Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Council Meeting Minutes
April 18, 2023 

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

Meeting called to order at 6:36 pm.
Council Secretary:  Craig Collins
Craig opened the Council meeting with a prayer. 

Heather read a poem by Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century English mystic, anchoress, and writer who lived in Norwich, one of the largest and most important towns of medieval England.  Her name comes from the church where she was enclosed, St. Julian’s.  Following the reading of this poem, The Hazel Nut, Deacon Heather asked Council members to respond to the following questions:  What is God up to in your life? What does this poem provoke in you?  Council members paired up to share their responses to these questions and then came back together to report out to the entire group. 

Agenda Item: Music Ministry Update
David Lincoln, BLC Director of Worship and Music, was hired fifteen months ago and was invited to provide Council with an update on a variety of worship and music topics:

  • Building relationships with BLC disciples continues to be a priority 
  • Livestreaming continues to expand our worship outreach; the audio-visual team is working well together and producing a quality product for those viewing our Sunday worship service online. 
  • The Christmas and Easter season worship services were well received. 
  • The viability of Wednesday night music programming continues to be evaluated. 
  • With the resignation of Children’s Music Director, Monica Corbett, several months ago, a number of options are being reviewed, in consultation with Pastor Paisley, to involve children more fully in Sunday worship.  Before hiring a new director, it is important that we are clear what we want a new person to do when it comes to children and music. 
  • The option of hiring a part-time person to assist with a possible contemporary service is being explored. 
  • BLC Preschool students are participating in our Sunday worship service.  A possible BLC Music Festival is being considered. 
  • The cost of securing musicians for our worship services continues to be a challenge. 
  • Exploring what it will take to offer two Sunday services in the fall is underway.  Staffing issues, equipment upgrades, and physical space needs in Fellowship Hall in addition to the financial costs of two Sunday services will be reviewed.  The results of this work will be shared with Council later this spring. 

Agenda Item:  Finance Team Update
Jim Chrisler and Dennis Finney from the Finance Team attended the meeting to provide an update on BLC’s current financial situation.  They reported that BLC has received about 25% of projected weekly envelope giving by the end of the first three months of the calendar year.  They also reported that Expansive Church giving is on track at this point in the calendar year, and that we have achieved substantial utility savings this past year due to Deacon Heather’s decisions to take advantage of several cost containment strategies. 

The Finance Team’s email blast pertaining to the BLC budget prior to Easter received positive reviews from Council members.  These updates will continue throughout the year.   A quarterly budget report will be presented at the annual May meeting.

Agenda Item: Move Cash from Money Market to CD
It was the recommendation of the Finance Team to move $60,000 from building reserves to a bank CD not to exceed two years in maturity to capture a rising interest rate.  Kelly moved, seconded by Suzanne, to accept this recommendation.
Motion carried 10-0.  

Agenda Item:  RIC Follow-up Discussion
On April 16, the Sunday adult education forum was devoted to a presentation by Ashlei Buhrow, Director of Programming and Engagement at Reconciling Works in St. Paul, Minnesota, to discuss the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) process used by ELCA congregations to provide a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable environment for LGBTQIA+ individuals in the life of the church.  The work of Reconciling Works also involves efforts to bring about racial justice in our communities.  Currently 12% of the ELCA are RIC churches with a 125 % increase in interest over the past year.   

When we were preparing our Ministry Site Profile in December and January, a survey indicated over 55% of respondents thought Bethlehem is a welcoming place but that we could do better. The RIC journey is an option for pursuing this.  

Council members who were able to attend the forum reported that they were impressed with the speaker and her message, the full engagement of those who attended the forum, the sense of authentic curiosity in the room throughout the forum, and the positive feeling tones in the room as Ms. Buhrow was asked a series of questions about her work and that of her organization. 

There was consensus among Council members that the next logical step in exploring the RIC process was to put together a core team of BLC disciples who would carefully and thoughtfully develop a plan to determine Bethlehem’s readiness for this type of ministry initiative.  Our rostered leaders have indicated that they have been approached by several BLC disciples who have indicated an interest in pursuing this type of work.  These individuals would be candidates for this core team.  Following continued discussion, Rob indicated that he is seeking Council members who are willing to make recruiting calls to put together the exploratory RIC core team.    

Agenda Item:  Revised Goals
At the Council meeting in March, Cheryl presented congregation goals adopted last July for the remainder of 2022 through the first part of 2023.  She raised the question whether these goals should continue for the 2023/24 program year, be modified, or be replaced by new goals.  Suzanne Warner and Deacon Heather volunteered to review the goals and bring back a recommendation to the April Council meeting. 

