Bethlehem Lutheran Church 
Council Meeting Minutes 
March 21, 2023

Present: Megan Baxter, Rob Blount, Craig Collins, Bonnie Hare, Kelly Jirschele, Cheryl Martines, Steve McIntire, Suzanne Warner, John Volkening   
Staff:  Pastor Krista Zimmerman, Pastor Paisley LeRoy, Deacon Heather Feltman
Absent:  None
Visitors:  None
Location:  Ekstrom Hall 

Meeting called to order at 6:38pm.
Council Secretary:  Craig Collins
Bonnie opened the Council meeting with a prayer. 

Agenda Item: New Council Members & Council Skill Mapping
The terms of two Council members – Suzanne Warner and Craig Collins – expire in May.  All other Council members will continue service for the next year.  In order to replace the two departing Council members, Pastor Krista put together a Council skill map designed to identify the gifts and talents of continuing and departing Council members.  Council members offered additional insights about the strengths of each Council member and Pastor Krista incorporated these attributes into the skill map.  The skill map will now be used by the Council to identify asset gaps that exist among individuals continuing on Council.
Rob encouraged Council members to forward him names of current congregation members who should be considered for Council membership.    

Agenda Item:  Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Process
During consideration of the Ministry Site Profile in January, there was discussion about the extent to which Bethlehem is a friendly and welcoming place to those seeking a church home.  There were comments that while we perceive ourselves to be friendly and welcoming, we “could do better.”

There are ELCA church-wide resources that can help congregations “do better” at inviting those marginalized groups (e.g., those who live in poverty, those who do not identify as white, those who identify as LGBTQIA+, those who are homeless, those who are dealing with mental illness, and those with developmental challenges) into our midst. 

One example of this is the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Program. The purpose of the RIC Program is to ensure the welcome, inclusion, celebration, and advocacy for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions; work for racial equity and commit to anti-racist work and support the national program.  Pastor Krista shared her experiences with the RIC process in her former congregation and highlighted several factors that contribute to successfully launching this process (e.g., Council becoming knowledgeable about the RIC process and supporting its exploration within the congregation, lay leadership, one-to-one visits early in the process).

There was considerable conversation regarding plans to focus on the RIC process during adult learning time on Sunday, April 16.  Pastor Krista has proposed that we invite a RIC staff member who could speak about the RIC Program.   Some Council members cautioned about moving the process forward too quickly without a well thought out plan.  The majority of Council members were of the opinion that it would be appropriate and overdue to start talking about the RIC process within the congregation if we are committed to becoming a more welcoming environment for those who have historically not been welcome within Lutheran congregations generally.  As a result of this discussion, Pastor Krista will continue plans to devote the adult forum on April 16 to what it means to be a welcoming congregation and how the RIC process might help us on this journey.  

Agenda Item: Vaccination Policy
BLC Preschool Director, Pong Sayasane, has requested clarification regarding the current COVID vaccination requirement for staff working in the BLC Preschool and whether or not it should apply to new staff hired this spring and fall.  Following discussion, there was consensus among Council members to continue to require that, as a condition of employment, newly hired preschool staff receive the COVID vaccine. 

Agenda Item:  Senior Christian Care Ministry
Deacon Heather continues to have conversations with disciples regarding the establishment of a BLC Senior Christian Care ministry. For the April Council meeting, Deacon Heather will share a business plan for this ministry, a projected start-up budget, and an implementation timeline. Six BLC disciples are willing to serve on a lay-lead team that will support the work of this program if launched. These individuals will be invited to the April Council meeting to share their support for this ministry.  

Agenda Item:  Constitution Review and Updating
A team of Bethlehem disciples – Megan Baxter, Craig Blomquist, Craig Collins, and Suzanne Warner – began work in January reviewing and updating the BLC Constitution.  The team is recommending that due to the complexity of the work, the constitution updating process continue over a two-year period.

