult Education in the fall.

    In the discussion that followed, Council members identified the following reasons, in

addition to those cited by Pastor Paisley, for having one worship service on Sunday: reduces the burden on our Roster staff; with Pastor Sarah’s departure it is a good idea to stay with one service because it keeps us together as a congregation; and the uncertainty of securing an interim Lead pastor.

Some Council members identified the following reasons to offer a 8:30am and 10:45am service on Sunday: when it was announced that we would be going with one service on Sunday in the summer the presumption was that we would return to two Sunday services in the fall; the congregation has not been given the opportunity to share their opinions about having one Sunday service in the fall before a decision is made; the decision to have only one Sunday service might be viewed as a “step back” as we are trying to emerge out of this pandemic; and concerns about not enough social distancing in the sanctuary if COVID numbers rise in the fall.

Following considerable discussion regarding the merits of each of the worship schedules, Cheryl moved, second ed by Craig, to return to two Sunday services times (8:30 and 10:45) and a Saturday service on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturday of each month beginning in September.

Motion failed 3-5 with one abstention.

The next motion regarding weekend service times was offered by Bonnie who moved that we have two Sunday service times (8:30 and 10:45) and eliminate Saturday worship services. Seconded by Steve.

Motion failed 2-5 with two abstentions.

Kelly then proposed that we continue with the summer worship schedule into the fall (this was Pastor Paisley’s recommendation). Seconded by John.

Motion failed 3-5 with one abstention.

Cheryl then moved we have two worship times on Sundays starting in the fall. This motion was amended to indicate that the Sunday service times would be at 8:30 and 10:45. Seconded by Bonnie.

Motion failed 3-5 with one abstention.

After additional discussion regarding the pro’s and con’s of the two worship schedules, Kelly moved and John seconded that we continue with the summer schedule into the fall.

Motion carried 4-3 with two abstentions.

The Executive Team and Rostered staff will meet to determine how and when to share this new worship schedule with the congregation in August.

Agenda Item: Pastor Sarah’s Farewell Service/Reception on July 31, 2022

John reported that Linda Cully, Alyssa Elza and Michelle Fisher are taking the lead in planning Pastor Sarah’s Farewell Reception following the 9:30am service on July 31, 2022.

Agenda Item: Meeting with the Synod – Securing an Interim Pastor

Rob reported that he is trying to arrange a date in early August for the ELCA Chicago Metro Synod Representative, Pastor Sunitha Mortha, to meet with Council members to learn more about the process of securing an Interim Pastor. He indicated that the meeting date would be set within a few days. Prior to this meeting the Executive Team will meet with Pastor Paisley and Deacon Heather to receive feedback about pastoral needs during the transition period before a new Lead Pastor is called and installed. In order for the Synod to recommend Interim Pastor candidates, full and part-time, for review by the Executive Team, it will be necessary for the Executive Team to provide the Synod with job expectations for what we want the Interim Pastor to do.

Consent Agenda: June Minutes and May/June Financial Reports

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

Motion carried 8-0.

Active Shooter Training

John asked if we were planning any type of active shooter training in response to the recent gun violence in our country. Deacon Heater reported that an active shooter training for Rostered leaders, staff, and ushers and greeters at 7:30pm on August 31, 2022.

Adjournment:

Kelly moved, seconded by Steve, to adjourn the meeting at 9:10pm. Without objection, Rob adjourned the meeting.