The recommendation of Suzanne and Heather was to retain current congregation goals and provide more explanation surrounding each goal including specific examples of how we might make progress with these goals.  The recommended goal language is below: 

  • Redevelop our sense of community, both internal and external.  The relational fabric of our community has weakened over the course of the pandemic.  With this in mind, we are curious to learn what it means to be a welcoming church, invest in relationships, care for each other, and encourage discipleship engagement to fully live out our mission at Bethlehem. 
    • Examples:  small group gatherings, celebration events, intentional connection with disciples who continue to be absent, refreshing our relationships with area ministry partners, 60- day ministry updates communicated out to disciples
  • Increase discipleship engagement.  Extend the vitality of community and welcome by encouraging an increase in the gift of disciples’ time in ministry planning, leadership, and service. Staff/leadership will prioritize inviting our disciples into the many opportunities offered and seek to have disciples say ‘yes’ to one opportunity in the coming year that supports the mission of our congregation.  Giving priority to: 
    • Internal: Children and youth, worship support  
    • External: Expansive Church, FRVI, Homeless ministry, LSSI, World Relief (Refugee + Immigration) 
    • Research/Exploration: Reconciling in Christ journey (RIC) + Senior Christian Care  
  • Invest in spiritual growth.  We want to be a community whose faith is living and active, and one that challenges and transforms us.  We encourage Bethlehem disciples to partake in an experience that will help them actively grow in faith over the coming year. 
    • Examples:  worship participation, bible study, adult education classes, mentoring youth/children, service and outreach mission
  • Grow our commitment to creation care.  We will expand our stewardship of God’s creation as part of our discipleship.
    • Examples: composting; expanding our recycling practices; blessing outdoor worship, pets, plants; holding classes on climate catastrophe; building and utilizing garden beds; cleaning up the shores of the Fox River.

Suzanne and Heather also recommended that congregation goals no longer follow the calendar/budget year but follow the program ministry year (September-August). Goals would therefore be developed in the spring for adoption at the May congregation meeting.  This would provide that goals are in place before ministry planning begins for the subsequent program year.
Moved by Cheryl, second by Kelly, to adopt the goals as presented above.
Motion carried 10-0. 

Agenda Item:  Constitution Update
Last month, the Constitution Update Team presented an updated constitution that reflects all required and recommended language changes from the national ELCA.  There was one recommended change pertaining to Council membership that the team wanted further discussion among Council members. 

 The ELCA is recommending (not a required language change) that the voting membership of the Council consists of all pastors, deacons, the officers of the congregation, at least one youth, and at least one young adult (Congregation Council – C12.01).  The current BLC Constitution provides that “the voting membership of the Council members shall consist of the senior pastor, and no fewer than six, but not more than 21 members of the congregation.” The Constitution Update Team recommended that no changes to Council membership be made at this time for the following reasons: 

  • By both function and definition, there is an appropriate separation between rostered leaders and members of the Council.  The Council owns the mission and vision and is responsible for developing and evaluating the strategies supporting them. The staff, under the leadership of the Lead Pastor, are responsible for management of the ministries in place and for empowering and equipping lay leaders and disciples.  Having 25% of the Council made up of rostered leaders blurs this separation.   
  • The addition of rostered leaders as voting members can get problematic quickly: conflicts of interest can arise regarding budget decisions, salary adjustments, and new program initiatives. 
  • Current constitutional language does not preclude the Council from seeking young adults to serve on Council.  Current constitutional language provides great flexibility. 
  • The addition of a high school youth on Council might pose a recruiting challenge due to interest and availability and may give rise to some boundary issues for certain agenda topics. 
  • Potential changes in Council membership can be considered down the road after we make the required constitutional changes and a new Lead Pastor is on board. 

Several Council members indicated that they favored including pastors and Deacons as voting Council members due to the expertise and insight that current rostered staff can bring to Council deliberations. 

After reviewing and discussing the pluses and minuses of accepting the recommended language changes by the ELCA, it was moved by Cheryl, seconded by Bonnie, to maintain the current language pertaining to Council membership. 
Motion carried 8-2. 

Agenda Item:  Senior Christian Care Update
Since last fall, the Council has been discussing the possibility of starting a Senior Christian Care Ministry to be housed in Education Hall.  To move this conversation forward, Deacon Heather shared a detailed business plan for this ministry including a proposed budget.  Council members are now expected to examine the business plan and accompanying budget and send their questions to Deacon Heather prior to the May Council meeting and/or bring questions to the May Council meeting. 

There was discussion about the timeline of sharing some of the details of this ministry program with the congregation.  There was consensus among Council members that one slide at the congregation meeting on May 7 would be devoted to this topic and that future adult forums could be scheduled in the summer following a thorough review of the business plan and accompanying budget at the May Council meeting  

Agenda Item:  Small Group Meetings
Council members are engaging in small group meetings with Bethlehem disciples in April and May to share information about a variety of topics Council is considering (e.g., Senior Christian Care Ministry, Reconciliation in Christ process, BLC Church budget data, faith formation programming for youth) and to solicit feedback from meeting attendees about these topics and other topics of interest.  Cheryl and Bonnie held the first of these meetings the week of April 9 and reported a positive response from those who attended.  Suzanne and Craig will hold the next small group gathering on April 23.  Kelly is inviting BLC disciples to engage in “walk and talk” conversations over the next several weeks.  Steve is scheduling a gathering at the end of the month.  

Consent Agenda:  March Minutes & February and March Financial Reports
Megan moved, seconded by John, to approve the March minutes and financial reports as presented.
Motion carried 10-0. 

 Agenda Item: Rostered Leader Report
Pastor Krista updated information on the Metro Chicago Synod Assembly to be held at the Q Center in St. Charles. BLC is providing volunteers and worship space for the afternoon worship service.  She also shared that the youth mission trip has been canceled, but Pastor Paisley is looking at other summer options.   

Kelly moved, seconded by Steve, to adjourn the meeting at 9:30pm.  Without objection, Rob adjourned the meeting.