Every three years the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America updates its Model Constitution for congregations.  It has been over 20 years since our Church Council has undertaken a constitution review to ensure that all required and recommended (i.e., suggested but not required) language changes have been incorporated into BLC Constitution.  Over the past two months the Constitution Update Team has made modifications to our existing constitution, incorporating all required and suggested language changes.  These changes were shared with the Council.

The ELCA is recommending (not a required language change) that voting membership of the Council consists of pastors, deacons, at least one youth, and at least one young adult (Congregation Council – C12.01).  Currently, the BLC Constitution provides that the “Congregation Council shall consist of the senior pastor, and no fewer than six, but not more than 21 members of the congregation.” After reviewing and discussing the recommended language change, the Constitution Update Team believes that the Council should decide on whether to change the language in the BLC Constitution pertaining to Council member composition.  This discussion will take place at the April meeting. 

Language changes to our constitution as required and/or recommended by the ELCA must be approved by the Metro Chicago Synod, the BLC Church Council, and at a meeting of the congregation.  The timeline for gaining Synod and Council approval would be this spring or summer and congregation approval no later than the January Congregation meeting. 

Agenda Item:  Call Team Update
John provided a brief update on the work of the Lead Pastor Call Team.  The Ministry Site Profile has been reviewed and submitted to the Metro Chicago Synod for review and comment.  Call Team members have completed anti-bias training as it relates to candidate selection and engagement (i.e., interviewing and interacting) and are in the midst of assessing the strengths and gifts of Call Team members.  The Call Team will meet now on a regular basis as candidates are identified by the Metro Chicago Synod.  

Agenda Item:  Congregation Goals
Cheryl presented a list of congregation goals that were adopted at the July Council meeting for the remainder of 2022 and for the first four months of 2023: 

  • Redeveloping our sense of community at BLC 
  • Increase volunteer participation at BLC 
  • Invest in spiritual growth 
  • Grow our commitment to creation care 

Cheryl shared that as we approach our May congregation meeting we can continue these goals for the 2023/2024 program year, modify these existing goals, and/or develop new goals and present these at the May meeting.  There was discussion about the need to add a goal related to mission and one specifically related to faith formation.  No action was taken, and Council members were encouraged to send their thoughts to Suzanne, Heather, and Cheryl prior to the April Council meeting so that a decision can be made that will determine how we approach this topic at the May congregation meeting. 

Agenda Item:  May Congregation Meeting
Rob shared that the May congregation meeting will be held on Sunday, May 7, following the 9:45am service.  He asked Council members to consider what agenda items should be considered on May 7.  Suzanne indicated that at the January congregation meeting we informed the congregation that Council would be holding small group meetings over the next several months to inform and engage the congregation in a number of important topics (e.g., Expansive Church initiative, Faith Formation Team update, Senior Care Ministry, financial update) and that it would be appropriate to report on those small group meetings at the upcoming congregation meeting.  Rob asked that Council members send potential topics to Suzanne who would then work with other Council members to put together an agenda for these small group meetings.

There was also a brief discussion about the possibility of highlighting a number of current ministries at the May congregation meeting as we did at the January congregation meeting.  Rob invited Council members to send him ideas on which ministries to highlight.    

Consent Agenda:  February Minutes & December, January, February Financial Reports 
Craig noted that our “envelope giving” at the end of February was running behind projections.  Heather shared that we also are spending less than anticipated at this point in the fiscal year and that when one factors in the preschool budget, we are running a slight overall budget surplus.  There was discussion on how to best communicate our current financial situation with the congregation.  Heather indicated that she would be consulting with the BLC Finance Team to consider putting out a brief financial update in the next week with a more detailed report going out to the congregation after we finalize first quarter (January, February, and March) results.      

Motion by Steve and seconded by John to accept the February minutes and December, January, and February financial reports.
Motion carried 10-0.

Kelly moved, seconded by John, to adjourn the meeting at 9:35pm.  Without objection, Rob adjourned the meeting.